My new business class Internet was installed this week. Everything went well. The technician was great as was the sales team – once I reached them. That part is a story worth telling.
A few weeks ago, I had about a half hour open over the lunch hour during a very full week. I had been putting off a call to Time Warner thinking it would take at least thirty minutes to ask my questions and figure out what services I needed. I finally had a window to make the call which I place at 12:01. I placed the call to the number on my bill that specifically said it was “Inquiries regarding other services offered by Time Warner.”
I was first connected to an automated menu that sounded nothing like a new services inquiry line. After listening to the choices twice (none of which sounded right), I picked what sounded like the best one. Remember the analytical section on the LSAT where every answer sounded wrong but you picked the one that seemed least wrong?
A human answered around 12:06. I asked my questions and she said I needed to speak to business services and that she would connect me. Great! That only took until 12:08 and I was about to speak to someone who could help. “Please hold.” Then, a few seconds later, I am listening to the same menu that I originally heard at 12:01. This time, I only had to listen to it once but that still took until 12:11, when I reached a different human.
The new human listened and started to transfer me right back to Menu Hell until I interrupted her and told her I needed to speak to another human being in business services rather than a menu that did not take me there. She then offered to transfer me but also gave me the direct number unless “something happened” during the transfer. That turned out to be a good thing.
At 12:14 the number started ringing. It rang for about four minutes before some sort of automatic disconnect kicked in. You have got to be kidding me! I called the direct number I had been given with a glance at the clock showing 12:19. Finally, a very knowledgeable sales person answered after two rings. Within a few minutes, the order was placed.
Why do I tell this story? I called the number specifically provided for ordering new services. In other words, I had made the decision to buy something or was at least very close to that decision. Still, it took me twenty minutes to reach someone who could help me – help me BUY SOMETHING. In this case, it was a good thing that I had a half hour open. Otherwise, I might not be a Time Warner Business Class customer yet. Who knows. I might have given up and looked elsewhere.
No business should ever make itself difficult to buy from. Why throw up roadblocks to potential customers?
Does your law firm do this? Do you accept credit cards? Do you make yourself available during evenings or weekends (within reason) for potential clients who work during the week? Do you have easy to understand engagement letters, rate structures and payment plans? Do you have a receptionist who is actually “receptive” when someone calls? You probably spend a significant amount of money to market your law firm. What’s the point if the first thing you do is alienate the prospective client who responds to that marketing?
Make it easy to buy from you. It is the first step in building the long term relationship that attorneys want to build with their clients. The type of long-term relationship that leads to referrals and repeat business.
As my lack of recent blog posts suggests, I have been pretty busy lately. Among other things, Krause Practice Management will be launching a new website soon. More on that in a few weeks.
As far as client work, one of things that has been keeping me busy is training new billing administrators and streamlining the billing process at existing law firms. It is always interesting how the legal technology business runs in streaks. I have done this type of work in the past but three of these projects came to me in quick succession last month.
I realize that a blog post about what is keeping me busy is not all that interesting. That is not why I am writing this post. I am writing because it illustrates a series of problems that could be avoided if law firms ran themselves more like a business. In all of my recent engagements, the story was the same. “Our billing has been done by the same person for years and now they are leaving or retiring. No one else knows how to do the billing. Help!”
The problem is something I touched on in my recent presentation at Considerations for Starting a Law Practice in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Like any other business, maybe even more than others, law firms need systems. Wouldn’t this type of transition be a lot easier if the billing process was documented somewhere?
A firm’s billing process might be fairly complex. For example:
1. Three days before the end of the month, an email is sent to all timekeepers reminding them that all time must be entered by 5 p.m. on the first business day of the next month. The template for this email can be found on the network at …
2. On the first business day of the month, an email is sent to all timekeepers remind them that all time must be entered by 5 p.m. that day. The template for this email can be found on the network at …
3. On the second business day of the month, draft statements are run from Tabs, by going to the Generate Statements screen and selecting the following settings:
The entire system could very well be fifty steps and a good system accounts for at least 80% of the situations that arise. Do not try to systematize every exception. Doing this will overwhelm you and is not all that productive anyway. Note these as they come up and have a place to save your notes in case it ever comes up again.
