How many of your clients would recommend you to their friends and family? Guess what — you’re probably way off. According to LegalZoom CEO John Suh, most law firms have a Net Promoter Score of 4–6%.1 That’s not bad, but it’s not very good, either. But what does it even mean?Net Promoter Score Basics
Net Promoter Score is a way to measure client loyalty. It was introduced by Fred Reichheld in 2003 in the Harvard Business Review as an improvement on the traditional customer-satisfaction survey. You should definitely read Reichheld’s article, but here are the basics.
To find out your Net Promoter Score, ask your clients the following question:
Then, tally the results and assign a percentage to the number of Promoters (9–10) and Detractors (0–9). (You can assign a percentage to the number of Passives, too, but they don’t figure into the Net Promoter Score.)Score Respondents 9–10 Promoters 7–8 Passives 0–6 Detractors
Net Promoter Score attempts to control for people who are satisfied, but not loyal. Maybe they don’t want to bother finding another lawyer, for example. That’s why someone who rates you as high as 8 on a 10-point scale doesn’t even count.
To find your score, send all of your clients the above question. (It’s easiest if you use something like SurveyMonkey so you can just email a link to the survey.) Let’s say you get 20 responses from your clients, and they fall out this way:Score # of Responses % 10 1 30% Promoters 9 5 8 3 45% Passives 7 6 5 4 25% Detractors 1 1
That looks good, right? 75% of your clients gave you 7 or better! Not so fast. Remember that you don’t count 7s or 8s. We’re not measuring satisfaction;2 we’re measuring how likely your clients are to refer more clients to you. These are your fans, the clients who can drive the growth of your firm.
In order to find your Net Promoter Score, you’ll need to find the percentages of Promoters and Detractors.Respondents % Promoters (9–10) 30% Passives (7–9) 45% Detractors (0–6) 25%
So 30% minus 25% works out to a Net Promoter Score of 5%, right in the middle of the average range for law firms, according to Suh. Okay, so what does that mean?Target Net Promoter Score
A positive Net Promoter Score is a good start, but some positive numbers are better than others.
LegalZoom says it will not launch a new product unless it can get its NPS to 50% during beta. The company itself has an average NPS of 65%. And Suh said the lawyers in its legal plan network are averaging 72%. So if you think LegalZoom is eating your lunch, you should probably aim for a NPS of at least 65% in order to get your lunch back.
Don’t want to use LegalZoom as a yardstick? That’s fine, as long as you aren’t competing with LegalZoom for clients. But you should still work to improve your score. Your firm’s growth is tied to it, and your ultimate success is tied to your firm’s growth. (Growth doesn’t necessarily mean hiring people if you want to stay small. It can just mean better-paying clients that you don’t have to work so hard to find.)Caveats
Some will object that Net Promoter Score doesn’t have much to do with whether or not you are doing a good job for your clients, since clients may well be unhappy with good results. Others will object that some lawyers may be great at making clients happy despite getting objectively poor results.
Both are certainly possible. NPS measures client loyalty, not effective lawyering. It should go without saying, but focusing on NPS alone is a terrible idea. A high score does not substitute for an effective lawyer.
Effective lawyers with poor scores, on the other hand, would do well to improve them. The most common sources of ethics complaints generally have little to do with outcomes and a lot to do with basic client service, after all.3 It stands to reason lawyers with a high Net Promoter Score is less likely to have those problems.
For some lawyers, NPS might not be a good predictor of anything. For example, people with embarrassing legal problems might not want to refer to you anyone because they can’t see themselves ever discussing their legal problem with anyone. They might give you a low score that has nothing to do with their loyalty. That’s not your fault, but it will throw off your results if you handle a lot of embarrassing legal problems.How to Improve Your Net Promoter Score
Once you know your Net Promoter Score, take a hard look at two things:
Step one is simple: meet your clients’ expectations. If your score is negative, you probably aren’t even doing that. Instead, you are actually driving clients away. Any growth you are experiencing must be from new clients, and it probably won’t last. You may even be an ethics violation waiting to happen. Maybe you are slow to return phone calls, your office is unpleasant, or you aren’t good at getting to hearings on time. Fix that stuff (and not just in order to improve your NPS).
Step two is to make it as easy as possible for clients to work with you. It turns out that there is a limit to how much loyalty you can earn by exceeding expectations.
What does work, it turns out, is making the process go more smoothly. Remove as many obstacles to your clients’ convenience as you can (without compromising the quality of your legal service, obviously).
How you do that will depend on your practice area, your ideal client, your budget, and so on. But try to look at the experience of working with you with new eyes — or ask a friend you trust to be blunt to play the role of a new client. Figure out what you can do to reduce the effort and inconvenience required of your clients and make changes accordingly.
You can also attach scores to clients. Go through the list and, for each client who is not a Promoter, consider what you could do to bump them into the top bracket.
After you make changes, give them a chance to take effect, then send out a new round of Net Promoter Score surveys. Rinse and repeat.
The goal, in the end, is to increase the number of Promoters among your clients and decrease the number of Detractors. That’s all there is to Net Promoter Score, really.
Featured image: “ Business people cheering in office on white background ” from Shutterstock.
The survey sort-of measures client satisfaction as a byproduct. Passive respondents (the 7s and 8s) are basically your satisfied clients. ↩
Net Promoter Score: the One Number You Need to Grow Your Law Practice was originally published on Lawyerist.
If you designed your law firm website on Wix, you’ve got a problem. While your website is still there, Google has probably deindexed it. That means nobody will be able to find it on Google — which effectively means nobody will be able to find it.
[W]hen one Wix site starts having problems, all Wix sites are likely to suffer a similar fate.
Google is working to reindex Wix sites that aren’t causing problems, but this does illustrate a problem with big website networks like Wix. Even if it is a bit more difficult, you might be better off installing WordPress and setting up your website yourself, instead of trusting it to a big network.
How willing are law firm partners to replace first year associates with robots? The results are in (PDF), and it doesn’t look good for first year associates. Altman Weil, a legal consulting company, has just released its annual “Law Firms in Transition” survey of 320 large law firm managing partners. The survey measured things like firm optimism, growth, and financial performance. The bonus question asked how willing law firms would be to not just use artificial intelligence, but replace personnel with it. Here’s the survey question and responses:
I guess the whole prediction about how robots aren’t going to replace lawyers isn’t going to pan out after all. Paralegals seem to be first on the chopping block, followed by first year associates, and on up the food chain. Only 20.3% believe that computers will never replace lawyers. Maybe the legal singularity is closer than we think.
Featured image: “Cyber communication design concept. Male robot and human holding hands with handshake.” from Shutterstock.
Law Firm Partners Ready to Replace Associates With Robots was originally published on Lawyerist.
This week’s episode is a replay of one of our favorite conversations about lawyering and law practice, with Alan Dershowitz.Alan Dershowitz’s Advice for Young Lawyers
As a well-known lawyer and (former) law professor, Alan Dershowitz gives a lot of advice to young lawyers. At one point, he wrote it all down in Letters to a Young Lawyer. The book has been around for a while, but it is still full of good advice for young lawyers — and so is Dershowitz.
When I asked Dershowitz what he would change about Letters to a Young Lawyer if he were writing it today, he pointed out that because law has become much more of a business, he would want to add a chapter on conflicts and billing practices, which are more relevant than they were.
In the book, Dershowitz places great importance on finding a mentor, but acknowledges that a great mentor is hard to find. We talked about how to avoid bad mentors, including two red flags:
I asked Dershowitz about imposter syndrome, which he says is an issue for him just as it is for many young professionals.
One of the things that jumped out at me in Letters to a Young Lawyer was Dershowitz’s take on work-life balance. He quotes the old saw that nobody regrets working too much when they are on their deathbed, then says that some people should regret not working enough. During our interview, he elaborated on the right way for young lawyers to approach work-life balance.
