Episode Notes

In this episode, Jennifer talks with Zack Glaser about the components of a successful law practice management system.

  • 12:08. What are law practice management systems?
  • 14:37. How to pick the right law practice management system for your firm
  • 21:03. The functions of an API

Transcript

Announcer   (00:03):

Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts

Zack (00:35):

Hi, I’m Zack

Ashley (00:36):

And I’m Ashley Steckler. And this is episode 394 of the Lawyerist Podcast. Part of the Legal Talk Network. Today. Jennifer talks with Zack Glaser about the components to a successful law practice management system.

Zack (00:50):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Albatross Legal Workspaces, Postali and Posh Virtual Receptionists. We wouldn’t be able to do this show with other support, so stay tuned and we’ll tell you more about them later on. So Ashley recently you went on a trip to, I think people would be split on whether they want to go here or not to a place that people either really want to go or really have no desire to go. I think

Ashley (01:16):

After having gone there, I don’t know who would not want to go to Nepal.

Zack (01:21):

I feel the same way. Like, I, I would definitely want to go to Nepal, but I imagine there are people that I’ve never met that, you know, that’s just not their jam, but I don’t see how that can really be though.

Ashley (01:36):

My grandmother does not wanna go to Nepal.

Zack (01:39):

Okay. So we found one, we found, we found one, everybody else, else, everybody else I think should go to Nepal. I mean, coming from the stories that you have, so yeah. Let’s get into that. How was it?

Ashley (01:52):

It was amazing. It was fantastic. I had prior to going to Nepal, all of these ideas and images about how much I thought I might love it. And Nepal exceeded all of those.

Zack (02:05):

Really?

Ashley (02:06):

Yeah.

Zack (02:07):

That’s a heck of a trip, cuz I think Nepal you’ve got these fantastical sort of ideas. It feels like it would be at least from an American or a Western standpoint, a magical place where you, you know, it’s totally different and to exceed that.

Ashley (02:24):

Yeah,

Zack (02:25):

That’s outstanding.

Ashley (02:26):

Yeah. So before we went we found a cheap flight and throughout the idea, should we go to Nepal? And my immediate reaction was, you know, if we really don’t have time to do the Everest or Anna circuit tracks, should we really even go right? Because that’s kind of

Zack (02:47):

Classic question

Ashley (02:48):

Classic question. They take 12 or 16 days if you’re gonna do either of the full circuit tracks. Oh my. Which really was not in our timeline. And so we decided to do a Catmandu valley Trek. Four nights, five days. Fantastic.

Zack (03:05):

Okay. That Trek specifically, was it a thing that you did kind of, I don’t wanna say like all inclusive, but like it was a normalized, something that a lot of people do or did you have to put all this stuff together yourself?

Ashley (03:18):

So luckily there’s lots of travel bloggers and information and videos out there. It’s a fairly common, if you’re going to do a little valley track, you can go from B to port, to Dole, Cal to Namo Budha. And that’s kind of what we did. Okay. Highly recommend it. There’s also some people who do guides. And so you can have a guide, a local Nepali guide , which if anyone’s gonna travel there, I would recommend getting to Nepal and talking to local people. Instead of booking ahead online, that’s one thing that I learned about traveling. There was everyone is so helpful locally and ha they have way more connections than you’re ever gonna be able to find online example. During our track, we thought we would stay in a village called Namo Buddha at a monastery, a Buddhist monastery , but we couldn’t figure out online how to get there.

Ashley (04:17):

And once we got to Nepal and started talking to people there, we had a guest house the night before who said, go there, ask around. We ended up asking a young monk at the monastery, how do we get to the guest house to make a reservation? Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Even on parts of the track. You know, we’d be walking through this particular valley track. You walk through, oh, a dozen little villages. And so you’re in and out through valleys up and down, it was up and down constantly, but through little villages. And we would have people ask where we’re from, ask where we’re going and point us, you know, in the fork either left or right. Yes. You’re on the right path. Go this way, which I’ve never encountered before. It was fantastic.

Zack (05:12):

That feels like how, I don’t know. It’s just such a kinda dream of traveling. Yeah. You know, that’s how you, that’s how you think traveling should be when you’re younger and before you go and, and you have to, you know, strap your money to your, to your waste and you feel, I should be able to just ask where I’m going, but now we’re, it’s all GPS, you know, you have to, you have your phone on you and, and you, you go left or right based on where the computer tells you to go.

