Awarded Most Innovative Legal Product 2012

TechnoLawyer Newswire Community

We are pleased to announce that Total Attorneys has been awarded the top 2 honors for most innovative legal products of the year 2012, from TechnoLawyer.com.

TechnoLawyer, a critically-acclaimed legal technology resource, has announced their list of the most innovative legal products of the year. Total Attorneys has been awarded the two top spots for our Practice Management Platform and App Store. The awards were announced in the Dec. 14th edition of the TL NewsWire. To view the awards or to sign up for the newsletter please visit the TechnoLawyer site.

TechnoLawyer awarded Total Attorneys their awards for most innovative products of the year based on several criteria. TechnoLawyer recognized Total Attorneys products as exceptional, based on pricing, ease of use and product design / marketing. TechnoLawyer acknowledged Total Attorneys commitment to servicing clients in a cost effective and flexible manner. Total Attorneys was also awarded for an innovative, down to earth marketing strategy that was designed to help democratize their offerings for all law firms.

TechnoLawyer reviewed 205 new products this year and considered all for their awards. The award winners were chosen by lawyers and not by the publication staff. Tracking user interest on their site, TechnoLawyer allowed visitors to vote with their feet. The most interesting products were determined by counting visits of their users to the pages about these 205 products.

More visitors chose the Total Attorneys Practice Management Platform and App Store, than any of the other products!

Thank You from Total Attorneys

This means we owe you a thank you, thank you for considering Total Attorneys and taking interest into our products.

As the year winds down, we want to assure you that we have big, brand new offerings in the works. Early next year, Total Attorneys will be launching a brand new suite of tools for users. Tools designed to improve marketing efficiency and law firm marketplace competitiveness. We look forward to formally announcing these products in the next few months. If you would like to be notified as soon as these products are available please subscribe to our blog.

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Mobile Apps Revive The Lost Art of the Thank You Card

The holidays have arrived!

Complete with music on the radio, lights strung through the trees, and the L Holiday Train is making its rounds through the Chicago loop. The holidays are a time of for tradition, but there’s one timeless custom slipping away in the fast paced technology mix we know as our daily lives. The Thank You Card.

When I first began my career it was customary to send a thank you card after every interview, a great meeting, and as a sign of gratitude when someone lent you a helping hand or gave you a gift.

When was the last time you received a handwritten note or card for any reason, business or personal?

Think about the experience when you received it. The undistracted moment you took to open the envelope, the way the stationary felt in your hand, and how the words came to life as you read the sender’s handwriting. Personal greeting cards offer a unique and memorable experience that fewer and fewer of us get to enjoy.

Giving Back

Taking the time out of your day to thank someone who matters to you, can not only return the gift of a smile to them, but also keep you in the front of their mind as someone who they connected with on a personal level.

Difficult, complicated, time consuming? Maybe, if you consider 20 seconds a lifetime. Compared to the hoops I’ve seen some jump through just for a chance to win an iPad sending a thoughtful message is much easier than you may think.

Purchasing cards in bulk, ordering branded cards with the firm’s logo or your name embossed on the face alleviates the need to run the store. Placing them on your desk, at the reception station, in your briefcase, and other obvious areas creates a visual reminder.

On the go all the time and need something faster?

The following mobile apps have mastered the process for you. With just a few taps, you’ll be sending cards to loved ones, and business contacts alike. You can even have them signed with a real pen.

ThankYouPro | @ThankYouPro | Thank You Pro on Vimeo
The clear leader for business use, choose from over 20 card designs, create your own from a photo or using your logo. For friends of Siri, dictate your message to her instead of typing. Thank You Pro screams efficiency: save multiple signatures, create card templates for future use, and send directly to your contacts.

Ink Cards | @InkCards | Ink Cards on Facebook
Choose from over 100 designs for any occasion or create your own from a photo, write a personal message and send. Fast, gorgeous and affordable. For the forgetful side of in of us, stay on top of things with built in birthday reminders. Check out their blog for cheerful ideas to make each card your own.

Have an app to share? Total Attorneys would love to hear which tech tool helps you stay ahead of the curve.

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Client Intake Forms: The Basics

Last week we discussed the New Client Experience and went over processes to use when first interacting with a potential client on the phone, in your office, or through an online channel.

The next, and one of the most critical steps to increase retention but also set your firm up for long term success is intake. Properly recording, tracking and measuring the information you collect during the intake process allows you to utilize your contact list in the future to generate repeat business and referrals.

Building your Intake Questionnaire(s)

For firms that serve multiple practice areas, first define the basic information you will need for any new client. This can include, but isn’t limited to: Full name, phone, email address, home address, birthday and whether or not they have already been represented, county where the matter occurred.

Next, determine the questions you’ll need for each individual practice area. This will result in a different intake questionnaire for each segment. Family Law, Divorce and Estate Planning questionnaires may include information about the spouse, children and assets, while Bankruptcy or Tax law may require financial data.

Bar Association Intake Forms & Resources

Balancing between too much information, and just enough to get started

We’ve all been to the doctor”s office and grumble when we’re handed a clipboard of 6 sheets we are required to fill out, have of which ask for information the office already has.