We also discussed his view that you should not do what you are best at, why the Yellow Pages and the Internet are a terrible place to find a lawyer, and the three arguments you make to a court:
Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!Listen and Subscribe
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.
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 #40: Alan Dershowitz’s Advice for Young Lawyers (Replay) was originally published on Lawyerist.
Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers is a book about legal typography that every person serious about good legal writing should own. These are my 10 takeaways.
Typography for Lawyers is an easy read that runs only 210 pages. The book begins with a foreword by Bryan Garner, who claims “[i]f Matthew Butterick didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Given that Garner agreed to write the foreword, I thought I’d be reading a book written by a Garner disciple, and, to a certain extent, that turned out to be true. Both Garner and Butterick take their jobs very seriously. Butterick, like Garner, is a fantastic, conversational writer. Like Garner’s language-and-usage advice, Butterick’s typography advice generally allows for little or no wiggle room. There’s right and there’s wrong. And in a world filled with mushy legal-writing conventions, that’s an overall positive for the book.1. Use Only One Space Between Sentences
Butterick says you have no choice when deciding how many spaces to include after a sentence-ending period (indeed, after any punctuation mark): one space. He cites multiple typography authorities, including the Chicago Manual of Style, Garner’s The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (Section 4.12), and the 7th Circuit’s “Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers” (which Sam reviewed in “Legal Writing: Make Your Writing Easier to Read“). True, other writers have objected to the historical foundation of the one-space rule, but I’ve found no good authority (including the local rules of the states and many federal courts to which I’m admitted) that you should include two spaces after a sentence-ending period in court documents.
But will using one space after a sentence-ending period raise the ire of the judge who notices it in a brief (you can convince those you work for or with by pointing out Butterick’s authorities)? The judge may have always used two spaces after a period and not understand why you’re only using one space. At least in Minnesota, for example, the Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals use two spaces after sentence-ending periods. And no Minnesota federal judge uses only one space.
I think any fear of receiving a cool reception from a judge if you use only one space is unfounded. There’s little chance using one space will elicit a question at oral argument. If it does, you can explain, citing Butterick and his authorities, why you chose to use one space instead of two. Instead of making you look like an uninformed fool, that discussion may end up making you look better versed in the niceties of legal writing and typography.
But more realistically, the judge probably won’t bring it up. Judges have better things to do than quibble about the number of spaces after sentence-ending periods.2. Never Underline “Now that we don’t use typewriters, there’s no need to underline.”
Butterick also advises never to underline text for emphasis or otherwise. Like two spaces after a sentence-ending period, underlining is a holdover from the typewriter era, which, as many have forgotten (or in my case never knew) didn’t allow for bold or italics. On a typewriter, underlining was the only way to emphasize text. Now that we don’t use typewriters, there’s no need to underline.
In my former litigation practice, I occasionally underlined text to emphasize particular words because The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation requires case names to be italicized and I wanted to distinguish between the two. My view at that time was that underlining allowed to reader to distinguish easily between italicized case names and the text I wanted to emphasize. But I erred in doing so. Given how ugly and blunt underlining can be, start using italics and bold to emphasize any text that deserves to stand out from the rest.3. Don’t Use Monospaced Fonts
Fonts like Courier and Monaco are monospaced fonts, meaning that every character is the same width. Fonts like Times New Roman are proportional fonts, meaning that the characters vary in width. Monospaced fonts are another holdover from the typewriter era. According to Butterick, monospaced fonts were invented so that they could meet the mechanical needs of typewriters, not “to win beauty contests” (p.81).
Butterick suggests some courts might require monospaced fonts. But I don’t know of a single court that does so, though occasionally you’ll see opinions written in monospaced fonts. For example, Minnesota Senior District Court Judge David S. Doty still issues his opinions in Courier, but expresses no public preference for any particular font. Unless you’re a federal judge with life tenure, it would behoove you to stop using monospaced fonts for any legal writing.4. Don’t Use Arial Font, and Try An Alternative to Times New Roman “. . . the popularity of Times New Roman is the result of its ubiquity, not necessarily its quality.”
While we are on the topic of fonts, Butterick also says not to use Arial, which he describes as among the most awful fonts “on the planet,” and whose use “is permanently associated with the work of people who will never care about typography” (p. 82-83). Instead of Arial, Butterick recommends Helvetica, Franklin Gothic, or Gill Sans.
Butterick’s distaste for Arial seems to be matched by his dislike for Times New Roman, for which he dedicates two pages to A Brief History of Times New Roman (p.110-11). Butterick thinks the popularity of Times New Roman is the result of its ubiquity, not necessarily its quality. It’s “the font of least resistance,” and isn’t a font choice but rather is “the absence of a font choice, like the blackness of deep space is not a color” (p. 110). If you like Times New Roman, Butterick recommends trying similar-looking professional fonts like Plantin, Starling, or Bembo Book.
But here’s the rub: you must purchase these professional fonts, and many other fonts that Butterick recommends, including his own font, Equity. If a firm wants several people to use the font, it might need to pay even more for a multiple-user license. Professional fonts also might not display properly if you don’t correctly embed them before sharing the document with someone else who hasn’t purchased the font.
In short, professional fonts can be a pain to use. (Sam and Matthew Butterick take this professional-versus-system-font discussion to the next level in the comments this article. You should read this discussion in its entirety, if only to confirm that it may be wise to avoid purchasing and using professional fonts).5. Don’t Use Superscripted Ordinals
This should be obvious to any good legal writer: never permit Microsoft Word to automatically change ordinals to superscript. I’ve routinely found superscripted ordinals in case citations in briefs from opposing counsel, and occasionally I’d find them in judicial opinions. I’m convinced that 95% of these superscripted ordinals were the result of Microsoft Word’s default treatment of ordinals. Microsoft Word automatically converts ordinals to superscript whether you want it to or not. As Butterick points out, Bluebook Rule 6.2(b)(i) (2010) prohibits superscripted ordinals. So change Word’s default settings, and make sure you don’t use superscripted ordinals.6. Turn on Kerning
Kerning adjusts specific pairs of letters to improve their spacing and fit on the printed page. Butterick says to turn on kerning. (Query: How many lawyers learned this gem in law school or from a senior partner?) By default, Microsoft Word doesn’t activate kerning, so you have to do it manually.
Here’s how to activate kerning in Word 2007: go to the Format > Font menu and select the Character Spacing tab (in Word 2010, it’s the Advanced tab). Check the box Kerning for fonts __ Points and above, and select the number 8 in the point-size box. You’re ready to go.7. Use Curly Quotes Instead of Straight Quotes
Though there are exceptions (most notably, foot and inch marks) no legal document should include straight quotes (yet another vestige of the typewriter). Butterick’s website shows how each type of quote appears in text. To use curly quotes, you need to find Word’s smart-quote feature (which can be turned on or off). By default, Word automatically turns on smart quotes.
Over the years, I’ve read many briefs and contracts that contained straight quotes with proportional fonts (and some, interestingly enough, that contained both types of quotes). Given that in Word you need to manually turn on straight quotes, I still have no clue how the straight quotes found their way into those documents. If you are using straight quotes in your documents, you need to get rid of them.8. Both Left or Full Justification are Acceptable, but Turn on Hyphenation if You Use Full Justification
Left-justified text has a clean left edge and a ragged right edge. Fully justified text has clean left and right edges. Butterick doesn’t recommend either left or full justification, calling the choice a matter of personal preference. His personal preference is left justification, which he believes “relaxes the page.” (pp. 136). In his Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (Section 4.10), Bryan Garner also says to avoid full justification, though The Redbook is fully justified, as is other books he’s written, like Garner on Language and Writing.