Ashley (05:41):

And we did have that. And we actually found that our maps and service worked wonderfully there. We had no issues. I had less issues there than I do here, where I live in North Dakota, but it really was this dream everyone was so friendly. And I, I mentioned this to you before Zach. I didn’t once feel I’ve traveled to other countries. I’ve traveled to other places I’ve personally never traveled to a place that was so unfamiliar to me. Where I didn’t have some sense of insecurity either about the logistics or the planning or spatially, you know, like you said, strapping your, your money to your hip . And I never felt that in Nepal, which I think is quite telling to the culture,

Zack (06:32):

I think so, because how does this work with your project man management brain, you know, with your, we we’ve gotta get these things done, you know? Cause we’ve had you on the podcast for, for multiple project management things and yeah. Going in and saying, I’m just gonna let the, you know, the wins take me. And I have an idea of where I want to go, but I don’t know exactly, you know, like all those things that we yeah. Were your days planned out or was it

Ashley (06:58):

Ashley on vacation is much more of a go where the day takes me and the wind blows. Okay. It’s very different from me nerding out on all the project management stuff which I actually also really love. Right,

Zack (07:13):

Right, right.

Ashley (07:14):

I am totally open to on vacation having this image of the idea of where we might end up and if we don’t, we don’t, it’s part of the adventure.

Zack (07:25):

That is not how we did the recent website launch.

Ashley (07:31):

No. Or should you

Zack (07:33):

Yeah. That, so just to kind of let people know that is not how we do project management stuff.

Ashley (07:40):

No, I’m totally, I’m two different people. When we’re doing project management stuff. When we’re working through a website, relaunch, it is meticulous. It is planned out. It is all of the project management rules, but vacation is separate and set aside. And so you can, you know, it’s not reality in some sense.

Zack (08:00):

Yeah. It’s nice to be able to separate that because I think that a lot of lawyers, especially can’t turn off.

Ashley (08:05):

Yeah.

Zack (08:06):

When they go on vacation, you still get your phone on you, you still get your tablet or your, your computer. And I think that’s one of the things of being able to work remotely. And I don’t know that you could get too much more remote than Nepal being able to work remotely means that a lot of people still do and they don’t shut that off often and let a different side of them take over.

Ashley (08:25):

Yeah. And that’s one thing, you know, I say it all the time, but I appreciate our team and the systems we have set up so much because I was able to go to Nepal. I was gone for two weeks and we planned ahead of time and we are able to rely on each other for a lot of different things. I didn’t have to get online. Right. That was the other part of this amazing vacation. I didn’t have to get online.

Zack (08:50):

To be fair. I cried the whole time you were gone though.

Ashley (08:52):

Yeah.

Zack (08:56):

But you know, you got back and I, nobody told you that until just now.

Ashley (08:59):

Yeah. Everyone pretends like things are fine.

Zack (09:02):

Right, right. Right.

Ashley (09:03):

Well now here is Jennifer’s conversation with Zack

Zack (09:06):

I’m Zach Glaser. And I am the legal tech advisor here at Lawyerist. And so I spend a lot of my time categorizing legal technology and talking to people about that.

Jennifer (09:19):

And I’m Jennifer Whigham and I am interviewing you, but I’m also your colleague and I know you pretty well. Yeah. But I don’t actually know your history of practice management systems very well, which is not like a question that just casually comes up and I’m like, Zach, how is your day also? What’s your history with practice management systems. Yeah. So I wonder if you wanna tell the audience a little bit about that. Like why, why are you interested in this? Where does this come from? Why are we talking about this?

Zack (09:46):

Yeah, no, I think that’s a reasonable question and it’s, it’s a reasonable two. Good question. No my history with law practice management systems and that’s, you know, what we’re kind of getting into today is when I got out of law school in 2011, we didn’t really, we were never taught about practice management in general, much less the technology that went along with practice management. So I got out and was expecting to practice using kind of analog style. Yeah. Just paper files, file cabinets in the back of the, the office and growing up, my father always had, you know back room with tons of files. And so I was used to that

Jennifer (10:29):

Smokey back room.

Zack (10:30):

Yes. Yeah. It, it was, we, we don’t know why it was smokey back room.

Jennifer (10:34):

Yeah. It’s just smokey. Yeah. Electrical failure.

Zack (10:36):

And I’ll take this this moment to tell everybody, to make sure you back up your files, even if they’re in physical form like that, just in case your office does get smokey or floody yes.

Jennifer (10:47):

Floody.

Zack (10:47):

But getting out, I heard of some little like practice management software that was like on premise things that you would install in your server and honestly like fancier offices had that

Jennifer (10:59):

. Yeah.

