The work of building and expanding a small law firm isn't meant to be a one-man job. Inevitably, your law firm's growth (and your sanity) will depend on your ability to hand off certain time-consuming tasks. Outsourcing and automation can transform your law firm and mean a better work/life balance for you, an intelligent and efficient workflow for your team, and so much more. With highly rated software, tried-and-tested services, and expert lawyering practices in their toolbox, small law firms like yours can have everything they need to push their law firm above and beyond. To help you get started, we asked four top legal professionals for their favorite tips and tools that will give you the most bang for your buck.
In a webinar recorded on March 4th, 2020, Maddy Martin of Smith.ai joined a group of legal experts, including Rio Peterson of Clio, Mark Homer of GNGF.com, Chad Burton of CuroLegal, and Jared Correla of Red Cave Consulting, to uncover the leading legal software, services, and practices that small law firms can use to improve their productivity, upgrade their intake processes, better their customer service, and give their firm an overall advantage.
If you'd like to discover the best legal tech tools you can use to give your small law firm a boost, then we encourage you to read the full transcript of the video below, edited for readability. You can also watch the full webinar for free on YouTube by clicking the image below. To check out more videos like this one, with tons of free tips for soloprenuers, small business owners, and lawyers, subscribe to our YouTube channel!
Head of Growth and
Education at Smith.ai
Affinity Program Manager
CEO of GNGF.com
CEO of CuroLegal
CEO of Red Cave Consulting
All right. Welcome. Can everyone hear me?
We’ve got Rio. We've got Chad. We've got Mark. Let's see if I can get Jared on stage. I'm inviting you right now.
Alright. Hi, guys. Hi, gal.
We’ve got green backgrounds, which is everyone. Oh, Chad, you're left out. You don't have a teal background. They’re in the studio.
All right. Wow. It is so good to see you guys. So nice to have my voice back after the tech show.
Yeah. So welcome everyone. I'm super happy to have this panel today.
I mean, when I think about who I turn to, to see who's got their finger on the pulse, who's really in tune with firms and, you know, very expert in the latest legal tax software services, I mean, this is the crowd, so please like, don't hold back with questions.
Please introduce yourselves and your practice area. You may need to turn on the sound, Jennifer. I saw that you said you can't hear anything.
If anyone else is having any issues with sound or video, I'm going to flip the slide so that we can, that, um, I do find that live streams work best in the Chrome browser.
You may also need to adjust the sound in your browser, on your computer. Sometimes for me, I actually have to click the screen versus on my keypad. So if you end up not being able to— oh, good Jennifer. Okay, great. That always makes me worry.
So, Melanie, since I know that you can hear me, will you introduce yourself and start kicking off people like saying hi in the chat so that we can have a friendly little panel today?
And then what we'll do in the meantime is introduce ourselves.
So, first of all, the topic for today, we'll go for about an hour, is legal tech for small firms. And the whole point is things that can accelerate growth and give you extra limbs and extensions for what is often just a solo or two-person firm.
We want to give you the tools that are affordable, easy to plug-in, accessible, don't take a PhD. Right?
And the nice thing is that because things are so competitive and robust and like being developed so quickly right now is that's brought the price way down and testability way up for all these things that used to be totally outside of the reach of a solo or small firm owner.
So we brought in a really diverse panel.
If you have questions, please jump in and I will try and keep track of them to the best of my ability.
And we are recording today's session. It will be an HD video that we will post, we'll share it with you afterwards, automatically, and you can review or listen to it at your leisure or share it.
Just a little bit about me and then I'll let Jared Rio Mark and Chad introduce themselves and their companies.
I'm Maddy Martin. And I'm the head of growth and education for Smith.ai. We are a virtual receptionist, live web chat, and SMS text answering company. We are working, very exciting, on a Facebook Messenger integration.
So we are doing more omni-channel conversations than ever. We serve about 60% of attorneys, in solo and small law firms. We've been around since 2015, and really, what makes us unique is the integration of really talented, you know, live receptionist plus AI. So we do a lot of integrations.
We are a clear partner, we work closely with Mark, we’re very involved with Chad and Jared. And Jared and I are close friends, despite the fact that we do have a little bit of competing products on the chat side, which I love to talk to him about.
And I will let them introduce themselves. So Jared, take it away.
Hey, thanks for having me.
As Maddy says, my name is Jared Correla and I'm a consultant for solo and small firm attorneys, internationally now.
I have my own business called Red Cave Consulting. I work with lawyers individually on subscription-based consulting. And then I also have partnerships with several bar associations where I'm essentially their preferred consulting partner.
I've probably consulted with like 5,000 law firms over the last 12 years. There are very few problems I haven't seen in the legal vertical. Yeah.
And I'm happy to be on the presentation today. Chad and I clearly shop at the same stores. You'll have to vote to see whose plusher you like best.
Alright, Rio. Take it away.
So hi everyone. My name is Rio. I'm also known as Rio from Clio and I am the affinity program manager at Clio. So I help to kind of manage and nurture the 74 relationships that we have with bar associations and law societies or ballpark America.
A lot of that involves helping our different bar partners develop resources for their members so practice management resources, helping them help their members basically.
And I've worked with everyone here. Hi guys.
Yeah, we, Clio, obviously we love to work with all our partners. We have built kind of a vast ecosystem and we kind of tend to believe that we are stronger together.
And so I'm really, really excited to be here. I'm on this panel today, so thanks, guys.
Awesome. Mark, you're up.
Mark Homer with Get Noticed, Get Found. We are a legal marketing agency and based in Cincinnati, but clients all over us and Canada.
So I've been doing this for about 10 years now. Can you believe that, Jared, it's been 10 years?
I know. Time flies.
So, yeah, we've been doing basically marketing just for law firms for about 10 years now.
So again, I think I can also say I've kind of seen it all in terms of still coming across all firms that don't even have websites.