I’ve never liked left-justified text. As a law clerk on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, I wrote memoranda with fully justified text, and my judge used fully justified text in his opinions. The ragged right edge in left-justified text is distracting to my eye. Full justification, in my view, looks cleaner.
The courts aren’t uniform on the use of left-versus-right justification. And I cannot find any recent trend in judicial preference between the two. I’ve also never read any local rule of procedure or form that requires a particular text justification. The Minnesota Supreme Court uses full justification, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals and federal district courts are mixed. Like including only one space after sentence-ending periods, I doubt using full justification in a brief submitted to a judge who prefers left justification will make any difference, but it cannot hurt to follow the judge’s justification preference.
If you prefer full justification, however, Butterick says that it’s mandatory to turn on Word’s hyphenation feature. Hyphenation breaks words between lines to create a consistent text block. Word doesn’t automatically turn on hyphenation, so (like kerning) you have to do it yourself. In Word 2007 and 2010, you can turn on hyphenation by selecting the Page Layout menu, the Page Setup panel, and the Hyphenation box.
Since I started practicing law, though, I’ve never read a fully justified brief or judicial opinion that contained hyphenation (other than United States Supreme Court opinions). And if you’ve never used it, hyphenation looks strange at first. But Butterick is right that hyphenation reduces the awkward white space and breaks that can appear in fully justified text without hyphenation. If you still are unsure about using fully justified text with hyphenation, you can find comfort in the fact that both the United States Supreme Court and the Solicitor General use this type of justification in their opinions and briefs, respectively.9. Use Line Lengths of 45–90 Characters
Butterick also recommends policing line length: “Shorter lines are more comfortable to read than longer lines,” and will “make a big difference in the legibility and professionalism of your layout” (pp. 141) He says that lines of text should be no longer than 45–90 characters, which you can monitor by using Word’s Word Count feature. But getting 45–90 characters in your lines of text shouldn’t be a problem, if you follow my last takeaway below.10. Use Left and Right Page Margins of No Less Than 1.5″
Butterick says that 1″ margins are too small for proportional fonts, which you should usually use in legal documents. He recommends 1.5″ to 2″ left and right margins. In many local rules, courts permit briefs with either a specified number of pages or a specified number of words. So increasing your margins generally won’t matter.
I would hesitate to increase left and right margins beyond 1.5″. Larger margins result in longer briefs (obviously), and longer briefs may be problematic if you’re filing a relatively long brief. When a judge gets a brief that’s 50-pages long, he may sigh, wishing you would have heeded Cicero’s advice, “When you wish to instruct, be brief.”
Fifty pages is a lot to read. If the judge has the choice to read a 50-page brief with 2″ margins (which would otherwise be a 43-page brief with 1.5″ margins) the judge might decide to read the other side’s brief first, or simply skim yours. So heed Butterick’s advice about margins, but always keep in mind your intended reader.
Originally published 2012-07-11. Last updated 2015-10-26.
Featured image: “Close-up Of Male Judge Reading Paper In Courtroom ” from Shutterstock.
Clio, the leading cloud-based legal practice management provider, announced two major feature releases and eight new integration partners. These new product capabilities and integrations directly address the most commonly-cited challenges faced by law firms looking to simplify and grow their practice.
“Our vision is to not only assist law firms in their day-to-day practice management needs, but to significantly simplify their operations and help them grow their practice,” said Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio. “When we ask our customers about their challenges they consistently tell us, ‘it’s a constant struggle to balance the business demands of running and growing a practice with the professional duties of being a lawyer .’ These new features help lawyers take one giant step closer to finding this balance.”
The two major features announced are Campaign Tracker and Clio Payments, break new ground for Clio. They are powerful new tools to help law firms build a better practice and accelerate revenue potential.Introducing Campaign Tracker
Campaign Tracker is an invaluable tool that will demystify your advertising spend. Track every advertisement’s cost and link it to your return-on-investment (ROI), generate new leads, sustain competitive growth and maximize your marketing investments. Firms are easily able to create campaigns that track leads acquired through phone calls or online form submission. Leads can then be tracked through their entire lifecycle, and ultimately billings can be tied back to the lead’s originating marketing campaign, allowing for ROI and ongoing marketing optimization.
“It’s generally accepted wisdom that you know you’re wasting half your marketing budget—you just don’t know which half,” adds Mr. Newton. “With Campaign Tracker for the first time within one fully integrated product, lawyers are able to, determine where their marketing budget is generating results. We’re giving law firms transparency in advertising effectiveness, the ability to double down on what’s working, and dramatically accelerate their growth.” Campaign Tracker is ideal for law firms that want to wisely allocate their advertising budgets.Presenting Clio Payments
Clio also announced Clio Payments, a fully integrated credit card processing platform. Start accepting credit card payments from clients with a few clicks of the mouse. This, coupled with new email-based invoicing capabilities,will provide your law firm with the ability to dramatically improve your cash flow and reduce your debt.
Another surprise announcement, is Clio’s integration with Microsoft Office 365 Business. This integration partner, along with other keystone partners, like Fundbox and Fastcase, round Clio up to 40 integration partners.Additional integration announcements include:
With all of these integrations it’s easy to see why people are getting excited about Clio and their serious commitment to helping a firm grow and simplify their day-to-day operations.
Learn about these exciting features at Clio’s upcoming webinar on Tuesday, November 17, by registering here.
Clio Announcements Help Make Practice Growth and Simplification a Reality (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.
Most Microsoft Word users beyond the absolute beginner level know about auto numbering Microsoft Word paragraphs. (Whether they can use it successfully is another story. It’s not a feature known for its user-friendliness.) But few know that numbering can go beyond paragraphs and can include numbers other than plain Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).
For example, how would you like to auto number like this:
If you frequently include items like these in your legal writing, you’ll want to construct these and keep them in your Quick Parts so you can insert them with two clicks.
The heading here could be anything: affirmative defenses in an answer, articles in a contract, etc. It doesn’t matter; the technique is the same with only slight variations. The end result is that you’ll have a heading saved in your Quick Parts that will be numbered correctly, no matter how many items you add or delete. This makes this technique particularly useful in building templates for common documents; because it’s always easier to delete than add, they’ll re-number themselves after editing.Set Yourself up to Succeed: 2 Word Settings to Check
When using fields like these in documents, there are two settings you’ll want to check (and re-set if necessary). Go to the File tab in Word 2010 (or click the Office button in Word 2007) and click on Options.
The first setting, under Display on the left, instructs Word to always update any field values before printing a document:
The second, under Advanced, will always display fields on the screen with shading so you can always see, at a glance, which items are just text and which are fields:
For our example, let’s do headers for affirmative defenses that say “First Affirmative Defense”, “Second Affirmative Defense”, etc. Put your cursor where you want your first heading to go, then go to the Insert tab, click on Quick Parts, then click on Field:
On the Field dialog box, you want to select the Seq field:
We’re going to name this “affdef”, but really you could name it anything you like. Once we’ve done that, click on Options to define the field:
There are three settings we need to embed in this field. The first is to tell it what kind of numbering we want to do (in this case, “First, Second, Third”), what case we want to use (upper case, title case, etc.), and a switch to tell Microsoft Word to increment the numbers. Click each of these settings as shown below, being sure to click “Add to Field” after each one:
So what you have now is a Seq field that has an ordinal number in uppercase letters that increments.
And it looks something like this:
Don’t worry, that shading behind the word “first” won’t print. That’s just there to show you that it’s a field and not just text. Now we can type the remainder of the phrase and format it however we like (bold, centered, new font, etc.):
At this point, you can save this to your Quick Parts so you don’t have to go through that whole “inserting the field” sequence over and over again.