Don’t overburden your clients with lots of paperwork, but do make sure to collect the most valuable pieces of information that allow you to get a jump start on the work at hand without chasing the client.

Make sure you get paid

Including billing information, even if it’s just a credit card number or a stapled voided check. Doing so upfront can save you a world of time & headaches later.

Remember that you provide a valuable service, and asking for payment information before you start racking your brain and hours is a good business habit to adopt.

Should a client raise concern about the payment information required, you can assure them that they will not be charged until you have both mutually agreed on the services to be provided and terms of payment.

Extra credit: Limited Services Engagement Agreement or Consultation Disclaimer

Consider creating a one page supplement to your questionnaires, it may be a Limited Services Engagement Agreement, or just a short paragraph covering your relationship during the consultation phase. Using an umbrella agreement up front can protect you or help convert prospects into clients even faster.

Law firms who generate business through their website, will often use such language inside of the “Terms & Conditions” section of their client portal registration page so that they can move smoothly through the online consultation without worry or having to issue an agreement and slow down an excited potential client.

Delivery: In office, online or via email?

Experts recommend attorneys avoid exchanging paperwork via unsecured email. The use of a client portal to share an intake form, or handle the consultation through a series of messages can be a convenient and secure way to exchange information.

In office visitors should be greeted by a package of ready to go paperwork. Preparing for guests the day before they arrive allows you to collate the packages you’ll need for each meeting in advance, along with a pen that works.

The Checklist

An internal lifesaver and generally good practice, complete the intake process with a practice area or case type specific checklist.

This will ensure, that not only have you collected the critical information you need, but that the firm has also completed other imperative steps. Such as; conflict & jurisdiction checks, receipt of related documents and signed consultation disclaimers, engagement agreements or payment authorization forms.

The Canadian Law Society of British Columbia has an extensive list of law practice checklists for intake and various other procedures. (Some steps may not apply to US attorneys, please consider your local bar’s guidelines.)

Collect & Organize

Whether it’s an excel spreadsheet, or full featured Practice Management System keeping track of your clients, and the information you”ve gathered in digital form is imperative.

Carrying around stacks of folders, and digging through piles of paper every time you need to find a piece of information is not being organized. Having information available to you instantly via the web or mobile device will save time and lessen stress.

If entering the information into a system, or spreadsheet just doesn”t seem to be happening, stop the pattern and get some help. There are inexpensive tools, awesome and affordable on demand support services available for any size project, or amount of daily maintenance.

Analyze and Utilize Your Data

Data isn”t just a word used by techie people. Data is a set of facts, statistics and information collected together for reference or analysis.

Properly storing then sorting the information your business collects empowers you to make educated, and impactful business decisions. Once in digital form you can start playing with reports or sorting your clients & potential clients into groups and look for areas to dig into deeper with a specific accomplishment in mind.

Here’s a quick example of the process for a Family Law practice.

Example Goal: Grow the Divorce section of my practice through a targeted email campaign

  • Sort the master contact list into two segments, potential clients & current clients
  • Separate the potential clients into a list of their own.
  • Sort the potential client list by type of potential case identifying everyone who contacted the firm for a divorce consultations, questions or related pre-filing concerns
  • Separate this group from the master list, this will be your first group of potential clients to target.
  • Refine the list further based on the message you plan to send
  • Create your message & include something unique which can be traced back to your efforts. Example: Send to the selected group with a call to action, such as “Call # to schedule a free consultation”

Timing is everything

Effectively time your communications will impact the overall success of each message. Avoid send mistakes like sending a new business email on a Friday afternoon, or an overdue invoice reminder at 8am on Monday.

Identify optimal times such as the rise in Bankruptcy filings during tax return season, divorce filings after the holidays. Paying attention to seasonal opportunities and sending reminders, or offering consultations to those groups can help you maximize the impact of your efforts.

Measure, Refine & Repeat

These steps are not one time activities. Keeping a steady stream of traffic into your business requires continued, consistent effort.

Your first campaign or round of messages may garner a few new clients or cases, but by growing your lists and tailoring regular messages to each group will generate more first hand and referral business over time.

Other ways to utilize your current & potential client data

Announcements

Opening a new office? Hired a new associate? Expanding your service offerings or now offering new practice areas? Send messages to all of your contacts, or just the group who needs the update most.

Newsletters

Sending a newsletter to your list helps keep your law practice at the top of mind when legal needs arise.

Holiday or Seasonal Greetings

Use groups to send targeted marketing messages or offers; Small Business Legal Checkups, Trust & Estate Plan Review, Family Estate Plan Package, etc.

More Client Intake Advice

Do you have intake advice or a practice management tip to share? Please post it below!

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Foster Positive Law Firm Culture Through Volunteering

The Holiday Season always reminds us to appreciate the advantages we are afforded and help those who are less fortunate. But volunteering shouldn’t be a seasonal thought, making philanthropy part of your culture or career can offer benefits and memories that you will carry with you for a lifetime.

Philanthropy as Part of Your Career

Attorneys hold one of the rarest forms of power in the professional world. The power to provide peace of mind, security, protection and long term assurance amidst life changing situations.

