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Briefs: Posner Gets Mad at Legal Jargon, BigLaw Rates Hit $2,000/Hour, Etc.

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 13:08
Judge Posner Wishes Courts Would Stop Using Legal Jargon

Related Six Benchslaps to Brighten Your Day

In his concurrence on a criminal justice opinion, the ever-irascible Judge Richard Posner takes aim at many phrases that most judges (and lawyers) love. He was perfectly happy with the outcome of the case, which upheld a drug sales conviction. He’s just mad about how the majority opinion was written.

“I disagree merely with the rhetorical envelope in which so many judicial decisions are delivered to the reader,” he writes.

Among the phrases Posner slams:

• “Great deference.” Why give “great deference” to probable cause determinations by magistrates who are “certain or almost” certain to approve them?

• “Actual guilt” and “actual innocence.” Why not use the simpler terms “innocence” and “guilt”?

• The “heavy, nearly insurmountable burden” of proof for defendants challenging the sufficiency of evidence. The phrase appears to be “hyperbole,” and why should the defendant have this high burden?

We Don’t Know Much at All about How the Criminal Justice System Operates

Over at the Marshall Project, there is a piece that highlights just how little data we have about policing. The White House set up a police data initiative, but it is voluntary, and participation has been less than spectacular, to say the least.

Of nearly 18,000 police agencies from coast to coast, just 53 had signed on to the effort. Of that inaugural class, eight released data on officer-involved shootings, and six published information on their officers’ use of force.

Because the data gathering is so poor, there are huge categories of things about which we know nearly nothing, including:

  • How many juvenile offenders graduate to become adult offenders
  • How many shootings there are in America
  • How many police are investigated or prosecuted for misconduct
  • How often police stop pedestrians or motorists
  • How many corrections officers are disciplined or prosecuted for abusing prisoners
  • How many criminal cases are referred to prosecutors and how they decide which to pursue
There Are an Awful Lot of Companies in the Legal Tech Field Now

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of legal tech companies, Stanford has got you covered. Apparently there are now 539 (!) companies in the field. The list is divided into eight categories, including document automation, practice management, and analytics.

Top Rates for BigLaw are Now an Absurd $2,000/Hour

Yes, $2,000 per hour. You read that right. In-house counsel will pay twenty Benjamins per hour to external law firm attorneys when they face “bet-the-company IP work, enterprise level M&A litigation, large-scale government investigation, and defense against high-profile activist hedge funds.”

New Jersey Says Lawyers Are Mis-Using the Term ‘Super Lawyers’ in Advertising

It may seem at times that everyone is able to call themselves a Super Lawyer or a Rising Star, without any real context as to what that means. The New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Lawyer Advertising is not terribly fond of that and issued a reminder as to what additional information needs to be included if a lawyer chooses to use those terms when advertising their services.

Lawyers may refer to such honors in their advertising “only when the basis for comparison can be verified” and the group bestowing the accolade “has made adequate inquiry into the fitness of the individual lawyer.” […]

The inquiry into fitness has to be more rigorous than a simple tally of years in practice and lack of disciplinary history, according to the committee. Honors that don’t involve a bona fide fitness inquiry include popularity contests that tally votes by telephone, text or email.

When an award meets this preliminary test, lawyers who want to use it must provide a description of the award methodology, either in the advertising or by reference to a “convenient, publicly available source,” the notice says.

Bottom line: at least in New Jersey, if the sole grounds for your Super status is that a lot of your friends voted for you, it does not meet the test that would allow you to use it in your advertising.

Briefs: Posner Gets Mad at Legal Jargon, BigLaw Rates Hit $2,000/Hour, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Build Links for Your Law Firm Website

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 06:12

Lawyers do some crazy things to get links to their websites. From posting spammy blog comments, to crappy infographics, to sending email spam to bloggers, to spinning up unreadable articles, to linking 50 websites together.

Seriously, lawyers have tried it all.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the equally misinformed “if you write it, search traffic, inquiries, and clients will come” crowd. That’s not to say becoming a recognized authority on a niche subject can’t earn you links; it most certainly can. But it takes a lot of work, a long time, and typically cannot be outsourced.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Getting ranked favorably in Google’s search results is not exactly a white hat wonderland.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for crappy Internet legal marketing. But instead of lamenting the loss of a simpler time in legal marketing, let’s cut through the BS and talk about what solo and small firm lawyers can actually do to earn links that drive inquiries from potential clients.

The Importance of Links

While there are some who predict the death of links, acquiring quality links has long been—and continues to remain—critical to success in search. In fact, quite recently, Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, confirmed links & content are the most important ranking signals that Google uses.

Before we explore some of the ways I’ve seen links help lawyers earn meaningful traffic, here are a few obligatory disclaimers for the uninitiated:

  1. I have no idea whether you specifically should spend any time or money on marketing (let alone, Internet marketing and search marketing).
  2. Web and search engines are dynamic. Part of this means what works for one law firm may not work for you and your corner of the web.
  3. Search engines and the Internet are not a substitute for traditional notions of reputation and relationships. You might be able to suppress some unfavorable listings, but you can’t SEO your way out of bad lawyering and poor client service.

Now that you’ve sobered up a bit, let’s examine a few ways lawyers build links that matter.

Internal Links You are probably overlooking an important source of links: your own web pages.

I suspect some of the search-savvy among you expected to jump directly to external links (other web pages pointing to your web pages). But if my suspicions are correct, you are probably overlooking an important source of links: your own web pages.

The power of internal linking is regularly overlooked by novice and experienced SEO experts. Old-school webmasters probably remember when on-page signals reigned and building intricate internal link schemes could propel pages to the top of the search results. Like most things in the search world, internal links were widely abused, causing search engines to adjust, but not abandon, these signals.

In fact, internal links make up part of the content soup Andrey Lipattsev referred to in the video above.

To get a better sense of how search engines work and why internal links matter, I recommend checking out Paul Haahr’s presentation at SMX West 2016:

Internal links play a role in three major components of search.

1. Discovery

Internal links help search engines find your pages. The most basic rule here is to make sure all of your pages can be found and crawled by a link from another page.

All hypertext links should also include contextually descriptive words relevant to the page to which they point. For example, a link that points to your contact page should probably include “contact” as part of the anchor text.

2. Context

Like page titles, internal links help search engines understand what your pages are about. This is critically important to whether your page will even be considered as part of a search engines what pages to consider analysis (i.e. relevance to the query).

3. Usability

Internal links help visitors use your site, and it’s not always obvious or intuitive how your visitors will navigate your site. I encourage you to read Dr. Pete’s The 2 User Metrics That Matter for SEO. But in a nutshell, search engines want to deliver results that satisfy their users’ queries.

Useful internal links attract a visitor’s attention and compel them to click through to another page on your site. This gives you additional opportunities to supply your visitor’s demand for information and may reduce the chance that the visitor will return to the search engine to perform the same query. This tells the search engine your web pages satisfied the user’s query, potentially improving your site’s ranking for that query.

Creating and Maintaining Internal Link Structures

If you’re building a new site from scratch, you ought to spend some time considering your site’s internal link structure. I see too many legal websites that implement haphazard navigation, category, and tag structures. This is particularly problematic for WordPress sites (mostly because WordPress makes it so easy to create these elements).

Related “How To Write Your Practice Area Page”

Think about the information that will be most important to your potential clients, and then tell search engines that those pages are more important through well-organized internal links. In other words, would a visitor to Page X be interested Page Y? If so, make it easy for the visitor to quickly find and click on that page.

