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CosmoLex Trust Accounting is Anything but Basic

Do you know the largest source of client complaints about lawyers? Communication—unreturned calls, unanswered emails, etc. The second largest source of complaints? Money. More specifically, how attorneys handle their clients’ funds.

Law Firm Accounting Complexities

Accounting plays an essential role in any business. No matter the industry, a business tracks profit and loss, tax events, and other financial measurements. Law firms do all of that while also precisely accounting for receipts and disbursements on a per-matter basis.

In some respects, trust accounting—tracking the funds we receive from or on behalf of clients, but haven’t earned for ourselves yet—is easier than standard business accounting:

  • We don’t have to monitor profit or loss;
  • We don’t record depreciation of physical assets or amortization of intangible assets; and
  • We don’t worry about interest earned or tax events.

If law firms only had to worry about their trust account (also called an IOLTA, IOLA, or escrow account, depending on your jurisdiction), they might have it easier than a generic business or non-profit. Unfortunately, a lawyer’s trust account burdens exist in addition to general business accounting requirements.

Software Simplifies the Situation

Fortunately, the additional needs of trust accounting match what computers are good at:

  • Tacking client funds on a per-matter basis;
  • Matching each receipt or disbursement to supporting documents; and
  • Painlessly reconciling numbers between the firm’s electronic ledger, the bank’s reported amounts, and the trust balances for each matter.

General purpose accounting can do some, but not all, of this. Maybe it could hold “audit-important” documentation and reconcile between itself and the bank, but it lacks the core tools lawyers need. In the same way firms benefit from law practice management software to keep matters organized, firms need accounting software that understands trust accounts, matters, and their unique roles in legal.

The right legal-specific accounting software alleviates much of the stress.

CosmoLex Offers the Right Trust Accounting Tools

CosmoLex’s robust, approachable trust accounting makes it easy to record and report your trust account activity properly.

Leverage Tools to Do it Right the First Time

The money-centric client and disciplinary complaints mentioned above don’t stem from attorney malfeasance. Most disciplinary complaints result not from deliberate misappropriation but from negligence. A solution, like CosmoLex, that encourages (and can compel) good recordkeeping, promotes compliance and prevents problems.

If your firm relies on a “general purpose” accounting program and a separate matter management program for case information and billing, that split introduces unnecessary complications. Using separate programs creates a gap for human error to seep in. If you maintain both an electronic and paper calendar, and they disagree, you lose time determining which is correct. Similarly, no one should play a “financial telephone” game, relaying numbers between products and hoping no errors arise.

CosmoLex provides practice management and full, general ledger accounting in one place. Manage case details, bill clients, and track and reconcile business and trust accounts in one web-based, mobile-friendly product.

Beneath that single-source umbrella, CosmoLex:

  • Collects all necessary transaction reference information in an audit-ready fashion;
  • Separates trust account money and transaction activity by matter and client, preventing commingling of different clients’ funds;
  • Supports computer-printed checks to prevent duplicative check numbers or writing checks from the wrong account;
  • Guards against overdrawing not only the overall trust account, but also overdrawing any individual matter’s trust balance;
  • Allows you to “close the books” on a matter or time period to prevent further edits or alterations; and
  • Connects to your bank or financial institution to directly import transaction data for you to review and confirm.

Quickly Run Reports to Verify Accuracy and Completeness

Meaningful, actionable reports begin with good data. Quality reports depend upon quality bookkeeping. CosmoLex produces reports that keep you informed and compliant with jurisdictional obligations. Core, insightful reports include:

  • Trust Ledger Balance Report: This report, known to Canadian practitioners as a Trust Listing, shows trust balances for each client by matter, the last date of any activity, and whether the matter is open or closed.
  • Client Trust Ledger: This report is a mini bank statement for each matter. It shows credits and debits for the matter, complete with a running balance. If you have a single matter’s funds in multiple trust accounts, it also accommodates that variation.
A picture of a client trust account ledger showing transactions and a final zero balance
  • Reconciliation Report: This report compares the bank’s ending balance to your recorded ending balance. It also reveals uncleared transactions, such as uncashed checks.
  • 3-Way Reconciliation Report: This report builds upon the reconciliation report, showing the bank’s numbers, your trust account’s overall numbers, and client ledger numbers. 3-way reconciliation reports ensure that bank totals match trust account totals and that both totals agree with what matter-level ledgers report. Auditors love this report.

Best Practices Produce the Best Results

The fundamentals drive stress-free trust accounting.

  • Run the reports monthly and act on issues. Closed matters shouldn’t have trust balances. Investigate dormant accounts and uncashed checks. Relocate unassigned funds to their proper matter.
  • Know your audit requirements.
  • Keep records, including copies of deposit slips, canceled checks, and statements, for the relevant time period.

Make accounting more effortless by doing the right thing promptly with easy access to relevant, verified financial information. CosmoLex helps your firm’s trust accounting keep the proper records, meet jurisdictional and audit requirements, and generally run smoothly. Learn more and schedule a demo at CosmoLex’s website.

More Intake, Less Headache with Smarter Staffing Solutions from Get Staffed Up

Running a small law firm is hard. Between client work, administrative tasks, and business growth efforts, managing limited time and resources can be a challenge for even the best practitioner. That’s why law firm owners are turning to Get Staffed Up. Offering remote assistants ideal for client-facing administrative tasks, Get Staffed Up (GSU) finds the fit from the top 1% of degreed, professionals from Latin America and South Africa. Since Get Staffed Up was founded by two attorneys, they understand the unique staffing needs of law firms. GSU sets its services apart with their propriety match making process.

For any lawyer, getting the phones to ring and then the phones ringing is a challenge. That is why GSU offers Marketing Assistants and Intake Specialists.

Generating Leads

The time and energy you spend practicing law is time and energy you don’t have to run and grow your business. Adding a Get Staffed Up Virtual Marketing Assistant (VMA) to your team increases your bandwidth for marketing strategies. These proactive problem-solvers provide needed support and can work on a variety of tasks to bolster your marketing campaigns.

Reaching modern audiences requires creative, tech-savvy minds thinking on your behalf. Get Staffed Up’s VMAs are equipped with a wide range of digital marketing skills, and can help with anything from sending email newsletters to managing your podcast. Other potential marketing hats include:

  • Content Creator
  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Video Coordinator
  • Graphic Designer

Growing Your Firm

Even with the best marketing, a lackluster client intake process can ruin your efforts. New clients want to feel valued, without sacrificing attention to current ones. A Get Staffed Up Intake Specialist can help shoulder the burden by employing a customer-first onboarding process.

A Get Staffed Up Intake Specialist will work directly with you or your office manager, learning your existing procedures for client intake and helping streamline them. After mastering the details of your firm’s policies, they can address potential clients’ questions and concerns with a smile. Intake Specialists help with these crucial tasks:

  • Screen out bad prospects
  • Retrieve medical records
  • Refer incorrect prospects to your referrals and keep track
  • Keep your referral partners updated on matters they’ve sent you
  • Set paid consultations and take the money
  • Follow up with all prospects who are a great fit
  • Prep for each consultation
  • Keep track of all calls and prospects in the CRM

Confidently Delegate to Top Talent

Modern remote and hybrid work models allow you to hire diverse, qualified candidates wherever they are. Get Staffed Up makes the process even easier, bringing you top talent from around the world while managing HR and payroll for your virtual positions. Their meticulous vetting process identifies important qualities that ensure these professionals exceed expectations.

Get Staffed Up focuses on specialization in their recruitment strategy. Each assistant comes to you with a deep knowledge of their job responsibilities. As a result, you receive the highest quality candidates, dedicated exclusively to your firm and working the same hours as everyone else.

Get Back to What Matters

Get Staffed Up brings top talent to your doorstep and alleviates added stress on your firm. With their legal-specific Marketing Assistant and Intake Specialist positions, they have made it easier than ever to acquire and impress new clients. Learn more about what Get Staffed Up can do for you by going to the Get Staffed Up Website. See why customers call Get Staffed Up a “game changer” for their firms.

FirmPilot Pioneers a New Era in Legal Marketing with AI

If you have engaged a “law firm marketing agency,” you know that phrase can encompass everything from defining your firm vision and ideal client, to font and logos, to the technical mechanics of website building and ad buying. Maybe you’ve felt that the end goal—more prospects and, ultimately, more clients and more revenue, gets lost in the shuffle.

FirmPilot understands that feeling and has “flipped the script” on law firm digital marketing. They start with data instead of design.  By synthesizing data and marketing, FirmPilot provides law firms two benefits: hard numbers that give you a framework for decision-making and the ability to  turn reams of facts and figures into actionable marketing intelligence.