Going back to my recent work, all of my new clients could have benefited from systems. This type of transition is much smoother if you can hand a list of billing procedures to the new billing administrator. Then, they only have to call me where they have questions. Another method would be to have me review and revise the current systems and then train the new billing administrator on the correct system. Instead, most firms throw the new person into a difficult situation and expect them to learn everything from the very beginning, often on their own. The result? A new non-documented system that resides in the head of one person and, when that person leaves the firm, the cycle starts over again.
If you want to save your firm headaches in the future, start putting systems in place today.
My recent presentations from the Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference are now available for download on the Presentations Download page of the Krause Practice Management Website. This year, I gave presentations on “A Get Started Guide to Social Media for Lawyers” and “Efficient Time Management with Technology.” Both the written materials and PowerPoint presentations are available for download.
The fall speaking season is upon us again. Here are some of the places I will be speaking over the next few months.
On Friday October 5th, I will be speaking twice at the 2102 Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conference in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. At 11:15, the topic will be “Getting the Most out of your PDF Software” where I will demonstrate some of the features of Adobe Acrobat useful to lawyers. At 4:15, the topic will be “Digital Marketing” and how to use social media to promote your practice.
Thursday October 18 to Saturday October 20, I am attending the LexisNexis Annual CIC Conference in Raleigh. No speaking slots this year, which I am actually looking forward to. It will give me more time to catch up with longtime friends.
Thursday October 25 through Saturday October 27, I will be exhibiting and speaking at the 2012 Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference. On Friday at 3:50, I will provide a “How to Look at Getting Started with Social Media.” On Saturday at 9:50, the focus will be “Efficient Time Management with Technology” where I will discuss ideas for using technology to help you manage and track your time.
I look forward to see many of you at these upcoming presentations and encourage you to stop and say hello.
I am reposting this topic from earlier this year after several requests.
Recently, someone who knows me as a legal technologist asked me to write an article on technology and trial techniques. In what now seems like another lifetime, I was a litigator. When I sat down to write the article, I found that I just could not do it. Technology has changed everything about trial technique in the 14 years I have been away. On the other hand, I realized that there is something I do every day that helps my clients be successful at trial – make their office efficient while they are away so that they can focus on their trial.
This post originally appeared on the new blog of my friend and colleague Jeff Stouse of Excedere Training and Consulting in Indianapolis.
Remote Client Access (RCA) has been a concept that many law firms have wanted to provide (given that the access is both controlled and secure) for a long time. How many times has an attorney wanted to say to a persistently “needy” client: “As soon as we hear something, we update your file in our system. That update is available to you via the Internet. Simply login to our site and view the update. There’s no need to call, as the information you would receive from us over the phone will also be available online.”
In other words, don’t call us – look it up on the Internet. While this scenario may not work in all situations, there are many times when the client can be assured that progress/effort is being made by simply looking at the data in the legal practice management system. This approach can also be improved by creating client progress data that is specifically designed to show that progress. For example, short documents/notes can be created with a specific category/code so that when clients access their matter data, they need to see only the one source of data to know what is going on.
Many firms have desired this functionality but have been hesitant to use it (if they owned any of the few programs that have offered it) due to concerns over the ease of setup, security of data and general access support issues. With the new group of web-based clients and one premise-based third party product, access to a client’s data has become an option that sometimes eliminates all of the above.
Here is a quick little Tabs3 tip. I probably should have known this but, for some reason, I don’t think it has ever come up. Thanks to Bruce Dubin from my team who tracked this feature down.
When creating a fee entry in Tabs3, you can create “statement comment” text. You enter statement comment mode by selecting Ctrl-H on your keyboard or by highlighting the text you want to make a comment, then selecting Ctrl-H or right-clicking.
Statement comment text appears as red text on the fee entry and as strikethrough on Detailed Work-in-Process Report but does not appear at all on the statement. If you run WIP Reports as pre-bills, it is very useful for reminders about an entry or for an associate to add a comment for a reviewing partner. In our case, we use it for comments related to how we resolved a tech issue or why something took as long as it did.
The materials for my recent Essentials of Document Management webinar are now posted and available for download from my website. The materials include the webinar PowerPoint and the accompanying whitepaper. If you would like these materials please visit the Presentations Download section of the Resources page at www.krausepm.com.
Here is a quick tip on a Worldox feature you may have overlooked.
I often create a Word document, save it to Worldox, then use the Acrobat plugin for Word to create a PDF. When I do that, a new Worldox profile screen pops up. Invariably, the profile is exactly the same for the PDF so I fill it in and hit save.
This only takes a few seconds but I do this a lot and, some time ago, I realized there is a shortcut – Same Profile As. Clicking Same Profile As brings up a Worldox list of my Favorites. The document I just saved is almost always right at the top. I select the document and am prompted to use the Description, Full Profile, or Save As New Version. I pick Full Profile and my PDF is saved to same profile as the Word document it was created from.
This saves me ten seconds or so every time I have to do this, which is a lot. It is also more accurate than retyping the profile each time because there is no chance that I will mistype the client or matter number.
This article won the BlawgWorld Pick of the Week. BlawgWorld is a free weekly email newsletter that links to the best articles on the Web for lawyers and law firm administrators.
I am probably not the only person who has never found the perfect task management tool. Most legal practice management systems have some sort of task management. Many people use Outlook. There are even dedicated task management tools like Remember the Milk and Taskline. Many of these are great tools and I am sure they work for many people – but not me.
The task management systems in Time Matters and PracticeMaster, for example, seem to offer everything someone needs to track their tasks. You can track due date, priority, assignments, reminders, client, etc. In fact, the Time Matters ToDo form has around 30 fields and PracticeMaster has around 20 before customization. That works for many people and tells a busy lawyer everything they need to know with regard to deadlines. So, why doesn’t that work for me?
The problem is how much work it is to create and manage the tasks. I have tasks flying at me all day. One client calls me with issue A, while another is emailing me issue B and my assistant is reminding me that I was supposed to take care of internal item C. That’s just the beginning. If I was to list all of my tasks with a letter, I would probably run through the alphabet two or three times each day. Thats a lot of time spent entering 20 to 30 pieces of information and I still have to go back and mark them all complete at some point. In the end, I spend more time managing tasks than I spend getting them done.
I need a simple task system that allows me to quickly note a task the moment I receive it. There has to be an easy way to see everything that is outstanding. I also need a way to cross them off the list when I finish them without having to go through a long list, open each record and mark it complete. While not ideal, I have often found the best task management system for me is a handwritten list on a legal pad where I could write the task down and cross it out when finished. Until now.
Enter Workflowy. Workflowy is the simplest task management system I have ever tried. I have used it for several weeks and it eliminates many of the headaches that have caused task systems to fail for me in the past. Workflowy allows me to enter tasks in a simple outline form. At the top level, I have Client Work, Admin, Sales, Marketing and Personal. Each of these is then broken down into subtopics. Under clients, for example, I have a level for each client followed by a level for the different tasks that must be done. If a task has multiple parts or multiple layers, I can enter those as well.
When a task is complete, Workflowy allows me to simply click it done. I can toggle my list to display completed items or hide them. If I need more detail, I can add notes to any line. After a few days, my list was pretty long but the client level organization allows me to pinpoint things fairly quickly. If I can’t, the list is searchable and I can use hash(#) and at(@) tags in a variety of ways. For example, in the morning I can make a quick run through of my list and tag items #today if I want to make sure I get to them today. Simply search for #today and I have my daily list.
Workflowy is a wonderful tool. It is simple yet elegant and it is the first task management system that seems to work the way I do. Best of all, it is free for the first 400 items each month. There is also a Pro version that allows unlimited items per month, password protected collaboration, fonts and thems and backup to Dropbox for $4.99 per month. Also, similar to Dropbox, you can invite friends to sign up and get additional free space.
In fact, now that think of it, you can help me out if you click here to try Workflowy. You will get a great task management tool and I will get more space for my seemingly endless list of tasks.