Law is not just a calling – it’s a business

Whitepapers to help you succeed thought your law practice.

One of the key things law school doesn’t teach is  that the success of your business relies on pleasing clients. But, before you can please clients, you have to obtain them. Read these materials to learn to find and retain satisfied clients, open a firm, manage a firm, manage your documents and protect your firm.

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Clients

Cybersecurity

Documents

Firm Management

Open a Firm

Protect a Firm

Clients

Getting Clients

You know the law and you know you can deliver value for clients. You just have to find them. These resources will help you attract clients, build solid referral networks, and put your best foot forward in marketing your firm.

Keeping Clients

Clients are fickle. You need to keep them happy because happy clients stick around and can become powerful referral sources in their own right. This section includes tips and guides to keep clients content.

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Checklists

Quick guides to know if you’ve dotted every i and crossed every t!

Comparison Charts

Making a technology purchase – know how competitors compare on important features.

Cybersecurity

The majority of small businesses do not recover from a disaster, be it physical like a fire or flood, or electronic like a data breach or ransomware attack. You must know how to protect your documents and client information, and how to securely access it if you can’t reach your physical office.

Cybersecurity and disaster-preparedness don’t just mean document-related concerns. They also entail things such as secure backups of all client and business information, contact information for key individuals and telephone trees for notifying employees, and even access to blank checks somewhere other than the office. Disaster preparedness is important for everyone.

Documents

For the overwhelming majority of attorneys, the end-product of their work is a document. This seems obvious if you’re in estate planning, but is also true in new entity formation, litigation settlements, and many more matters. Furthermore, attorneys and legal professionals no longer create documents in a vacuum. Plenty of products, including plain-old Microsoft Word, allow people to collaborate on documents in real-time. Additionally, if you’re sharing the document with co-counsel or opposing counsel, you may want to control what edits other people can make. In this section, learn how to effectively and securely draft, edit, share, and collaborate on electronic documents.

Document Assembly

Efficient document creation (producing them fast and correct) means that you can do more client work in less time.

Document-intensive practices often rely on a series of drafters and reviewers. The attorney meets with the client and takes notes that are passed off to a paralegal or legal assistant, who produces a first draft of the instrument. That instrument is then reviewed by the attorney, who may make edits, and the process begins anew.

Document assembly tools offer legal professionals a way to begin with any word processing document, including ones containing your particular attorney-approved language, and turn that starter document into an interactive, logic-driven template. Answer a few questions, click a button, and get a perfect document every time.

Using automated templates, a legal organization can product more accurate documents more quickly, with fewer resources. Your clients will benefit and so will your bottom line.

Document Management

Legal organizations receive, generate, and retain tons of documents. Your management of those documents cannot be the “needle in a haystack” approach. You must consider naming conventions and file organization so that you can efficiently and effectively find and share documents. Do you have a process in place to manage your documents?

While paper is inarguably an excellent working medium, it’s fragile, hard to move, and expensive to catalog and store. Becoming less paper-dependent helps legal organizations build businesses that put information at everyone’s fingertips without compromising client security and confidentiality. Look here to learn about creating and managing electronic documents, and building a robust knowledge management system at your organization.

Firm Management

Even the smallest non-solo legal organization can have management-related issues. It’s another area that law school didn’t prepare you for. But you can learn. Start here.

Leadership

The best-run legal organizations embody a positive, growth-oriented culture. Leadership entails fostering your organization’s most valuable asset’s your people. A good leader need not be born. A good leader can be created. Grow yourself into a leader to benefit yourself, your team, and your entire organization.

Process Mapping

Assuming you’re not straight out of law school, you don’t start any engagement de novo. You have a general framework in mind for creating an estate plan, incorporating a new business, or other matters. What would the ideal “flow of a matter” look like? Who in the organization does what and when? This is what process mapping exists for. It’s not solely the province of large organizations or ultra-sophisticated practices.

Every activity has a process, whether you’re aware of it or not. Just like a cooking recipe, you follow steps in a matter from client retainment to closing letter. Documenting these processes improves client service, makes on-boarding new hires easier, and ultimately redounds positively to your organization’s bottom line.

Money

Billing by the hour means that your supply of “product” is limited by the clock and calendar. Review the resources below to build a profitable practice.

Time, Billing, & Accounting

The end result of quality legal representation is collecting a fee from your client. If clients don’t pay you, the business won’t survive. All attorneys should understand the value of time tracking (even if you bill only flat fees or work on contingency), billing, and accounting for legal organizations.

The majority of private-practice attorneys bill by the hour or 1/10ths of an hour. Even legal organizations that work on contingency or flat fees should track time to know whether their days go. Understanding time entry, billing, and accounting are necessary evils in the legal profession. No one taught you these concepts in law school, but you should learn them. They will benefit the efficient and profitable functioning of your practice.

Trust Accounting

Trust accounting is a major potential pitfall for legal organizations. Treat it right and follow your ethical and legal obligations. Trust is a major component of trust accounting. Do the right thing, treat your clients’ money properly, and stay out of trouble.

Productivity & Reporting

The biggest advantage of timely and accurately recording your activities, beyond easy invoicing and prompt payment, is that you amass a wealth of information that you can analyze to see how well your organization is functioning as a profit-making entity. Can your accounting program produce useful reports to make the right business decisions?

Analyzing the data that your practice management and accounting programs produce is the best method of determining if your organization and team are both productive and profitable. Can the software you use produce the reports you need.

Practice Management

Every attorney should have practice or case management software. This tool is designed for legal users to organize information about clients and cases. Practice management software allows organizations to design case/matter workflows to track matter status and encourages intra-business collaboration.

Practice management software, also called case or matter management, is your organization’s central repository for client and matter information. Good case management programs also integrate with other best-of-breed programs like document management and electronic payments programs. Which program is right for you?

Technology (General)

Operating without technology in today’s legal market is inconceivable. You don’t want to be stuck in an office and your clients don’t want to communicate solely by mail, phone, and fax. A solid business plan, including budgets and work processes, requires one to think about technology. Review this section to learn the fundamentals you should consider and to figure out your organization’s needs.

In the last ten years, many legal software tools have moved from servers in closets to cloud providers hosting websites in data centers. Do you need servers, or will a cloud program meet your needs? How does your choice there affect your ability to access business information remotely? This section answers those questions.

Your hardware and networking infrastructure are the core tools of functional technology. Build a solid foundation. How much data should you store locally? Is cloud the way to go? Start addressing those questions here.

Open a Firm

Launching a new firm or “hanging out a shingle” is not just for newly minted attorneys. Maybe you’ve practiced in a firm for a while and have decided to go out on your own. There’s certainly a lot to know. Where do you start? The materials in this section start you down the right path and make sure vital considerations aren’t overlooked. And, if you’re on the other end of your career, ready to close or sell a practice, these materials will help you there too.

Protect a Firm

Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys and legal support staff have obligations to protect client data. The information in this section helps you meet those ethical requirements.

Cybersecurity and disaster-preparedness don’t just mean document-related concerns. They also entail things such as secure backups of all client and business information, contact information for key individuals and telephone trees for notifying employees, and even access to blank checks somewhere other than the office. Disaster preparedness is important for everyone.