FirmPilot’s AI and Marketing

One AI strength lies in data analysis and summary. FirmPilot takes advantage of AI’s data audit and summary capabilities to analyze your competitors and automatically improve your firm’s marketing to attract clients. Traditional marketing firms rely on basic tactics, gut feelings, and many “manual adjustments” to tweak marketing campaigns. In contrast , FirmPilot uses cutting-edge AI to automate law firm marketing.

FirmPilot’s decision engine, which can modify search engine optimization (SEO) keywords, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, social media ads, and more, synthesizes two valuable data sources. FirmPilot not only looks at your own marketing data, it also looks at your top competitors’ data. The combined sources drive FirmPilot’s software to predict and deploy effective marketing to reach your ideal client. That data-driven, predictive algorithm is FirmPilot’s “secret sauce.” Instead of simply writing a website post, publishing it, and hoping for the best, FirmPilot precisely targets prospective clients with the highest conversion likelihood.

How FirmPilot Produces Results

Your existing client data powers FirmPilot’s AI. Think about what you know about your past and present client population. You know where they live, what concern brought them to you, the resolution they sought, and the resolution they got. Depending on the practice area, you may have insightful demographic data—married or single, number of children, financial well-being, etc. FirmPilot relies on this sort of data to profile and identify ideal, high-value clients.

Once FirmPilot’s software knows who it’s trying to find, the AI then reverse engineers where these lucrative prospects are searching online by studying the content and keywords of competitor law firms already attracting them. FirmPilot algorithms then suggest website edits, content optimization, and other steps you can take so that your firm appears prominently in search results when these would-be clients perform a web search.

These three legs of the stool—your data, FirmPilot’s intelligent recommendations, and the results they produce, work as a continuously improving system. The client-result data from your first set of changes informs future changes and so on. The AI makes ever-better recommendations by learning which content and tactics performed best. As you use it, FirmPilot constantly refines as retargets so that, over time, its lead generation delivers for your most profitable segments. Ultimately, FirmPilot’s AI-powered marketing engine starts with your existing client data and, through a series of finely-tuned iterations, attracts and converts prospects that drive law firm growth.

A New Marketing Approach to Law Firms

Many people think that marketing is all hunches and instinct, and there’s certainly some of that, particularly with visuals and word choice. But there’s plenty of data too, more now than ever before. Data tells marketers to air commercials for “product A” during evening news programs and “product B” during college football games. Data ties your web search for a product to the subsequent ads you see for that product, its accessories, and its competitors. FirmPilot’s technology marries sophisticated, AI-powered analysis to the needs of your firm’s marketing.

FirmPilot’s AI creates and optimizes marketing assets to achieve profitable results. Furthermore, its performance tracking mechanism, powered by continuous results analysis, gives unmatched visibility into the return on investment that FirmPilot brings to your firm.

Visit FirmPilot’s website to learn how modern, data-driven AI marketing benefits your firm.

Understanding Local Services Ads for Lawyers with Postali

Google launched Local Services Ads (LSA) in 2015, starting with home services-type businesses. Google made LSAs available to attorneys in 2021. Jim Christy, President of Postali, spoke with Zack Glaser, Legal Tech Advisor, about how law firms can use LSAs and their potential rewards and risks. 

LSA Primer 

LSAs differ from Google’s primary advertising tool, pay-per-click (PPC), in two ways. First, instead of displaying in line with organic search results, LSAs display above the traditional results list. LSAs are prominently set apart. Second, Google prices LSAs on a “pay-per-lead” model. 

Under a PPC model, which Google still offers and should have a place in firm advertising budgets, clicking the ad costs money, irrespective of what the user does afterward. Clicking the ad and closing the browser tab costs the same as a user clicking the link, spending an hour on the attorney’s landing page, and completing a contact form. 

The LSA model is different. Google does not charge the advertising attorney merely because a user clicked on the LSA. The user must contact the law firm. Only a successful connection costs money. 

Making LSAs Successful for Your Firm 

The LSA algorithm also differs from PPC in how Google chooses which LSA to display for a search. With PPC advertising, prominence flows from spending. Paying more puts the firm’s ad higher. In contrast, Google selects LSAs based on many factors, including user (i.e., star) ratings. A firm must have a particular number of Google reviews to be eligible for LSA inclusion (Google requires up to 5 reviews depending on profession & practice area). Beyond that, location, business hours, responsiveness, profile quality, and, of course, marketing budget, play a roll in an individual firm’s LSA ranking.

Pay Only for Leads, Not Clicks 

Google charges firms for contacts, not clicks. When configuring its LSA profile, the firm sets practice areas and geographies. If a user reaches out through the LSA but doesn’t match your practice area and geography, the firm can dispute the charge with Google and seek a refund. 

Unlike PPC ads, Google offers limited specificity concerning practice areas and keyword matching. Jim gave the example of a personal injury firm that only represents wrongful death matters. While PPC ads could tightly target this niche, LSAs could run too broadly (e.g., all personal injury searches). 

With LSAs, a firm may get calls that aren’t disputable but not a great fit, so they might pay the higher LSA cost. With PPC, Google charges the firm for every click, but the ad may get more desired exposure because of the additional specificity and targeting tools PPC has. 

Costs of LSAs 

When LSAs initially launched for attorneys, ad prices were relatively inexpensive and predictable. Both benefits are fading. For example, some specific personal injury locations, LSA prices have climbed 300% since 2021. In some categories, the return-on-investment of PPC ads may now exceed that of LSAs, even though LSAs promise higher quality leads. 

Using LSAs as a DIYer 

While Jim encourages firms to engage professional assistance when running PPC ad campaigns, LSAs are something a solo or small firm can experiment with on their own. For the inspired DIYers, Google’s LSA profile provides three tools. 

  • Category: The firm tells Google its areas of practice. Family law is a category, for example. The firm must have at least one category and can have more than one. Google also permits excluding categories, mediation, for example. That’s about the extent of LSA granularity. An attorney could seek auto accident injuries, but if the firm specialized in auto accident head injuries, LSAs could not be that specific. 
  • Budget: The firm must set its LSA budget weekly; that’s the only option. Google presents two options: Maximize Leads and Manually Set a Max Bid. Setting the budget to Maximize means the campaign uses the current market rate for that LSA placement to serve the LSA to the most viable users at the most viable time to optimize for getting leads. Setting the budget to Manual means that the firm controls the amount they are willing to spend per week, the price is still as variable as with Maximize, but fewer or no users may see it due to the price cap. 
  • Geography: This option controls who sees the ad based on a user’s state, county, city, or ZIP code. Users see LSAs based on their location when searching, so it’s possible firms may receive “out of area” contacts (e.g., if someone searches while at work versus home). 

Getting Started 

Jim advises that LSAs involve some strategy, and he’s happy to discuss strategy with you. Once the firm decides on a direction, “pulling the levers” is much simpler than Google’s PPC tools. The LSA area of Google search results is prime real estate. If you have not set up Local Services Ads yet, Jim encourages you to do so, even if you don’t intend to run ads immediately. 

To learn more about Postali and why you should use LSAs, visit their blog

Omnizant Makes Quality Websites Affordable with OneFirst Legal

Legal websites run the gamut from simple “electronic business cards” to richly interactive sites. However, building the site is not enough. A website is not a Field of Dreams; it’s not enough to build it and they will come. Success means site visitors ultimately become clients.

A Website to Meet Your Goals

Building and promoting a website often seems complex, expensive, and unnecessary to firms that earn most of their business from referrals. Understandably, if the firm derives over 90% of its business from referrals, leadership hesitates to spend $1,500 per month, or more, on a website, digital marketing, or search engine optimization (SEO).

Victoria Silecchia, chief marketing officer at Omnizant, sat down with Zack to explain why all firms need a professional website and how to create one affordably. OneFirst Legal, a new division launched by Omnizant on September 1, is the key to an affordable, modern website.

Fundamentally, a firm without a website or one that puts no effort into SEO finds itself at the mercy of chance and competitors. Attorneys running referral-based practices still need a professional web presence. It need not be elaborate, but it must exist. Nor does the site and its essential marketing need to cost thousands to create or maintain.

Prospects Do Research

Even referral-based practices must consider what information prospects find online when searching for a firm or attorney. Having a website means the firm controls its image, its first touchpoint with would-be clients.

Referrals will research the firm. The question is who controls the information they see. The firm may not care about its Google Business profile or reviews, but others will.

Affordable SEO Marketing Achieves Defined Goals

In addition to the website, OneFirst Legal collaborates with the firm on what Victoria termed “branded visibility,” a targeted form of SEO.

In this context, “good SEO” is not optimizing for better Google rankings for highly desirable and expensive keyword combinations like “car accident” and “New York City.” Instead, OneFirst Legal’s branded visibility concentrates on simpler and more meaningful goals, like ensuring the firm’s site is the top hit when someone searches specifically for the firm or attorney’s name.