Zack (11:00):

Right. But even in the, I guess it’s 11 years now that I’ve been out, we have gone from kind of that practice management software, being a very niche sort of thing. Something that people really, really thought long and hard about whether or not they needed to. It’s probably one of the first things you should think about when you strike out on your own after what email style am I gonna use? You know, are you gonna be an office 365 person, or are you gonna be a Gmail person? And then now let’s think about some sort of practice management system. And so we’ve gone from nothing slash on premises systems to most of these are in the cloud. And if they’re not in the cloud, they’re either very, very specific or they’re not really being used very much.

Jennifer (11:47):

Yeah. Well, let’s walk it back a second for some people that might not know, what does a practice management system do? What does it encompass? Why is somebody gonna use it?

Zack (11:57):

That’s a fun question.

Jennifer (11:58):

Oh good. I like to be fun.

Zack (12:00):

So I think people conflate practice management systems with matter management or case management. Yes they

Jennifer (12:07):

Do.

Zack (12:08):

Yeah. And it’s difficult to pull those strands apart. So I, I don’t really try to do that very much. Like I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna die on this hill but in reality, or at least in my opinion, a full law practice management system has to do five of eight things. It needs to bring, I don’t wanna say disparate, but it needs to bring different portions of your practice of your legal tech stack together. And so there’s matter management or case management there’s task and project management, document management, client management, those are kind of your four core things that pretty much every law practice management system or platform is going to be able to do. And if it doesn’t, I don’t know that you can call it a law practice management system, but then we have four others, which is document assembly, calendaring time, keeping and billing, and then accounting. Anything that, in my opinion, that wants to call itself a law practice management system needs to do five of those eight things, at least five of

Jennifer (13:09):

Those eight things, any five or a specific five,

Zack (13:11):

Really any five. Okay. And that’s where it gets a little top. Cuz you wanted, yeah,

Jennifer (13:16):

I was gonna say, you

Zack (13:17):

Wonder timekeeping and billing software coming in and you’re like, whoa, is this a practice management

Jennifer (13:21):

System? Yeah, it

Zack (13:22):

Is. And so it’s, it is gray, but that’s what I kind of had to come to because like I said, a lot of my job is categorizing things. Being able to put things in buckets that people understand when they come to the website or when they come to our talks that they can say, okay, that makes sense in my head. So could we define a law practice management system differently? Sure. But this is to me a really good way, a really solid way. And it gets most of the things that people would kind of anecdotally think of as a law practice management software in that category.

Jennifer (13:57):

So how do they just to go back to a little bit, because I am psychically predicting what some of our lawyers might ask is how do they know what the five elements are right for them. So when they’re like, you know, you’ve just started your firm, you’re looking at all these different options for your practice management system. They have the Z laser mantra in their head. Okay. It needs at least five, but how do they know which five? I mean, is it I tell me, yeah. Don’t let me guess. Don’t let me just like, keep

Zack (14:29):

Guessing we’re gonna spend the rest of this podcast with Jennifer guessing,

Jennifer (14:33):

Just guessing instead of letting you answer the question. Yeah.

Zack (14:37):

So the problem that I think a lot of people come to or have when choosing software in general or when trying to design their systems are that they go and find a piece of software and they go, how can I use this? Yeah. And that’s the total opposite way that you needed to put, as we say all the time, as has been said, many, many times all over the place, start with the end of mind, figure out what you need your software to do before you even go look for the software. So define your systems. Once you’ve done that, you’re gonna be able to see where your processes kind of land. So you’re gonna need an email system. You’re gonna have to send email back and forth. True. You’re going to have to determine and categorize and, and manage your clients. You’re just gonna have to, that’s gonna be part of your processes.

Zack (15:35):

And then some of your processes are going to be managing your documents. Some of your processes are gonna be managing your matters, managing your time, your tasks, things like that. So once you’ve listed out your processes, you come in categorize ’em and then that will show you or help show you what piece of software you need to use or what piece of software is good for you. But I will say most people don’t start with a clean slate. Yeah. They don’t start just saying, okay, well I’m rash outta law school. I’m gonna go hang up my shingle and I’ve got money to burn and so, so I’m, I’m gonna go buy all this stuff. Most of the time we’re working on the car while we’re driving down the road. Yeah. So the thing that I usually tell people is the best law practice management system that you can be using is the one that has your crap in it already.