One caveat: you may notice occasionally that when you insert several of these in a row (easy to do when you click on Quick Parts and find where you’ve saved it), the automatic numbering doesn’t seem to work:
Not to worry. Click CTRL-A (to select all text), then click F9 to update all the fields.
Microsoft Word will update those fields anyway the next time you print or save the document, but you may want to force update the fields just to set your mind at ease.Don’t Do Litigation?
You can still use this trick with other types of headings and other numbering schemes. Just check out some of the other options under Formatting in the General Switches tab of the Field Options dialog box shown above. Use a little imagination, and you can put these kinds of Quick Parts to use when creating documents and templates.
Originally published 2013-07-11. Last updated 2015-10-23.
Auto Numbering Microsoft Word Documents: Beyond Paragraphs was originally published on Lawyerist.
Thanks to the myriad types of electronic communications and social media channels now at our disposal, the venues in which lawyers can theoretically advertise has exploded. Sometimes state rules of professional conduct have affirmatively kept pace with those changes, sometimes they rely on the language of the Model Rules, and sometimes they lag behind. On top of that, there are any number of variations on what types of disclaimers must be included and when.
Here’s where all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) are on the issue of advertising right now.StateTypes of advertising that require disclaimersRequired disclaimer language Alabama"Public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical, outdoor displays, radio, television.""No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers." Arizona"Written, recorded or electronic communication, including public media."None indicated Arkansas"Public media, such as a telephone directory, legal directory, newspaper or other periodical, outdoor advertising, radio or television, or through written or electronic communication."None indicated Alaska"Written, recorded, or electronic communication, including public media.""Advertisements may include photographs, voices or images of the lawyers who are members of the firm who will actually perform the services. If advertisements utilize actors or other individuals, those persons shall be clearly and conspicuously identified by name and relationship to the advertising lawyer or law firm and shall not mislead or create an unreasonable expectation about the results the lawyer may be able to obtain. Clients or former clients shall not be used in any manner whatsoever in advertisements. Dramatization in any advertisement is prohibited." CaliforniaCalifornia does not have a list of permissible advertising media. Instead, it defines "communication" as "any message or offer made by or on behalf of a member concerning the availability for professional employment of a member or a law firm directed to any former, present, or prospective client, including but not limited to the following [...]
Featured image: “Businessman Shouting Megaphone Field Concept” from Shutterstock.`
It makes sense to research potential jurors, and social media makes it easier than ever. But courts have only recently begun to issue guidance now that researching jurors and other courtroom players online is becoming an increasingly common practice.
Researching judges, too, has its advantages. Some jurisdictions, like California, allow you to strike a judge once per case without establishing bias. Although there are limitations and technicalities on these rules, they can give you a say in who decides cases — making it important to know your judge. But even if you cannot strike a judge for any reason, wouldn’t you want to know if the judge deciding your case despises loud yawns, sings the blues, or has a tendency to belt out show tunes while court is in session?States Where You Can Strike Your Judge StateRule Washington§4.12.050 Wisconsin§ 801.58, §971.20 WyomingWRCP 40.1(b) (PDF) South Dakota§15-12-21 ArkansasCode of Judicial Conduct IdahoIRCP 40(d)(1) Illinois§5/2-1001(a)(2) IndianaIndiana Trial Rule 76 MinnesotaMinn. R. Civ. P. 63.03 Montana Rule 32.07 NevadaNevada Supreme Court Rule 48.1(3) North Dakota§29-15-21 A Duty to Prepare
Not only does online research give you a competitive advantage in the courtroom, you may have an ethical obligation to do it.
One court has approved of using new technologies to research potential jurors. After the jury returned the verdict for the defendant in Johnson v. McCullough, the plaintiff’s lawyer searched a litigation database and found a non-responsive juror had been a defendant in multiple debt collection cases and a personal injury case. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial and the Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed, encouraging reasonable efforts to use the Internet to research the litigation history of selected jurors and present any relevant information prior to trial.Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell
Many courts have given the green light to research opposing counsel, judges, juries, and others using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and Xanga (apparently, the last two are still a thing). However, you are generally prohibited from sending any type of connection request to the social media user you are researching. This means you cannot ask to connect or take any other action that tells account holders you are researching them.
The American Bar Association issued a formal opinion strongly suggesting you should not request access to the social media accounts of jurors before or during a court proceeding. In Formal Opinion 466, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility stated that any communication to a juror that requests access to information not made public is considered a prohibited ex parte communication under Model Rule 3.5(b). Some courts have interpreted this to ban any contact that results in the notification of the social media account holder. However, courts have yet to reach a consensus on this issue
Bar associations in Oregon, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and New York have all followed suit, giving the go-ahead to access to the public social media pages of jurors, witnesses, and other parties in pending cases.
At a more local level, the US District Court for the District of Idaho issued guidelines on social media research into jurors. District Local Civil Rule 47.2 allows the use of the Internet to research jurors and prospective jurors within the confines of information which is accessible to the public and information is available and accessible to the public so long as it does not result in send an access request or other contact. If you didn’t think anonymity and discretion was an important aspect of your research, this rule painstakingly emphasizes this at least five different ways. The San Diego County Bar echoed a similar sentiment that a friend request — or any other request for access — is prohibited ex parte communication to adverse parties as well as jurors.
In Carino v. Muenzen, the New Jersey Appellate Division found that Internet research on jurors is even permissible during voir dire. When the use of Google to conduct research on potential jurors was brought to the attention of the trial judge, the court prohibited the research because no advance notice had been given and the judge wanted to create an “even playing field,” since the defendant’s counsel was not conducting the same research. On appeal, the Appellate Division criticized the trial court’s effort to create an “even playing field,” noting that Internet access was open to both counsel.
Not all courts agree that researching courtroom actors on the Internet is permissible or even beneficial. A judge in Montgomery County, Maryland, denied a request to allow research of potential jurors because it could have a chilling effect on jury service if they knew they were going to be Googled as soon as they walked into the courthouse.
Under Model Rule 4.2, you are prohibited from communicating with represented parties without consent of the other lawyer or by court order. Accordingly, requesting permission from a represented party to access his or her non-public information is in violation of the Model Rules. Comment 3 suggests that Rule 4.2 applies even if the communication is initiated by the represented party. Therefore, you are also prohibited from accepting a friend request from a represented party.
Furthermore, you should avoid using another person’s online identity — whether it be a friend, intern, secretary, or paralegal — to obtain information through social media. Model Rule 8.4(a) bars you from doing through another what you cannot do yourself. Under Rule 5.3, you are still responsible for the actions of anyone employed, retained by, or associated with you. If it is unethical for you to friend or follow a represented party, it is also unethical for you to encourage someone to do so on your behalf.What Does the Judge Say?
Judges have the final say in what is or is not permissible in their own courtrooms.
In 2014, the Federal Judicial Center surveyed district court judges on the use of social media in the courtroom. Of the 466 judges who responded, 120 said they prohibit researching prospective jurors on social media during jury selection. Only 23 judges said they directly allow it.
Among judges who do not permit attorneys to use social media during the jury selection process, the most common reasons were concerns about logistics and the privacy of jurors. These judges thought jury research would be too distracting or may result in the intimidation or harassment of jurors. A whopping third of responding judges thought using social media to research prospective jurors was unnecessary.
Even when judges do permit attorneys to use social media to research potential jurors, more than half said they require disclosure the court or opposing counsel.
As new and innovative uses of social media in the litigation context continue to emerge, so do new and unexpected ethical pitfalls. If you do not know the functionality of a social media platform, you should tread lightly in conducting research and keep in mind the possibility that even an accidental, automated notification can be considered a violation.