Without a website and absent branded visibility, the top hit for a firm or attorney is often an aggregated attorney directory showing both the firm and its competitors side-by-side. In some cases, unscrupulous law firms may bid for their competitors’ names, paying web search engines to show the result “Smith Law Firm” higher in the list than “Jones Law Firm,” even when would-be clients expressly search for “Jones Law Firm.”

While Omnizant has helped law firms with full-service digital marketing capabilities since 2006, OneFirst Legal delivers the essential website tools a firm needs at a budget-friendly price.

OneFirst Legal creates and hosts solutions for solos and small firms wanting a modern, secure, and accessibility-friendly web presence. For firms of five attorneys or fewer, OneFirst Legal charges a one-time $199 setup fee and $199 per month after that.

OneFirst Legal designs its WordPress-based templates with flexibility and modularity in mind. Victoria likens their templates to prefabricated home blueprints. The design is tested, perfected, and quickly deployable. Website “floorplans” may be similar, but customization remains key. Continuing the analogy, each firm’s site has unique paint colors, siding, landscape, and furnishings.

OneFirst Legal understands that attorneys desire speedy results with minimal meetings. A firm can go from zero to launch in under three weeks, in five simple steps:

  1. Use the self-scheduling tool on OneFirst Legal’s website to grab 15 minutes. Learn if the OneFirst Legal approach suits your firm.
  2. Complete a single enrollment form to sign up.
  3. At the kickoff call and design meeting, 3-to-5 business days after enrollment, you select the site blueprint, practice areas, colors, and images.
  4. OneFirst Legal professionals customize your chosen blueprint with layered colors, retina image-grade photos, moving elements, and text.
  5. You review the website’s first draft 3-5 business days after the kickoff meeting, make any changes, and launch.

Creating Visibility for Your Modern Site

Once launched, OneFirst Legal handles monthly updates. They continually refine Google Business Profile optimization and branded visibility SEO. They work with the firm on review generation, ongoing postings, and site maintenance. OneFirst Legal does not limit support or update time.

Getting Started

Visit http://onefirstlegal.com/getstarted to see how affordable, vibrant layouts bring legal websites to life and how versatile templates work for different practice areas.

Keep Clients Plugged-in with the Case Status App

Clients have many options for contacting their attorney: phone, email, text, client portal, and more. This situation creates more places to check, eating time and delaying responses for the firm. 

Case Status solves this problem with tools to channel client communication through a focused mobile app. How does this differ from a practice management client portal? Immensely successful client adoption. While most portals go unvisited by clients (30% usage), Cases Status firms see 80% adoption of their mobile app. 

Six Benefits of an App-Based Client Communication Tool 

Paul Bamert and Jose Figueroa outlined six challenges facing law firms and how Case Status addresses them. 

Client Portals 

Most web-based practice management systems offer a client portal, but most are web-based. In contrast, Case Status provides a native mobile app for iOS and Android, which earned a 4.9 out of 5 rating from thousands of user reviews. With a mobile app, firms meet clients where they are; 93% of the five hours a day the average person spends on a smartphone, they spend in apps. 

Offering a client portal that clients use reduces scattershot client interaction and prevents time-consuming “case update” phone calls. Additionally, Case Status integrates with many practice management vendors, providing a single source of truth for information. 

Time 

With Case Status, a firm can automate repetitive tasks and communications. Jose demonstrated how a customizable in-app experience walks clients through their matter stages. With automated triggers, the firm provides client updates in-app. This includes scheduled “no-update updates” telling the client that the matter is in process, but nothing changed recently. Background updates boost firm efficiency, with one mid-size firm saving 366 hours in nine months and decreasing related inbound phone calls by 51%. 

Client Communication 

Clients choose their preferred approach—phone, email, text, or portal—causing craziness. The average firm takes 48 to 72 hours to respond to a client’s outreach. With Cases Status, the delay drops to 6.5 hours. How? Case Status firms channel all client communication to the mobile app. Funneling allows the firm to respond faster to client requests, improve its client communications, and exceed client expectations. 

All employees can read and respond to in-app client messages and send the client files and do this in a way that syncs with the firm’s existing practice management system while providing better security than email or SMS offers. 

Language Barriers 

8-9% of people needing legal services don’t speak English. In some client communities, the number exceeds 40%. Case Status uses Google’s Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system to translate in-app messages in 138 languages. This works in both 1-to-1 messages, between a client and a firm employee, and 1-to-many, such as a templated message sent to many clients. GNMT allows an English-only attorney to read foreign language messages translated in real-time. GNMT translates both inbound and outbound messages. 

Client Satisfaction 

Law firms often guess what the client thinks. One-half of legal services providers fail to measure client satisfaction at all—the other half measure only at a matter’s conclusion. Systematizing client feedback, especially early in the representation, brings big wins in client referrals and reviews. 

With Case Status’ tools, the firm can ask the client to rate the representation on a scale of 1 to 10. Think of a bad rating as a “check engine light” for the matter. Learning of an unhappy client early gives the firm time to fix the problem. By analyzing client surveys, the firm discovers where its processes or communications failed and revises procedures to create a response playbook. For clients who rate the firm a nine or ten, that list tells the firm whom to solicit for online endorsements. 

Sustainable Growth 

A great reputation flows from providing great service. Case Status helps firms build sustainable growth by identifying happy clients, being front-of-mind with clients, and asking satisfied clients to write reviews or refer friends. Efficient communication leads to good client surveys that the firm can ask for reviews on Avvo and Google. The app also contains a referral button to send the lawyer’s electronic business card to friends and family. 

Getting Started 

If your firm wants to transform client engagement and meet clients where they are, visit www.casestatus.com to schedule a demo. 

Data Tables Make PatternBuilder Even More Versatile 

Scott Kelly, product manager at NetDocuments, sat down with Zack to discuss how PatternBuilder integrates with NetDocuments and to demonstrate a new customizable database feature called data tables. 

Scott emphasized that PatternBuilder is a toolkit for building and automating your firm’s needs. Traditionally, automation meant creating documents. Of course, PatternBuilder can do that. But it can do much more, such as collecting, storing, and manipulating data via data tables. It’s a toolkit your firm can leverage to create solutions that might otherwise require a separate product and fee. 

Watch the video below to see how PatternBuilder helps organize the data at the heart of your law firm. 

Workflow and Document Automation with PatternBuilder 

Scott gave the example of hiring an employee. When a company wants to hire a new employee, the law firm creates three documents: an employment offer, an I-9 immigration form, and a proprietary inventions agreement. Instead of doing each document manually, with a PatternBuilder app, a user walks through a custom workflow (a series of questions) and the app produces those three finished documents. 

PatternBuilder leverages its integration with NetDocuments to go beyond just offering to download final documents to your desktop. As part of the app’s workflow, PatternBuilder both creates the documents and files them within the appropriate client and matter in NetDocuments. As a result, you save time and all firm users can quickly access documents. 

Building a PatternBuilder App 

You can build workflow apps with PatternBuilder’s “no code” editor, create the questions you want, and place those fields in document templates. Question types include: 

Short textMoney
Long textDate
Number (Decimals)Time
Number (Whole)Upload image/file
Radio ButtonsRange
DropdownEmail Password
Yes/No (Boolean)Combobox
CheckboxesList Selector
Row Selector

PatternBuilder permits dynamic logic in its workflows too. This means workflow questions and the resulting final document include only relevant information. Scott’s example was the employment agreement. If a prospect were offered stock options, you would select that option in the guided interview. Only then does the app prompt the user to enter stock options information. Similarly, if the company doesn’t offer the prospect stock options, those provisions are absent from the final employment agreement. 

Use Loops to Collect Repeating Data 

Another powerful feature is loops. Think about collecting information from your clients. Sometimes you know the “maximum” amount of data there will be. For example, a person will have only one social security number. Other times, you have no idea of the maximum. How many children does a client have? How many properties does a business own? Loops exist for situations where the maximum is unknown. Scott’s example is the proprietary inventions agreement. The prospective hire may have no prior inventions, a few, or dozens. You can set up the PatternBuilder app to collect unlimited inventions. All inventions entered appear in the document. If there are no inventions, the app removes that entire section from the document. 

Additionally, all NetDocuments’ management, permissions, and version tools integrate seamlessly with PatternBuilder. Upon creating and filing the documents, the app applies the proper NetDocuments metadata and security to each. These new documents appear in relevant searches and filters without manual data entry. 

Screenshot of NetDocuments Data Tables

Sample Data Collection with Data Tables in PatternBuilder 

While documents are at the heart of PatternBuilder, the program isn’t limited to them. Data tables make collecting, storing, and using data effortless. 

Scott’s example is completing a “new real estate client” form via a PatternBuilder app. The app asks questions like in his document example above. The difference is that rather than producing documents, finishing the workflow creates both a new client and new matter in NetDocuments. 