In my view, there’s no single correct way to organize a site. However, it’s usually pretty easy to tell how well a site is organized from its internal link structure. If you’re just getting started, I encourage you to read Everything You Need To Know About SEO Web Structure & Internal Links by Tom Schmitz. It’s a few years old, but Schmitz’s book still contains a lot of great information related to organizing internal links.

If you already have an unruly site, you’re going to need to look into “crawling” your website to get a sense of what your internal linking structure looks like. I’m partial to Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider Tool. In this context, pay particular attention to the Internal tab and internal inlinks and outlinks. Check to see if your site follows a logical internal linking structure that would be useful for visitors.

It’s also useful to compare your internal linking structure to your competitors who appear prominently in search rankings for relevant terms.

You should also check to see whether any of your internal links are broken (i.e. return a 404 error) or include unnecessary redirect chains (i.e. return 301 or 302 errors). These can send mixed signals to users and search engines.

Finally, be mindful of how you link out to other sites. Google recently issued link penalties for patterns of unnatural outbound links. If you have participated in certain incestuous outbound link schemes, consider yourself at risk to be penalized.

External Links

External links point at a domain different from the domain on which the link exists.

Most search marketers agree that signals related to these links play a significant role in how search engines order relevant pages for a search query. But …

External links aren’t equal. At the risk of stating the obvious, links aren’t equal. Further, their inequality isn’t like linear inequality; it’s more exponential or logarithmic. This makes focusing solely on quantity a losing game.

Don’t rely on one metric. The most common metrics we have to determine link quality aren’t very reliable. I’m not going to be able to completely untangle this here, but don’t obsess solely on metrics like domain authority. That’s not intended as an indictment on those metrics, it’s just that search engine ranking soup is complex and nuanced.

Spam still works. Search engines are good and getting better, but they’re not perfect. While I tend to recommend taking a long-term approach to link building, I’m sure many of you have plenty of counter-examples of aggressive spammy link building that just works. At least until it doesn’t.

It’s complicated. A cynical person might suggest that search engines are interested in spreading misinformation and creating FUD around what works. A less cynical person might suggest that search engines release aspirational information—suggesting where it is trying to go, as opposed to what’s working today.

Each lawyer must decide their own link-risk tolerance.

Now let’s look at some examples of ways solo and small firm lawyers can build links that matter without breaking the bank.

Local Links

As search engines evolve, they are getting better at delivering personalized, localized results to their users. For many solo and small firm lawyers who want to be found online by people in their local communities, local link building should be made priority. But local link building is a lot less about link-begging and buying and much more about taking a leadership role and developing relationships in your community.

Google says:

Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.

Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.

Let’s start with a few lay-ups. Listing your firm in legitimate local business directories is typically easy and free. You’ll usually be able to determine the legitimacy of a directory by simply looking at the site. If the directory site looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 90s, contains a series of hyphens in the domain, or is heavily littered with AdSense or other ads, it’s probably not even worth your time.

On the other hand, if the directory lives within a legitimate site, like your local municipality’s official site, then it makes more sense to complete a listing.

Even better than general local business directories are legitimate local legal directories. Again, these might also be found within local legal organization websites.

Using the Ahrefs Site Explorer Tool, I sifted through a couple of search prominent law firm websites from around the country. You can do this too.

Here are two examples:

1. ca.gov:

2. dadecountybar.org

You can also earn these relevant, highly-local links by being active in your local community. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Coach a team.
  • Officiate local youth sports.
  • Volunteer at an elementary school.
  • Sponsor a local organization.
  • Participate in local meet-ups.

These are the type of things you should be doing anyway.

It can also be useful to participate in online conversations at local blogs and forums. Not only do these matter to search engines, but they’re also likely to get clicked by real people who actually need your help.

Content Marketing

You’ve probably heard that if you focus on just writing great content, links, ranking, and visitors will just appear.

If you’re a talented, prolific writer, they might. And even if you’re not, you might get lucky here and there. But if you’re in a competitive practice area and location, you’re probably going to have to do something beyond merely pushing publish.

Google says:

The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.

This, of course, isn’t wrong per se. However, even most link-worthy content needs a little nudge.

Let’s start with some basic examples.

Write an Article

In this example, the firm simply wrote a post discussing the NFL concussion story.

thenation.com:

This link from the firm got picked up by a writer at the thenation.com. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this firm did nothing else but publish this post and through pure search serendipity, the author found it and linked to it. This is the editorial link-vote search engines want to recognize.

But it’s quite possible the firm took some action to get this post in front of the writer. Maybe they:

  • Connected on HARO.
  • Sent an @reply on Twitter.
  • Chatted by email.
  • Had an existing relationship.

However it went down, this is the type of link that helps.

Contests

Let’s consider something a little more gimmicky that’s a bit easier to pull-off: a jingle contest.

wsj.com:

Now it is unlikely jingle contests will get picked-up by wsj.com. But the same, or similar, concept can work on a hyper-local level.

Write an Ebook

Another option is write a book or online guide.

seattleweekly.com:

If you’ve already tried this and it didn’t work, ask yourself why not. It’s possible the content you had wasn’t very good, or you just didn’t get it in front of anyone who was willing and able to link to it.

Resources

Lawyers tend to love adding legal information resources on their sites. Most of them are lousy and are reincarnations of other firms’ pages. This is particularly problematic with practice area pages. But even basic legal definitions, glossaries, and case summaries can earn links as source material.

Write About Currents Events

Being a regular source of credible information on current events can also earn valuable links.

freerepublic.com:

slate.com:

Unfortunately, too many lawyers prefer to regurgitate local news stories without adding anything of substance. After all, that’s hard and takes time.

Discounts

Here’s an example of something that might be considered a bit controversial: offering a discount.

utsa.edu:

A 10% discount on a personal injury contingency fee? This might be the first time I’ve ever seen this.

Support What You Love

Another really easy and obvious method for link building is to sponsor organizations, events, and other causes that you care about. Here’s a sponsorship of Creative Commons.

creativecommons.org:

Finally, Prioritize Relationships and Reputation

With all of this talk of search engines and links, it’s easy to lose perspective of what’s most important: reputation and relationships. But it’s not reputation or the web, it’s reputation and the web. In fact, as the lines between the web and the real world continue to blur, they actually work together.

If you take this approach to marketing your practice online, not only will you earn visibility in search engines, you’ll also avoid algorithm updates that harm your traffic.

Here are some additional resources for follow-up reading on link building:

Photo by: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew Meyers [Public domain]

How To Build Links for Your Law Firm Website was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

ARAG: Increasing Access to Justice and Attorney Referrals

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 05:55
“Attorneys have an opportunity to enroll in ARAG’s attorney network, which gives them access to a base of clients with no referral fee or joining fee.” —Lawyerist

ARAG is a legal insurance provider that works to increase access to justice by offering affordable legal services delivered by seasoned attorneys. Attorneys who enroll in ARAG’s network get access to a client base and resources to help them grow their practice.

Details

Consumers of moderate and modest means often believe that they will not be able to access legal services because they will be too costly. Those consumers also often hold the belief that the services of an attorney will make no difference in resolving their legal problems. Legal insurance helps these consumers by taking the risk and guesswork out of getting legal help. ARAG’s insurance policies and certificates meet stringent federal and state laws, rules and regulations to protect consumers and attorneys.