So that's always interesting to me, but, you know, like we've had to, you know, connect to pretty much everything when it comes to technology-wise, from the front end to the back end.
So, which is why I think, you know, get to know this panel really well.
And we're also a very proud and happy user of Smith.ai. So, yeah, we'll talk to Maddy about our clients, but also us as a client. So it's a lot of fun, so.
Awesome. All right, Chad, bring us home.
Chad Burton, I started my career practicing law in big firms, started my own virtual law firm, and got into tech consulting and implementation with firms around the country, which morphed into tech development for the industry.
And then, we've done different projects with bar associations, including one that's on-going called ABA blueprint, which is a bot that helps small firms find tools to run their practice.
And then about, I guess, a year and a half, two years ago, I co-founded another company called Modern Law Practice, where we are doing business and tech consulting with law firms, as well as providing services related to intake.
So we do outsource intake that is complementary to companies like Smith.ai. We do workshops and we just, I think like a month ago, released our first online course for intake and consultations.
Yeah, at an incredible value. So if you guys haven't checked that out. You get like the price of a lifetime of learning and a few hours, like, a Saturday. So awesome. Thank you guys all for being here.
Is it still early enough in 2020, where we can talk like our resolutions, because I mean, like that could be one, intake as a resolution?
So let's talk about our game plan. So I mean, it's amazing to have Rio here because Jared and I have talked about the Clio report back in Minnesota. Mark was there, too.
But it is, I mean, I'm like, I don't know, like I'm president of the fan club or something because it says it all, pretty much.
And I wanted to at least have Rio take a moment to explain the sort of key findings from the report and maybe just really briefly discuss that.
And then we'll jump into the questions and the questions will be really focused on improving communications, improving law, practice management, ethically operating when it comes to marketing and communications reviews and referral.
And then also like intake systems. So how are these things within reach for solo and small firms and what are the trends that we're seeing?
And not just trends, but also things that are actionable and can be adopted. And you're not like the first mover to try something they've actually been proven and have a real use case and functionality around them.
Just one plug before we get started and we'll say there are a couple of special discounts at the very end, so don't leave early. Like if you need to go eat lunch, you're not the ones on video. So go have a late lunch and eat or else you'd probably be grossed out.
So let's just, before Rio goes into a little bit of a, you know, five minutes sort of introduction to the Clio report.
Let's just say that, like, what we're hoping for you to take away today is like real actionable change to your firm or to the firm that you are planning on moving into or developing, maybe you're not yet in a solo or small firm.
These are things that many of us can tell you, like, you know, start on the right foot, start with good habits and good practices.
It's much harder to switch from those habits.
And the areas I think that have the biggest impact are, you know, generating the right and good quality clients, having the backbone to say like no to certain clients who are not going to be great, improving that lead conversion and intake process, which, you know, Chad can really speak about boosting the referrals and the reviews, which obviously bring in like the best and easiest and clients most cheaply.
Right. Also, increasing the capture of the earnings that are due to you because that's really often an uncomfortable discussion to talk about finances. So how can we improve that?
And then just in general, like reducing those laboring tasks so that you can do more of the lawyering that you're seeking to do in the practice areas, you're seeking to do that.
So before we get to the first sort of question, Rio, do you want to just set the, you know, lay of the land for what is ailing solo and small firms that we saw in maybe the past years and also, in particular, this last year.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
So this year was actually a really, really big year for the legal trends report because it is—that's my phone.
I'm not going to answer that.
So it's the fourth year that we released the legal trends report and which makes it the first longitudinal study and analysis of the legal industry to date, which is really, really exciting.
That also means that this last year, we were able to kind of validate a lot of the basic business metrics that we have been saying all along, kind of contribute to growth. A board—sorry, give me a second.
Speaking of technology.
Now, if you only had a receptionist.
I really need one, apparently— so, I mean, as I was saying broadly speaking, I think the biggest overall takeaway from this year's report is that change does not have to have a huge impact on your firm's revenue, growth, and overall success.
So for example, this year we found that utilization rates, or rather how many hours of lawyer puts toward billable work on an average day, hasn't really changed much in the past four years.
It's remained relatively consistent coming in at about 31% or. 2.5 hours of billable work a day. And that tells us that, you know, working efficiently and productively continues to be quite a significant challenge for many, many, many small firms.
And not only it will be a challenge, but it's something that when you take small steps to kind of improve that it can have a huge impact on your overall revenue.
For example, like boosting a lawyer's productivity, say billing one extra hour, a day can have a compounding effect that can have a significant impact on revenue, even more so than say increasing your hourly rate.
Another example is we did our law firms study this year, which was really, really exciting.
So we put a thousand law firms to the test in order to evaluate their responsiveness and quality of service that they provide to, say, a potential client.
And what we found was rather shocking.
For starters, 600 of the firms of the thousand firms, right? We emailed. They didn't respond to us, not even, nothing like nothing. And of the firms that did respond, only two out of a thousand provided a response that was timely and answered our questions, and provided clear next steps.
That's just two out of a thousand.
So I think something that the legal trends report has really shined a light on, this year, is that there are a lot of really small ways that lawyers can make little tweaks and improvements to how they were running their business.
And that can have a major impact on the client experience that they're offering, but also on their firms, productivity, and overall revenue.
Yeah, that's awesome. Thank you so much.
I mean, I think one thing also that was really striking in the report that Melanie brought up is like the expectations gap.
And, you know, the thing that I'll say just sort of to lead into this next discussion is that there's not only an expectations gap between.
The clients or the potential clients and the lawyer or law firm between what information they're expecting, you know, they expect information about how long this could take or how much it might cost or what's required of me to engage in this way with a law firm.
But also there's an expectations gap that eats into our time at a law firm where you expect that you're able to complete a task that may not be within your skill set and that consumes more time than if you would outsource it.
And a great example of that is doing your own marketing or doing your own accounting or doing some of these things that may not be a core skill set.