Furthermore, collected data, like company name and address, and loops, like the client’s real properties, are stored in data tables. That information is then available for automating documents. You can create as many data tables as you like. You can edit them directly instead of through a form or interview. They hold the same question types as workflow apps described above. Finally, data tables are accessible via an open API to receive data from your law practice management system, Salesforce, and elsewhere. 

Get Started with Workflows and Apps 

Find out how PatternBuilder can replicate and automate your firm’s unique templates and processes, resulting in faster, higher-value client service by seeing a personalized demo. Book here: https://www.netdocuments.com/products/patternbuilder.  

CosmoLex Extends its All-in-one with CosmoLex Websites 

Every business needs a website. Unfortunately, many law firms lack one, or if they have one, it serves no purpose beyond being a digital business card. Most firms want more, but time and other commitments preclude it. Fortunately, CosmoLex Websites makes creating and updating a powerful business website simple. 

It’s “Done for You” 

CosmoLex Websites operates on the “done for you” model. Your firm works with experts at CosmoLex to design and implement a modern, feature-rich website. There’s no need to hire or be a web developer, marketing strategist, or WordPress administrator. 

As Erica Birstler, VP of Product Communications & Support at CosmoLex, puts it, CosmoLex Websites, “take[s website development] off your plate and [you] have a great end result that can impact the growth of your business.” 

Watch the video below to see Erica walk Zack through a beautiful sample site demonstrating valuable website features and tight integration between the CosmoLex LPMS and a CosmoLex-created website. 

The Three Cs of a CosmoLex Website 

The value proposition of having an LPMS vendor build and maintain your website becomes apparent when you remember that the LPMS is a core source of contact information. Good customer relationship management is integral to effective legal marketing. Good marketing naturally involves the web. Having a website that feeds prospects into your LPMS is advantageous. 

CosmoLex Websites rests on the fundamental principles of clean design, credible content, and convenient features. 

Clean Design 

Say goodbye to bland, cookie-cutter law firm websites featuring people in suits and icons of courthouses and gavels. CosmoLex Websites ditches those stereotypes in favor of a clean, modern design that the firm selects to fit its image. 

CosmoLex employees work with your firm to distill your desires into a fresh business website with top-notch features like: 

  1. Mobile-responsive webpage layouts; 
  2. Easily found and click-friendly links for phone numbers and emails; and 
  3. Inclusive, accessibility-focused widgets for text size and spacing, tooltips, color, saturation, and on-the-fly language translation. 

Credible Content 

Your firm’s website is where potential clients learn about you without ever speaking to you. As prospects peruse your site, they form judgments about whether your firm fits their needs. CosmoLex Websites offers a library of website content, like blogs, articles, and explanatory pages, for you to choose from. 

You work with CosmoLex to select and customize content relevant to your target audience. CosmoLex makes available easily modifiable templates and sources of information. They have fine-tuned their curated content for heightened visibility through keyword and search engine optimization, improving your site’s placement in search results. 

Finally, no matter how perfect a firm’s website is on launch, all firms face the challenge of keeping their website current and relevant. CosmoLex addresses this issue with quarterly content update meetings to address site changes. 

Convenient Features 

A firm’s website is not only a marketing tool.  It can also help you serve existing clients. Because your website links directly to your CosmoLex LPMS, you can offer client convenience features: 

  1. Contacts: Create a web form that feeds information directly into CosmoLex. 
  2. Consultation: Set up a consultation button on your site so clients or prospects can schedule appointments via integrations with Calendly and Microsoft Bookings. 
  3. Pay Now: Offer clients the ability to pay via credit cards. Payments feed directly into CosmoLex.  You can classify the payment type (e.g., retainer or invoice) and link them to the appropriate client and matter. 
  4. Client Portal: Make available matter information you choose to clients, who can log in and review it when convenient. Sharable information includes invoices, documents, and calendar information. 

A Better Law Firm Website with Less Burden 

CosmoLex Websites alleviates the burden of designing, building, and maintaining a website. Its streamlined integration with a top LPMS vendor keeps vital information handy. Erica said her biggest passion is “to help lawyers run a better business.” As attorneys, you want to practice law and serve clients, not bury yourself in HTML, APIs, or SEO. 

Visit cosmolex.com for a demo and free trial to see how a CosmoLex-based website helps your firm reach prospects, boost profitability, and focus on being a competitive player in the legal field. 

Thoughtful Attorney Marketing with Omnizant 

The phrase “digital marketing” encompasses many things and has changed over the last decade. 

Digital Marketing for Attorneys Evolves 

Marketing for legal services has a short history compared to other products and services. Before the 1970s, rules prohibited attorney advertising. And once permitted, many people saw things like TV ads and billboards as crass, even desperate. But public opinion changes, as do the methods for attracting its attention. While an ever-diminishing number of attorneys buy ads in the Yellow Pages, digital marketing spending grows by leaps and bounds. Every new or growing law firm needs a website to attract and inform potential clients. 

Fred Cohen, Founder and CEO of Omnizant, recalls that, a decade ago, when attorneys thought of their website, they imagined an online business card. More recently, they noticed that their firm website could be a powerful tool for client generation. But, in some ways, firms have now over-corrected, seeing all marketing as digital and neglecting traditional tools. 

Omnizant’s approach balances the traditional and digital functions of a marketing agency. Omnizant helps with positioning, messaging, and differentiation—traditional marketing functions, while blending in powerful digital capabilities for maximum visibility. As Fred puts it, “[Attorneys] have gotten past the idea that lawyers shouldn’t market or have an active web presence seeking clients.” 

Goals of a Law Firm Website 

When working with a firm on its website, Fred and his team aim to build a site that answers three foundational questions: 

  1. What unique value proposition and experience does the firm offer prospective clients? 
  1. How does the firm view its relationship with the client? 
  1. What is the firm’s approach to a matter? 

In answering each of these questions, the firm, with Omnizant’s help, tells a compelling story. The goal is to create a website that serves as a learning experience. Potential clients can then determine whether the firm is a good fit. 

In addition to a robust and purposeful website, Omnizant works with the firm to determine its target client and how to identify those prospects. As Fred says, a marketing agency should help drive relevant traffic to your website, not sheer numbers. Success is more than a high search engine optimization (SEO) rank. Law firms need a holistic approach to get your message in front of the right people to let them know you can help them. 

People shopping for legal services today are sophisticated consumers and know they have many options. When they select an attorney, it’s both an overt assessment (e.g., does the firm meet my stated needs) and subliminal, a practical and emotional decision. Communicate a cohesive branding message with words, imagery, and color to reach both sides. 

Automation is coming for marketing. This alarms some, given the rudimentary state of firms’ marketing efforts. While artificial intelligence (AI) grabs the headlines, many firms don’t have sound marketing fundamentals. Too few firms use customer relations management (CRM) software, pipeline tracking, or lead attribution software. These long-standing technologies are nascent, even in mid-sized firms. 

Once your firm has the basics in place, Fred says, then it’s time to think about marketing automation. The purpose of automated marketing efforts, such as “drip” campaigns specialized for a persona or client profile, is to keep the law firm “top of mind.”  

It’s hard enough to be a good lawyer without worrying about the minutia of what good marketing entails. Omnizant is a great partner for growth-minded firms, which it defines not as simply “more clients,” but rather “better clients” or “specific clients.” Their approach harkens back to tailoring the firm’s website and overall branding to attract clients that match its value proposition. 

Where to Start 

Holistic firm marketing may seem overwhelming, but Fred offered advice to get started even before you engage Omnizant or another agency. 

  1. Know what you are good at and passionate about. 
  1. Figure out what information you have available to share with prospects. 
  1. Don’t become obsessed with search engine ranking scores. Ranking improvements come with high-quality content. Long-form content, in the range of 4,000 to 6,000 words, generates more traffic. This is especially true with the advent of AI, which can flood search engines with short content. 
  1. Although long-form writing is advantageous, one should give finite responses to finite questions where possible. Be concise where appropriate. 
  1. Attribute website content to a specific author whenever possible. Search engines value authorship, proof that a human wrote the piece because it adds credibility and defends against a flood of AI-written dreck. Bylines add to the “authority of authorship” and improve the firm’s visibility in search results. 

Learn more from Zack’s chat with Fred by watching our video and visiting Omnizant’s website to grab their guide on search engine optimization for lawyers, or go ahead and get an SEO Audit.

PracticePanther Promotes Process Productivity with New Features 

PracticePanther, the comprehensive law practice management solution focused on small to medium-sized law firms, spends a lot of time listening to its users. This ongoing conversation helps it refine and expand its features to serve its growing customer base better. Recently, Jonathan Prosperi, product manager at PracticePanther, sat down with Lawyerist’s Zack Glaser to talk about their approach to product development and some of the changes rolling out to customers in the latest updates.