Legal insurance works similar to health insurance. Plan members pay a monthly fee to ARAG and are then able to access ARAG’s 11,000-provider attorney network. ARAG generally handles receipt of the consumer fees and negotiates a fixed rate with attorneys in its network and then pays those attorneys directly. Clients are relieved of the anxieties of finding a reputable provider, negotiating fees, and paying legal bills. ARAG also provides plan members with guidebooks, informational materials, and an interactive DIY legal document assembly tool created by attorneys.

While many individuals have trouble accessing legal services, many attorneys, particularly solo and small practitioners, have a difficult time finding clients. Attorneys have an opportunity to enroll in ARAG’s attorney network, which gives them access to a base of clients with no referral fee or joining fee. ARAG also works to create an attorney network that reflects the needs and demographics of its members, including providing multilingual attorneys and interpreting services. ARAG provides resources and training on best practices and technology trends to help attorneys keep pace with client expectations.

How to Join the ARAG Network

ARAG contracts with each attorney individually. Find full details of the rights and obligations of an ARAG Network Attorney and how to begin the enrollment process here.

ARAG: Increasing Access to Justice and Attorney Referrals was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Overcome Chronic Back Pain with Healthy Habits

Fri, 05/20/2016 - 06:12

Lawyers, like many office workers, are susceptible to chronic back pain. We sit and stare at computer screens for long hours, and our careers are plagued with stress-inducing situations. Those are the primary causes of chronic back pain.

Because I am a six-foot-three man with bad posture, I have had terrible back pain for years. But it came to a head about a month ago when I bent down while holding my one-year-old and severely strained my lower back. About a week later, after I was able to walk like a human being again, I decided to do something about it. Here are the steps I am taking to overcome my back pain.

Recognize You Have a Problem

This part is, unfortunately, easy to identify if you’ve already been reduced to a quivering blob of pulled muscles.

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 80% of people will experience lower back pain. The risk factors for back pain include:

  • You are between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • You are not physically fit or are a “weekend warrior.”
  • You have an inactive desk job and poor posture.
  • You have pre-existing issues with stress or depression.

I fit this profile pretty much perfectly. Most lawyers probably do, too. But even if you may not fit this profile exactly, don’t ignore potential back issues before they start.

Make Time for Exercise

While it may seem like a no-brainer, at least one study shows that walking can help ease back pain. Other studies show that regularly walking can improve your mood. So get out of your office at least once a day to walk for thirty minutes or more.

Of course, a large part your ability to exercise during the day depends on the location of your office. If you work in a big office building surrounded by parking decks and a six-lane highway, that is not conducive to taking a lunchtime stroll. But given the health and mental benefits, you cannot afford not to incorporate walking and exercise in your daily routine one way or another.

See a Professional

Your goal should be staying healthy so that going to a doctor or chiropractor is the last resort. That being said, you can benefit from chiropractic adjustments, especially if you have ongoing spinal issues such as mild scoliosis. If you do have severe back pain, seek a professional opinion. You do not want your back pain to develop into something worse, like a herniated disc.

You should also consider trying yoga or other types of core-strengthening regimens. While you can always buy a DVD or look up exercises online, consider going to a class, especially if you are not an experienced yogi. The most important thing is to make whatever exercise you choose to do a routine — even if it is just a couple times per week.

To Sit or Stand?

The buzz surrounding standing desks began a few years ago. We now know that sitting all day is bad for us. It increases the chances of dying in the next three years. It increases the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes. It also, unsurprisingly, increases your risk of back and neck pain even if you have textbook good posture.

Related “Ergotron WorkFit-S Sit-Stand Workstation Review”

One of the biggest downsides to standing desks is the cost, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. If you are not willing to make that kind of investment, try to make your chair and computer setup more ergonomic. Following simple steps such as making sure you don’t have to turn your head to look at your monitor, or adding lumbar support pillow to give your back more curve while you work can help. Finally, try to pay attention to your posture while working, instead of just slouching over the keyboard.

Maintaining Your Healthy Habits

Making these habits routine may be a struggle. I am the quintessential weekend warrior when it comes to working out. After about a week or two of trying to get back in shape, life inevitably gets in the way of exercise.

If you struggle with stress and back pain like I do, there are several ways to manage it. Meditation can help relieve stress and improve your mood. And just getting out from behind your desk and taking a walk can reduce stress and help your back pain.

But keep in mind that every person is different, and so you will find different things that work for you. What’s important is that you try to create a routine that is comfortable and doable. A routine will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent a back injury before one happens.

Overcome Chronic Back Pain with Healthy Habits was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Firm Manager: Substantive Updates Deliver Increased Efficiencies to Small Firms

Fri, 05/20/2016 - 05:55
“Firm Manager’s updates make it clear that LexisNexis is actively listening to its customers’ requests.” — Lawyerist

LexisNexis released three substantive updates to Firm Manager, its flagship practice management software: integration with the Intuit QuickBooks Online accounting software; bulk uploading of folders and files; and integration with most web-based and desktop email applications. These enhancements come just months after Firm Manager earned “Best Practice Management Software Platform” at  the 2015 Legaltech News Innovation Awards, as well as first place in National Law Journal’s “Best of 2015” products in the category of “Docketing & Calendaring Software.”

Details

Firm Manager’s updates make it clear that LexisNexis is actively listening to its customers’ requests. For instance, approximately 50% of its current customer base stated that email integration was a critical requirement. Among many of its features, the integration with email applications—including Gmail and Outlook 365—enables customers to automatically save emails and their attachments to individual case files.

Additionally, the QuickBooks Online integration proves to be extremely useful to small firms. According to a LexisNexis survey, more than 60% of small firms spend an average of 8 hours on billing each month. With this integration, billing becomes more streamlined, which decreases reliance on additional staff while increasing total number of billable hours in any given year. Firm Manager customers can also send other financial data to QuickBooks, including payments, time entries and credits.

Finally, the new data import tool makes uploading documents to the software a breeze. Customers can upload as many documents as they choose—there are no storage limitations for Firm Manager customers.

How to Get It

If you would like to learn more about Firm Manager, you can take a self-guided tour. You may also either request a live demo or sign up for a 30-day free trial.

Paid subscriptions to Firm Manager cost $44.99 per month for one user. You may add additional users at any point at a $29.99 charge per user, per month. After signing up, you will receive initial training and ongoing support to help you make the most your experience.

Firm Manager: Substantive Updates Deliver Increased Efficiencies to Small Firms was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Abacus Acquires Amicus, Expanding its Cloud Offerings

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 16:51

Today, Abacus Data Systems announced that Amicus Attorney (previously developed by Gavel & Gown Software) “will become an integrated part of the Abacus family.”

However, the companies will continue to operate independently:

Both companies will continue to offer all products and services with no changes made to either company’s staff or management team.

So why does it matter to lawyers? Stepping stones.

There isn’t a lot of growth in legacy software, like AbacusLaw and Amicus. Both are desktop/on-premise practice management software. Newer, cloud-based options are steadily taking away market share. Here’s a snippet from the 2015 ABA TECHREPORT:

In small firms nearly 50% have case/practice management software available to them …. The most common software in this category is Outlook at 49%, followed by Casemap (11%), Clio (10%), Time Matters (9%), and PC Law (7%).

(Emphasis mine.) I’m sure AbacusLaw and Amicus are on the chart, and probably not much further down since they’ve got well-established, loyal user bases. But still, further down and probably sinking because legacy software isn’t picking up many new users.

But Abacus also has Abacus Private Cloud, which is a cloud-based “desktop-as-a-service.” Basically, you can move your entire law-firm network to a private, secure cloud server—whatever software you use. (Abacus says it has APC customers who use Clio for practice management.) So if you are already using Abacus—and now Amicus—moving to the cloud is a piece of cake.