Zack (16:25):

Yeah. Don’t jump off your law practice management system just for the sake of doing it or because something’s shiny or because it doesn’t do one little thing. Oh, it doesn’t track my time that I have for, you know, when I’m sending my emails. Okay. Well, I mean, yeah, that, that’s a tick in the boxes of, of, you know, maybe we don’t want to use this eventually, but that’s not really a fundamental thing usually. And so moving all your crap from one place to another is probably gonna be more problematic than, than solving that issue. Whereas if you, you start off with one client and now you’ve got 35 or 200 or 750 or, or whatever, just keep going. Yeah. And you, hopefully this is how it goes. It just, you know, exponentially increases and your system doesn’t have a way of managing your clients. Well, I mean, now you need to go change systems because that’s kind of a fundamental thing. So it needs to manage or handle those fundamental things. And that that’s really roundabout way of saying how, how one should choose those five things.

Jennifer (17:30):

I see what you’re saying. So you’re cuz it was a question I was gonna ask you, is there a sunk cost in this where you’ve had this system for so long and all your stuff is in there and you know, it’s gonna be a pain to switch it. So should you just stay with it? But it sounds like what you’re saying is there are situations where yes, you should stay with it when it’s small things that can be solved. Like you said, like email tracking time, you can find your way around it. However, if it’s a system that’s not built to handle the volume of clients that you have, then yes. That’s a situation where you might be looking for something else.

Zack (18:04):

Yes. And I think it can be a lot of times I, if you will classify the law practice management systems that are out there, there are different styles really. And there’s kind of a spectrum in some senses of like how many of these eight things they’ll handle. And so on one end is an all in one system and I could give you examples of this and, and you can see them on our, our website. But as soon as I do that, somebody’s gonna change something. So I, I’m just not going to say specifics, but on one hand is isn’t all in one that handles all eight of those things. So from client management, from intake all the way to your firm accounting and the concept there is that you don’t have to leave this system. It’s usually pretty plug and play. Yeah. You step into it and you, you almost learn how the platform wants you to run your practice and you just do it that way.

Zack (19:01):

And that works wonderfully for a lot of people on the other end of the spectrum is what I call just like an integrator. It’s a hub. It is this thing that brings these elements all together and manages them. And really this is where we get kind of weird with like how many things it has to be able to do. Yeah. But this should be able to manage at least five of those eight elements. The issue with this is that it, it is rarely plug and play. It is usually pretty easy to get started though. And you can manipulate it into kind of whatever you want it to be. Or at least that’s the idea, the hallmark of these, or what you wanna look for in this type is that it has a two-way sync with all of the integrated products.

Jennifer (19:54):

Explain that a little bit for people who might not know what that means.

Zack (19:58):

So we get pretty fast and loose with this idea of integrated or synced. When we talk about legal tech, a lot of times, what I really consider in integration is when both platforms talk back and forth to each other, so you could have something that said, Hey, we’re a, we’re a phone call tracking system. And we integrate with your law practice management system. But really all it does is it pulls in your matter information into the phone call tracking system.

Jennifer (20:28):

Hmm. So it’s one way.

Zack (20:29):

Yeah. That’s just one way that’s not really helpful. Yeah. Then the other side is yeah, they’re integrated, but they only bring in the names. Let’s say for example, well, that’s not a really deep integration. What you, what you wanna look for is how much information can these two pieces of software share back and forth. That is gonna be the hallmark of a really good integrator is one that is able to do that. And what that means practically is that it has a very good API.

Jennifer (21:01):

Yeah. Tell us an API.

Zack (21:03):

So an API is application programming interface. It is a way for these two platforms to talk back and forth with each other. A lot of very good integrators will have what’s called an open API, which means that you can use this integration system, this, this API without really having to kind of talk to the company though, you’ll have good documentation, you’ll have standard ways of communicating. And that’s really what an API is, is it’s a standard way of transferring information back and forth between two disparate pieces of software that may or may not use the same underlying languages. Yeah. They’re likely not gonna use the same underlying data structure, but this allows them to kind of gather information back and forth. And so having a good open API is pretty integral to being on that integrator side. Now, if you’re in an, if you’re an all in one who cares. Sure. Yeah. I want to be able to, to bring in, there’s always gonna be something missing. So I wanna be able to bring something in, but really if you have your marketing all the way to your, your own billing, paying your own invoices, paying rent for your, for your space. Yeah. That’s a full all in one and I don’t need to connect Calendarly because I’ve already got a solid calendaring system.

Jennifer (22:24):

I see. So, so just to, to break it down a little bit, so the all in one, you don’t need to worry about words like API integration because everything’s there, when you get the practice management systems that don’t have all these things, even if you don’t know what an API is, you wanna look for that word. Yes. Or that phrase within the specs of the platform. So you don’t need to know what it is, but you need to know that that’s possible because then that means you can bring in the features that that platform doesn’t have. Correct. Did I get that right? Okay.