Providing legal services to those who cannot afford them through Legal Aid Groups, Pro Bono Organizations or offering services at drastically discounted rates is one of the greatest gifts you can give back to your community. Whether it’s taking a probate case, or helping a new business get off the ground, paying it forward will deliver immeasurable rewards to you in business and life.

Mentorship & Encouraging Charity Work

A gift for generations to come, mentorship offers so many intangible rewards. Speaking to law students around the country, one gap is abundantly clear. The need for mentorship and guidance in the early stages of their careers. Finding a law student or recent grad, who could use some help with questions like; What is Judge _____ like? When should I refer a Divorce client to a Mediator? Maybe they just needs a shoulder to cry on when the student loan bills start arriving.

Sharing just a couple of hours of your time can make a tremendous impact on a young attorney. Mentorship also provides many opportunities to encourage and instill the importance of Pro Bono work in the next generation of attorneys.

You can find mentorship opportunities through a local law school, or your Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.

Building culture & commitment through team volunteering

Transparency and communication helps you build strong relationships with your employees. Asking them what their passions are, what makes them happy, and how they like to spend their time will help you offer up projects and ideas that are best suited to their interests. If you find a group of your employees are runners, form a 5K team. Everyone loves animals! Great! Get a group together on a Friday afternoon and volunteer at a local shelter.

Giving back as a team builds stronger relationships, a greater sense of dedication and improves long term employee retention. Once a regular schedule or program is in place you’ll notice everyone’s excitement build as the volunteer day on the calendar gets closer. Rally even more volunteers leading up to the outing by sending all-office messages, placing a reminder sign & candy bowl at the office entrance, or extending the invitation to friends & family.

  • Find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you or your team:
    • Whether is just a quick couple of hours or a day long outing with the team find opportunities through VolunteerMatch.org, and follow them on Twitter @VolunteerMatch.
  • Set up a company fundraising page & share it with your clients
    • Crowdrise & Stay Classy are easy to use tools that help you set up a donation page online and promote it to your contacts & social networks.

Hold a food, clothing or toy drive

One of the easiest ways to give back is to place an empty box in the front of your reception area. Next, send out regular messages about donating items leading up to the actual donation date. Finally, donate as a group! Make an event out of turning in the boxes to the cause you’ve selected, get a team picture and memorialize it in the office or on your website.

Toys for Tots | Find a Food Pantry | Seasonal Clothing Drive Ideas

Partner with a non-profit and build your own program

Finding a cause that employees and the company alike are passionate about, can be a very powerful way to collaborate and grow together. Partnering with a group to bring special volunteer projects and opportunities to your team offers benefits to the organization and it’s employees that go far beyond the bottom line.

Total Attorneys had always encouraged our employees to participate in philanthropic efforts and was searching for a cause that we could invest and grow in tandem with the business when we met Kristen Hendricks in 2008. Kristen is Executive Director & Founder of the Kwagala Project, a Chicago based organization raising awareness and combating human trafficking on the front line in Uganda.

Together with the Kwagala Project, and a team of Total Attorneys employee volunteers the Total Impact House was born. To date the Total Impact House is home to 14 inspiring girls, all with a different stories and starting new lives, fostered by education and long term support to chase their dreams.

The Total Impact House & Committee has created many opportunities for our employees to grow & learn through volunteer opportunities, organizing fundraisers, chatting with the girls in Uganda over Skype and sharing milestones through Facebook. These experiences build character, cultural perspective, and positive morale.

Don’t forget to share!

Everyone has worked hard to make a difference, share it with the world! Pictures in the office, on the firm’s website, the about us or careers section, Facebook Page, Twitter accounts, and client newsletters are all great ways to recognize volunteers and show a softer side of the business. Furthermore, memorializing the importance of participation encourages future volunteers to jump in, and lets clients know it’s not just about the invoices they receive, that the firm does care about the community and actively works to make an impact.

Back to Attorney Blog.
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What’s Your New Client Experience?

The experience you receive at a clothing retailer or spa is not something you’d think to compare to the experience in a law practice.

I’m not implying you should imitate their practices, but there are a few characteristics present in those environments that can be translated into your practice with goal of turning more of your first time guests into first time clients.

Being in an attorney”s office for the first time can be one of the most unfamiliar or uncomfortable experiences in a persons life.

Depending on the surrounding circumstances they could be going through a very difficult personal situation and operating at a heightened sense of sensitivity. The efforts you make to ensure they feel a sense of comfort working with you can go a long way.

First and foremost, make sure that the initial interaction that takes place between your office and the potential client is a positive one. When and where does it happen?

An inbound call into the office in the morning should be upbeat and cheerful. Using a lighter tone, and salutations like “Good Morning” or “Thank you for calling.”

The person answering the phone should not make the potential client on the other end feel like their call is a burden, or that they are being rushed through questions quickly.

Most of all, no barking. We are have stressful positions, lives and lots of distractions but being short, or quick with someone who is calling so they can potentially help pay you, is counterproductive.

The same is true for in office appointments. The reception or waiting area of your office should be a calm and inviting place. Free of tension and welcoming to new faces.