Featured image: “Modern business workplace with tablet, laptop and some papers with charts, graphs and numbers on a desktop.” from Shutterstock.
The Dos and Don’ts of Researching Judges and Juries Online was originally published on Lawyerist.
At the 2015 Clio Cloud Conference1, I’ve talked to or heard about a surprising number of lawyers who are creating software to leverage their legal knowledge for the benefit of clients who might not be able to afford it.
None of these lawyers are software developers themselves, as far as I know. What they are doing is hiring or partnering with developers in order to create solutions. You could call them legal tech startups, but they don’t really resemble the venture-backed Silicon Valley long-shots who come and go like clockwork. These are real lawyers’ attempts to solve real problems for themselves and their clients.
We normally think of legal work as solving clients’ legal problems in traditional ways: face-to-face meetings, creating documents, negotiating deals, litigating, etc. These lawyers are trying out new tools and different ways of solving clients’ legal problems (or their own law-practice problems), like developing software that can do it instead of pulling up another blank Word document. They may be trying to reach (and profit from) new clients, or expand the services they can offer to existing clients, or just make things easier on themselves.
In general I think it is too early to tell whether these particular experiments are going to catch on and have lasting success. But it’s not to early to acknowledge that lawyers have new tools available to them, and that we need to expand our concept of practicing law to include those tools.
Featured image: “Computer geek with keyboard and mouse, isolated on white background” from Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: Clio wanted me to come to its conference so badly they flew me to Chicago and gave me margaritas and tacos. A lot of margaritas. ↩
Representing low-income clients can present challenges for lawyers who are not used to it, but learning to meet those challenges is a good lesson in basic client service. While we’re on the subject, what is the access-to-justice gap everyone is talking about, and can you really build a profitable law practice serving people who fall into that gap?Is There Really an Opportunity to Find Paying Clients in the Access-to-Justice Gap?
In one of the essays from The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession, law professor Thomas Morgan says that in the 1960s, 55% of the NY bar primarily represented individual clients. By 1995, only 30% of the NY bar primarily represented individuals, with the rest focusing on business and government.
Growth, in other words, has been tied to business, not individual clients. So if business is where the money is, is it really possible to build a sustainable business representing clients who, by definition, can’t afford a lawyer?
Sam thinks so, but Aaron has questions.Tips for Representing Low-Income Clients, with Martha Delaney
It’s not that representing low-income clients is hard; it’s just that low-income clients magnify problems you may not realize you have when representing other clients. On today’s podcast, Martha Delaney explains common misconceptions many lawyers have about representing low-income clients, identifies barriers to representing clients, talks about good client service.
If you represent clients, you’ll get something from this podcast — whether or not they are low-income.
Thanks to Ruby Receptionists for sponsoring this episode!Listen and Subscribe
To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.
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 #39: Tips for Representing Low-Income Clients, with Martha Delaney was originally published on Lawyerist.
You hang your shingle, you put the word on the street that you’re open for business, and a client walks in the door and signs a retainer agreement. You’re in business! Then, the client hands you your first retainer check. Now what? You need establish a proper money management system, both for business and ethics reasons.
One of the biggest money management complaints solo lawyers have is the difficulties they face in getting paid. As you set up your practice, there are a few things you can do to help increase the odds of getting paid for the work you do.Collect Fees in Advance
Getting paid before you have done the work to earn the fee is a great idea, though it’s easier said than done for many lawyers. While it can be hard to ask for upfront payment at first, it does get easier as you get used to the business practice, and once you get burned by a non-paying client, you will find it easier to ask.
One way to collect in advance is to ask for an upfront deposit toward your hourly rate. You can estimate a reasonable number of hours to initially invest in a matter and ask the client to pay for those hours up front. When the first bill comes due, you already have those hours paid in advance and can apply the deposit to the invoice.
When the client pays you these advanced fees, you deposit the funds in your trust account. When you have earned the fees and you prepare an invoice for your client, you then withdraw the funds from trust and deposit them into your operating account, simultaneously sending an invoice to the client reflecting the payment from trust.
A variation on the idea of advanced fees is an advanced payment of the final invoice on a matter. This is like paying the last month’s rent when you move into an apartment. The client will pay you some sum that you estimate to be a reasonable deposit on your work. You deposit that amount into your trust account, and each month when an invoice is due you send the invoice to the client to be paid in full. Any payment received will go directly into your operating account because it is already earned. Then, when the client’s final invoice is prepared, you apply the funds held in trust to the amount outstanding, write yourself a check from the trust account and deposit it into your operating account. If the client still owes additional money, send them a bill, or if their deposit exceeds the final invoice, send them a refund.
Each of these practices is permissible under ethics rules; the only ethical question that remains is how to treat the funds once you receive them–and you cannot go wrong depositing them into trust.Establish a Billing Department with Procedures
Much as we would all like to be paid in advance at all times, in reality you are likely to have some outstanding receivables. In order to increase the chances you will be paid, and paid on time, set up a billing department with proper billing procedures. This is true even if the billing department is just you.
At the outset, it’s important to note that a billing department should have its own email address from which invoices should be sent. And, your billing department should prepare and send invoices on the same day every month, whether it’s the first business day of the month, the last day, or the 15th. Just pick a day and stick to it.
Your billing department should have a practice of sending out reminders on unpaid invoices and offering payment arrangements when appropriate. If you have a high volume practice, you will more likely need a specific template and rules for when payment arrangements are offered. In a smaller volume practice, you can more easily determine when to offer arrangements such as installments or discounts for full payments.
When you abdicate responsibility for invoicing to a billing department, you take some of the difficulty out of asking to be paid. You are no longer the person sending the invoice to your client and reminding them that the bill is past due. That responsibility now belongs to the billing department. That department can send a reminder to pay the bill on the same day that you have a perfectly pleasant conversation with your client on the substantive issues in their matter with no mention of the late bill.
To learn other important money management tips when starting a law firm, make sure you check out the full (and free) MyCase eBook, “Let’s Talk Money.”
Most legal marketing is targeted at people who are looking for a lawyer. Offline or online, we are trying to get people to call us after they have recognized they have a problem a lawyer can help them with, and start looking for one.
But the real problem, according to a 2014 ABA study (pdf) cited by Will Hornsby during his presentation at the 2015 Clio Cloud Conference1, is that many people don’t think that a lawyer can help them or that a lawyer wouldn’t make any difference.
Note that cost is not the primary deterrent. The primary reason people do not look for a lawyer is either ignorance or bad information. Those people make up a huge chunk of potential clients, too. If you can reach people who have a problem for which they don’t realize there is a legal solution, you could have a lot more clients. Voila!
So how do you do this? Hornsby has a lot of examples, from partnering with the kinds of organizations that do hear from people about the kinds of problems you can solve, to developing apps designed to solve those problems. Give away forms that help with the problem and inform someone about their legal options. Publish blog posts about the issue. Hold clinic or speak at organizations your potential clients tend to approach for help with the problem you can solve. Instead of buying search terms like bankrupcty lawyer, buy search terms like pay off my debt or debt collection harassment.2
The bottom line is to figure out what the clients you’d like to have are doing to solve their problems, and show up to let them know about the legal issue you can help with. Instead of waiting for people to figure out that you can help them, get out there and tell them you can help them.
Standard ethics disclaimer: there are ethical and unethical ways to inform potential clients about problems you help solve. Don’t do the unethical ones.
Featured image: “Business man misses the Target” from Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: Clio wanted me to come to its conference so badly it put me up in a swanky hotel and left popcorn and candy in my room. ↩
This is a pretty obvious one, and lots of lawyers are already doing it. ↩
Legalese is awful. To prove it, we forced three lawyers (Sam Glover, Lisa Needham, and Sam Harden) to combine their skills to write the worst piece of legal writing imaginable. Here’s what they came up with:Clarity in Legal Writing: Unattainable Goal or Necessary Component of Effective Advocacy?