PracticePanther’s Approach 

PracticePanther works with clients and partners to ensure it’s building the best, newest, and most thoughtful features to empower law firms and help customers have a better, more complete experience. All the changes Jonathan highlighted emerged from his team’s conversations with end users. 

Product managers meet with users to know on-the-ground needs—no guesswork or ivory tower theorizing. Any PracticePanther client can request a meeting with Jonathan directly within the application. These meetings help people feel connected to the platform, be heard by the company, and know their ideas are going somewhere. 

The result? PracticePanther frequently updates their platform to enhance their user experience. In this instance, they implemented ways to make current workflows faster and increase control of matters and financials. Here, the team made simple but effective user enhancements that illuminate existing powerful tools. 

User Input Drives Feature Enhancements

PracticePanther’s workflow and interface improvements focus on activities, intake, matters, billing, and system performance.

Increased Visibility of Firm Activities 

With a new firm Activities screen, leadership can keep a watchful eye on their processes and efficiency with ease. PracticePanther’s Activities screen shows all tasks and events within the system. Previously users could set task due dates and mark them completed. Activities now show the completed date alongside the due date, making it easier to see firm productivity. Users can separate these two data points in the Activities window and view them side-by-side in columns.

Default Intake Form 

PracticePanther provides a new default intake form with “most requested” questions, so it’s immediately usable by new firms. Rather than leaving it up to the attorney to make a form, the platform lets users hit the ground running. When prospects complete the intake questionnaire, that information flows directly into PracticePanther. 

Flexibility is essential too. PracticePanther makes it simple to add and remove questions to fully customize the form to meet each firm’s needs.

Enhanced Matter Visibility 

PracticePanther has also added the ability to see the corresponding rate in the matters list. Each matter could, and still can, have its rate set by matter type or user. Customers can now see the rate in the matter list and the report tables. They can also quickly sort or filter by rate. 

Additionally, users can now archive matters. If a potential new client doesn’t convert or a matter is paid out the firm doesn’t completely lose the data. Previously, the only option was to delete matters. Now, users can easily look back at previous case information without cluttering their working dashboard. Archiving matters removes them from the active list without eliminating them from the system. It speeds up searches, removes unnecessary information from reports and filters, and declutters the user’s view.

Greater Billing Flexibility 

Daily or monthly billing rituals have been made easier with the updates to financial tracking and contact-level invoices in PracticePanther. 

For any matter, the unapplied dollar amount is money the firm holds in its operating account. This is cash it has received from a client for a matter, but not yet applied against that matter’s balance. With a recent change to the matter list, users can now see the unapplied amounts in the default view. Additionally, users can quickly determine which matters have earned and paid money that merely needs to be applied against an invoice. 

A second change to billing concerns contact-level invoices. When one client has multiple matters with the firm, is it preferable for the invoice to list matters by name or by matter number? PracticePanther employees and users hotly debated the topic, with about 50% on each side. So, developers did the sensible thing and allowed users to organize matters either way on invoices. 

Small changes like these permit users to work quicker in ways they want to work. 

Accelerated System Performance 

The final focus area for recent revisions is general system performance. PracticePanther sped up lots of little things. Each second saved may seem inconsequential in isolation. But you’ll notice the benefit with bulk operations like generating invoices—particularly during “rush hour” at the beginning of the month. Similarly, PracticePanther improved global search speed and the display and refreshing of data tables. For example, the data just snaps in when generating a report housing dozens or hundreds of clients. Snappy and seamless performance is one of those things that never makes the “cool feature” checklist, but users appreciate it every day. 

As Jonathan said, the folks at PracticePanther want to “make sure people feel good about using our software.” 

Check Out PracticePanther 

Our video conversation and the five items above highlight only a few of PracticePanther’s ongoing enhancements. If you’re a current user, visit their release notes section to learn what’s new and upcoming.

If you’re not already a user, learn more by visiting www.practicepanther.com or contacting Jonathan at jonathan@practicepanther.com, who’d be delighted to hear from you. The ethos of PracticePanther comes through in listening to customers, continually improving the product in big and small ways that make a daily difference, and the words Jonathan closed with: “I take a lot of pride in connecting with people who care about our product. I want to know what they’re thinking about, what they want to see in the future, so I make myself available.”

 

Monetizing Your Firm’s Internal Processes

I’ve spoken with a lot of lawyers who want to make their own software. In fact, as a creditor’s rights attorney, I knew quite a few who developed platforms for their own use. Many of them entertain the idea of selling these platforms to others. Yet, few of them try, and still fewer of them are successful.

What is it, then, that allows some lawyers to tap into this alternative income stream? And why are others left simply dreaming of what they could do? Software development for lawyers is about selling processes. The firms that have good processes to sell will find success. Others will not.

Impetus for Building Software

Lawyers often find themselves wishing that a platform would do something more. Nothing ever works perfectly for the systems they have in place. Which makes sense. There are countless ways to practice law within the practice of law. So, unless a lawyer is willing to adjust their processes to fit the system, the system will never be enough.

Commonly, this leads a firm to build their own product based around their own systems If a firm has the need and the means, it’s not a bad idea to build something bespoke that fits their firm perfectly.

Although this is a great reason to build a product internally, it’s not a great reason to sell the product externally. 

Selling Processes Rather than Software

As stated earlier, no product will be perfect for a firm unless the firm is willing to adjust its practices and procedures to fit the product. This is true for any software. Yes, some tools fit well into a firm’s procedures, but they don’t generally fit everything. 

This was true for Greg Siskind, a Lawyerist Community member and renowned immigration attorney. With his team from Siskind & Susser, he has designed an immigration-specific practice management platform. They are co-developing it with FastCase, using the NextChapter software.

From his perspective, this platform is a natural extension of a book that his team has published for decades. They refer to it as the Immigration Cookbook, and it helps other attorneys learn proper practices and procedures for immigration cases.

With this new software, practicing immigration attorneys won’t need to adjust their systems and procedures just to use it. They’ve already done that when buying into the Cookbook. Here, Greg and his team have already sold the processes. The software is simply a way to use current technology to implement those processes.

Developing Software as an Attorney

Software development for attorneys, then, is not really about building software. It’s about building processes. And, frankly, it’s about building better processes than the next attorney. Then, and only then, can a firm develop a successful application. Future users will have to see a need to use the system upon which the software is built. Otherwise, they may just develop something on their own.

Further Reading

Check out our Healthy Systems resources to learn more about developing processes and procedures for your firm. There, you’ll see how to build processes, document them, and implement them into your particular practice.

Supercharge Intake with Setmore, LEX Reception, and LawPay

Many lawyers begin their firm automation processes at client intake. This is generally a good idea. Yet, fully streamlining the myriad interactions can seem impossible. Firms need to account for preferred timing, methods, and comfort levels of communication on the part of the clients. They also need to allow for adjustments and even errors.

Setmore is a robust calendaring and appointment scheduling system for lawyers. It can give clients access to self-scheduling—or not. Further, it allows attorneys to maintain complete control over their calendars through their preferences, settings, and integrations. LEX Reception users get access to Setmore Pro as part of their account, but anyone can set up a free account at Setmore.com.

Setmore Features for Law Firms

Setmore is a legal-specific calendaring platform from the AnywhereWorks team. AnywhereWorks makes LEX Reception, Teleport, and other apps that give lawyers the freedom to run their firms free from geographical constraints. It offers appointment scheduling, client management, payment processing, and integrations with leading legal technology providers.

Appointment Scheduling

Managing a law firm’s multiple calendars is tough enough without input from clients and potential new clients. Yet, clients and other third parties are beginning to expect a certain level of interactivity with the appointment scheduling process. Setmore accounts for this freedom while still allowing a firm to maintain control of its time and attention.

As one can see on their website or in the demo video below, the main feature of Setmore is the public-facing scheduling app. Users—usually clients—can browse scheduling options and availability on their own time using their computer or mobile device. They can then select and schedule appointments without interacting with someone at the firm.

This app exists on the firm’s Setmore page and can be sent to clients via email, text message, or any other method of sending a URL. Equally important, firms can embed the page on their website or even add a QR code to business cards. 

Calendar Management

This much client access to a law firm’s calendar can be uncomfortable. Accordingly, Setmore gives users ample control over their availability with different types of appointments, hour and day restrictions, and buffer periods based on appointment type. The platform also builds reminders into the system and has a two-way sync with Google and Microsoft calendars. This means firms can set it and forget it rather than constantly stressing over appointments.

In addition to the high level of control over individual calendars, the app can be set up for every team member. These members can set individual restrictions and the firm can manage multiple calendars at the same time. Clients can even select specific users to meet with or change team members based on their availability.

Client Management

In addition to appointment scheduling, Setmore helps users track information about their clients. It can track information like name, email address, and phone number with ease. Additionally, users can include custom fields to track like case type, matter description, or even incident date. Setmore’s integrations with HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho CRM, and Zapier make it easy to sync this information with already adopted CRMs. 