And now Abacus has Amicus Cloud, a full-featured, cloud-based practice management suite. According to some of the members of our forum, Amicus Cloud needs some work, but it is well-suited for firms that want practice management software without many compromises.

So on the one hand Abacus just increased its “legacy” software user base by adding Amicus users. But many of those firms need to move to the cloud, and Abacus Private Cloud and Amicus Cloud make it much easier to keep those firms as customers—and bring on new ones.

If you are already an Abacus or Amicus customer, now you have new options for moving to the cloud, whether or not you are interested in working in a browser.

Abacus Acquires Amicus, Expanding its Cloud Offerings was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Marketing Emails Law Firms Should Consider Sending

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 06:12

Once you pick the right email marketing software for your law firm, the next step is to figure out what exactly you are going to send your subscribers.

There are a few different types of campaigns you will want to try out and measure for results. But before you start sending your campaigns, a few words about measuring your campaign’s success.

Email Campaign Metrics

Your email marketing software will be able to provide you with metrics. Each campaign will have a report on items including:

  • Open rate. Did people open your email?
  • Click rate. Did people click the links in your email?
  • Reply rate. Did your email’s call-to-action get people to respond?
  • Unsubscribes. Did your recipients get so annoyed by your email or the frequency of your emails they unsubscribed from your list entirely?
  • Forwards. Did your recipients like your email so much they shared it with friends?

Those numbers will help you evaluate whether your emails appeal to your subscribers.

The most important metric for your campaign should be open rate, followed by click rate. That being said, your open rate can skyrocket or plummet based on the quality of your subject line, and the time of day or day of the week you sent the email.

To test the open rate of any given campaign, first you need to find the optimal day and time to send your campaign. According to LawyerCasting, the best time to send an email campaign to your clients is 9 AM—though you should test these numbers out, as your cohort of clients may be more receptive at different times.

If you are feeling ambitious, your email software will probably have A/B testing tools. These tools allow you to test different subject lines to see which gets a better open rate using a small segment of your list. The best performing subject line will then be sent to the rest of your subscribers.

Now that you can measure the performance of your campaigns, let’s dive into what kinds of emails you can send to clients.

The Newsletter

The newsletter is the default email campaign for law firms. The newsletter is a periodic email—often monthly or quarterly—breaking down everything that has been happening at your law firm. Here are some things your newsletter campaign could include:

  • Recent blog posts you want your subscribers to read.
  • New hires and team updates.
  • Community involvement and charity events.
  • Abbreviated discussion of new laws and cases that may affect clients.

While the newsletter is common, there are some pros and cons to sending this campaign.

Pros. A newsletter is easy to put together and does not require a long-term strategy. Many law firms are concerned about being too invasive and bothering their subscribers (many of them clients). To avoid unsubscribes, these lawyers will only send out a few emails per year. This is not the best approach. You want a culled email list of educated and engaged readers rather than a massive list with low open rates and very infrequent emails. But for firms that do not want to bombard their audience or do not have the time to create extensive email campaigns, the newsletter is a solid go-to.

A newsletter is also easily digestible. You can share an array of items in your newsletter that do not quite fit elsewhere. The race report from the 5k your firm sponsored may not warrant an entire email, but it will fit perfectly in a paragraph in your newsletter.

Cons. Used alone, newsletters offer sporadic engagement.

Sending only twelve or so emails per year limits opportunities to interact with potential clients who may hire you or refer other clients.

Try sending emails until you get two emails in a week from subscribers who say, “You’re sending too many emails.”

Newsletters also lack compelling calls to action. A periodic email that covers a lot of material is great, but it does not give readers a clear path on what to do next. If you include a lot of links to blog posts or upcoming events, your click-thru rate may actually go down rather than up.

Educational Series

If you want to educate your audience about your practice area and help them understand your expertise, an educational series can work wonders. The educational series must be planned ahead of time. Before you begin, you should have your outline, each email should be written out, and each should have a compelling subject line. A logical flow to the emails is important to the series.

The series should contain anywhere from 6–12 emails sent sequentially over several weeks to inform your clients. It should end with a call-to-action to either hire you or buy a product (such as your new book). Here are the three steps you should take with an educational series:

  1. The first email introduces the topic and explains that over the next few weeks you will be sending a few emails on this topic. Importantly, you should explain in the introduction why your audience should care about this series.
  2. The following emails should be in-depth, with each email covering a very specific angle.
  3. The last part of the sequence are emails that recap the topic and have a call-to-action (e.g. “Now that you see how important it is to get an estate plan, call us to get your estate plan”). If you have a flat-fee or a promotion to offer for a particular service, you can create urgency by saying something like “Since we’re offering this new service, for the next three days, we will draft your will for $799. After that, it goes back up to $1,199. Just reply to this email to get in on the special rate before it’s gone.”

Pros. The educational series benefits your subscribers. It helps them understand an area of law they should know more about. It teaches them the basics of what they need to know. Most importantly for you, it also teaches potential clients why they should hire a lawyer.

If your email campaign went well, it should get you some new clients.

Cons. The main drawback to the educational series is you may see a bump in unsubscribes for sending out many more emails in a short period of time. But remember, unsubscribes are not a catastrophe since they weed out individuals who are not engaging with your content.

Another concern is the call-to-action part of an educational series can be perceived as too “salesy” for a law firm. Your call to action does not have to be as aggressive as the sample above, but creating a sense of scarcity and urgency in your emails can compel subscribers to become paying clients.

Holiday Emails

Holiday emails can be an excuse to stay top-of-mind with your audience.

Wish people a Happy New Year, Happy Arbor Day, or whatever it is you celebrate. Like a greeting card around the holidays, it shows your subscribers you are thinking of them.

For New Year’s holiday emails, in particular, you have the opportunity to recap what your firm did in the past year, and your goals for the coming year. It permits you to humbly brag about your accomplishments for the year and impress your readers.

Urgent Update in the Law

SCOTUS smashed its gavel on decades of patent law with its latest ruling. Your clients may be panicked. How will this affect them?

By blasting out an email shortly after a new case or statute, you have the opportunity to help your clients understand what is going on and let them know what they need to do.

This type of email achieves a few things:

  1. Provides education and value to your subscribers.
  2. Demonstrates your knowledge of the issue.
  3. Compels your subscribers to reach out to you.

An IP law firm emails me every time there is an update in its practice area. Should any of the issues they discuss affect me, they are probably going to be the first people I call for help.

Updates and Events

If you want to stay top-of-mind with subscribers who may eventually be able to hire you or refer to you, the occasional newsletter may not be enough. Instead, send an email on every big occasion. Some suggestions:

  • A new hire or promotion at the firm.
  • An award or recognition in your field.
  • A CLE or event where you will present.
  • A community event you are sponsoring or participating in.
  • If you are a solo or small firm, a recent personal milestone such as the birth of a child or completing your 12th marathon.

Emails that serve as status updates serve a few purposes: it shows your commitment to your field and your local community; you may get more engagement with your subscribers; and it serves as a pretext to send an email and remind your subscribers that, should they have a lawyer to recommend, you are around.

Your firm should experiment with sending different types of emails to your clients, colleagues, and referral sources. There is not going to be one perfect solution for your firm. Eventually, you will find the right serving of emails that help your firm bring in new business.