The issue of clearness and conciseness in writing and preparing legal documents, e.g. court filings, pleadings, and motions and all other possible legal and ancillary documents is often a topic of discussion among judges and legal scholars. Many, if not most, judges and legal scholars would be in agreement that ease of reading, as well as clarity of sentence structure, and grammar, are some of the primary factors in gauging the effectiveness of legal argument. This “Note” will therefore assert that the authors’ position is that creating legal documents in which these factors are exhibited is of paramount importance in legal writing and, in most situations, is a necessary component of effective advocacy.
Many attorneys at law will assert that achieving clarity in legal writing is a Sisyphean endeavor. (See previous paragraph for further information.) The reasons for the lack of clarity and conciseness, etc., in legal writing, are three-fold. Firstly, legal writing involves often-complex subject matter, which takes many diverse and varied sources of information, i.e. statutes, ordinances, court rulings, and rules of procedure, and offers analysis and application of said statutes, ordinances, court rulings, and rules of procedure to a discrete legal or factual issue. Secondly, many attorneys believe, wrongly in many, if not most, cases, that a complexity of verbiage and syntax adds a potential element of gravitas to their pronouncements. Thirdly, and finally, many attorneys thus promote the use of many antiquated phrases, historical metaphors, and latin terms as “short-hand” methods of explaining legal concepts, however, ipso facto, these attorneys may obfuscate the terms about which they seek clarity, et sic porro.
The use of clear and concise verbiage, grammar, syntax, and phrasing as a necessary and critical component of effective advocacy should be the primary and foremost goal of any attorney. Many technological solutions, such as applications, “on-line” tools, websites, and the Internet, exist that provide for ease of writing and formatting. As mentioned supra, many appellate court judges have expressed a strong preference for clear and precise language in appellate briefs. Attainable as it might be, however, many attorneys continue to eschew these goals in favor of complex “legalese,” to borrow an apt, though not entirely accurate, phrase from the popular vernacular. However well-meaning, intelligent, or professional the use of complex language may appear to the legal writer, it may actually hinder the effectiveness of an otherwise well-formed and powerful legal argument.
We Tried to Create the Worst Legal Writing Possible was originally published on Lawyerist.
Campaign Tracker is a new feature that helps lawyers figure out where their clients are coming from. With Campaign Tracker, you can generate unique phone numbers (routed to your firm phone number) to use with ads, create contact forms and landing pages, and enter leads manually. It’s a simple solution to a common problem: figuring out where your clients came from.
There are other ways to do this — Gyi just did a step-by-step guide — but they aren’t built right into your practice management software.
Clio Payments is a quick-and-easy payment portal powered by LawPay that works with Clio’s invoicing system. This makes it easy to accept credit cards from clients for invoices. Clio Payments will do basic payments at launch, and trust account–compliant payments are coming soon.
Disclaimer: Clio wanted me at its conference so badly it bought me a coach-class ticket on a plane with a flat tire. ↩
Clio Introduces Campaign Tracker and Clio Payments was originally published on Lawyerist.
Clio is probably the most popular cloud-based practice management software. As good as Clio already is, it keeps getting better (which is why we keep updating this post). Each provider of practice-management software takes a slightly different approach. What distinguishes Clio is its focus on user experience and integrations.
The web and mobile apps are beautiful and a pleasure to use, while Clio’s long list of integrations means you can use it with a lot of the other software you may already be using in your law practice (like Dropbox, QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Google Apps, to name just a few).
In October 2015, Clio released two major new features: Campaign Tracker for keeping track of your marketing campaigns, and Clio Payments to make it easy to accept credit cards from clients. See the feature highlights for more details.
Here is what you need to know about Clio, from signing up to backing up your data.Index
While some law practice management software often needs to be set up and configured by an expensive IT consultant, it’s pretty simple to get up and running on Clio. Just visit the signup page and walk through the signup process. You will be up and running in no time — no consultant required.
If you already use practice management software, Clio will help you migrate your data from your old software. Of course, the quality of the migration depends as much on the source (your old software) as the destination (Clio). When you contact Clio’s account migration team (open a new support ticket after you sign up), they will give you a good idea of what sort of results you can expect.
No matter what you use, Clio will not migrate certain things. These include historical accounting and billing information or documents stored in your old software. However, you can migrate your accounts receivable, and Clio’s bulk document uploader should be able to help with getting your documents into the new system. If you have a lot of accounting data in an old system, it probably makes sense to migrate to Clio at the beginning of a new year to minimize the time you spend on setting up your books. (Clio can handle opening balances, of course.)
Clio has a migration FAQ if you have more questions.Using Clio
When you first log into Clio, you should be able to get your bearings pretty quickly. The Dashboard is a glanceable overview of your schedule and your firm’s performance (assuming you have full privileges).
Finding your way around Clio is pretty straightforward. To add your first matter, for example, just click on Matters, then New. The new-matter page is self-contained, meaning you do not have to leave to create new contacts or add practice areas. If the client is a new contact, you can create a basic contact record right there and fill in details later.
Everything else works similarly well. The calendar will be familiar to anyone who has used Google Calendar. Contacts can be associated with matters and companies, and timekeeping is aggregated under Activities.Feature Highlights
Clio has the features you would expect: contacts, matters, calendar, task manager, timekeeping, billing, and a secure client portal. You probably need to give Clio a try to see exaclty how all those features work, but in general, they work really well. Here are some highlights.
Tasks in Clio have gotten pretty sophisticated since July 2014, when Clio released a tasks-focused upgrade. You can create task templates, which makes it easy to assign a briefing schedule, for example, with a click of a button. You can also create tasks with due dates that depend on other tasks. For example, you could create a brief-filing deadline due 28 business days before your motion hearing (if you create a task for the hearing date). Annoyingly, Clio still does not support recurring tasks, so there is no way to set a regular file review tickler as recommended by every ethics board and malpractice insurance provider.
Clio has basic billing and accounting (including trust accounting). There are three supported billing structures: hourly, flat fee, and contingent-fee, where you can select the percentage. The accounting features are definitely basic. Many will want to use Clio alongside more sophisticated billing and accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks. In September 2014, Clio introduced a one-page quick bill, which lets you put together a complete bill including time and expenses from a single page.
Basic document assembly in Clio is really easy to use, which is a pretty big advantage over most document assembly software. You can create your own templates using merge fields from Clio matters and contacts. There are much more advanced document assembly packages out there, but Clio will meet most lawyers’ document assembly needs.
There is only one big thing Clio leaves out, and that is email. Although with the release of its Gmail extension for Chrome (see below), this is less of an omission — at least for lawyers who use Gmail and Chrome. Instead, Clio offers a client portal, Clio Connect, for securely communicating and sharing documents (including bills) with clients. Clio is definitely not as communication-oriented as, say, MyCase, but Clio Connect gets the job done.
If checking your email from within your practice management software is important to you, Clio probably will not work for you. However, if what you want is to be able to get your client-related emails into Clio easily, that is pretty easy to do, either with the Gmail extension or with the Email Maildrop feature. If you create an email contact for each matter using the Maildrop address, you can easily to forward communications directly to Clio.
In October 2015, Clio introduced Campaign Tracker, a new feature to help lawyers track the source of potential-client referrals. With Campaign Tracker, you can generate unique phone numbers (routed to your firm phone number) to use with ads, create contact forms, and enter leads manually. It’s a simple solution to a common problem: figuring out where your clients came from.