Payment processing

Setmore also has multiple payment processing options. Although they integrate with many non-legal platforms, their LawPay connection is the most useful for attorneys. This allows firms to accept payments for consultations, integrate initial trust account payments into the onboarding process, and more.

Integrations

As part of the AnywhereWorks family of products, Setmore integrates with products like LEX Reception, and Teleport. In addition to this, it also integrates with a host of CRMs, marketing products, website providers, and social media platforms. 

Law Firm Client Intake Tech Stack

Although Setmore can be used on its own as a law firm appointment scheduler, its best use comes as part of a tech stack. When combined with LEX Reception and LawPay, firms can integrate the management of incoming calls, appointment scheduling, and online payments. 

This means the firm’s receptionists have more capabilities. They can set appointments using the firm’s preferred method—the Setmore platform. Further, they can easily see team member availability and even take payments over the phone.

The firm’s appointment scheduler has more functionality as well. Through the integration, much of LawPay’s capabilities are embedded directly into the platform. So the office can take payments as appointments are selected. These payments are then integrated directly into the LawPay application and tracked as any other payment.

Setmore Demo with LEX Reception and LawPay

Recently, Zack sat down with Jillian, Bre, and Abby, of Setmore, LEX Reception, and LawPay to discuss how this tech stack can supercharge a law firm’s intake and client communication systems. Take a look and see how these three platforms seamlessly interact.

How to Get It

Law firms can learn more about Setmore, LEX, and LawPay, where they can get a demo, set up a free account, or dive right in with their Pro tier subscription. 

Additionally, LEX Reception users already get access to the Setmore Pro tier through their accounts. Learn more about LEX at our full review page and see what discounts Lawyerist subscribers get.

 

Buying Laptops for Your Firm in 2023

Buying a laptop for a law office is actually quite easy. Once firms understand that the computer is only a tool doing a specific job, a lot of the consternation falls away. Questions like, how fast should the processor be, or what size hard drive should we buy, are easily answered. What is it that the user actually needs? Sure, there are some basic requirements to get right, but, ultimately, it’s a question of function.

Luckily, most law firms need their laptops to serve a lot of the same functions. And, although there are many ways to get a laptop purchase wrong, there are many more ways to get it right. Many of the decisions lawyers get stuck on are simply a matter of preference. Below, we’ll go through the important features a firm should consider. These include how much they should expect to spend and where they should look to buy from.

Laptop Specifications for Law Firms

Mac vs PC

The first question many firms consider is whether they should buy a Mac or a PC. This feels like an important question. While it does start to limit a user’s choice of connected devices, it’s not as constraining a factor as it once was. Most (but certainly not all) programs that attorneys use will work equally well on a Mac as they will on a PC. Even Microsoft Word works seamlessly on a Mac these days. Well, as seamlessly as MS Word can work.

Law firms should use whichever computer style they are comfortable with. Even the price difference melts away when comparing computers with similar specs.

Laptop Speed for a Law Firm

Unless a firm is using its computers for extraneous tasks like video editing, or online gaming, there is no need to think too much about processor speed. Firms don’t need the fastest processors on the market they’ll never use the speed they paid for. On the other hand, they do not need to get the cheapest processor out there—time is still money. 

Firms should look to straddle the middle of the processor market with something like the Intel i5, i7, or comparable. And for Mac users, the M1 processor of the 2020 Macbook Air will likely handle anything a typical law firm will throw at it.

Laptop Memory for Law Firms

When it comes to memory specifications, most people think that more is always better. And, for the most part, they are right. Although there is no need to buy too much memory intentionally. Hard drive space isn’t as expensive as it once was, and law offices are saving more and more data in digital form.

Firms should simply keep in mind where most of their data will be stored. Will it be in a cloud-based practice management system or will it be local? For a cloud-based firm, a 256GB hard drive will likely work. A local firm will probably want to start with 1TB and go from there. Typically, one can add extra storage space with relative ease.

Screen Size

A firm’s choice of screen size is more about the user’s preference than anything else. Where some prefer the portability of a 13-inch, others can’t get work done with something less than 17 inches. Rather than focusing on the laptop screen size, however, firms should look to add a second monitor to their laptop setup.

How Much a Law Firm Laptop Should Cost

When computers were simply performing word processing and basic communication tasks in law offices, a firm could get away with a cheap setup. Those days are gone. Most of what a lawyer does in their practice involves a computer. The computer is now the most important tool in a law office. Firms should not buy cheap tools.

Although it can vary considerably, a firm should look to spend at least $1000 on a new laptop for their office. It would not be uncommon to spend $1500 to $1750. One should expect to replace these machines once every three years. A computer won’t typically fail within three years, but it will start to lag behind and cost the firm money.

Where Lawyers Should Buy Their Laptops

Law firms should look to purchase their laptops from a reputable online dealer. They should not go to the big box stores to choose from a limited list of machines intended for mass consumption. Firms should buy directly from Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and other tried and tested technology companies. They can also look to resellers like Newegg.com or Backmarket.com where they can get quality refurbished laptops at reasonable prices.

Key Takeaways for Buying a Law Firm Laptop

At the end of the day, a laptop is simply a tool in a law office. Purchasers will do well to keep this in mind during their search. Although there are some minimum standards to consider, it is not necessary to purchase the fastest laptop on the market. A good law firm laptop will likely cost between $1000 and $1750 and will need to be replaced in about three years.

Rocket Matter Incorporates Kanban Project Management into LPMS

Rocket Matter brings an innovative tool from other industries into matter organization: the Kanban board. Kanban is a visual approach to project management that originated with Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno in the late 1940s. Now, attorneys can use it to improve matter organization with Rocket Matter.

How Kanban Works for Matter Organization 

Kanban helps attorneys quickly see matters in stages versus a staid list of dates or tasks. A Kanban board consists of several columns, each one representing a matter stage. Matters progress from left to right across the columns, moving from initial filing (or matter opening) through matter closing.

One doesn’t need a computer to use the Kanban board method. A web search for images produces tons of whiteboards with sticky notes. But Rocket Matter took the Kanban concept, and made it their own, building it into the core of matter management.

The heart of Kanban is visualizing workflow. Think about the common stages of your matters. Maybe your work consists of one or two practice areas (e.g., personal bankruptcies in one or two jurisdictions). Then, perhaps a single board for bankruptcy is appropriate. However, if your practice is family in both a litigation and mediation context, then perhaps two boards is correct. In this case, one for litigation matters and one for mediation matters. 

In the example above, the firm created boards based on matter type. The graphic shows the stages of family law matters, but clicking on the “Boards” button reveals boards for each of their matter types.

Designing a Kanban Board for a Law Firm

In designing boards, be careful to balance segmentation and overview. You want to see as many matters as reasonable while still seeing useful data. Freely experiment and revise your board structure. You’re unlikely to get it perfect the first time. And that’s ok. Just be comfortable revisiting core assumptions. One contract drafting firm originally created Kanban boards for each type of contract, resulting in an overwhelming number of boards to review. Trying to visualize their work that way produced a cluttered picture. After consulting with Rocket Matter, the firm created a single board based on common statuses of all contract types. Their revised board included columns like: 

  • New
  • Review/Draft
  • Waiting on Client
  • Waiting on Attorney
  • Approval – Client
  • Approval – Party
  • Complete

As a result, in a single board, the firm sees the stage of each matter, client’s name, primary attorney, and total number of matters in each stage. And, importantly, they see how long the matter has been in that stage.

Using Kanban to Speed Up Matters 

The Kanban board provides a picture of the “health” of the business. You can configure a time limit for how long a matter resides in a stage. The matter’s header changes color as the matter sits in that stage, aging from green (shorter than the time limit) to yellow (near the time limit) to red (over time). Visualization makes it simple to see which matter stages are bottlenecks within the firm.

Kanban for Unique Matters 

Rocket Matter’s Kanban functionality is also useful for attorneys in general practice who believe each case is truly one of a kind. For example, stages could be simple: new, to do, in progress, on hold, waiting on client, waiting on other, and complete. Or even more basic: to do, doing, and done.

Automating Kanban on Rocket Matter

In addition to a static visualization of matter status, you can link the Kanban boards to Rocket Matter’s “matter template” feature. For example, when you move a matter from mediation to pre-trial discovery, Rocket Matter can automatically prompt you to add or change matter information. Prompts can suggest that  you:

  • Add events/dates to the matter
  • Add tasks to the matter
  • Add and complete relevant custom fields
  • Add tags to the matter
  • Add people/relationships to the matter

Adding automation to Kanban boards in Rocket Matter is entirely optional, but it’s a way the system takes the burden off of the attorney to remember to do certain things when a matter reaches a new stage.