And the result of that not being a core skill set is that you don't do it efficiently because you don't know how to do it as someone who's an expert at that would so.
Imagine like, you know, if you're mature in your practice and you've been a practicing attorney for years, how much more efficient you are and how much more quickly you can get answers to the questions that you need, compared to when you first got out of law school. Right?
So the expertise that you value in, that you pride in yourself, is also something to respect within others who can help grow and strengthen your own firm. And that is an efficiency metric as well.
So let's talk about, we were all—Jared, I don't think I missed you at the tech show.
I took the year off. I can't go to every single tech show every year. I’m a busy man.
It’s your one day off a year.
Yeah, just to represent your product.
So we're just coming off the tech show. Right? We saw, like, the old guard, which, you know, obviously, Clio is there and a lot of fantastic, wonderful services and software companies are there.
And then there's the new guard. There's startup alley. There's like pitch competition. A lot of other people are sort of milling around guerrilla-style, wearing their shirts and selling their wares.
So what was, whether it was at a booth or at a pitch competition or at a happy hour, like the newer, old tech, what do you think is most worthy of attention and will get the most attention this year?
What is the hottest most applicable trend right now? And why?
So I'm gonna save a little bit here. I don't think it's necessarily the products. I still think like beyond the law practice management software that is out there, that have existed for a long time, I think that like the other categories or products are still very much unfilled in legal.
Like there's not a lot of specific product offerings that are available for general businesses that are available for lawyers as lawyer-facing-lawyer-specific technology that yet exists. Like there's only a handful of viable CRMs, for example, in legal.
So, not having them at tech show this year, I'm probably the least equipped to answer this question.
But kind of what I see moving forward is the notion of automation and delegating to products, services, machines, technology, robots, rather than people. And there's a real advantage in doing that for law firms.
Any technology that focuses on automation is probably worthy of your attention this year.
And I'll just say one product I like in that respect is called Lawmatics. It's a new CRM. It's been built by a guy named Matt Spiegel, who was the original founder of MyCase, the case management software.
And that is like a very tight product that features a lot of triggers and automation. And I really like what they're doing there. So that's my contribution here.
Okay. And then I'm probably second to Jared because I think I spent about 30 to 45 minutes in the expo hall total.
I feel better now. Thank you.
Right. I mean, I'm not as sad as Jared.
How could you be?
I just showed up?
And so I don't really, I don't disagree much with Jared. I mean, I wish, you know, the expo hall had more options for virtual receptionist and case management software. There's so many options out. Only one counts though, for each, right?
Now, you’re in those good graces.
So I think really, an opportunity now, to take a slight twist on what Jared was saying, is that, I mean, a lot of what we need has been produced and you know, whether it's within the industry or not.
And I think this is somewhat relevant, but I just did a, apparently a poorly crafted poll last night on Maximum Lawyer Facebook group, and about the use of technology, existing technology, and the vast majority of people answered that they feel like they're using like 10% of what they've got.
The opportunity right now is helping firms actually maximize what's already in front of them, whether it is case management software, whether it is, you know, a fancy spreadsheet.
So I think, you know, using what they have to its fullest potential, both within the existing features and then Jared said, the idea of, you know, automating, looking for opportunities to streamline processes with that existing tech, which I think that's our biggest opportunity right now.
And Mark, Rio, did you want to add to that?
So I'll jump in.
And maybe it's Melanie, I think we actually were having a conversation after one of the things, and she was mentioning that, you know, like it was the fact that practice management is still talked about as, “Hey, you know, you guys should really think about doing practice management software,” and you know, it's been, I mean, every single tech show I've been to for the last 10, 11 years, I mean, there's been practice management vendors there, right?
So these are not new things, but it's, I think it's, getting, you know, like actually looking at what’s in – and I don't want to offend anybody, but you know, a lot of law firms are businesses and don't realize it or don't accept it and to actually look around and say, to look around and say like, “What are other businesses, business owners, entrepreneurial businesses, you know, like, 10 and under business owner kind of companies, what do they do? What type of systems do they have?”
And I think you'll find a number of things.
One, Jared mentioned it, I think it's a big thing we're going to see over the next three or four years, or maybe 10 years ‘cause it seems to take that long, but it is CRM.
I think, you know, like CRM is the foundation for almost all businesses and then they do things outside, you know, from there, so the fact that legal started with practice management, which isn't actually a CRM.
I mean, now, you know, Clio is actually adding a grow product in front, which could be the beginning of a CRM.
We've got Lawmatics, I think is a good CRM, and even Captorra got a little bit to it. So there are some products that are legal-specific, but there also are non-legal-specific CRMs that are very popular out there from Pipedrive to Salesforce or whatever.
You know, but looking outside of just legal and saying, “What do businesses do?” Yeah, they do CRM, they outsource services to get these things done.
So I saw, like, somebody mentioned, like, “Hey, I don't have time to set it all up.” It's like many busy, you know, like, I mean, I'm a services company and I hire people to help me with my Salesforce setup.
Right. I go outside of my company. Like, I don't think I need to be the expert on Salesforce. It takes way longer to do that. And I don't have the time either. Right. So I think that that's, you know, often interesting.
And I think, you know, like, Rio is mentioning this, I think we've seen that consistency of, “Oh, I need to know it all in order to implement it.”
And that, like, totally kills your effectiveness and efficiency. Doing what you want to do, which is either running a company, you know, dealing with people in culture or lawyering, if that's what you want to do, too. Right.
You know, so one of those two things really are things that, you know, the lawyers should be focusing on not being the experts at every single thing they bring in the door.
You know, like leverage is a huge thing for a business owner. Right? So leverage other people and other tools and other technologies and companies to help you get those gains.
Like, I don't think I need to be the expert on every single tool I have, although I do recommend, you know, knowing and maximizing the use of the tools you have, you know, to second what Chad said there, but you know, utilize other people to help you through that.