At the same time, Clio announced Clio Payments, a quick-and-easy payment portal that works with Clio’s invoicing system. This makes it easy to accept credit cards from clients for invoices, and trust account–compliant payments should be available soon.Mobile Apps
If Clio was a bit slow to release apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android than its competitors, the beautiful, easy-to-use apps were probably worth the wait. You can do most of the things in Clio’s apps that you can do in the full web app — and of course you can always log into Clio web app from the browser on your phone or tablet if you want the full experience.Integrations
One of Clio’s distinctive features is its extensive list of integrations. And since one of those integrations is Zapier, which integrates with hundreds of third-party APIs, there’s not much you can’t figure out. You can create a new contact record in Clio every time someone fills out the contact form on your website, or send notes from Evernote to Clio … if you can connect an app or service in Zapier, you can trigger events to and from Clio.
The many integrations do various things. If you integrate Clio with Chrometa, your automatically-generated time entries will be synced from Chrometa to Clio. If you link Clio to Box or Dropbox, your files stored in the cloud will be available in Clio.
Clio also has a Gmail extension for Chrome that lets you save emails to Clio with attachments, add tasks, and bill time. Clio plays well with Google Apps in general, syncing calendars, contacts, and files from Drive.
Clio frequently adds new integrations. Some highlights from those added in October 2015 include Microsoft Office 365 Business (sync contacts, calendars, and documents), Docket Alarm, and Ruby Receptionists.Security
Clio uses SSL to secure your session whenever you are logged into Clio.1 This is comparable to the level of security your bank uses. Additionally, you can secure your account with two-factor authentication and require all users to use strong passwords.
Clients (and anyone else you add to Clio Connect) get that same level of security when logging into Clio Connect to access documents or communications.Backing Up Your Clio Data
In case you are nervous about trusting Clio to keep your account backed up (this is an appropriate level of paranoia, FYI), Clio makes it relatively easy to back up your data to Amazon S3 with its Data Escrow feature. This sounds way more complicated than it is, and Clio’s step-by-step instructions will get you set up with Data Escrow pretty quickly and easily.
If you sign up for Clio, you should absolutely set up Data Escrow. Whether or not you trust Clio in general, you can never be too redundant when it comes to backup.
It is not backup, but Clio’s Recovery Bin functions as a short-term “undo” option in case you accidentally delete something and want it back.Evaluating Clio for Your Practice
When reading reviews of Clio — or any software — the most important thing is to try to get a feel for whether you and the reviewer are looking for the same sorts of things in practice management software. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all practice management software. What works for one reviewer might not work for you and your firm.
Here is a good example. Lawyerist reader and Lab member Avi Frisch got pretty specific in his criticisms of Clio in a report he wrote for LegalTypist in February 2014.2 In his report, he described Clio as “a simple product that is more of a basic project management database with some legal specific nomenclature.” To Frisch, that is a bad thing. But project management software with legal features is exactly what many want for managing their practice. In other words, consider criticisms carefully. Do they indicate a problem for anyone considering Clio, or are they just an indication that Clio is probably wrong for that person, but it may be right for you?
Here is a non-comprehensive list of other Clio reviews, together with the date of the review. (Assume anything more than a few months old may not accurately represent Clio as it is today.)
Clio has a 3-tier pricing structure.
(Existing customers can keep their current plans.)
The Starter plan is going to be good enough for most solos, and the Boutique and Elite plans add features like accounting software and Zapier integration (Boutique) and priority support and originating-attorney revenue tracking (Elite). Some of those features are also available for the Starter plan with an add-on fee ($10/user/month each for accounting integrations, custom fields, UTBMS codes, and Zapier integration).
The Starter plan keeps Clio competitive with MyCase ($39/user/month and $29/user/month for staff), although with fewer features unless you upgrade to the more expensive tiers.
If the Starter plan meets your needs, Clio’s pricing means cost should not play much of a factor in your decision on practice management software. But if you need the Boutique plan, you might still need to consider whether an extra $240/user/year over MyCase is worthwhile.
The important part is that you can try Clio for free to find out for yourself whether you think it is worth the price.
You can also follow our latest posts about Clio.
Originally published 2014-04-28. Last updated 2015-10-19.
Sidenote: Frisch’s observation that “Clio had stopped improving” definitely isn’t fair. As you can see from its product updates log, Clio is pumping out updates pretty frequently. The updates just aren’t the things Frisch wants to see from Clio. ↩
That, apparently, is a Palestinian lawyer kicking a teargas canister back towards Israeli soldiers during a protest, looking pretty badass in his formal law gear. [/r/Lawyers]
One of the best law-practice posts of the month is Keith Lee’s post about people offering legal services for $5 on Fiverr. Only most of them don’t seem to be lawyers. Which is obviously unauthorized practice of law. But Josh King isn’t so sure. [Associate’s Mind & Socially Awkward Law]
If you’re still willing to plug random USB drives into your computer, here’s another reason why you shouldn’t. [The Verge]“[L]awyers who want to put on a show for the client to justify their rates are drawn to words like herewith, pursuant to, in emulationem vicini (which is just envy or spite in English), whereas and aforementioned.”
Should we just give up and consider legalese a separate language? (I vote yes, and then ban it.) [Comstock’s]
… and yet Windows wants you to believe that a 4-digit PIN is somehow safer.
Briefs: $5 Legal Consultations, Legalese, and a Badass Palestinian Lawyer was originally published on Lawyerist.
Not all clients are created equal, and the same concept is true for cases.
Without a doubt, the one thing that has drastically changed in my practice is how I evaluate potential cases. Whether you are starting a new firm, or you are a veteran attorney trying to enhance your bottom line, start with your procedures for case evaluation.Step 1: The Eyeball Test
The eyeball test means two things: Is this a good client (regardless of the potential merits), and is it clear of a procedural issue or emergency?
When evaluating clients, I have a list of red flags that generally mean I will not take the case. Like most lawyers, I have talked to potential clients and declined to represent them without hearing much about their potential case. If there is something about a client that does not fit my standard profile at the intake stage, it will become a bigger problem as the case develops.
For procedural status, “I have a hearing tomorrow that I need help with” is almost a guaranteed non-starter. Despite clear and repeated efforts to create realistic expectations for these clients, it generally fails. Even when the expectations are laid out in writing, when things go south, the lawyer gets the blame.
The only time I will handle these types of situations is when I get paid upfront, and when there is a clear understanding in the retainer of what I can and cannot do, given the procedural stance. That usually amounts to a conversation along the lines of “I will do everything I can to help you, but I do not have magical powers, and you are in a very bad position because it is now the 11th hour.”
Both of these eyeball tests sound simple and easy. But for young attorneys, it is easy to see the pot of gold and ignore who is holding it.Step 2: Prove You Can Handle a Case Outside Your Practice Area
You can take cases outside of your niche. That said, when you are approached about such cases, you need to prove to yourself that you are competent to handle the matter. Taking the opposite (or careless) approach of “I don’t do personal injury, but this sure looks like a standard dog bite case” is a recipe for disaster. If you do not handle personal injury cases, you probably do not have the necessary expertise and insight to make that determination. For example, you may be unfamiliar with the common defenses, recent case law, and how the local judiciary (and opposing counsel) handle these types of cases.
The good news is that if you have a good network of attorneys, you should be able to quickly decide if it is a case worth pursuing. A ten-minute phone call to the right person should help you learn everything you need to know in order to make a thumbs up or thumbs down decision on the case. Once you have that information, decide if it is something that you can (and want) to handle. For example, maybe your law school buddy turned personal injury expert tells you that your case is a rock solid claim that’s worth $50,000. He also told you that the insurance company will tie you up in discovery for a year, and you will need to fly all over the country taking depositions before they will seriously talk settlement.
