Its that time of year again. The Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference is next week at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.
Its going to be another busy year for me. In addition to exhibiting and chairing the technology track, I will be presenting three times.
- On Thursday, October 24, at 4 p.m., I will be presenting, Using Technology to Systematize Your Practice.
- On Friday, October 25, at 10:30 a.m., I will be presenting, 40 Tips, Tricks, Sites and Ways to Save with Nerino Petro and Craig Bayer.
- On Saturday, October 26, at 8:30 a.m., I will be presenting, Ethical Considerations of Law Office Operations with Tom Schober.
If you are a current Krause Practice Management client, you can receive a $50 statement credit for attending the conference. Just send us a copy of your registration.
There is still time to register at www.wssfc.org.
This week, the legal community and legal technology community lost a colleague, mentor and friend when Ross Kodner passed away at the way too young age of 52.
I first met Ross back in 1995 when I was a third year law student at Marquette. Ross was a guest speaker at our class on Starting and Managing a Law Practice. No offense to the professor who taught the class, but Ross’s presentation was only thing I remember from that entire semester. Everyone in the room could sense his passion for technology and his eagerness to impress the wonders of technology on a new generation of soon-to-be lawyers. I remember thinking what a cool job it must be to use your law degree and work with technology. Until I heard Ross speak, I did not even know this was possible.
A few years later, while I was practicing law, I attented the Wisconsin State Bar Convention and had another opportunity to see Ross speak. There I was, the young associate who the other attorneys in the office relied on to help them with technology questions, listening to someone who had made a career of that very thing. His presentation moved me to email him the next day and ask how someone gets started in the field of legal technology consulting.
How do you get started? As I found out, you get started by Ross handing you three floppy disks containing Time Matters 1.98 and saying “Install this and give me a call in a few weeks to tell me what you think.”
So began five years of fast-paced work with Ross at MicroLaw, Inc. It was remarkable how busy we were. People will remember Ross for his presentations and teaching skills but I will also remember his ability to turn those skills into business. At one point, there were twelve of us at MicroLaw, most of us billing 30-40 plus hours every week thanks to Ross’s ability to make people seeing his presentations say “I need to hire this man to help me.”
I left MicroLaw in 2003, mostly due to an entrepreneurial bug that I just could not satisfy working for someone else. At the time, I also wanted a break from the travel so that I could spend more time with my kids. How ironic that by 2008, I was in a different city every week doing full day seminars on Time Matters – something that would have been impossible but for the confidence and knowledge I gained working for and learning from Ross.
The last time I saw Ross was in April at the STI Conference in Lincoln. We shared a beer and chatted for about a half hour. There were always two things you could count on Ross to talk about, kids and technology. This time was no different. We talked about our sons and their inclination toward technology. We talked about our daughters both getting their driver’s license. We talked about the trends we were observing and how technology would continue to change the way lawyers work.
It is not often that someone comes along who influences so many others. Ross helped one generation of lawyers, to whom typewriters were high-tech, adopt new technolgies that made them more productive. He helped the next generation understand how technology could be the focus around which a practice could be built.
Like so many others, I owe a lot to Ross Kodner and will miss him.
I reviewed Workflowy back in May, 2012 and it was perhaps the most well-received and cited post I have ever written. That’s because Workflowy allows you to organize your tasks in the same way you think about them. Many readers recognized the potential of the tool and I still get comments from people thanking me for turning them on to Workflowy.
The Workflowy app is available in the iTunes store. The app is not as flashy as a lot of other apps. In fact, it looks and operates the same as the web based version. Frankly, I prefer it that way. I don’t need to learn another interface. Log in and you will see your existing tasks. Expand using the “+” and “-” signs to expand or collapse levels. Click in the list and your keyboard appears. Very easy and very intuitive.
I have not tested the Android device but, as it is almost time to upgrade my phone, maybe I will in the near future.
If you would like to try Workflowy, here’s the link.
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.