Zack (22:59):

Correct. I think that’s an easy place to say. Yeah. You’re a, you’re absolutely right.

Jennifer (23:03):

Okay, good.

Zack (23:04):

If you are looking at an integrator and you are thinking, you know, I don’t know what an API is and I don’t care. And that’s the, that’s the important part. I don’t care what an API is. Yeah. You may not wanna look integrated. Mm. Because you’re building your machine over here.

Jennifer (23:20):

Yeah.

Zack (23:20):

Over in the, all in one area machine’s built, you’re just using it. So if you don’t wanna build the machine, you don’t wanna mess with any of that. Maybe look more towards a fully, you know, a full all in one. There are, again, this is a spectrum. So there’s levels of all in one. A lot of times you’ll find it has time keeping calendaring, document assembly, client management, document management, task management, matter management, but does not have full business accounting. That’s actually really common because people like to use QuickBooks. Right. But it’ll have a good integration with QuickBooks and you can kind of back off from there into most things are gonna kind of sit in the middle where they’re telling you how to, how to run your practice, but also letting you manipulate things a little bit. Yeah. And that’s where we kind of get into our, which ones do we want to use?

Jennifer (24:08):

Yeah. This makes sense.

Zack (24:14):

The Lawyerist Podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionist. As an attorney. Do you ever wish you could be in two places at once? You could take a call while you’re in court, capture a lead during a meeting or schedule an appointment with a client while you’re elbow deep in an important case? Well, that’s where Posh comes in. Posh  is a team of professional  US-Based live virtual receptionists who are available 24/7/365, they answer and transfer your calls. So you never miss an opportunity. With posh handling your calls. You can devote more time to billable hours in building your law firm. And the convenient Posh app puts you in total control of when your receptionist steps in. So if you can’t answer, POSH can, and if you’ve got it, Posh is always just to tap away. With posh. You can save as much as 40% off your current service providers rates. Even better, POSH is extending a special offer to Lawyerist listeners, visit posh.com/lawyerist to learn more and start your free trial of Posh Live Virtual Receptionist Services. That’s posh.com/lawyerist

And by Albatross Legal Workspaces. When running any business including a law practice there are critically important  operations that are often overlooked and ignored by lawyers. Top on that list is data security, ransomware protection, data leaks and data backups. Those tasks can seem unimportant and time consuming or an added cost. And even with IT teams involved, they are often misconfigured and mismanaged. 

Albatross Legal WorkSpaces is an excellent solution for law firms to streamline those types of operations. Albatross Legal Workspaces was built to be the all-in-one cloud office for law firms. It stores all your applications, files, desktops and servers on your own private cloud that is accessible from anywhere. No need for expensive desktop or server upgrades or unresponsive IT companies coming to the office; and the mundane yet-critical security and backup operations are seamlessly integrated hassle free. The service also includes  24/7 IT Help Desk. Albatross Legal Workspaces covers you from A to Z.

To learn more and receive one month of free service please visit https://albatross.cloud/lawyerist that’s albatross with a double s . Again that is: {spelled}  A L B A T R O S S .cloud/lawyerist

And by Postali. Finding a marketing partner for your firm can be challenging. Are you getting sound advice? Is your marketing agency always working in your best interest? You shouldn’t have to worry about these things. At Postali, they believe marketing companies should adopt the same duty to their clients that is required of the legal profession. For this reason, they require that all team members sign a fiduciary oath to act in good faith and put clients’ best interests ahead of their own. They service with care, candor, and loyalty. Postali is a full-service digital marketing agency exclusively for lawyers. To learn more about how they’re different, visit postali.com/lawyerist.

Jennifer (27:34):

So you’re kind of saying like, you know, if I, I don’t wanna mess with it, I don’t have a ton of tech experience. I just want something that in essence tells me what to do and runs itself. They probably want that all in one.

Zack (27:47):

Right.

Jennifer (27:48):

Okay. That makes sense.

Zack (27:50):

Or if you’re very, very specific, for example, in my practice we did, we did collections or as, as we like to say, creditors’ rights a lot of times, but we, we did collections. We had extremely specific software because we had to track compound interest and simple interests. And whether or not somebody paid in the middle of the month, we had to be very, very specific about our accounting and this wasn’t my firm’s accounting. Yeah. You know, we had to get really, really detailed with things like that. But we also had to have reminders and certain types of workflows. And I wasn’t likely going to build that for myself. Yeah. Even though I could, and even though I, I did a lot of no you’re

Jennifer (28:34):

Genius there. Of course you could.