Practice Specific Automation 

Whether you automate a board or not depends on your practice areas and how you’ve organized your boards. With the bankruptcy practice example above, jurisdictions may have local rules that make adding a single set of dates or tasks to a matter inappropriate. Dates or tasks for “jurisdiction A” may be computed differently or be unnecessary in “jurisdiction B.” A single bankruptcy board can’t take those differences into consideration. Those local rule differences make a uniform automated template a poor fit. For the “many jurisdictions” bankruptcy practice, you could create “jurisdiction-unique” matter templates, but the matter template must be added to the matter manually.

However, if your bankruptcy practice covers only two jurisdictions, perhaps having two Kanban boards makes sense, even if the stages are very similar because you could use matter templates customized per board for each jurisdiction. You’ll find a strong interplay between how you organize your boards and the matter template automation appropriate to them. This is where iteration becomes fun!

Integration with Rocket Matter’s Business Intelligence Tool

In an earlier article, we discussed Rocket Matter’s powerful Business Intelligence Tool (BIT). This tool lets you build your own reports for nearly any data field in the system, whether it came with the program or you created it. All Kanban board fields are accessible to the BIT.

As an example of the BIT’s versatility, you could build a report to look at your family law Kanban board. To illustrate, the report below shows the stages of all matters where the client’s gender is female.

Get More Project Management Power with Kanban

Kanban boards give Rocket Matter users a powerful project management tool. Ultimately, project management is about business intelligence. It allows you to know where things stand, where they’re going, and spotting the problem areas and bottlenecks. Combining Kanban boards, intelligent workflow automation, and business intelligence tools offers attorneys an unparalleled view of their practice.

Rocket Matter Kanban Board Demo

Recently, Zack sat down with Rocket Matter’s Sandy Sokolin to discuss exactly what this looks like in their practice management software. Take a look at the video below to see more.

How to Get It

To learn more about Rocket Matter and it’s project management features, schedule a free demo and get a trial account at RocketMatter.com. You can also check out Case Management Tips, a free download from Rocket Matter on how to win back control in your practice.

Want to learn more about Rocket Matter’s other features? Check out our full review, where you can see a features list, other demo videos, and community comments. Remember that Lawyerist readers get a membership benefit through the review page.

 

In this Economy? Technology for Economic Uncertainty

With the recent mass layoffs from the likes of Google, Amazon, and Twitter, it’s easy to imagine a looming (or existing) economic downturn. Some practices are relatively recession-proof. But, all firms would likely benefit from asking what they will do if the demand for legal services decreases. 

Somewhat counterintuitively, we’ve also seen a decreased appetite for outside investment in legal technology products. After a slew of acquisitions over the last few years, it appears that private investment is starting to dry up. Which makes some sense. On the whole, attorneys are likely going to spend less money in the near future. Meaning, they will likely spend less on their technology.

Yet, in order to compete in a recession, technology is just the thing lawyers should be doubling down on.

There are two ways to compete with other lawyers in an economic downturn. Lawyers either need to win the existing pool of potential new clients or expand the market they can serve. Legal technology, and technology as a whole, can help with this.

Enhancing Productivity

Most lawyers know that technology can help firms automate tasks and increase efficiency. Although they aren’t always implementing appropriate procedures, they are aware of the capabilities, nonetheless. Investing in technology that helps increase productivity lowers the cost of doing business. This, in turn, means that a law firm can either decrease its prices or increase its margins. 

Increasing Client Satisfaction

In addition to enhancing productivity, technology can help law firms increase their client satisfaction. Whether a firm attracts clients through referrals or Google reviews, happy clients generally lead to more clients. Using client relationship managers (CRMs) to track and delight current and potential new clients can easily be the edge one needs in a competitive market. 

Broadening the Market

Perhaps more subtly, technology can also help firms expand their market. No, we’re not talking about using Bankruptcy software to break into a new area of law (although that has value). Here, we mean providing value that current clients didn’t necessarily know a firm had. 

Many times, this means productizing current services, like, offering automated residential leases. This can act both as a source of a steady income and as a lead magnet. 

Other times, this can mean educating clients about what a law firm can really provide. Could a law office be a place where local businesses get together in Mastermind sessions?

No matter what approach a firm takes to prepare for economic uncertainty, one thing is clear—technology can help. We never recommend simply throwing money at software companies. But tightening the belt should not come at the expense of efficiency, productivity, or security. In fact, as one can see from above, this is the time to do more with technology, not less.

Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about how to choose legal technology, check out our Field Guide to Buying Products and Services. There, you can learn about different types of legal tech, what they are used for, and which ones might be right for your practice.

Law Ruler Brings Softphones Directly to Your CRM

Lead management is a crucial aspect of any law firm’s operations. It helps to ensure that potential new clients (PNCs) are effectively tracked and followed up with in a timely manner. However, managing these leads can be a challenging task, especially for high volume law firms. Many law firms have turned to softphone applications for assistance. Increasingly, though, firms are finding integrated softphones to be their best bet. 

Softphones for Law Firms

Softphones, also known as “virtual phones” or “IP phones” are an alternative to traditional telephone hardware. A softphone system allows users to make and receive phone calls using their computer or mobile device. They allow lawyers to use their firm’s business number while away from their office or on the go.

Additionally, softphones can be used to integrate the functionality of a phone system directly into an application. Client relationship managers (CRM) with a built-in softphone can track and record calls, automate tasks, provide analytics, and increase productivity.This is done all within the same piece of software. Call information (duration, disposition, and participants) is stored in the same place as a PNC’s information (name, marketing sources, and case type). This makes tracking, automation, and reporting easier.

Automated Call Tracking and Management

One of the most important features of Law Ruler’s softphones is the ability to automatically track and manage all incoming and outgoing calls. Firms can assign calls to particular users and set up round-robin call distribution.  Firms can also create automations that make sure no PNC goes unnoticed. Managers see what users are doing in real time so they can more effectively distribute resources. Law Ruler’s softphones provide a complete record of all calls made to and from potential clients. This information can be used to track the progress of the lead and help identify improvements to the lead management process.

Automated Lead Management Tasks

Another key feature of Law Ruler’s softphones is the ability to automate lead management tasks. The software can automatically schedule follow-up calls and send email reminders to potential clients who have not yet responded to an initial call. This helps to ensure that leads are followed up with in a timely manner, and significantly increases the chances of converting them into clients. Law Ruler’s softphones also allow law firms to set up automated follow-up tasks. These can be customized to meet the specific needs of the firm, helping to ensure that no lead goes unresponded to.

Analytics and Reporting

Law Ruler’s softphones also offer a wide range of analytics and reporting tools that help law firms to better understand their leads. The software stores detailed information on the number and length of calls made and received, and the number of leads that have been converted into clients. This information can help identify areas where the firm can improve its lead management process. Firms can then focus on leads that have a higher likelihood of converting into clients. With Law Ruler’s softphones, law firms can access real-time data and analytics on their leads to make better-informed decisions and improve their lead conversion rate.

Direct Integration into the CRM

Law Ruler’s softphones fully integrate with a firm’s legal client relationship management software. Lawyers can manage all aspects of a case—leads, calls, tasks, and appointments— all in one place. This helps streamline the lead management process and make it more efficient.  This can save law firm’s time and resources.

Easy to Use

Law Ruler’s softphones are simple to use, and can be quickly adopted by law firms of all sizes. Accessible from any device, the software can be easily integrated with a firm’s other tools and software. With Law Ruler’s softphones, law firms can improve their lead management process without having to invest in expensive new hardware or software.

Law Ruler Softphone Demo

Recently, Zack sat down with Matthew Defrain to talk about the specifics of the Law Ruler softphones. They dig further into the automations, workflows, and general use of the Law Ruler softphones in the video below.

How to Get It

To see first-hand how Law Ruler can automate your marketing and get you more clients, schedule a free demo today! Law Ruler is much more than integrated softphones. As part of the ProfitSolv family, they can be used on their own or as part of a larger cohesive legal tech stack.

 

Lawyerist’s Merger Announcement with Affinity Consulting Means Two Brands, One Team, Healthier Firms

Lawyerist is adding more expertise, resources, and expanded ways to help firms through its recent merger with Affinity Consulting Group. 

On January 1, 2023, Lawyerist Media, LLC, the go-to resource for small law firms building healthier businesses, merged with Affinity Consulting Group, LLC, the leading consulting firm helping legal organizations find better ways to work.

Affinity Offers Hands-on Implementation Services

While the two teams are similar, Affinity Consulting offers more design and implementation services. Similar to Lawyerist, Affinity Consulting works with legal teams on strategic plans, firm retreats, training, and business coaching. While Lawyerist has traditionally offered a “done with you” implementation plan, Affinity Consulting provides customized “done for you” solutions. 

The Affinity team is the go-to team for designing, building, and implementing new technology and system solutions for legal teams. The Affinity team helps firms through the entire configuration and rollout process for all the tools firms need, including:

  • Practice management
  • Billing and accounting    
  • Salesforce consulting
  • Document automation
  • Document management

“Affinity Consulting is the only choice for teams looking to outsource the building and implementation of tech solutions for their firm. They bring a new level of services to our community that we haven’t previously been able to offer,” explains Lawyerist CEO Stephanie Everett. “We are so excited to share their expertise with our community.” 

Lawyerist Grows Stronger

While the merger means some internal changes, it will not change how the legal community interacts with the Lawyerist brand. Lawyers can still:

“It might not look like much has changed for many of the lawyers in our community, but they will all benefit from the additional expertise and resources the Affinity team brings to the table,” said Lawyerist CEO Stephanie Everett. “Affinity’s resources will allow us to build more tools and services to help small firms build future-focused firms.” 

Lawyerist + Affinity Build for the Future

Leadership for the enhanced team is excited to explore new ways to expand services and value to the legal community. “This is a deal where 1+1 = 19 in that our teams really are better and stronger together,” said Affinity Group’s co-founder and Managing Partner, Debbie Foster. “This merger will benefit the entire legal community as our teams come together to build new products and tools that legal organizations of all sizes need most right now.”  

“This merger will benefit the entire legal community as our teams come together to build new products and tools that legal organizations of all sizes need most right now.” 

debbie foster

The beginning of 2023 includes The Small Firm Roadmap Revisited, the second edition of Lawyerist’s best-selling book. And, a new podcast, Powerful Leaders No Apologies, a show focused on women in legal owning their power and changing the world. 

Lawyers interested in learning how the team can help their firms can connect at Affinity Consulting Group or Lawyerist.

 

Law Practice Exchange Helps Maximize Firm Value

Law Practice Exchange helps lawyers discover unrealized value in their practices. LPE has changed the marketplace for the better. They’re connecting offices with a wider range of potential purchasers and educating firms on what buyers are looking for. Solos and small firms can get better compensation for what they’ve built and purchasers can find better products.

Uncovering Value in a Law Firm

Although they have value, the physical assets of a firm don’t make the practice. Gone are the days of simply selling the firm’s library of state codes and treatises. Firms today have two distinct advantages from those of yesteryear: an expanded buyer pool and information on what creates value in a firm.

Expanding the Field of Law Firm Buyers

With Law Practice Exchange, attorneys can reach beyond their own network to sell their practice. There may not be a local buyer for an attorney’s rural Tennessee bankruptcy firm. But the book of business, local goodwill, and industry knowledge may be just what an expanding North Carolina firm is looking for. There is greater value for both offices when these two firms connect.

Creating Value in a Firm

Classically, attorneys haven’t been encouraged to think of their firm as a business. This means that many practices don’t think strategically about how to build value in their firm. After all, this is an asset many lawyers spend their entire lives working on. Why reduce its value to physical possessions in the end?

Law Practice Exchange helps firms understand they build more than what can be seen. Real estate, physical assets, and a book of “potential” clients aren’t all a firm is.

LPE helps firms uncover areas to work on in order to build value. There is a vast difference between a firm whose processes live in one paralegal’s head and one that has documented, repeatable, and scalable practices. Similarly, a firm with streamlined intake and corresponding marketing is much more appealing than one that relies on personal referrals.

How to Get It

Want to learn more about how to maximize the value of your firm? Take a look at our full review of The Law Practice Exchange. See more videos, hear from our community, and compare products.

 

BluShark Adds Strategy to Law Firm Social Media Content

The goal of most content marketing is to drive potential new clients to a lawyer’s website. Social media posts, as a form of content marketing, should do that for an attorney as well. BluShark Digital uses social media platforms to supplement and enhance its clients’ marketing strategy.

Although many attorneys use social media, not all of them do it well. Posts are rarely incorporated into an overall scheme. BluShark understands that social media strategy should include just that—strategy. With proper planning, platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and even LinkedIn can become powerful assets in a firm’s intake efforts.

In reality, however, most firms simply don’t have the time to sit down and create a social media strategy. And those that do have the time, rarely have the experience to make it work. The obvious solution, other than ignoring it, is to hand off many of the responsibilities to an experienced third party. Still, lawyers will need to have an idea of what they want to accomplish before they can hand it off.

Social Media Strategy for Law Firms

Before a firm can have a good social media strategy, it will need a good content marketing strategy. This means understanding their ideal client, what voice to use, and what content appeals to their audience. With BluShark, this means asking, “Who is this for?” And, “What do we want to accomplish with this?”

In some cases, social media can be used to enhance a firm’s credibility among its peers. For example, a firm that relies on referrals may simply want to connect with its network. Or a firm might use social media to expand its network by engaging with other thought leaders.

Other firms may want to amplify their brand awareness. A DUI attorney may not have an extensive referral network, but they can get their name out to the public. Sometimes that means letting the firm’s personality shine through. Commenting on recent news on Twitter or posting thoughtful newsletters on LinkedIn can help establish relationships with future potential new clients.

How to Get It

What to learn more about using social media in law firm content marketing? Check out our full review of BluShark Digital, including community comments, features, FAQs, and more videos.

Ready to contact BluShark directly, request a consultation from them over at BluSharkDigital.com.

 

Documate Improves Data Manager to Help Lawyers Build Powerful Automations

At this point, lawyers know that document automation is more than just merging form fields into a static document. It’s also more than just conditional statements and formatting. Used thoughtfully, the apps or workflows created in Documate can gather a tremendous amount of information. Many law firms have built intake applications, self-serve document creators, and even client portals. Documate has recently updated the power and usability of its Data Manager to account for this.

What is Documate’s Data Manager?

Data Manager, as the name suggests, is where information ingested by each app is stored. Generally, it will gather information like name, address, phone number, and email address. It can store things like incident dates, the number of children, and drop-down menu selections. Lawyers who are familiar with databases like Airtable will find it comfortable to use.

Simply storing this information is something that every document automation product has to do. But, creating a method to use this information is not something they all do well. The ability to use the information in multiple documents and multiple apps is what Documate has in the form of Data Manager.

Building with Data Manager

With Data Manager, the information that is gathered when creating a document can be accessed outside of that document. Users find the line item for the information they want to use and select that information. They can then run alternative apps using that data.

This helps to reduce the double entry of information in a lawyer’s practice. Which, in turn, helps to reduce errors. An attorney can gather some personal information about their client in the initial interview and use that in a later document. For example, a client inputs their first name, last name, and address for the engagement letter. That information can be used later when creating a simple residential lease for them.

There is much more that can be done by the savvy attorney. Recently, our Legal Tech Advisor, Zack Glaser, sat down with Dorna Morni, of Documate to discuss the new and improved Data Manager. Have a look and see what else the Data Manager has to offer.

Demo of Data Manager with Documate

How to Get It

Ready to learn more about data in Documate? Check out our full review. There you will find community reviews, additional demos, features charts, and more. Remember that Lawyerist subscribers get additional discounts through the Affinity Benefits offered by our partners.

 

Accel Marketing Helps Law Firms Gain Clients with Custom Educational Content

Content marketing is a fundamental aspect of a lawyer’s web presence. But not all lawyers understand what content they should be creating. Many simply want to “go viral” or “get more views” on social media platforms. Accel Marketing understands that law firm content needs a purpose. 

Lawyers should create content that their potential new clients (PNCs) want to consume. Answering questions PNCs often ask builds trust with readers. They also build authority with search engines—which drives SEO and SERP.

Law Firm Content Marketing

It’s not always easy to practice law and create compelling content for PNCs. Lawyers often find that they don’t know exactly what it is their clients want to know. More commonly, however, they often don’t know who their potential clients really are or how to engage them.

Accel Marketing is a boutique law firm marketing partner. They don’t apply one-size-fits-all (or even one-size-fits-many) approaches to their client marketing. They determine the individual needs of each law firm and create custom educational content for their clients.

Custom Educational Content with Accell Marketing

Depending on the nature of a firm’s PNCs, this may be a blog post, an article, or even a video. Accel Marketing builds this content specifically for its clients. Or, more specifically, for its clients’ clients. 

This content is then used within the overall marketing efforts of the firm. Blogs are posted on social media, articles are backlinked, and questions from potential clients are specifically answered. This builds authority both on and off the internet platforms.

Recently, our Legal Tech Advisor Zack, sat down with Accel’s Vice President, Phil Bolton, to ask about the creation of custom educational content. Watch the video below to learn more.

Interview with Accel Marketing

How to Get it

Want to know more? Check out our full review of Accel Marketing Solutions. There, you can read community reviews, compare features, and view more demo videos. If you’d rather jump right in, get a free consultation at accelmarketingsolutions.com.