Marketing Emails Law Firms Should Consider Sending was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Beating up on Legal Tech in Front of a Home Crowd at CodeX 2016

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 14:31

Podcast guest and Casetext VP Pablo Arredondo asked me to join him at the CodeX1 conference at Stanford Law School to argue about whether the legal tech industry is making promises it can’t keep. Here’s the setup:

Imagine it is the year 2020. Plaintiff, a dissatisfied attorney, has brought suit against the entire legal tech industry, alleging that the claims and promises it made in 2016 amount to fraud and false advertising. Using a moot court format, this session explores some of the legal tech community’s grander predictions, and examines the various ways the community might succeed (or fail) in reaching these lofty goals.

We will be joined on Friday, May 20th, by Casetext CEO Jake Heller and Keith Lee, who writes the Associate’s Mind blog. Keith and I will represent the plaintiff, and Jake and Pablo will represent the legal tech industry, on cross-motions for summary judgment.

Here are the promises we’ve agreed are at issue:

  1. Legal tech will “disrupt” the legal profession.
  2. Legal tech will increase access to justice.
  3. Legal tech will increase access to legal information.
  4. Legal tech will increase access to lawyers/make it easier for people to find a (good) lawyer.

Before I get on the plane to beat up on the legal tech industry in front of a home crowd, I’d like to go on record as being quite optimistic about legal tech. I think it’s going to substantially increase access to justice, legal information, and lawyers, and I even think a little disruption might be possible here and there. That said, I don’t think it will be hard to argue that the legal tech industry is over-promising and under-delivering, even if the future is rosy.

For more on our session, read Keith Lee’s thoughts, Monica Bay’s preview, and check out our “bench memo.”

If you are able to come, you can register with the code SPEAKERREF to attend for just $200 (the regular rate is $350 except for students and faculty, who get in cheap).

And if you are going to be at CodeX, please hit me up on Twitter to let me know!

  1. I believe the X in CodeX is technically the Greek letter chi, pronounced as a hard K. So CodeX is pronounced like codec, and a codec “encodes a data stream or signal for transmission, storage or encryption, or decodes it for playback or editing.” Which kind of works for this conference. More trivia: the X in LaTeX is also a chi, so it is pronounced la-tek. And LaTeX is apparently what the U.S. Supreme Court uses for its opinions, according to lawyer-typographer Matthew Butterick

Beating up on Legal Tech in Front of a Home Crowd at CodeX 2016 was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Encrypt Microsoft Word Documents

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 06:12

You already know you should be encrypting all of your data and that uploading and sharing documents through a secure portal is the gold standard. But what if you do not want to, or are unable, to do so?

One easy way to ensure a document remains safe is to add a password to it in Microsoft Word. Here’s how to do it on a Windows machine and on a Mac.

Encrypting a Document in Microsoft Word for Windows

We are going to be using Microsoft Word 2010 for these screenshots, but the same commands apply for all versions after that. However, if you are using the online only version of Word packaged in Online Office 365, you are out of luck. You can’t password protect documents in that version, period.

Open an existing Word document or a new document and go to File and select Info. You will see an option called Protect Document.

Click on Protect Document, and you will get this menu:

Once you choose Encrypt with Password, Word will prompt you to add a password. Either use something you know you will remember or write it down—there is no way you can recover the document if you forget.

After you choose a password, Word will prompt you to enter it again.

When you try to open the document again, you will get a message informing you the document is password protected.

Encrypting a Document in Microsoft Word for Mac

We are using Microsoft Word 2016 for these screenshots, but the same commands should also work for legacy versions. The method is very similar to that of Windows, but the commands appear in different places in the ribbon.

Just as in the Windows version, start by opening an existing Word document or a new one. Go to Review and you will see, at the far right of the screen, the Protect Document option.

Click that, and it will give you this pop-up:

From there, add a password. As with the Windows version of Word, the program will prompt you to enter the password again.

That’s it. You’re done. When you try to open this document again, you will see this:

If you send this document to someone, they will need the password to open it. Alternatively, on a Mac, you can set it so your recipient can open it without the password, but they will need a password to modify. Just go through the same steps as above, but instead of choosing Set a password to open this document choose Set a password to modify this document.

There you have it. With a few brief clicks in Windows or Mac, you can increase the security level of a document. Now you have no excuse for not doing it.

How To Encrypt Microsoft Word Documents was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #68: What’s Happening at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, with Adam Ziegler

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 06:12

“Our favorite thing to do is build and rely upon open source of technology.” —Adam Ziegler

Sam and Adam Ziegler talk about the future of law and the challenges it faces through the lens of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. They also explore the beginnings of Perma.cc—a tool that saves links from rotting—and other products that have also come out of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.

No One Knows How To Redact PDFs

Today in nobody-knows-how-to-redact-PDFs-properly news, Ohio Supreme Court edition. https://t.co/XOu8YyV342

— Lawyerist.com (@lawyerist) April 30, 2016

Sam and Aaron talk about how the Ohio Supreme Court does not know how to redact a PDF. Turns out, they are not alone. Many lawyers do not know how to properly redact their PDFs, running afoul of their state’s confidential information rules.

To avoid the same pitfall, follow this tutorial to start redacting your PDFs properly starting today.

What’s Happening at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, with Adam Ziegler

Adam Ziegler works at the intersection of technology and law. Currently, Adam is part of the Library Innovation Lab at Harvard Law School, where he leads several exciting projects in this field, including H2O, Perma.cc, and Free The Law. Adam also spends his time collaborating with developers, designers, librarians, lawyers, university administrators and external partners. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.

Thanks to Smokeball and Xero for sponsoring this episode!

Support the Podcast

We love our sponsors, but they only cover part of what it costs us to bring you this podcast. So we need your help. If you enjoy the show, please click this button and make a contribution:

SUPPORT THE PODCAST

Listen and Subscribe

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button (or click the link to this post if you are reading this by email).

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.

Podcast #68: What’s Happening at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, with Adam Ziegler was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Welcome Lisa Needham, Our New Deputy Editor

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 16:56

I’m excited to announce that we’ve promoted Lisa Needham to Deputy Editor of Lawyerist. Starting today, she’ll be in charge of managing all our publishing channels, including the website, the Lawyerist Insider email newsletter, social networks, the Lawyerist Podcast, survival guides, books, etc.

This is a pretty big change for us, but Lisa has substantial experience as a practicing lawyer and in the world of publishing (most recently at Wonkette and Bitter Empire, and occasional freelance work like this post at Rewire), and we are excited to have her on board.

Lisa has already been writing for Lawyerist for nearly two years, covering information and ideas you can use in your law practice. We are excited to see what she can do as Deputy Editor!

Unfortunately, that also means our current Editor, Holden Page, will be leaving us. Holden has been a valuable member of our team and key to Lawyerist’s growth over the last two years, but we aren’t able to keep him on board. Fortunately, he has agreed to stay on through the end of May to help with the transition and ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Please welcome Lisa to the helm of Lawyerist!

Welcome Lisa Needham, Our New Deputy Editor was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Briefs: Non-Lawyer Ownership of Firms, Social Media Discovery Is a Mess, Etc.

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 13:15
Eyewitness Testimony, Statement Tampering, and False Memories

We’ve all seen the studies about how eyewitness testimony is often ridiculously unreliable, but new research shows that your own memories can be manipulated by other people, even after you’ve reduced those memories to writing.

This is currently a hot topic in the UK, where a very recently published inquiry into the so-called Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 people were crushed to death during a soccer match in 1989, found that testimonies had been deliberately altered by police.

Research published earlier this year by the false memory dream team at the University of California, looked directly into the implications of such police (mis)conduct. They found that it is possible that changed statements can go unnoticed by the person who gave the original testimony, and may even develop into a false memory that accommodates the false account.