Zack (28:36):

No, I, it, I mean, I could have, and many, many people in that space have built their own and they’ve done a wonderful job with it, but because you’ve gotten so specific and, and this is in like the immigration space too true. You get so specific and you need the software to do such deliberate things. You may lean towards an all in one there just because it’s, it’s not worth your time. Why build something when somebody else has done it so well already. Right. So that’s another reason you might go towards something that is a little bit more of an all in one. And that’s kind of the other side, that’s the other access to this law practice management system kind of grid is that you have generalized stuff and then specific stuff, a generalized integrator is gonna let you do whatever you want, but you’re gonna have to build pretty much everything.

Jennifer (29:27):

Very good distinction that did bring up. Another question that I had though is, and I know other people have, are there specific practice area, practice management systems? Like you talked like you had one for your, your collections business. Like I, is there one, like I’m an estate planner, should I choose something that speaks to estate planning? Or are these kind of general all in one systems gonna cover everything?

Zack (29:52):

Yes.

Jennifer (29:53):

I’m not an estate planner just as that was a hypothetical.

Zack (29:56):

Well, you should look for something that is good for estate planners. Okay. There may be something that is, that is specific for estate planners. And there are platforms that are document generators that are specific for estate planners. There’s a, there’s a lot of, of good stuff out there, but there are specific types of things that estate planners generally need or want and it’ll lean them towards certain software.

Jennifer (30:20):

Okay.

Zack (30:20):

But then you get into something very specific like immigration and there is specific practice management software for immigration. So I honestly, I’m sure there is specific practice management software for every type of practice that is out there. It’s just whether or not it really matters to you.

Jennifer (30:39):

That’s what I mean. Yeah. Like, would you put the idea of finding a specific practice area platform over using one of the more established general platforms? Is there any reason that I, the fake estate planner should really seek out the estate planning platform? Or should I go with something that’s just more trusted and bigger not to say the other ones aren’t trusted.

Zack (31:01):

So first thing I like to think that you’re someone who plans fake estates. I do instead of being a fake estate planner.

Jennifer (31:09):

Yes. Just fantasy estates in my own minds, fantasy estates for the people in my mind, I plan their estates. , That’s

Zack (31:17):

Great. I think we go back to the beginning with this of how do you choose your software? What you’re gonna find is that estate planners have many times have the same types of processes. And so they’re gonna, they’re gonna lean towards the same, same type of software. And I say same type of software because I see these structures that estate planners set up and you can kind of move different software in and out of these little areas, but they’re still the same type. Yeah. For example, with a, with estate planning, you’re gonna have pretty good document automation because it’s, it’s very document heavy.

Jennifer (31:56):

Sure.

Zack (31:56):

You’re also typically gonna have pretty good client management that leans toward marketing and tracking your marketing, but dealing with your intake appropriately. So they’re gonna have stronger intake slash marketing slash CRM. Whereas like a PI attorney is gonna have really strong intake slash CRM slash client, client management slash you know, that, that kind of area. So you’re just gonna see where things are a little bit more important to certain types of, of law practices. Whereas if you’re a criminal lawyer and you just do kind of like, whatever comes in the door with that, you’re going to need pretty good intake. You’re gonna need pretty good, you know, advertising, but you’re also not gonna automate a ton of stuff.

Jennifer (32:44):

Right.

Zack (32:44):

You’re likely not gonna automate a lot of your document creation. So yes, these types of practice areas will tend to use the same software. Yeah. But I don’t know that it’s necessary that they say like, okay, well, I’m gonna get away from this integrator to go use this all in one, because that’s what everybody uses for this. Right. It’s just whether or not you can make it, do the things that you needed to do. And again, yeah. People have their preferences. It’s I want to be able to control blank. Okay. That’s that’s cool.

Jennifer (33:19):

Like classic control of blank of

Zack (33:21):

Blank. Yeah. We all want to control blank. Yeah. I get asked a, a decent bit whether or not somebody should use Google, you know, Google workspaces or office 365. And frankly it doesn’t matter. It’s what, whatever you’re comfortable with, those two things are, are close enough to each other, then whatever you’re comfortable with as a lawyer, you’re likely gonna use Microsoft word, but we’re starting to get away from that. Yeah. But if you’re, if you’re an attorney that deals with contracts and passing contracts back and forth constantly, you’re probably gonna want to use Microsoft word, not just for the redlining aspects of it. And so if you’re already using word, you might as well use office 365. And so that kind of colors, some of your decisions going forward, but a lot of these things, it doesn’t matter what it is like. It, it really is just your preference.

Jennifer (34:09):

Yeah. Really comes back down to what we said before is figure out what you need, what you want, what you want, even really kind of what your, your top version of how these systems and workflows will go and then start your search.