There should be someone to kindly greet them, or if unattended clear directions on what to do when they arrive.

If you require information to be completed, have forms, pens and a clipboard ready. Don’t scramble to prepare items you know you’ll need in advance.

Separately, the front office should be treated as a respected area, discussions regarding clients, cases and office issues should be conducted in private.

A few inexpensive ways to make your guests comfortable while they wait; Offer something to drink, or if a waiting room is unattended a stocked mini-fridge with waiting instructions.

Candy, mints, or snack size bags of chips go a long way. Spending $20 – $50 is usually more than adequate depending on the size of your office.

Information, information, information. When you go the Doctor or Dentist’s office, you’ll notice the abundance of information. Brochures, TV’s set on CNN Health or specialty content networks. Allowing patients to familiarize themselves with an area before they speak to the doctor.

The same is true for your area of practice.

Maybe you place start-up books in your lobby for small business clients, or information on life after Bankruptcy for clients coming to the firm with debt issues.

Providing this self service education to them will not only help keep their mind on the topic while waiting, but may help them come to you ready with questions and an increased level of comfort about their issue(s.)

Many law libraries, bar associations and independent providers offer Consumer Brochures for free, or available for order. Specialty content also helps build your credibility as an expert when you’re able to easily answer the questions they derived from the materials.

Consumer Brochures, Handbooks and Info Sheets:

For firms that are catering to clients seeking representation for high value cases in areas such as Personal Injury, Divorce, Estate Planning, Entertainment Law or Class Action where the competition is practically waiting outside to court your clients. Going the extra mile may be the difference between you and the other firm.

Don’t Overlook Your Online Experience.

Your Website: Does your website reflect the focus of the firm? We recently spoke to Zeller Law, a Business Law Firm in Chicago, whose website is tailored to the eyes of their perfect client. It focuses on the energy of Chicago’s bustling loop, feeds business news on the homepage, and offers an online option for those who just can’t wait to get started. Put yourself in your perfect client’s shoes and identify what would make you excited about working with an attorney. Introduce yourself, and the other members of the team. The visitors of your website are trying to get to know you, withholding information and keeping the conversation dry is not going to make them pick up the phone.

Online Access

Does your firm provide multiple ways to stay in contact, or online access to files, notes and a calendar with important case milestones? Offering your clients a client portal, or can distinguish your practice from the others in the group. Potential clients seeking representation for a Merger, Acquisition or Intellectual Property case can rest assured communication will be kept private through the use of a secure and encrypted tool built for the delivery of legal services.

Extra Credit: Consumer Question & Answer Sites: Another increasingly popular meeting place are public consumer question & answer sites such as LawQA.com.

Consumers who are searching for the answer to a legal question, which could be related to a potential case may visit these sites and post their question.

The attorneys participating can then reply to the question, creating a track record of thought leadership and expertise about their area of law. Virtually meeting with the consumer, and establishing a conversation give you the opportunity to offer an offline meeting about their situation.

What about your office or initial experience sets your law practice apart? Please share your first time guest successes with us!

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Moving to Fixed Fee, Flat or Value Pricing: The Basics

Tired of pouring over time sheets and hours every month? Endless invoice negotiations with clients wearing you out? Many firms have left the billable hour behind and moved to a flat, fixed fee or value priced model. While this model might not be a perfect fit for everyone it is suitable for numerous areas of practice.

Today I’ll share areas you’ll need to evaluate to determine your firm’s potential for these models and the steps you can take to begin your transition.

Metrics

It is critically important that you know or can at least estimate the average amount of time it takes you to complete a task, or series of tasks. If you are not already tracking time, do so for at least a month or a few cases to accurately gauge the time and effort it takes to execute. This includes emails sent from your couch, car ride client calls, and late night legal research.

Expenses

Once you are confident in the average amount of time for each type of task or matter, add in the expenses. Really think about anything you may incur while delivering this particular service. Filing fees, court costs, parking at the courthouse, credit counseling, debtor education, etc. Planning for these now allows you to present a very clear and salable picture to your client, and avoid invoice surprises later.

Identify Common Patterns

Do you find yourself manually filling out forms or paperwork that could be automated by technology or outsourced to a virtual paralegal or support person? Small firms need to take advantage of the technology resources available to stay competitive and achieve sustainable margins. There are inexpensive solutions for document assembly, templated forms, including free do-it-yourself intake questionnaires in Google docs, which can be exported into Excel, or using a client portal to offer 24 hour options to clients who need to complete documents.

Define the “True Value” of Your Services

What’s the value a bouquet of flowers & Chinese take-out has when delivered to a mom on the edge of a kid-induced breakdown? Pretty priceless.

The cost of the services shouldn’t always drive the price of a legal matter. The value and long term peace of mind that properly delivered legal services can bring to a client should play a part in pricing. Yes it’s possible for a client to self-file Business Incorporation paperwork with the help of Legal Zoom, or templated documents they find online, or a kit from Staples. But when a lawsuit arises, partners bump heads, or a potential acquisition is on the table, it comes down to the initial planning, forethought, experience and insight the authoring attorney took into consideration when the agreement was drafted. The outcome is what we all focus on, as should you when you are explaining what is different between your $1500 start-up package, and the $175 bundle they saw online. (Should the potential client decline, feel free to remind them that your firm will still be here if something goes wrong. However rates for clean up are billed on an hourly basis.)

First Draft Pricing

Build your pricing menu. This will be a first draft, list a low end price, and a high end price for the same service. Why? Because it could potentially increase sales if clients have 2 options. When they decline the first, you can combat it with a second lower price, which may require them to participate in the process more or less such as completing forms, self-filing or communicating with you primarily online, while a higher fee offers in office meetings, phone calls, full service preparation, filing, and court costs. Multiple flat fee options allows you to capture business from both ends of your customer spectrum. Tiered pricing options have worked well for Carpenter Law P.A., a Kissimmee, Florida based Family Law firm who offers both full service and less expensive online legal options to it’s clients. Also read Jay Sheperd’s How to increase revenue 43%.

Overhead

A commonly overlooked set of expenses, at any given time you should know what it costs you to operate your business. As a business owner it’s easy to commingle your personal and professional life, for most of us, there doesn’t seem to even be a dividing line. Your quality of life is an important factor to consider when pricing services, and a good way to do ensure you won’t have to worry is to account for everything; gas, cell phone, home internet, credit card interest, insurance (car and business) the coffee you had this morning, absolutely everything.

Margins

Carefully review your numbers and measure your margins. Next multiply the number of cases or services you estimate the firm will deliver in a given month by the lowest price you’ve determined you need to charge, minus expenses and overhead.This is not the number of cases you think you can get if the stars align and you get a celebrity endorsement that month. The final number provides projected revenue for the month. Are you comfortable with that number? If not play with it, move some prices up. Look for ways to shorten the preparation time necessary for cases, maybe document automation or providing intake forms to clients to speed up the consultation process.

Revisions

Review your margins & overhead. Do your figures work with the first draft of your pricing guide or fee chart? Are you comfortable with your projected revenue and feel there’s enough profit to set some aside for extra marketing, or a rainy day?

Remember you can always test this pricing out with potential new clients and adjust it as you go. The transition is a process and will most likely never be complete and prices are rarely ever set in stone. Client situations are all different, and if you feel you need to charge extra to accommodate the nervous late night phone calls you know you’ll receive, raise it. Maybe a year later you’re running efficiently and have streamlined to the point you can offer packages, or incentives to new clients to generate additional business. These new pricing models are exciting and lend themselves to endless options with less headaches, take advantage, try them out and remember never to sell yourself and your expertise short.

When complete you can use your pricing menu as an internal pricing cheat sheet, or publish your rates on your website. Check out the presentation of fees by these pioneering law firms:

Still unsure if flat fee & value pricing is for you? Review some of these post for some pros & cons of alternative billing models.

From @ABAJournal | ABA Journal.com

From @Lawyerist | Lawyerist.com

From @JayShep | JayShep.com | PreFixllc.com

From @MattHomann | thenonbillablehour.com | LexThinkllc.com

Please share your billing successes and experience with alternative fees with us!

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We’re Excited to Announce Our New Ethics Opinions & Updates Library!

Over the years Total Attorneys has been fortunate enough to work with thousands of small law firms across the country. Many of which often ask for help tracking down a recent Ethics Update or Opinion from their State Bar or the American Bar Association related to different areas of law practice, ethics and professional responsibility.

We’re happy to announce we've compiled them into one easy to search Ethics Updates and Opinions Library! Below are just a few of the topics included in the library. We encourage you to check back often as we'll be adding more opinions and updates as they are published.

We hope this resource is valuable to you as you grow your legal career or law practice! Do you have an Ethics questions, or concern you’d like to share with us?

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Inventive Education for the Lawyers of Tomorrow

The professors and classes you’ll see mentioned in this post have delivered innovative courses which blend business knowledge, technology and practical training. Preparing students to not only execute cases, but also start their own law firm should they choose to go solo right away.

Entertainment Law, Professor Tonya Evans, Widener Law

In this spring course, students were divided into five law firms. The five firms were tasked with building a website and blog, covering entertainment law news. Some students went as far to add a supplemental Facebook & Twitter accounts. Once the setup portion of their “Faux” firm was complete, they began their casework. In this course students connected the Total Attorneys Practice Management Platform, and utilized it’s client portal to execute the cases, share documents and discuss the legal matter in a secure online space.

The courses not only equip the students with the skills they need to begin their career, but it also adds value to their resume. Listing technology, familiarity with social media, marketing tools, and an understanding of the ethical rules and regulations as they relate to the delivery of legal services separates these candidates from the pack.

Read more about this course and what the students said in Widener’s post; Entertainment Law Class Offers Students a 21st Century Twist

Unbundling and the Future of Law Practice Stephanie Kimbro, University of Dayton

Who better to educate students on the online delivery of legal services than Attorney, Author and ABA Keane Award winner Stephanie Kimbro?

In Stephanie’s course reading assignments and class discussion accompany their role as an associate in a virtual firm managed by Stephanie. Students wrote business plans, which included the use of technology to unbundle and deliver legal services. The Total Attorneys Platform was used as a teaching aid to simulate working in, or being a client of, a virtual firm, management and execution of cases.

Allowing the students to create their own cases led to even greater learning opportunities based on the current situation of the “fake client,” highlights include “Deaf Dennis” and “Harry Potter.” Raising questions about the benefits and possible restrictions working with a handicapped client may bring.

To learn more about the fun and creative cases Stephanie’s students came up with, check out her full post: Teaching Digital Lawyering with a Virtual Firm Simulation. We sincerely thank Stephanie for sharing her syllabus and student stories with us!

Follow Stephanie @StephKimbro

Law Practice in the 21st Century, Troy Riddle

A former graduate of Widener Law, Troy contacted Total Attorneys with overwhelming excitement about delivering this course. Aimed to share current technology and walk them through the process of building and running a law practice. Assignments included building a one-page website, handling cases, and managing their firm’s clients and interactions through the Total Attorneys Platform secure client portal.

After the success of Troy’s first class, he continued on to deliver a second course the following semester. He teaches in addition to his role as Multicultural Affairs Office for Widener Law.

From School to Solo, Susan Cartier Liebel, Solo Practice University

For post graduation courses, there are many workshops and programs. One in particular stands out from the rest and the go to solution for startup and private practice training.

Susan Cartier Liebel has combined the flexibility of online courses with a powerhouse lineup of professors and instructors. Courses are affordably priced and sold in monthly, annual and quarterly subscription packages. Providing recent grads with unlimited access to courses, discussions and discounts, so they not only have a roadmap, but also a support system and community to help them along the way.


Learn more about Solo Practice University Courses

Follow Susan @SCartierLiebel

Total Attorneys is committed to supporting students both pre-bar exam and after they formally begin their careers. Unlimited free licenses are available to educators, students, and alumni under our Total Attorneys Educational Programs. We provide free training and support to all of our educational program clients, including in-class demonstrations, guest speakers and educational articles. Join our discussion on Linked In: Total Attorneys Educators Roundtable.

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Ways to Convey Value and Generate More Business

Generating business for a new law firm or a well established practice is never an easy task. In order to succeed all marketing efforts take commitment, time and patience. What many attorneys don't realize is that lawyers offer a very valuable and unique service. One which is capable of altering the course of someone's life, or offering their family protections and peace of mind, long after they are gone.

Here are several ways you can convey the importance and impact of working with an experienced attorney to target and draw the clients you want.

Step One; Intake

When is the last time you purchased something without being asked for your email? (The gas station doesn't count.) Every clothing retailer, office supply store, Walgreens and even the grocery store wants your email address. Your law practice should be no different. The more you know about your clients, and potential clients the better you will be able to speak to them through advertising. Collect their email address, and specific information related to your practice area. Most importantly, capture how they found you. Knowing where your clients are finding you will save you time and money later.

Newsletters

Now that you've got those email addresses, use them. Newsletters used to be such a chore, first you needed a designer, then pages of content. Not anymore, keep it short, sweet and to the point. You also don't have to do it alone, talk to other local business owners about contributing content. If you practice estate planning, or small business law, ask a local financial planner to contribute a monthly financial planning column. Share your legal expertise and comment on news, demonstrating your knowledge and translating the legalese into a digestible story. Once you've got a couple of issues behind you, start using the sidebars or footers to promote your services. Offer a free legal checkup, or estate planning review. Remember to include every email address you have in newsletter send list, past or current clients, prospects, friends, neighbors, that weird insurance agent that from your neighborhood block party. Everyone starts with the newsletter, if they don't want to receive it they can unsubscribe, but if they forward it to three friends the five seconds it took to type it in was worth it. Free & Easy; These newsletter tools offer free trials with newsletter templates; Constant Contact, Vertical Response and Mail Chimp.

Radio

You would be amazed how few business owners take advantage of this powerful and far reaching vehicle. Lawyers have a distinct advantage when it comes to radio. You possess knowledge that is layered, complex and needs to be translated to suit and explain each situation. Combine that with millions of people who have legal questions but no where to turn to, you have the perfect opportunity to gain exposure while helping someone understand their situation. Call radio stations in your area and offer to come in and answer legal questions in the area you practice on air for one hour. Be flexible in your approach at first, offering to come in early in the morning, or late at night. Convey the value in what you are offering, and how it will attract listeners to the station. Your hourly rate plus travel time is a good start, plus each of the calls you take will set a great example to potential clients how your law firm may be able to help them.

Don't forget to share your contact details, and invite listeners to come in for free fifteen minute consultations when applicable. Question & answer sessions typically do better if promoted to address a particular topic, such as; Fathers Rights, DUI, Small Business Law, or Estate Planning. Lastly, don't stop at the first station you call, and step outside of the stations you listen to, try everything, even AM.

Speak Locally

Offer the same question & answer session in person, local industry groups, associations even your Chamber of Commerce. These groups meet regularly and are almost always looking for new ways to engage their members. Small business and employment lawyers; delivering a 20 minute talk on the basic protections and legal safeguards all businesses should know at a Chamber of Commerce meeting could connect you with several local business owners who probably know other business owners. Get their email addresses and into the newsletter list they go.

Use Your Email Signature & Invoice notes as a Marketing Tool

Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, and the most successful consumer law practices market their services like products. They bundle them, give them names, and sell the value of that package and the expertise that is needed to deliver it. An internet business doesn't just file incorporation paperwork and go. They need lots of pieces, many a new entrepreneurs don't know about. A privacy policy, terms & conditions, incorporation paperwork and contract review just to name a few.

Now think about how many emails and invoices you send in a day or a week. Each email or invoice is a chance to alert your network and clients of new options from your firm. Find a group of services you know you can execute efficiently and price it to generate new clients, and promote it with a line at the bottom of your signature or on the invoices you send out. You can also try language that offers a free consultation, legal check up or review. Here are some examples;

  • Has your business had a legal check up?
  • Clear your record, expunge your criminal charges forever.
  • A simple Estate Plan protects your family for a lifetime for less than you think.

Build an Online Reputation

Google Places, question answer sites, business profile pages, your own website. What do these all have in common? They can be used to drive more traffic to your website and potentially more business. List your business on Google Places, here's a great how to from George Murphy for the Lawyerist. A benefit of joining sites like LawQA.com which offer a great platform to answer questions from potential clients in your area. It's also a great way to practice a Q & A session before speaking in public, or on the radio.

Share, Share, Share

Everyday you work to build your career and practice. Share those stories with your audience. If you speak at a local event, or execute the radio show mentioned above share it! A simple paragraph long blog post announcing an event, then another short post as a follow up with pictures from the event just gave you two very easy, yet powerful pieces of content to share.

Include a link to those posts in your newsletter, and if you're utilizing twitter share them there too. A great way to save time, and extend your reach is to write quality content, and them leverage your existing network to circulate your stories as far as possible for free. Look at every piece of news, success story, or life event as an opportunity to show the world another reason why you are an attorney they want to interact with.

Never give up on following up

How many times have you missed an appointment, a phone call, or rescheduled a meeting more than once? Life happens and things come up. That's no different for the prospects you are talking to. Just because they missed their first appointment with you, doesn't mean they are lost forever.

Keep sending your newsletter to them every month. If they came to you for a specific matter, keep reaching out to them, follow up again and again. Maybe they weren't ready to declare bankruptcy yet, or are still trying to work on their marriage before filing for divorce. Whatever the case may be, their situation could be very different 3 months, 6 months, even a year down the road. Keep talking, and you will at least know their status, rather than wondering why they never called back to reschedule.

Experiment, Measure & Repeat

Don't be afraid to try new marketing services. The world of advertising has changed and your options have grown far beyond directories and phone books. Performance based services like High Performance Marketing allow you to try out a marketing program in the geographic area you choose and only pay when contacts are generated. Other services and consultants may charge hourly for Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click campaigns, with no guarantee of result. Most importantly track every contact through it's entire lifecycle, if you don't know which of your efforts are generating the most business, you can't accurately gauge the success of a program.

Patience is a virtue.

These efforts take time to bear fruit. Remember to always carry cards with you, don't forget to collect email addresses after every interaction, stay consistent in your efforts, and don't bite off more than you can chew. Try tackling one of these a week, even a month and come back to share your successes with us.

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Technology & Marketing Sessions Abound at the Michigan State Bar’s Solo & Small Firm Institute

Grand Rapids is just a short drive from the Total Attorneys office and a favorite destination for many Chicagoans looking for a quick getaway. But it’s not golf that’s on the schedule, we’re headed to the Michigan State Bar, Solo & Small Firm Institute.

This year’s well rounded CLE schedule includes a strong track of practical technology sessions, lead by Barron Henley founding member of the Affinity Group. Not only is Barron one of the smartest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, but he is also an excellent technology translator. Making daunting technology tasks seem easy and manageable. If you have a chance to attend one of Barron’s session’s I’d highly recommend it.

Another not to miss presenter is Author and Keynote Speaker; Matt Homann. Spend 2 minutes talking to Matt, and I think you’ll agree his enthusiasm and energy is infectious. I’m a big fan of Matt’s sessions for a couple of reasons. He presentations are straight, to the point, and deliver actionable tasks, goals or projects that are realistic for any of us to implement. LexThink, his rapid fire 6 minute speaker showdown is a great example. Another is the sessions are always fun and interactive, no calling out Bueller here. He breaks down your misconceptions about a particular topic, and shows you ways to affect change, grow and build the practice and life you want.

I look forward to checking Barron & Matt’s sessions below, plus several others from new speakers sharing their time with us next week.

SSFI: KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: The Creative Counsel
The practice of law is changing more quickly than ever. For attorneys to survive and thrive, they must adapt their practices to deliver legal services in creative and innovative ways. In this fast-paced presentation, learn how (and why) to implement innovative pricing strategies, creative marketing techniques, proven customer service principles, and cutting-edge ideas from other industries and professions. Leave energized and inspired, ready to innovate, keep your clients happy, and make more money.
Matthew Homann, LexThink LLC, St. Louis, MO

SSFI: Marketing/Law Practice Management Track: Connecting with Clients
Does the rise of easy-to-use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter signal the death of traditional trust-based relationship building? Learn practical, easy-to-implement ways to blend old-school networking methods with online services to begin, develop, and foster profitable, long-term client relationships.
Matthew Homann, LexThink LLC, St. Louis, MO

SSFI: Marketing/Law Practice Management Track: Practical Pricing—Part 1
Clients hate the billable hour, and many lawyers do, too. Billing by the hour can discourage efficiency and innovation while driving a divide between lawyer and client. In this interactive workshop, participants will explore five alternative pricing models and learn how (and why) to dump the billable hour and base their fees upon value rather than time.
Matthew Homann, LexThink LLC, St. Louis, MO

SSFI: Technology Track: Champagne Technology on a Beer Budget!
Think you can't get great technology on a budget? Think again. Whether you're ready to start a firm or overhaul your firm's existing technology, Barron provides you with the ultimate lawyer's technology road map. From buying strategies to your ideal computer configuration; from VOIP phone systems to online faxing, you literally can't afford to miss this segment.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Technology Track: Using Technology to Build Malpractice Avoidance Procedures into the Way You Work
Discover 10 malpractice traps and how the proper use of technology in your practice can eliminate or alleviate 7 out of the 10. Learn about calendaring, docketing, client communication/relations, research and investigation, conflicts of interest, documentation of work, and more. See if your firm is following “best practices” and identify areas of improvement.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Technology Track: Business Continuity—The New Frontier of Backup and Data Protection
You can't afford to lose your data. From creating backup rules to establishing responsibilities in your office, learn all the steps and technology you need to build a rock-solid system that will keep you up and running no matter what catastrophe may strike.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Technology Track: 50 Tech Tips in 50 Minutes
Fast-paced and fun, covering everything under the technology sun. From cool websites to software to gadgets and utilities, attend the fastest 50 minutes in CLE to learn the technology that will let you work smarter, faster, and more efficiently.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Killer Cloud Services for Lawyers
“I want to move all of my software to the cloud.” Are you gung ho about the cloud? Before you jump on the bandwagon, hear the expert's take on the pros and cons of cloud services. Explore the breadth of cloud services available, then discover Barron's top cloud services for lawyers and see live demonstrations of each. Plus, learn how to access ANY application by renting a server rather than buying one. By the end of this session you'll know if cloud services are right for you and what your next steps should be if you jump in.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Technology Track: Anywhere Lawyering: Productivity Without Paper (Smartphone, Scanners, Paperless Strategies)
Today's technologies no longer require that a lawyer must be in the office, tied to paper files to fully serve one's client and manage one's practice. In this session, you will learn about using scanners to transition all of your documents to electronic format and how to meaningfully access and analyze that information from anywhere. We'll discuss smart phone capabilities, basic mobile computing and security concerns, as well as considerations on what needs to be saved and for how long.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Technology Track: 30 Word Tips in 50 Minutes
You wouldn't believe what you don't know about Word. This fast-paced lesson covers Word's best kept secrets in document design and development.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Technology Track: The Nuts and Bolts of a Personal Computer—Literally!
For many of us, a computer is something that showed up on our desk one day and we were told to use it. Understanding all the technical elements of a computer can be rather daunting and prevent us from making the most of technology. Learn the basic elements of a computer—memory, hard drive, processors, monitors, etc.—so that you can learn how a computer works and how to best put it to use, all in plain English. Witness a computer being taken apart so you can see how the components work together.
Barron K. Henley, Affinity Consulting Group LLC, Columbus, OH

SSFI: Marketing/Law Practice Management Track: Pad Your Productivity with an iPad
Proving that you don't need to be an Apple fan to appreciate what an iPad can do for you and your practice, a longtime Windows enthusiast shows how the iPad and the right choice of apps, accessories, and services can make your practice more productive. Whether you have an iPad now or are considering purchasing one, learn how to untether yourself from the office and use the iPad for communication, document creation, legal research, litigation, remote access, and more.
Scott Bassett, Bradenton, FL

SSFI: Marketing/Law Practice Management Track: Marketing is a Contact Sport
Your contacts are a key element in your marketing plan. Loaded with dozens of suggestions and how-to's, you'll walk away with strategies to create and maintain more effective, business-producing relationships.
Elizabeth C. Jolliffe, Your Benchmark Coach, Ann Arbor

SSFI: KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Don't Go to Work Unless It's Fun! How Lawyers Can Become Happier and More Productive
What percent of the American workforce do not get satisfaction from their work? Find out the answer and, if you are one of them (or even if not), this mini-workshop will give you a new look at work and your relation to it. It will help you to look forward to going to work every day and give you a sure-fire method to go home satisfied at the end of the day. Beyond that, you will learn the three resolutions to all work problems and an opportunity to resolve one of your key issues.
Frank Sanitate, Frank Sanitate Associates, Santa Barbara, CA

Follow Matt, Barron, and all of the updates from the Solo & Small Firm Institute on Twitter!

@BarronHenley
@MattHomann
@SBMNews
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