In the study, people watched a slideshow of a crime being committed and then were asked a series of memory questions. Later, some of their answers were randomly changed and shown to the study participants. A majority didn’t even realize their own responses had been altered, and several then actually changed their answers on a subsequent test to match the changed-and false-information.

Bar Associations Unsurprisingly Still Opposed to Non-Lawyers Co-Owning Legal Service Providers

For the past year or so, the ABA has been exploring how or whether to let non-lawyers provide some types of legal services or own companies that provide those types of services. The potential upsides? Increased innovation and better consumer access. The potential downsides? Decreased state oversight and possibly decreased attorney employment. Under these sorts of arrangments, non-attorneys might own and run legal services providers (think e-discovery companies, document assembly, and practice management software) in conjunction with attorneys.

Bar associations have waded into the fray and many are not happy with this possibility.

“There can be no doubt that the public interest and integrity of the profession is best served when lawyers are owners of law firms,” wrote the New Jersey State Bar Association’s president, Miles S. Winder.

State Bar of Texas President Allan DuBois said nonlawyer ownership of law firms “threatens to undermine the legal profession’s duty of confidentiality and the fiduciary protections afforded via attorney-client privilege.”

Although the ABA’s comment period on this issue closed last month, this fight isn’t going away any time soon.

Fast Company Looks at Legal Tech Startups

Last week, Fast Company published a big piece on the new-ish startups who use both crowdsourcing and big data to deal with the overwhelming amount of data that the legal profession generates. The article looks at Ravel Law, Lex Machina, Casetext, and PACERPro, complete with interviews with principals of each company. The takeaway: the future of legal tech innovation rests upon computers, but isn’t looking to use those computers to replace attorneys.

Though companies like Ravel and Lex Machina employ sophisticated AI, they don’t claim to provide a robolawyer. “What we’re hopefully doing is finding cases that you need to understand,” says Nik Reed of Ravel. “Professional lawyers have to use their intuition and their best judgment to understand the law.”

Social Media Accounts Remain as Confusing as Ever During Discovery

If you’d like to be reminded that discovery involving social media accounts is a hot mess, there is a new case out of federal district court in New York that will reinforce your worldview.

In a fair housing case, the defendant’s attorney informed the plaintiff they would be examining her social media accounts. As litigation went on, defense counsel said that Facebook posts were disappearing. The plaintiff explained that she had hidden posts from public view, but not deleted them, and that those posts were things not relevant to the litigation, such as pictures of her children. However, the plaintiff did apparently change her Facebook privacy settings during the litigation.

During the fight over whether things were deleted, the plaintiff was required to print out a huge chunk of her Facebook account, a task which took three days and resulted in a pile of non-relevant material.

The judge denied the defense motion for sanctions, but still dinged the plaintiff for changing the settings mid-litigation. Except…do any of us really understand those Facebook privacy settings?

The court’s treatment of the privacy changes is also interesting. I have long argued that Facebook privacy settings are and always have been confusing, and from this perspective it would not be very culpable for someone to have “accidentally” altered their settings. The court does not take this approach, instead holding plaintiff responsible for whatever alteration occurred. Perhaps the court saw something in the evidentiary hearing that caused it to come to this conclusion. Or maybe it’s a case of a party or witness always being held responsible for the privacy implications of their account settings.

Slicing and Dicing the Class of 2015 Employment Data Report

We’ve talked before about how there are a million ways to look at legal industry employment data. A recent pass at the class of 2015 jobs report data shows a decline in graduates reporting being employed and a big decline in solosmall employment.

Overall, 3,772 fewer 2015 grads reported being employed (versus 2014), with 25.9% of that drop being in firms of 2-10 individuals. Other big drops: business and industry (23.6%), government (11.6%), and public interest (7.5%).

SmartDraw May Be an Alternative to Microsoft Office for Your Diagramming Needs

If your practice involves a fair bit of diagrams or scene reconstruction, you may want to take a look at SmartDraw, a diagram/flowchart/graph creation tool with some built-in templates that they say will allow you to create those complicated accident reconstruction courtroom displays with a few clicks. 

Overall, SmartDraw doesn’t appear to be targeted specifically to the legal market, though the parts that are, like crime scene diagrams, look polished. Aside from the legal-specific uses, there is a host of things that may come in handy for client presentations like org charts, graphs, calendars, and strategy maps.

The New Yorker on the 4-4 SCOTUS

Today’s Daily Cartoon by Kim Warp: https://t.co/9aMLaOuZhU pic.twitter.com/VTHirRM80B

— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) May 16, 2016

Briefs: Non-Lawyer Ownership of Firms, Social Media Discovery Is a Mess, Etc. was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Quicklegal: Practice Management and Lead Generation for Firms of All Sizes

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 09:00
“Besides offering practice management tools, Quicklegal also offers malpractice insurance, which covers clients who connect with you through the Quicklegal platform.” — Lawyerist

Quicklegal is an all-in-one practice management solution for solo attorneys or larger teams. Besides offering the features attorneys have come to demand from case management software, such as time tracking, matter management, and to-do lists, Quicklegal also offers access to leads, malpractice insurance, and legal research.

Details

These days, clients expect that their attorney will have client information at their fingertips, which means making sure that the practice management software you choose allows you to access that information from anywhere. Quicklegal accomplishes this by having both a web interface and apps for iOS and Android, ensuring that you will always be able to find a key document or contact information. Quicklegal also has a consumer-facing app which potential clients can use to seek out attorney advice.

Besides offering practice management tools, Quicklegal also offers malpractice insurance, which covers clients who connect with you through the Quicklegal platform.1

A subscription to Quicklegal also means you have access to CLEs that can be taken via web browser, tablet, or phone. Finally, a subscription to Quicklegal offers access to qualified phone leads, increasing the possibility of growth for your firm.

How to Get it

Quicklegal offers a free 30-day trial that will give the user access to a limited range of Quicklegal services, including case and document management, contacts, calendaring, and time management. Quicklegal also offers a tiered price point model, with a basic plan for $29.99 monthly, a standard plan for $179.99 monthly, and an executive plan for $499 monthly. Normally, the malpractice insurance is only included with the executive plan. However, the first 500 readers to sign up for Quicklegal’s $29.99 plan with the code “lawyerist” will receive 6 months of malpractice insurance free. Those that sign up for the $179.99 plan will receive 12 months of malpractice insurance for free.

  1. Malpractice insurance excludes coverage for intellectual property law, including patent, trademark, copyright, securities, and entertainment law. Malpractice insurance will not cover attorneys with numerous or unusual claims against previous insurance policies. 

Quicklegal: Practice Management and Lead Generation for Firms of All Sizes was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Calculus of Risk, Tech Competence Edition

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 06:12

Remember the calculus of risk from torts?

PL > B

P is the probability of loss. L is the magnitude of the loss. B is the cost of prevention, or the burden. If PL is greater than B, as shown above, you have a duty of reasonable care and you have to take steps calculated to prevent the harm. If you don’t, you are negligent.

Lots of lawyers seem to put computer security on their list of things to do someday, if they ever have some time (yeah right). That’s not good enough. I want to convince you that it is critical for you to pay attention to computer security now.

The calculus of risk is from torts, not ethics, but it is a useful-if-clunky way to look at anything that involves a duty of reasonable care. Like Rule 1.6(c), for example:

A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

Reasonable efforts is a duty of care. So let’s see how the calculus of risk plays out when we apply it to computer security.