Zack (34:25):

Yes.

Jennifer (34:26):

Before you do that, instead of just, cuz I think a lot of people do just there. Like I started my firm, I gotta demo all these and you’re gonna get overwhelmed so quickly. I did have one other question for you. You talked about a, a CRM, a client relationship management system. What is the difference between that practice management system? Is there a difference?

Zack (34:46):

Yeah. so a CRM isn’t gonna have to handle five of the eight things. Okay. It is likely gonna handle a couple just by, by its very nature. So a client, well

Jennifer (34:55):

What is it? Yeah.

Zack (34:56):

Yeah. So a client relationship.

Jennifer (34:57):

Sorry I

Zack (34:57):

Interrupted you. No, that that’s okay. That’s perfectly fine. I’m I’m fine with being interrupted. So a client relationship manager is it’s gonna manage your clients as opposed to your matters. So all of your contacts, ideally, it’s going to help you sell to them like that. That’s where it kind of comes from. It’s like sales. Yeah. But it helps you stay in touch with them. A lot of our referrals as attorneys come from existing clients, the relationships we already have. And so this helps you keep track of some of the things about them in order to do some kind of soft marketing, putting them on email lists that say, Hey, we, you know, we’re, we’re doing this. You know, remember us when they get complex, it can also help you track your kind of outgoing marketing so it can help you track your marketing campaigns.

Zack (35:50):

So the basic CRM to me is going to help you track kind of your, how am I talking to my clients in general? But then when you add like a marketing platform on top of that and some of the CRMs will have both, it’ll have, you know, intake and marketing. So that’s gonna track your efforts like call campaigns or email campaigns or Google ads. And you’re going to be able to say, okay, what’s my ROI on this, on this spin. Yeah. But the other aspect of the CRM is, is just this, like managing your intake, managing that moment from potential new client to actual client. Okay. Once they’ve signed on as a client and you have a matter, then it goes into that matter management area.

Jennifer (36:37):

That’s a good distinction. And do people need both? Would you say

Zack (36:43):

Not everybody needs both.

Jennifer (36:45):

Oh, say more.

Zack (36:46):

Yeah. So if you are a right there’s rights attorney, you don’t really have a lot of kind of marketing that you do. Mm. You know, if you have six clients that are big clients and they, they all, you know, send their, their cases to you and that’s, you know, all you have to do, you probably don’t have to have a really specific CRM. Now your practice management software is likely gonna have to keep track of your clients. You’re gonna need that somewhere. Right. But you probably don’t need like a big intake on the other side of that personal injury attorneys. I would tell them to have that before they even have a matter manager, right. You’re going to have to have solid trackable intake and marketing management that you can actually run reports on and determine what’s going on. How well are we doing? Are we, are we actually bringing people in? So there’s kind of, you don’t have to have it. You’re gonna have a shade of it.

Jennifer (37:43):

Do any practice management systems have a CRM built in?

Zack (37:47):

They should. Some sort of CRM built in. Most of them will have at least a basic client manager built in. A lot of them will integrate pretty well with some of the existing CRMs out there. Yeah. And then some of them have their own CRMs that, that are just separate products, but all of them are gonna have a, usually have a basic form of like, how do we, how do we manage our clients? And that kind of gets into like, if you’re gonna manage matters, you have to classify them in a way. And so when you classify a matter, you generally classify it underneath a client. Well now you just, by virtue of creating matters, have client management, same thing with your client manager, your client manager is going to classify this client and it’s probably gonna have jobs or something that projects or something like that underneath each client. And so now you kind of have a bit of a matter manager and so they roll over each other a little bit. But if you really need a matter manager, most of the time a CRM is not gonna do it. And if you really need a CRM, most of the time, your standard law practice management system is not gonna have that built in unless you have a very, very good or very specific all in one

Jennifer (38:59):

Really, it seems like it’s still evolving as a concept practice management systems. They still, I mean, in the scheme of the law tech universe, they, they still feel new and like they’re still figuring out what they are, how they integrate with things. I mean, do you have a, do you have a prediction of where they’re gonna go? If you wanna be a futurist this is a surprise question for

Zack (39:21):

You. That is a dangerous question for me.

Jennifer (39:25):

Okay. Be very careful.

Zack (39:27):

I have some conspiracy theory sort of, of stuff that I, that I get into. And then I have some, you know, this is, this is the direction that they probably need to go and I’m gonna get just railed for this. But like, I, I don’t, I don’t think the land of law practice management systems, as it exists right now is really going to kind of still exist in the moderate near future. Hmm. Because it is so evolving. We don’t know what lawyers want to use. We don’t know how they practice. We don’t. And we don’t know if they want all in ones. We don’t know if they want integrators and they want, well, I mean like really from my perspective, they want all of it

Jennifer (40:10):

And they don’t know really necessarily cuz it’s so new. They

Zack (40:12):

Don’t, the practice is also evolving in how we make money, how we charge, how we sell law, even in the time that I’ve been a lawyer, which really in the grand scheme of things is, is minuscule for, for the practice of law. We have really, really shifted the way that we sell law to people. And we’re still actively trying to shift the way that we sell law. So if you look at alternative business structures, there are a lot of different facets to the alternative business structure arguments. In one sense, you have accounting firms that are starting to ease into offering legal advice. And in my opinion really are a lot of times offering legal advice. They will argue with me that the cows come home on that,

Jennifer (41:03):

Those cats splitting

Zack (41:04):

The hairs, you know, splitting that hair of like whether or not they’re actually selling legal advice or whether they’re selling, you know, time or whatever. Sure. But you really can’t argue that, that, you know, kind of your big four are coming into this area of selling law. Then you have document creators for lack of a better way of saying it or, or a product like legal zoom that is selling a document, selling the ability for somebody to do something. And that’s easing into kind of starting to whittle away at this idea of what is practicing law. Hmm. Then you have lawyers who are trying to productize their own services, trying to automate their own services. And then we have laws that are, that are saying, Hey, we’re gonna start allowing we may potentially start allowing third parties. Non-Lawyers I say, non-lawyers in this scenario, I hate the term non-lawyers

Jennifer (42:03):

I know what you mean,

Zack (42:04):

But people who, who aren’t licensed entities that are not lawyers as well to own equity in a company that sells law. Right? So roundabout way of saying that, I think we’re gonna find that this whole system of how do you sell law and what are the things we do in the process is going to be productized in and of itself. And so you sign onto a system and that system helps you get clients. That system helps you manage your clients. It helps you manage your accounting. It does your accounting for you. It does your, you know, you, you get into the system, you’ve got baked in marketing, you’ve got baked in accounting. You’ve got your trust accounts dealt with all of this stuff is almost turnkey for the attorney for the low, low price of blank, percentage of whatever.

Jennifer (43:03):

Darn blank. Again,

Zack (43:04):

You practice. Yeah. I mean, and we all wanna control blame. Yeah. But I think we’re going, we have the potential to see things like that. Yeah. And that’s my conspiracy theory sort of like, I, I think that there’s, I think there’s a lot of these larger you know, practice management companies that are saying, Ooh, we can kind of get ourselves into that position. And so we see a lot of them bringing themselves more into a single ecosystem instead of working and playing well with each other.

Jennifer (43:27):

Yeah.

Zack (43:28):

Honestly, the reason behind that is probably not what I’m thinking. You know, it is good economics to kind of like bring all these systems together and keep people in your own little ecosystem. But sure. I see the practice of law being spoon fed a lot more to lawyers. Good. Bad and different. I don’t know.

Jennifer (43:50):

That’s another topic for later.

Zack (43:52):

Yeah. Yeah. But that’s where my weird little brain goes.

Jennifer (43:55):

Yeah. Well, let’s end on your weird little brain. Good place to end. I was gonna ask you a funny conspiracy theory. Like do you believe in Sasquatch to end this, but I want you to hold that thought and tell me at a later date next time. Yeah. For the crypted podcast that we will be doing an offshoot off. We, we are not doing that. Zack. Thank you. Thank you for for doing this. You’re always a pleasure to talk to you. And I, I just learned a whole lot,

Zack (44:26):

So same to you. It’s always fun. These were were great questions I think. And I, I hope that other people found them interesting as well.

Jennifer (44:33):

Yeah. Well you always let us know, you know, we, you know, we wanna look on Twitter and see what you’re saying. Yep. Say things to us. All right. Good deal. Good to see you. Thanks.

Zack (44:43):

Good to see you too.

Announcer   (44:46):

The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10 minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.

Your Hosts

Jennifer Whigham

Jennifer Whigham is the Community Director at Lawyerist where she coordinates Lawyerist Lab.

Featured Guests

Zack Glaser

Zack Glaser is the Legal Tech Advisor at Lawyerist, where he assists the Lawyerist community in understanding and selecting appropriate technologies for their practices. He also writes product reviews and develops legal technology content helpful to lawyers and law firms. Zack is focused on helping Modern Lawyers find and create solutions to help assist their clients more effectively.

Share Episode

Last updated December 2nd, 2022