And actually one thing I'll add there, and I think there's sort of an interesting, sort of two-part discussion here, which is like, don't take so long to get started. Just do it.
Also, most software and services are month to month at this point, and you're not signing long-term contracts anymore. So, like, there's not a huge risk so don't go on one hand, like don't take so long to get started. Just do it, just jump in and you'll iterate over time and improve and dig in.
And then that's the second part, too, which is, sort of, make a game plan to dive in, to go deeper because yes, like don't have this analysis paralysis that you need to have everything figured out under the sun in your intake forms perfected, right.
In order to adjust, sign up for, you know, an intake system or marketing system or CRM, but once you're in there, like make a game plan for actually integrating more with that software training your team, taking the time to carve out because you know, it's an ongoing process.
And if you don't set those expectations for yourself, that you're going to dedicate time to that, it's often the thing that gets relegated to the bottom of the list.
And we all know, especially in a solo or small firm, there are so many other fish to fry.
And I think, like, to your point, Mark and Maddy, like it kind of comes back to you.
Not every change has to be a huge change and you don't have to be an expert and it takes a little bit sometimes to get over that kind of idea that maybe you do, that it is okay to ask for help, you know, it's okay to reach out and to find somebody to assist you.
There's also a perception that doing it yourself is going to save you money. Well, if it's not, if you don't know how to do it, it's going to actually cost you time, it's going to cost me money.
And you know, it's actually better to kind of seek out and rely on other people's knowledge to kind of help you get over those points so that you can focus on running your firm and making sure that those changes that you're implementing are actually going to stick, that everyone has been able to keep them going and actually use them, you know, get the most out of them.
Yep. Yeah, absolutely.
So, I mean, let's talk, you know, we already talked about the Clio report. You know, you touched on that.
I just wanted to kind of circle back to that for a moment and say, Jared, you know, you and I talked about it in Minnesota at the Small Firm Tech Bootcamp. You know, you've been in the communication space, we're both working on these chatbots.
Like, what is it that, at this core of communication gap and expectation gap that compelled you and compelled Smith.ai to like start getting into this chatbot space?
How is that technology particularly interesting to lawyers right now?
Yeah. I mean, I didn't want to be totally self-serving and just talk about messaging, but there's like a lot of stuff that can be done in the messaging space with lawyers.
And I think a lot of it tracks back to kind of what we talked about with the Clio trends report, right?
Like I think, for years, people have known that like engagement is a thing that is necessary to convert leads to clients. There hasn't been a lot of software though that's been focused on that.
I remember reading a fine law study that came out, I want to say like three, four years ago that said like 89% of the time, if a law firm provides some level of engagement to a client or a potential client, they're going to decide whether or not they're gonna use that law firm before they go on to the next one. And that's like a massive competitive advantage that lawyers aren't executing on.
Contact forms at our website, for example, are not particularly effective because that information goes out into the ether. And same thing with traditional lawyer models, where somebody leaves a voicemail and the law firm calls him back, who knows six weeks from now.
So the challenge I think, is figuring out a way to engage clients without necessarily having your staff committed to that, or attorneys committed to that.
And I see a lot of software being developed in that space.
Clients, I think, lawyers get wrong is that, like, they're always trying to push an intake process on the clients that is easy for them, but you really have to be meeting these consumer expectations.
And the thing that attorneys always forget is that the consumer that's in front of you today may only have one interaction with a lawyer in their entire lives. And so they know literally nothing about the legal process.
So there's going to be education involved and you can't just let these people dump information into the ether, not know where it goes.
There has to be some level of back and forth, even if it's automated to get them to buy into the notion of even hiring a lawyer in the first place.
And I think a lot of that's bared ethnically of study.
I will jump in really quick, ‘cause I want to know Chad, you know, I want to hear what you have to say about the intake and expectations, but one thing I was listening to Gyi Tsakalakis on the Technically Legal podcasts.
He was on yesterday's episode and he and the hosts were talking about better describing, like, examples of your practice areas.
And first of all, that's often for SEO and Mark can touch on that. But, you know, if you actually use the real words and language that, like, a layperson would use to describe what legal situation or scenario they're presented with, or they're in, or they're considering, you know.
How does someone describe a car accident, a car wreck? Like, you know, there are all these different ways to describe what's going on that could be a legal situation.
And I think it's very easy if you're only in legal circles or you're really just focused completely with blinders on for, you know, how is my website optimized?
You may not actually have those conversations to say what happens if, like I asked my kid niece to look at my website, does it make sense to someone who is in third grade, because honestly, like that is sort of the level that you should be able to have an understanding.
When people say, “Oh, you do trademark, you do IP, you do family law. What does that mean? Is there overlap with immigration?” You know, there's all these questions.
So, you know, really breaking it down and describing things clearly, whether it's, you know, initial discussions or consultations or during intake in your email nurturing. You know, how do you talk about your specialties in a way that is oriented towards that client and not towards the CLE or your peers?
I would recommend listening to that Technically Legal episode from yesterday, which was March 3rd. That really was, I think, a list illustrative of, you know, the mindset that a lot of attorneys find themselves in, even those who speak, you know, professionally, about sort of making it easier to understand what attorneys do to the clients.
How do we give examples of that to put it into perspective and make it tangible?
So Chad, what are your thoughts on intake here and meeting expectations?
So many thoughts on intake, which is so bizarre. Like, a couple of years ago, if I like, if I would have told you how much time I think about intake, I would have thought you were insane.
I was also just picturing you, like, showing a third grader, a family loss site and they're reading it and they're like, “Does this mean mom and dad are getting divorced?” Yep. Probably.
So I think intake is an interesting area because, you know, and especially in the smaller farm world, it seems like it's been popping up in the past few years.
Like some of the products that Jared is talking about from, you know, legal CRMs, whether it's Grow, Lawmatics. I was going to say Lexicata, but I guess that's grown out.