B. For cost, I’ll use the numbers from my security guide. The cost of the first three security tips is close to zero. The cost of the fourth is less than $50 per year.

L. The harm they prevent is substantial. Let’s say you use the same password for your email and bank account that you used for one of the 420,000 websites compromised by Russian hackers in 2014. And let’s say those hackers decided to do something other than use your email account to send spam. With very little effort, they could empty your bank account and wipe the hard drives of your computers and devices. How much would that set you back? $1,000? $10,000? $100,000? Let’s call it $1,000, which is probably way too low.

P. How likely is it that the loss will occur? Well, just going by the 1.2 billion passwords those Russian hackers are sitting on, let’s ballpark it at around 17% (1.2 billion is about 17% of the world’s current population of over 7 billion).

Let’s plug in those numbers.

17% × $1,000 = $170 $170 > $50

If you have $1,000 in your bank account and the likelihood of those accounts getting emptied is 17%, then PL is $170. In other words, if it would cost you less than $170 to avoid the harm, you are negligent if you don’t. Reasonable efforts in this scenario means $170 or less.

Of course, you probably have more than $1,000 in your bank accounts (including your trust account) and the probability you will get hacked is much greater than 17%,1 which means you really need to implement some basic security, like using good passwords, encrypting your files, take care when using Wi-Fi, and enabling two-factor authentication.

  1. In 2011 one study found it was a statistical certainty

The Calculus of Risk, Tech Competence Edition was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Free Guide: A Family Law Practice Customized for Success (Sponsored)

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 05:55
“Once you know there is something that you want to achieve with Clio, if you set aside an hour, you can get it done—really quickly.” – Jennifer Reynolds, Family Law Practitioner.

As a Family Law attorney trained in collaborative law and alternative dispute resolution, Jennifer Reynolds understands that the needs of her clients go beyond building a case, managing documents, and preventing future conflict. Finding ways to balance running a successful practice with the sobering aspect of helping clients during an emotional time has led Jennifer to find creative ways to improve her firm’s efficiency.

When starting her practice three years ago, Jennifer needed a solution that would help her manage her cases and streamline her cumbersome workflow. Jennifer turned to Clio legal practice management software. Custom fields, document automation, and customizable billing have become key features for Fresh Legal, that have helped Jennifer manage her caseload, provide exceptional customer service, and grow her business.

Download this free guide to learn how Clio customizations for Family Law can help you better serve your clients and evolve your practice on a daily basis.

Free Guide: A Family Law Practice Customized for Success (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Ace Your Initial Client Meetings

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 06:12

The first meeting with a potential client is critical. You have to get the key information about the potential case and decide whether or not to represent the potential client. And, of course, the potential client has to decide if they want to hire you—all this hinges on your initial client meeting.

Obtain the Key Information

Your time is valuable and, like many lawyers, you may charge nothing for an initial meeting.

In a short amount of time, you will need to gauge the costs and benefits of taking your potential client’s case.If you practice in only one area, like bankruptcy, chances are good that you already have client checklist, but here are some of the things you will need to determine in an initial meeting:

  1. The chance of success (whether there can be a settlement or court victory).
  2. The amount of time you will have to devote to the case.
  3. Could this case lead to future work with this client or similar clients?
  4. Will you have extra expenses that arise from the case?

Additionally, remember that the easiest client to fire is the one you never agree to represent. After a client hires you, it gets much more difficult to back out of the case. And depending on how far into the case you go, it may become impossible.

You should also ask whether your potential client has met with any other lawyer about their issue. If other attorneys have turned them down, the case might not have as much merit as you thought.

If you don’t want to ask this question directly, you could ask, “how did you find out about me?”

Determine the Goal of Your Potential Client

Sometimes it is simple to figure out what a client wants to accomplish by hiring you. They are direct in their description of the key facts, and they assertively tell you what they expect you to accomplish.

Often, this isn’t the case. By the end of the “getting information” section of your meeting, if you haven’t figured out what exactly it is that your client wants, it’s best to just ask. You don’t need to be rude or condescending; just come right out and ask.

  • Direct approach: “What is your goal here?”
  • Indirect approach: “I am struggling to figure out what you want from this case.”
  • State the goal: “Here is how I am interpreting your goal. Am I on the right path?”

These may sound simple, but nothing is more important than understanding your client’s goals by the end of the initial meeting. If it isn’t obvious, don’t be shy about asking.

One way to absolutely cement the client’s goal is to have them write it down. Writing down the client’s goal right away can be especially useful later in the case if your client is reluctant to accept a settlement offer giving them everything they initially wanted.

To Google or Not to Google

Before you take on a client, you may want to find out more about them. No law prohibits a quick computer search on a prospective client. In some cases, it may be expected.

A search may be justified depending on the type of case they have. A criminal background check may be sensible or even necessary. There are lawyers who tell prospective clients they will do Internet searches before they take on a case. Sometimes merely telling a client that you will be doing some background work on them gets them to divulge what you will find. This gives your potential client a chance to explain what they may find before you discover it on your own.

Auditioning is a Two-Way Street

When meeting with your potential client, remember they are determining if they want to hire you. Even in an area in which you aren’t an expert, the single most important thing you can do to convince a potential client that they should hire you instead of another attorney is quite simple:

LISTEN

Listen to what the client says. If they feel rushed or not heard in the initial meeting, they may take their good case to another attorney.

Related “Let Your Clients Tell Their Stories”

I have interviewed over 28,000 clients, and the only rule I always try to follow is that I let the interview “breathe” as much as possible. As long as the client is giving me relevant information, I let them tell me their story in their own way. I will occasionally nod but generally I don’t even use verbal cues. I want them to tell the story as uninterrupted as possible.

That said, it’s also important to appear efficient. The client may be considering a relationship in which they will pay you by the hour. Convince them you won’t be wasting their money once they hire you. I try to minimize note-taking, but I do write down a few key points — jotting down names, dates, and key numbers are signs to the client that you are actually listening, not simply waiting for your chance to talk.

Once they are done with their story, go back and confirm key issues and ask clarifying questions about what they have covered. Last, ask questions about anything they did not address.

In a 2005 study about clients satisfaction/dissatisfaction with big law firms, fifteen percent of the respondents said what bothered them about their lawyer was “lack of client focus, failure to listen, non-responsiveness, arrogance.” This is one area where solos can easily outperform your big law counterparts. Take the time to listen.

Depending on whether you are an expert in the field, you may be able to offer some advice at the first client meeting. If so, it makes sense to outline your client’s strengths and weaknesses. I frequently talk to clients about two things:

  1. Options going forward.
  2. Likely consequences.

I don’t make guarantees about how a court will rule (and neither should you). But if there are similar cases you know about — or even better, that you worked on — use that to demonstrate your confidence in the case going forward.

One thing I try to avoid is the use of cases or statutes with initial client meetings. While some sophisticated clients want to know the exact statute and case that will help or hurt his or her case, most do not. Instead, your client counts on you to be able to translate complicated legal issues into understandable, conversational English.

Ending the Interview

There are three approaches to ending an initial interview with your potential client:

  1. Agree to represent the client, including signing a retainer agreement.
  2. Use a “cooling off” period. I know a lawyer who never agrees to represent a client the day they meet them. They explain to the client that the meeting is the start of a partnership and both sides should think before rushing the decision to work together.
  3. Wait to decide on working together based on additional information/documents.You may need to interview a key witness they have identified to gauge the strength of their case.

Whatever your next step is, make sure that it is absolutely transparent to the client. If nothing more will happen until they produce a key document, tell them. If you want to talk the next day, set a time to call or meet.