If you mostly handle estate planning and transactional matters, maybe this isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you are a litigator that mostly does motion practice over legal issues. Maybe you hate flying. The point is you want to make sure that pursuing the case is something you canhandle. Simply taking on the case because it looks like a good case is unlikely to work out well in the end.Step 3: Make Sure The Case Fits Into Your Current Caseload
Young lawyers interested in going solo always ask me, “What do you do when you have too much work?” My standard response is, “I never have enough work, and I never turn down a good case.” That is 100% accurate, but the definition of a “good case” depends on the week and my current caseload. If my active cases are dormant (waiting on discovery, etc.) and I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs, then a good case could be anything. Frankly, I am usually actively looking for quick turnaround cases at that point. I know I have time, but I will not when things heat up again.
If all of my active cases are hyperactive, the definition changes. It is the exact opposite of when I’m slow; I am looking for cases that I can investigate and work on as my other cases resolve. In other words, anything that needs a quick turnaround is something that I will turn down.
In other words, you have to look at the big picture when taking cases (depending on your practice area of course). If you constantly take clients with legal emergencies and just hop from client to client, you will never have time to take on potentially larger cases that require a more thorough and drawn out investigation and preparation.Step 4: Trust Your Gut
If you are on the fence about taking a case, go with your gut.
Your gut will tell when you should turn down what appears to be a great case, but there is something not right (but you can’t put your finger on it). I have turned down those cases. And those cases end up in someone else’s office, eventually going south.
Your gut will also tell you when you should take a case where the legal elements do not line up nice and clean, but the facts or client will sway any jury. Good facts are usually a recipe for success.
Originally published 2014-10-02. Last updated 2015-10-16.
“To err is human.” That is true whether you are a judge, a juror, a witness, a client, or a lawyer. The human mind can engage in any number of fallacies and systematic errors, many of which can be critical to the outcomes of your clients’ matters. To improve the outcomes of your clients’ cases, it is worth building an understanding of some of the common systematic errors the human brain encounters and developing strategies for dealing with them.Common Errors in Thinking
A cognitive bias is a systematic error in judgment that anyone can make. The classic works that gave these ideas attention are by Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on cognitive bias, and Amos Tversky. There are too many cognitive biases and irrational modes of thinking to cover here, but the following are a few you should know about:Anchoring
Anchoring describes the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information, otherwise known as the anchor information. For clients, anchoring can affect damage awards and settlement negotiations. Opening offers in settlement negotiations may anchor the evaluation of subsequent offers, which can influence the offer finally accepted.
In one study, people evaluating hypothetical settlement offers were more likely to accept a $12,000 offer when it followed a $2,000 initial offer than when it followed a $10,000 initial offer. Research also suggests that plaintiffs’ damage requests influence juries’ assessments of appropriate awards.The Halo Effect
This is a cognitive bias where the overall impression of a person influences how one thinks about that person’s character. For example, if you perceive someone as beautiful, the halo effect may lead you to believe they have other positive character traits like kindness or intelligence. Lawyers try to use the halo effect to make their clients or themselves more likeable to judges and juries. “Halos are given or denied quickly, and the decision, either way, is difficult to change. So it’s best to do everything possible to present the client as likeable and sympathetic, as early as possible,” says Bob Knaier, a litigator who frequently writes and speaks about cognitive biases. In fact, he says, the science backs up the common adage that having a likeable client may be the most important part of a case.Faulty Memory Formation
Our memories are often inaccurate. Even when people describe purported memories in great detail or with dramatic emotion, the memories can be false. (For a terrific summary of some of this research, see Elizabeth Loftus’s TED Talk or any of her papers, many of which relate to the law.) Faulty witness identifications, often caused by faulty memories, is the greatest contributing factor to the conviction of innocent people, accounting for over 70% of wrongful convictions. Faulty memories can influence clients, too. The client who approaches you with a detailed memory of a crime or tort must be carefully questioned so that you, the potential attorney, understand the full story.How to Guard Against the Irrational Human Mind
Cognitive biases frequently influence judicial proceedings and settlement negotiations. The bad news is that there is not much we can do to prevent them entirely. The very nature of our brains is that they are subject irrational reasoning. So what can you do when an opponent is exploiting a decision-maker’s or your client’s cognitive biases?Study Common Flaws in Human Reasoning
Your first line of defense is to educate yourself about cognitive biases and other fallacies of the human brain. If you become aware of some of the common biases, you will notice when rational thought is being manipulated. Here are some suggested resources:
Ethical and evidentiary rules may help you combat the exploitation of cognitive bias.
Every attorney has a duty not to mislead the judge or jury with any false statements. In California, the rule states, “It is the duty of an attorney . . . to employ, for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to him or her those means only as are consistent with the truth, and never to mislead the judge or any judicial officer by an artifice or false statement of fact or law.” Knowing the ethical limitations in your jurisdiction can help you counter aggressive manipulation of biases.
Lawyers also are obligated not to falsify evidence or counsel a witness to testify falsely. Research by Elizabeth Loftus and others demonstrates that it is alarmingly easy to implant false memories. When working with clients or witnesses, lawyers should be aware of the prohibition against assisting, whether deliberately or not, a witness to testify falsely.What To Do If the Conduct is Permissible
If your opponent’s conduct is ethical, an important response is to point out the logical flaws likely to arise. You may call an expert witness to explain the bias if it is particularly important. You may even want to explicitly discuss the particular bias at play. Explaining the concepts of anchoring or faulty memory to the client, judge, or jury might might allow them to consciously begin looking for–and overriding–their own illogical conclusions.
You may also be able to anticipate harmful cognitive biases so that you can lay groundwork to mitigate them. For example, if you anticipate a lowball settlement offer, you could try to prepare some defenses in advance. Knaier suggests trying to pre-anchor the client at a higher number so that the client will see the lowball offer for what it is. You could try explaining to the the client in advance that a lowball offer should be viewed as an insult. This, in turn, may enable your client to immediately view the source of the offer as untrustworthy and not to be taken seriously. Even with this preparation, Knaier suggests immediately reinforcing your pre-anchor and the insulting nature of the offer.
One common area of concern for defense counsel is that a plaintiff or prosecutor will anchor a jury to a high damage number or a long sentence. Knaier, who has represented both defendants and plaintiffs, observes that one strategy is to try to drop your anchor first. “Even seemingly random anchors work just as well as obvious ones.” Knaier said. “We don’t have to explicitly discuss how low the damages should be in this case. It’s likely sufficient to get a decision maker thinking about low numbers in general.”
You cannot prevent the fallible human mind from influencing the outcomes of your matters. But you can make sure you take steps to protect your clients from irrational outcomes.
Featured image: “ Man thinking concept with question marks close up ” from Shutterstock.
Protect Clients from Irrational Judges, Juries, and Themselves was originally published on Lawyerist.
There are only so many billable hours in a day….or are there?
An inconvenient truth of the legal practice is that the mishandling of workloads can often take away from business – task by task, hour by hour, and so attorneys will spend a frustrating amount of hours in a day doing tasks. Why is this?
From the administrative, to the mundane and extremely often repetitive, onerous daily tasks consume a lawyer’s potentially cashable hours. It’s a case of grunt work versus legal work, and the traditional firm has to wake up and dive into the potential of an automated law firm.
Legal technology in the form of integrations can coordinate and automate the laborious tasks involved in workflow and create more billable hours. Can you actually have a law firm that works for you?
In our next 1 hour webinar we’re walking you through the latest integrations essential to optimising every billable hour of the day, and the ease of setting it up.
Core elements and tips include:
Time: 11AM PT | 2PM ET
Date: Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Joshua Lenon, Lawyer in Residence, Clio
Debbie Mignola, Founder of Intake123
FREE WEBINAR: Law Firm Automation. How to Create a Billable 24 Hour Day. (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.