And so what we spend a lot of time on is really figuring out the mix between the human component of it and the tech component of it.
And it's, you know, it feels like a moving target because, you know, we are obviously in an age where, you know, most people are becoming more and more, you know, tech-savvy, or expecting to be able to book appointments, learn as much as they can technologically, but then there's still this huge component of potential clients that need to talk to a human before they commit.
It may not be a massive amount of time. Our data shows that when booking clients through our instant live intake team, it's about, you know, eight to 10 minutes to get somebody booked effectively.
And so on the human side, now they've been learning about the firm, you know, online, just like you're talking about, you know.
That's been happening, you know, that introduction, if you think about it, like, that book influence, all those different principles that are getting the potential client to get to know the law firm, the human component seems to bring it across the board.
But, you know, we're also, you know, testing out the kind of AB testing, the all, like, even minimizing the human component even more, if that's going to be more effective.
And so we have a lot of opportunities with the tech that's out there now, but we still need some human aspect. And what that means, I think, is going to keep evolving. It was a fun topic.
If I can—
Go ahead, Mark.
So I think you mentioned a couple of things and then Jared said something that was, I think that's fascinating for people to just— I'm gonna repeat it again and then kind of give another comparison.
So Jared mentioned that, you know, a lot of times, you know, their interaction with, you know, like a person's interaction with a lawyer or a typical client, and most of the firms that maybe are probably on this webinar, right?
That may be the only time they've ever interacted with a lawyer. Right?
And if you think about the other thing I always try to remind people is like, the word intake is a legal, specific business term. Okay. It's because people don't like to say the word “sales”, right? Intake process is a process. I'm sorry.
So if you think about, you know, other things where people don't interact a lot so buying a house, then maybe you do it once every 10, 15, 20 years or something. Right? Buying a car once every three to five years. Think about like these processes and like how client-centered and focused they are. Right.
I mean, you get somebody who walks you around and drives you around, you know, house to house and then sends you all these emails, who'll walk you through the process.
And then you have all these systems like Zillow, like making it, you know, like, guiding you through car dealers. Like the high-end car dealers are like, you know, like, you know, they're basically veiling you into the place and giving you free food and movies and stuff. They, like, look at their cars now.
So like that is the customer experience. And then people come into an intake process. So it's just night and day different for something that is— what's the expectation of consumers outside of, you know, working with a lawyer. Is this their only interaction with a lawyer?
So we have to, like, kind of meet the consumer's expectation more than we do the lawyer's expectation.
You know, if you're B2B and you're dealing with an in-house counsel, you know, maybe that's fine, you know.
So I thought that that is a fairness point; that, you know, this is the only interaction they are having.
And then it came back to what you said, Maddy, about, you know, how do they think about lawyers? What terms are they thinking about?
I always say, “When you talk about, you know, your content and how you're talking to somebody, you know, talking to your friends in the backyard, over barbecue and beer and say, like, ‘Describe what I do’.”
That's how, you know, other people are thinking of looking and talking to you. Right?
And then the last thing I'm interested, to understand from, you know, Chad's process, and I need to go take the course apparently, ‘cause I missed that, but is the amount of lawyers that we work with that, say, you know, ‘cause we're sending leads in we're helping drive new business into a law firm, the amount of people that say they have to talk to me, the lawyer, to become a client.
So that's just a requirement, right?
It's like, you know, I've got people to say, “No, send them to my cell phone at nine o'clock at night, I'm going to talk to them because that's the only way they become a client.”
So I'm curious to know from the other panelists is, ‘cause I don't, you know, like no other firm, I don't require somebody to talk to me to become a client.
We have a sales team. Right?
Can you imagine if doctors did that?
So yeah, I mean, I barely get, you know, half an hour with my doctor and how much do we pay for that? Right. But it's a very efficient half-hour.
So I think it's an interesting point that I see. I would be curious to see what the panel knows on that.
We’re seeing that same thing, I can tell you, in terms of the transfer requirements, just from our perspective.
And I was noticing that Melanie posted in the comments, you know, requiring them to speak to the attorney first, is ego. And like, I do think that a lot of that is like, it is true.
I mean, there is no reason for you to have to vet every single person to that level. I mean, when are you spending time working? When are you spending time on your actual job?
I think there's definitely a balance to be struck between when is it appropriate to use technology and use tech tools in your intake process and when is human interaction essential and important.
I mean, for example, let's say that I'm reaching out to a law firm. I've been a legal consumer and that process is daunting, but it's there, I'm reaching out.
And I would like to get some more information. I don't need to talk to a person for that process. That's not a big deal, but let's say that I'm explaining my situation and what has happened.
The fact that I'm at the point where I feel that I need a lawyer— for most people, they've gotten to that point because things are starting to get heated and stressful, and they really need to know that somebody understands their situation and somebody is going to help them through that.
So maybe explaining the details of their case, they may need to talk to a person, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the lawyer.
Yeah. And I think it depends on the scenario, and that's where flexibility is helpful.
So, you know, the comment you just made about, you know, needing to just share with somebody and, Mark, we train our people and when we do a consultation training, for the law firm side, once it's past the intake specialist type role, it's all about cradles at that point.
So even if our intake specialists are not— well, they're not lawyers at all, not even close, which makes them so much better humans. But, I mean, all of you watching this are great. It's just me talking about the issue.
So there it's a sales process. They listen, they're there to, you know, get information, but we experiment with what that process looks like, getting people into the consultation and then closing, and it really can depend upon the type of firm, it depends on what the firm's experiencing.
And a lot of this actually goes back to, you know, you're part of the world, Mark, which is, you know, the marketing piece of it, because, you know, we can have the best intake specialists on the planet and a lawyer can be great at closing a deal when they sit down in a consultation, but if the right kind of clients aren't coming in the door from all the marketing work that's upfront, none of this matters.