Originally published 2015-04-06. Republished 2016-05-13.

Featured image: “Business partners shaking hands as a symbol of unity, view from the top” from Shutterstock.

Ace Your Initial Client Meetings was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

First Look: WordRake Proofreading Software

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 06:12

Lawyers are known for overwriting. Perhaps it is all those cases from the 1800s we had to read in contracts class that lead us to write in needlessly ornate sentences. Perhaps too many of us remain convinced that piling on words makes us sound smarter (even though people who sprinkle long and complicated words into their sentences are actually perceived as less intelligent).

Whatever the cause, we often need help to make our writing leaner and cleaner.

Enter WordRake, which hopes to do exactly that. WordRake is a Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook add-on that proofs your writing and makes suggested changes. One key caveat: although you can’t really tell from the website, it is only for the Windows version of Word, and it won’t run on Office 365 if you only use 365 via your browser. The website makes no real mention of these limitations. In my case, I didn’t realize it until I downloaded the software. While Windows devotees may shrug off the lack of a Mac version, Wordrake’s lack of browser support is a significant limitation since Microsoft is pushing its users to the cloud.

WordRake works by going through and redlining your document, making semi-substantive editing suggestions, and correcting your typos.

After it “rakes” the document, you can decide which changes you want to keep and which to reject. Since the add-on works just like Word’s track-changes function, any lawyer who has ever received a marked-up document will intuitively know how to use it.

So how does WordRake perform in the real world? I fed it three different types of documents:

  1. A post about Justice Scalia’s dissents from Romer v. Evans through Obergefell v. Hodges, written for a non-lawyer audience.
  2. Justice Scalia’s dissent in Romer.
  3. A brief written for a state-level district court that was in draft form, but close to finished.

In my layperson Scalia post, WordRake did a good job getting rid of some of my congenital writing tics, such as using “that” when I don’t need to and overusing “essentially” and “basically.” I’d like to think I’d catch all those while proofreading, but I probably wouldn’t. On the downside, it really seemed to hate certain rhetorical flourishes. For example, it tried to change “Scalia’s statement pretends to be reasonable” to “Scalia’s statement is reasonable.” Those two things are not remotely the same.

When WordRake chewed through Scalia’s Romer dissent, it desperately wanted Scalia to stop saying “sort of.”

Finally, on my almost-finished brief, WordRake did a solid job of catching passive phrasing (“by the issuance of” was changed to the much better “issuing,” for example). It also spotted typos and removed intra-sentence redundancies. However, it still made some grammatical suggestions that utterly changed the meaning of the sentence. That is not a reason not to use the software. Given that you can accept or reject each change, you are free to ignore the suggestions that mangle your meaning.

WordRake is not cheap, coming in at $129 a year each for Word and Outlook, or $199 for both. There doesn’t seem to be a way to subscribe month-to-month, but there is a free 7-day trial. If you decide to go all out, volume discounts and enterprise licensing are available. If you usually work alone and feel like you need a second set of eyes, the $129 or $199 might be well worth it. If you routinely have a trusted colleague edit your writing, it may not be. Given that there is a free trial, it is certainly worth giving WordRake a whirl. 

First Look: WordRake Proofreading Software was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How To Securely Wipe a Hard Drive

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 06:12
“Your hard drive is a malicious hacker’s dream.”

Before you sell, give away, or throw out a computer, you need to wipe its hard drive clean. That’s true even if you encrypt your hard drive (which you should) and the same goes for external hard drives and USB drives.

Why? Because your hard drive is a malicious hacker’s dream. It is filled with the kind of information that makes identity theft and social engineering a cakewalk. You might as well be handing your clients’ bank accounts over to the bad guys.

Whether your old computer is bound for a new owner or a landfill, make sure you wipe the hard drive before it leaves your control. Simply deleting your user account is not sufficient to protect the information. You actually need to wipe the drive.

The easiest way to do this is with Darik’s Boot and Nuke, or DBAN. DBAN is free, open-source software that uses military-spec methods to eliminate all traces of data on your hard drive. Essentially what it does is overwrite the data on your hard drive with random characters again and again until there is nothing left to recover.

Before you wipe your hard drive, make sure you have what you need to reinstall the operating system if you want someone to be able to use your old computer. Most manufacturers include either a system restore disc or leave a system restore partition on the hard drive that you can use to restore the computer to its factory-fresh state. If you aren’t sure how to do this, check the manufacturer’s website for directions before you boot up DBAN.

Using DBAN is simple. Download it from dban.org, then burn it to a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. Boot your computer from that CD or DVD (usually you have to press a function key during boot to give you the option to boot from the CD instead of booting up Windows as usual) and follow the instructions. If you used an external hard drive to transfer your files, plug it in before you boot DBAN and wipe that drive, too. Just don’t nuke the system restore partition if that is how you intend to restore your computer to its factory-fresh state.

Once your hard drive is clean, you can either dispose of your computer or restore factory setup, update everything, and hand it off to its next owner.

Revised and republished 2016-04-29.

How To Securely Wipe a Hard Drive was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Do You Need to Move your Law Practice to the Cloud? (Sponsored)

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 05:55

You’ve decided it’s time to move your law practice into the cloud. You’ve researched your options and you’ve picked the perfect web-based law practice management system for your law firm. Now what? How do you go about making the switch?

The path you’ll choose depends on whether you are starting from scratch and are just hanging out a shingle or already have existing software programs (“legacy systems”) in place.

A Few Things to Consider

As you plan your move to the cloud, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you make the switch:

  1. Does the software integrate with popular services, such as Outlook or Google Apps?
  2. Does the company assist with data migration?
  3. What types of data can be imported?
  4. Can you integrate folders and/or batch upload documents or do you have to upload every document separately?
  5. Does the law practice management software integrate and automatically sync with accounting software such as Quickbooks?
  6. Can I send invoices to my clients through the system? Can my clients pay their bills online?

To learn the easiest ways to transition to a web-based law practice management platform, download the MyCase eBook: “Moving Your Law Practice to the Cloud” by author Nicole Black.

Whether you’re currently using server-based law practice management software, are switching from another web-based provider, or are starting from scratch, you’ll discover that it’s really not as difficult of a process as you might think!

Do You Need to Move your Law Practice to the Cloud? (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Podcast #67: How and Why You Need to Ditch Your Smartphone, with Jared Correia

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 06:12

“I found myself to be so distracted I didn’t want to [have a smartphone] anymore.” —Jared Correia

Sam and Jared Corella discuss the impact of smartphones on our daily lives and why it may be best for you to give it up in favor of being in the moment. (And don’t worry, you can give up your smartphone without being considered a luddite.)

Lawyerist Announces Its First Ever Event: TBD Law

In exciting Lawyerist news, Sam and Aaron talk about TBD Law, an event for solo and small firm lawyers. Lawyerist has teamed up with with Matt Homann and Filament to create a two-day program to begin determining the future of solo and small-firm law practice—both for those present and for the profession at large.

How and Why You Need to Ditch Your Smartphone, with Jared Correia

Before joining LOMAP, Jared managed CLE publications and the Casemaker research engine for the Massachusetts Bar Association. He has also been a practicing lawyer, in small firms, where he mostly focused on personal injury, real estate and disability law.  Jared is a frequent speaker for local, regional and national lawyers’ groups. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.

Thanks to Xero and Smokeball for sponsoring this episode!

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Podcast #67: How and Why You Need to Ditch Your Smartphone, with Jared Correia was originally published on Lawyerist.com.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs