Wish I was at ILTA14

What’s ILTA14 you ask?

ILTA stands for the International Legal Technology Association and their HUGE annual conference being held in Nashville this week. With over 400 speakers, ILTA14 is all about education and with a combined 3500 or so in attendence – it gives off a very LTNY-like vibe.

Since this week also happens to be a vacation week for the Cannavina clan, my reports on the conference will be mostly to posts and reviews by my trusted sources – people like Mark I Unger and Monica Sandler - Jeffrey Brandt and Ben Schorr.

Before I left the office, I was able to put together a list of some of the #legalchat folks who are at #ITLA14 and it already makes for an intelligent on-going flow of insights, links and commentary:



[NOTE:  If you are a #legalchat peep at #ILTA14 and you do not see yourself on the list - please DM @LegalTypist or email me your twitter ID]

I’d like to give a quick HT to @MLSandler for her offer to have me Skype into her tablet for a little live face to face time a la Max Headroom.  Sadly, installing Skype on the laptop proved to cause it to have issues which uninstalling/reinstalling and even doing a System Restore before resintall could not resolve.

Like I always say, tech is great … when it works.

Could It Be Your Greeting?

Update [8-5-14]: One day after my post, Carolyn Elefant <- who I have known for years and with whom I collaborated with on The 21st Century Retainer Agreement, published her thoughts on live phone answering and included 3 services for attorneys to check out.*  You can see Carolyn’s article on Above the Law here.

Now back to our original post …. (hee):

I hear and read a lot about how live phone answering helps gain potential clients.  Seems that some believe if they pay for live phone answering, they will get less hang ups.

If you have not recently investigated the cost of live phone answering, it’s quite a hefty expense.  Is it worth it?

That can only be determined on a business by business basis, however, I’d like to point out that the problem with potential clients hanging up when not connecting to a live human being could be less about it being a tech/process, than it may be about the actual greeting they hear.

In this day and age, most people are accustomed to voicemail in business. If they are genuinely interested in seeing if you are the lawyer for them vs. window shopping or just twitchy with a long google list of local lawyers who may help – you probably don’t want them as a client anyway!

That said, you still want to convey the most professional of images, and if the message new callers hear is you, yourself doing the speaking – changing the voice to someone other may help.

People just imagine attorneys in an office with secretaries – like MadMen. Help them with this idea of bustling activity by using a  female voice if you are a male; or Murphy Brown ‘em and make it a male voice if you’re a female attorney.  The whole point is, make it another person’s voice in the greeting to help your callers imagine a firm and not just a harried attorney.

Bringing me to – I’ve heard some pretty distracted/bored/hurried recorded greetings by attorneys in my time - so if you just HAVE to be the one doing the recording, try scripting something nice and recording it properly (as in, not from your cell phone while you’re running into a building for a meeting).

If you’d like to listen to a scripted and professionally produced greeting that has served me well for years (I get compliments all the time) AND it only cost me an additional one-time fee of $25 – dial 1-866-848-2195 and have a listen. You can also dial x101 if ya’d like to say ‘hello’ :)

As for accessibility – I don’t know when attorneys started to feel they needed to be accessible  24/7.  I know criminal attorneys have always felt that way and used to wear/carry beepers for that reason; however, most clients do not need to have 24/7 access to their attorney; and a beeper still provided 1 layer of tech against instant access.

I honestly believe that no one should be THAT accessible.  I advise attorneys to give their direct cell phone number to family and friends ONLY.  Everyone else should get the office number – either a VoIP or a unified messaging service number – and that number should forward callers to your actual cell phone.**

By only giving clients and potential clients the VoIP/UM number – you never have to worry about  getting a call or text at 3am from a distraught person who may or may not have retained you – but who definitely should have stopped drinking hours ago!

The lines of home and office get so blurry that you really need to have to set times when you are not available for work/clients, or you will go insane because you’ll be working ALL the time.  You can’t be on ALL the time and not burn out. You also can’t be the only one doing it all… but that’s a topic for another post.

By putting in place the tech to process calls vs. letting them connect directly to your cell, you will get one step closer to being more balanced as you will always have the option to take the call or not.  It’s all in the set up and how many options you have to get at your information, not how accessible you are.

For more information on the topic of balance, here’s the latest BYOB Podcast with LA attorney David Ogwyn – who shares 5 tips to find balance in your practice and so much more:

David OgwynBalancing Your Practice with David Ogwyn

 *Sign up for the newsletter as in the next issue I’ll be giving my thoughts on why 2 of the companies mentioned in the Above the Law article are not even worth the time to test
**The tech I use for incoming call (and fax) management is Onebox

Dictate!?! But I Can Type


I am often asked by those who consider themselves fast typists why they would bother to learn to dictate and/or delegate.

First off, not all typing is straight typing or drafting of lengthy legal documents. A great deal of typing work is data entry and manipulation of data from within specialized software.  Data entry work tends to be pretty boring and yet requires exacting attention to detail.

When I get that question, I almost always respond with:  “You may not mind typing; but do you  want to be the one who HAS to do it – all the time?”

Which generally gets a chuckle or a “I never thought of it THAT way.”

Delegation via voice is what turns dictation from just creating properly formatted documents without spending hours behind your keyboard into true collaboration between attorney and assistant.

If you can tell your assistant what to do, and s/he knows how and can do it, then:  (a) you don’t have to; (b) you can choose when you do that task vs. delegating and maximizing your time; or (c) simply when you don’t want to do something you can very quickly shift it from your task list to theirs.

Attorneys have been using delegation via voice for decades. Let me know if you’re an attorney and you’d like to give it a try. Mention this post, and receive a special discount too!

Why Organizing Time Capture Matters

 

clock

Whether you bill by the hour or as flat fees, as a service professional, tracking your time is one of the most important pieces of the billing pie.  This is because irrespective of what you ultimately collect for your efforts, without tracking your time, you will never be able to calculate if you are charging enough or if you are profitable.

Tracking time and getting paid for it is part of the day to day workflow of any business, and having the right process, tech and people in place to capture, record, track, invoice and, most importantly, collect on your receivables is extremely important to the health of your business.

In an upcoming post, I will go over some of the techs I recommend to organize the time capture process, but before doing so I need to stress – just adding new tech to the mix will NOT solve your time and billing issues.

You will need to DO something different; and you will need to make the new process a habit.  This means, sometimes you will have to FORCE yourself to work the new way.  However, once you see how much time you’ve “lost”, and your receivables take a big jump because you are accurately tracking your time, that’s when positive reinforcement and the rewards of working the new way kick in and tracking time is no longer a chore but something you are happy to add to your daily to do.  Until you get there, you may need to kick your own ass a bit is all I’m saying!

Not only do you get increased and steady cash flow as a reward to organizing the time capture process, you also gain a better administrative view of your business, as you also capture all the general office/non-billable time in your day so you can begin to see what tasks may best be performed by someone other than you (aka delegate).

So, the rewards of organizing the time capture process are: increased and steady cash flow; a better sense of control over your time; and a better administrative view of your practice.

My next post on organizing the time capture process will give practical considerations and ways to capture your time – from a good old paper time sheet (<-downloadable as a pdf) – to apps and digital doodads for those more electronically inclined.

If you have not already done so, subscribe to the blog using RSS or input your email address above to get the next post delivered directly to your inbox!

 

Top 3 Tweets | 3rd Week of May 2014

Top 3 Tweets

  1. Wow is right! RT @satstokes FL bar alleges that lawyers set up DWI arrest of another lawyer http://ow.ly/wMIIT
  2. 7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome http://ow.ly/wMRGO
  3. Did not know -> Google acquired gmail.com from Garfield, the cartoon cat. See 25 Years of Internet infographic: http://ow.ly/x0AOs

Virtual Assistants 101

Ever increasing numbers of attorneys hanging out their own shingle are in dire need of administrative assistance, but do not have the space, equipment or even workload to warrant hiring an employee.

This means many are forced to spend hours each day on the administrative duties required to keep their practice in business, taking away from more productive activities of networking and client development and even personal time.

While some may enjoy having total control, there is only so much time in any day and working 16-18 hour days every day takes it’s toll.

Fortunately, a better solution is available in a little known industry which is taking the business world by storm: virtual assistants.

What is a VA?

Virtual Assistants or VAs are business owners who provide administrative and other services virtually — through the use of electronic communications (the internet, telephone, e-mail, fax and instant messaging), couriers and even US mail.

Professional VAs accomplish assigned tasks from their own well equipped office, have years of experience in their chosen field, and are considered contract vendors and not employees thereby eliminating the expense, hidden costs and headaches inherent in the employer/employee relationship. And, since they are virtual, you don’t even need to supply space, let alone equipment, software licenses or training to work with a VA.

While you can locate a VA for almost any service imaginable, common administrative duties performed by VAs include word processing, desktop publishing, contact and calendar management, accounting/billing, reception and travel arrangements and web based account work.

Where Can I Find a VA?

I get asked this question all the time and there is no one size fits all answer (outside of my own business, of course!).  Since every VA is an independent business owner, the services offered, methods for transfer of work and costs vary. Rates range from as little as $25 to $100+ per hour or more based on the services provided and experience of the VA.

A good place to start is to google “virtual assistant” and your location/zip code to see if any local candidates are available for interview.  If you are not going to go with an established nationwide service, then I strongly urge you to find a local assistant. This is because someone who is local to you, hopefully with “legal” experience, will be able to provide a much more tailored service than a foreign national.  A review of a VA’s website should give you a good indication of services available and should provide a little information about the VA too.

Whether working with a single VA or an established network, always look for certifications, experience within your industry, type of work and/or software/technology used.You should also get referrals/testimonials of existing clients, where possible.

In many instances a VA becomes a strategic partner of their client’s business, offering suggestions for improvement of processes, methodologies for workflow, options for increasing revenue, as well as by providing access to their own network of contacts within the growing VA industry itself!

The Devil is in the Details:

Before deciding on a VA, you need to determine what you want them to do. Start with a list of duties you do not like doing, you are not properly trained to do, or projects you never seem to be able to get to. This will give you a framework to decide what you wish to keep on your to do list and what you wish to outsource to your VA.

Once you have found a VA to work with, it is imperative that you sign a contract or Terms of Service, specifying the nature of the relationship, types of services to be provided, deadlines/project parameters, costs, billing procedures and any other details. This is to avoid potential misunderstandings, as well as confirm that the relationship is of an independent contractor nature.

Just Do It

In short, if you are tired of taking care of the administrative tasks of running a practice, want to explore taking your company’s business processes to the next level, or simply could use a hand with a specialty or large project, consider locating and hiring a Virtual Assistant.

5 Reasons A Fax Machine Beats Fax to Email Service For Law Firms

To begin, fax works.

All you need a dial tone and, in today’s day and age, almost any multifunction printer; but many firms maintain separate fax machines.

If your firm uses a physical fax machine, that does NOT make your practice old fashioned, you out of date with technology or any of the other negatives legal tech pundits like to say about attorneys who “still” use a physical fax machine.

Here are just 5 reasons why I say a fax machine beats fax to email:

1. SECURITY – email is more of a postcard than a sealed envelope. When you use a fax to email provider and you ask clients to send you credit card and social security numbers – unless your service gives you the option to encrypt (I don’t know of any that do) or holds your faxes for review while securely logged in to your account – like Onebox – then you are openly emailing data and information that you should not be openly emailing. Period. Ask your credit card processing company – they gave you terms for the collection of information … which I’m sure you read … yes?

Let’s face it – identity theft is not rampant due to dumpster diving!! Don’t let your business processes open up your client’s personally identifiable information to the world wide web.

2. SPEED – it is MUCH faster to put a document on a fax machine, dial the number and hit send vs. putting document on scanner, scanning document, finding scanned file to save to client file; open browser; log into fax tech; start new fax (that’s usually 2 or 3 clicks); enter fields of information for cover sheet (which you have to go find in another application to block/copy); locate and attach actual file you scanned; and ~ FINALLY ~ hit send.  <-NOTE: any interruption in this process can add a few minutes to hours to the time it takes to actually send the fax.

3. CONFIRMATION – you get a confirmation when a fax is complete; if it didn’t go through or if the wrong number of pages were sent. Fax to email – you get nothing or perhaps an email from your provider that you sent something – but not a confirmation that it was received.  That is because email is NEVER a sure way to communicate.

4. SERVICE OF PROCESS – fax is a way to serve documents which is accepted by many courts. I believe it’s (and I’m going back over 13 years now…) if a law firm publishes their fax number – in their signature block or on their business stationary – then service can be effectuated upon them at that fax number. Email – not so much.  Perhaps if a firm agrees to accept service by email before you send … but then you’re not openly emailing documents which contain confidential client information are you?!? see #1 above.

5.  NO INTERNET NEEDED – need I say more?

A fax machine is a piece of equipment I recommend to all law firms as it provides an efficient and secure method to electronically transfer documents which does not require the internet.

Even to those who still prefer fax to email, having a fax capable machine is a perfect back up for the faxing process whenever the internet goes down.

 

 

 

Happy Admin Professionals Day!

You cannot diminish the contributions of those in the trenches – supporting the attorneys and law firms, courts and corporations – making sure your families and businesses are protected.

The tech companies can keep selling the notion how their latest this or that can remove the live, thinking brain in the process of getting legal work product done.

I stand here today to tell you it simply cannot.

Sure attorneys can type. Most use technology every day. Does not mean it is the best use of their time, focus or energies.

So this post is for those who help them, who get the paperwork done, the information collected, the calls returned, the bills paid…

My best wishes and heart felt thanks to my fellow administrative professionals…

… with a little diddy from one of my favorite artists and a HT to those of us not doing it the way our mothers always have …