And so we really kind of— that's where the data comes in and tracking where those as leads are coming from. The leads attending consultations, consultations to conversions for clients, that all matters.
But sometimes it just depends on the type of firm where it may be that, yeah, people were coming to the firm because they've heard the law firm owner and they know that, right? They want to see, you know, John Smith because he’s the face of it.
Well, it may be that John needs to just maybe pop his face into the meeting for, you know, five minutes to close the deal on a difficult situation, or maybe he never needs to talk to that person at all and it could be a not attorney salesperson that actually does all the work in the consultation.
So it really depends on the type of practice area. It depends on the firm, the location, the style of the firm. And the best thing to do there is just experiment with different concepts.
And even the name of the firm, honestly. And I think this is something that comes up in the Maximum Lawyer Facebook group. I've seen it before. You know, I'm starting my firm, I'm changing my firm, I'm expanding my firm.
You know, if you name your firm, it has your first and last name, you better believe people are going to ask to speak to you.
So when you think, if you're starting your own firm about different naming conventions, that may be something to consider.
And I'm not saying, like, you're planning your obsolescence, but you do plan being able to delegate more easily when you're not getting so many proactive questions about, “Where is. Jim Hacking,” right, one of the founders of the Maximum Lawyer group.
So that, you know, to say even just Hacking Law Practice, instead of, like, Jim Hacking: Attorney at Law, like even that gets you a little bit farther away.
And how do you distance yourself, if you are interested in delegating more?
And I also think if you are not the person who is handling all those consultations, then you will allow for more training and education for your team because if it happens one day that there is an accident or there is a problem that prevents you from being that person, I know Jared, like knowing a lot about buying and selling firms emerging and things like that, like, this is a really important topic that, for business continuity, you better have someone who can have that phone call for you.
Because if it all rests on you, you're in deep trouble if one day you actually cannot, you're not available to have that conversation.
Well, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot to be said for collaboration and building a strong team around you.
So we are, not surprisingly— Mark and I have been in these meetings before we're, you know, the time runs away from us. So in December, we had sort of the same exact thing. So I realized that it’s 3:45.
We just all really could talk forever, I think, but let's take just a moment. We've talked plenty about intake, but let's talk about systems. James mentioned calendaring and deadlines.
That is often a reason for bar complaints and issues that are brought up with bar associations.
So how do you sort of deal with managing your calendar and your time?
Let's say that you're getting comfortable with delegating some things.
What is the role of systems here and how can tech facilitate that? And maybe some examples of best practices you're seeing.
So I used to— before I had my own private consulting business, I used to work with lawyers who were in the disciplinary system in Massachusetts. And it was always the same thing. Somebody forgot to put something on the calendar. They forget to do a conflict check. And part of the reason that lawyers run into problems in this way is— it’s two-fold really.
So they always run ad hoc practices, right? So they're relying on no system, is there a system, traditionally for, and that's true of many solo and small firm attorneys.
Oftentimes, rather than technology, lawyers are relying on their memory. They've always been high achievers. They think their memories’ invaluable, so they lose money when they can't remember what they built for a month and they're trying to reconstruct 30 days worth of the time that they spent. Never going to happen.
Lawyers run into trouble when they try to suss out conflicts that might exist, that they don't actually remember.
I remember it very well, a guy who got in trouble and he basically didn't run a conflict check effectively and there was like a massive conflict.
And he actually sat there and said to me, “I remember every conflict every client I've ever had.” And I was like, “Well, not this one.”
But this is like the issue with law firms.
Part of it is like, If you can be like 1% or 2% more efficient or effective than your competitor, you're going to have massive revenue gains from that.
You're going to just crush everybody. So just, you don't have to, like, apply the system from end to end tomorrow, but if you start or have 2% of a system where somebody else has 0% of the system, that's going to be really helpful for you, not only going to make money, but you're going to avoid all those malpractice issues that attorneys have that can't manage their business.
Okay. So Jared, like, let's talk about that for a second ‘cause I think one thing that I thought was a great pushback that I heard recently from a larger firm was all the attorneys here rely on billable hours.
And what you're describing is eating into my billable hours by automating a lot of these systems.
So how are we going to bill the number of hours we want to bill to make the money that we want to make if you're talking about all this automation and you're streamlining all these documents that are generating?
Like, that is something that is almost never talked about. It's sort of like a very touchy subject, but what is the answer to that?
Because I think, you know, we can talk about, “Oh, you can serve more clients and there's expertise that you built into, maybe your hourly rate, if you built these systems and you amortize that over time,” but, you know, that's sort of my initial thought, what do you guys think?
I'll just say briefly, like, ‘cause I don't want to suck all the air out of the room, but like that's the typical lawyer way of thinking about things. “Let me charge the client more by being inefficient and taking more time to do things.”
So I think it's twofold, right? Like you have to have this idea that—
This is like verbatim the conversation that I had.
Oh, I'm sure. I’m sure I have these conversations as well. I feel your pain, but when you can't be efficient, there's opportunity costs attached to that, right?
Because you have to think about what are you going to do with those extra hours, right?
You can build more or, if you don't think you have enough work to build more, which is another concern I see for lawyers, like, “Okay, it takes me like 40 hours to do this now. What if it takes me 20? Am I going to be twiddling my thumbs through the rest of the time?”
No, you're going to go out there and look at different marketing opportunities. You're maybe going to look at different practice areas. You’re maybe going to manage your firm a little bit better.
And so the ability to implement a system is going to mean downtime for a little while before you get it running effectively.
Lawyers don't want to have that dime downtime. They don't run systems effectively. They don't implement them effectively. And then they complain three months down the line because the systems aren't working.
The systems are working, the people who are running the systems aren't working.
Trust me, if you're efficient, if you do a better job managing your firm, you will find time to fill the extra space you have and it's likely going to be more revenue-generating activities that you couldn't get to before is my opinion.
And when I have that conversation, you know, and I hear that, I am usually— when that person's making that complaint, what's going through my head as well is, “This is bullshit. They just don't know how to grow.”
And like, that's the thing, like the more efficiencies, more processes allow.
I mean, we can all name firms here that are, you know, focused on systems and processes and are truly efficient and they grow faster. And they will be able to scale better because they have that in place.
It's those that don't have the systems, the processes, and the proper tech and the people using them properly that just really struggle to scale on a regular basis.
And I mean, one other thing that you can't scale is like your own personal network, right? Because your network is your net worth, as the book title goes.
So I mean, that to me is always something that yes, you can run a better business, but you can also— your ability, I mean, we talk about people who take their own new client calls or have to, you know, close the deal.
What's really important that is very hard to replicate is your reputation and your role in the community and like your network.
So like, if there's anything that you should be leveraging and can't delegate, it's probably that.
Unless you have, like, an awful personality and then you should totally delegate it to somebody else.
Just let somebody else go out and do that part. It's okay. You can be a worker bee. It's all right.
No, I mean, you guys talked about the revenue and I think that's really important. We touched on a ton in the Clio report, obviously. It’s obvious to, I think, all of us that, like, you know, if you're not taking credit cards, like, sort of where have you been living?
But I think there's also a comfort zone where, like, people discount their services. They don't charge fully for, like, the work that was completed. There's fear around flat-rate services.
And are you gonna get it right? Can you change it over time?
What are some things that solo and small firm attorneys can do in particular that, you know, help them get paid close to, or the full amount, that they’re due?
Well, I think that, like, ultimately just making it easier for people to give you money is a good first step.
And I think that sometimes means being flexible, things like payment plans, for example, making it easy for someone to pay you on a regular cadence, whether that's through cash or check or credit card, it doesn't really matter, but making that accessible for them.
Not a lot of people have, you know, $7,000, $8,000 cash just lying around, right? Like, yeah, being flexible and talking about alternative payment terms, I think it's a good place to start.
That’s interesting. I had— a few years ago, I had a client who was really pushing, like, “I need more leads. I need to get more business. I need to run a business.” ‘cause they were really struggling.
And we started talking and stuff and I'm like, “Well, you know, you’re a couple of months late on your bill.” He was like, “I know. I've got like $120,000 in accounts receivable right now.” Yeah. And I'm like, “Dude, like what? Focus on that. Just, you know, if you spent time working on that—”
So, you know, we talked about, like, credit cards. “Well, no, that seems like I'd be losing some money.” Like, “Well, you're losing $110,000 right now.” Right? Or whatever.
That’s the math I always try and do for people, too.
And then, yeah. Your payment plans or, you know, when's the last time you followed up with these people? Like, “Oh, well, I sent them an invoice a couple of months ago.” Right.
They’re uncomfortable having that conversation.
Yeah. And I find it interesting. Right?
So those people keep focusing on the lead side and they forget these, what sounds like simple blocking and tackling, but apparently are hard for some business owners, finding ways to collect.
And I mean, you know, Rio is points of like, you know, payment plans or, you know, I think Melanie put it, evergreen retainers. I love that. You know, like those kinds of things.
I mean, people say, “Hey, can you call these people who owe me money?”
And we're like, “Yeah, we'll be your neutral party. You keep your personal relationship and we'll be the bad guys.”
But, you know, there is a way of also not having to have that conversation yourself and people use us for that. And I totally see why. Yeah.
Yeah. Lawyers hate to talk about money and $120K isn't even that bad.
Like, I talked to attorneys, I have like staggering amounts of accounts receivable. It's really bad.
But, the one thing I'll piggyback on is like on the payment plan thing. I think that's great. I think looking at different payment models really helps.
The frequency of billing is an interesting thing as well.
I see law firms moving to subscription models. I see law firms moving to product innovation, but I also see law firms sending out more regular bills.
So I actually know an attorney who's a friend of mine who bills his clients weekly because it's a smaller amount of money to pay. Right. It's easier to pay the attorney $50 bucks a week than $200 bucks a month.
That's something to think about as well.
Yeah, the psychology behind it. That's a really good point.
So, you know, let's, you know, keep talking about it. So maybe the money that you are outlaying, if you're getting more of it in as revenue, you have more to spend than the top of the funnel for attracting clients.
One of the things that I see going back to the very beginning is, like, that other businesses are doing that lawyers don't do as systematically is routinely asking for reviews and referrals.
And I think, like, one of the reasons that people don't do this as much in the legal space is there's a lot of rules on what you can and can't ask for, what you can and can't post or disclose about your engagement with a client, no matter how happy they are.
Can we just talk about what is and isn't allowed and what we're seeing in terms of successes with building your online reputation?
So I'm talking about reviews all day and stuff.
So, from the ethics perspective, you know, if you are in Florida and maybe Ohio, and there's a couple of other miscellaneous states in there, I think maybe South Carolina is one of them, too, but there are some weird rules of, like, if you ask for a review, you're responsible for the content of that review.
Besides that, it's not crazy. I mean, I think people, like, get more nervous than it is or use the rules of professional conduct as an excuse to say, “Well, I'm not sure,” and so they just don't want to do the work of asking for a review.
There's a lot of, you know, the fear of the pressure. And by the way, a lot of people go around speaking at CLS, I think can put a lot of fear and people on that too.
But reviews— the big thing in reviews is when you ask for a review, just ask people to talk about what it's like to work with you, not the outcome, or, you know, don't talk about the outcome of the case or details of the case. Just, you know, talk about what it was like to work with us because the big thing people focus on—
So right after the Clio legal trends report, there is the Elta report where they took all the ABA like tons and tons of review data and, and, you know, did a whole bunch of analysis around it.
And the top things people really mentioned in positive reviews were that people— communication was quick, right?
“The lawyer replied to my emails,” or “The lawyer replied to my phone calls.” That was something. “I knew where I was in the process. I knew what it was like, you know, knew what the process was going to be and where I was in it.”
So just asking people to talk about those things, that's what people actually care about.
And I think that Clio legal trends report talked about that as well in terms of what people were looking for, which is, you know, “Tell me about what I can expect, price-wise. You don't have to be perfect, but just give me a sense of, you know, ranges. Tell me what the process is going to be. So, you know, it's going to, you know, the first step is this, second step of this. If we get to the third step, here's what that would be. And then fourth step would be, you know.”
Just walking people through that in the beginning helps them also lead the review saying, “Guess what? They let me know where I was in the process. They told me kind of like, you know, what it was gonna be upfront. And I understand I was within that range. It was awesome.”
People have horrible outcomes and still leave amazing reviews for their loss.
One thing also that I think Mark, that you're getting at that is a really systematic way of approaching it is that if you do set those expectations, you can circle back in your exit interview or at the end of the engagement and ask them specifically, “Did we do this?”
And you know, the answer is yes. Right?
Like that very predictable way of getting a positive answer if you're delivering on those expectations and that's exactly what you turn around and ask them about in terms of their experience.
And then on the tools and stuff, there's a lot of like review platforms out there for sending, you know, like where it'll send an email to somebody and say, “Hey, leave me a review or follow up.”
But at the end of the day, the firms that are getting, you know, a lot of reviews are following up with phone calls, right? They're not falling out.
They're probably having someone on the staff that they interacted with, like paralegal assistant or whatever, following up and saying, “Hey, you know, please leave us a review,” and “I remember you said you would leave us a review. Can you— I'm just following up to see if you did that. Did you get the right link for Google?” so whatever.
Some of those tools are actually, if you don't use them correctly, are getting, like, slapped by Google or Yelp or things like that, where the reviews are getting taken down because of the way that the tools are being used.
So gotta be careful with some of the tools, to be honest.
Yeah. Yeah. Get Five Stars or whatever it's called now. Yeah.
Like you said, Mark, we do a pretty manual process. We'll follow up once matters’ closed and gather NPS scores, net promoter score.
So, yup. For real quick, if you're not sure about that, it's a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to refer us to a family or friend?
And then, if we get a promoter, if it's a nine or a 10, we'll tell them, “Hey, thanks a lot. Really appreciate the support. Two things. One: we're sending you an Amazon gift card for your time and doing this and that goes out automatically. And then the second thing is we're also going to text or email you a link. It'd be great if you could leave us a review.”
And so it goes out to the promoters at that point.
And you're not tying the review to the Amazon gift card. The Amazon gift card is for the net promoter score review as just an extra thing to ask, right?
Yeah, absolutely, not tied at all.
It's one of the influence principles of reciprocity: Once you give them something, now they feel like they have to do something for you.
Yep. Manipulation. I mean, a good process for gathering reviews to boost your client base for your law firm.
And consistencies right there, too.
Right? So the consistency influence is as soon as somebody says that, they will leave your review in person. So ask them in person, as soon as they say, they'll leave your review following up, they'll eventually leave the review for you because they want to be consistent with what they said in person.
I will say something else that if someone is in that mindset and they're super happy, it's really important to ask them right then. But then also don't be shy about, like, asking them to write a review on multiple sites at once.
Like if you do have a few and they feel really eager, typically we find that people will write reviews and two or three sites in one go because they already have done the sort of, like, mental investment of putting that content together.
And they're already sort of like, you know, on the review sites online and in that mindset.
So everyone, thank you so much for joining today.
Our information is here if you want to get in touch with any particular person.
This recording will be on our YouTube channel and I will share it with everyone who attended or who registered.
If you have questions, don't hesitate to email us.
Also, and obviously Rio, Jared, Chad, if you want to add anything here, Smith.ai, we're giving a hundred dollars off your first month.
And I also have linked here, although I'm realizing, obviously, I need to provide the links to you and I'll do that in the email followup Smith.ai, we have a law firm communication playbook, which is the active workbook and a library of scripts for calls, chats, and texts. So you don't have to wonder, how do you ask for the review?
And then Mark has generously given copies of his book to everyone who's here. So yeah, his link is much easier than mine, which is hidden.
So just go to gngf.com/free-book, and then select this webinar, titled Smith.ai Small Firm Legal Tech Tools and Talent webinar from the dropdown menu and you will get your free copy, which is a $50 value.
So if anyone else has anything to add, I will let you do so. And then we'll let you get the rest of your afternoon back.
I'll throw a couple of things out there. I'll put them in the chat here.
One mentioned that amazing life-changing course, the link for their intake and consultation and if there's a code, I think it's 30% off or if you use Smith.ai as a code, and then I mentioned blueprint, which is a bot to help solo small firms find tools around their practice. So that link is there as well.
Yeah. I will also add something as well.
So I'm not sure, most of you know, that our CEO, Jack Newton, just put out a new book called The Client-Centered Law Firm, which was really, really interesting and an incredible read and offers a lot of really good tools and framework for building a more client-centered practice.
So I'm throwing a link in here right now, and you can get the first chapter of the book for free. Just head to ClientCenteredLawFirm.com and click on get first chapter for free.
Yeah, I'm a bachelor review for the Client-Centered Law Firm on Amazon. Should be an amazing review.
Oh yeah? Do I need to send you an Amazon gift card for a thank you?
I think you should just send me an Amazon gift card anyway.
My book's out of print. Sorry, Mark. Mark's book is the best worker.
I'm easy to find. You can Google me, but if you can't spell my name, I have the website for my consulting firm right in the chat.
But thanks for having me, Maddy. Yeah.
Thank you so much for joining guys.
I did put the playbook and library links in the chat as well. We'll include that in the follow-up email.
So thank you, everyone. And enjoy the rest of your day. Take care.
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