Implementing smart strategies can reduce presentation anxiety and significantly improve performance
Public speaking is by far the number one fear in America, far more common that the fear of death, snakes, heights, planes, insects, and spiders. For those who like speaking, it’s hard to imagine that to some, public speaking is scarier than a giant cockroach– but for those who hate it, almost anything is preferable to a few minutes in the spotlight.
While some find it frightening, public speaking doesn’t have to cause serious anxiety– if you know how to do it right. To give a great speech without fear, you’ll need serious preparation, smart visual aids, and focused body language to engage, entertain, and inspire your audience.
1. Practice, practice, practice
Researchers say that up to 75% of public speaking performance anxiety can be prevented with sufficient preparation. How much is sufficient? A lot more than you might think; research indicates that to ensure a proper delivery, individuals should read their entire speech aloud at least 40 times. Ideally, the last 10-20 times should be mostly or completely “off-book,” meaning that much or all of the speech has already been memorized.
That means for a short, 10-minute speech, at least six hours and forty minutes (not including breaks) of preparation time will be required. In reality, a speaker will need a decent number of breaks, as well as extra time to re-work parts of the presentation that are not working. In practice, a 10-minute speech would likely need about 10 hours of preparation to give the speaker the best shot at a well-delivered presentation.
2. Practice in front of real people
While practice is one of the most essential ways to reduce public speaking anxiety, the best forms of practice mimic the real-life conditions of a speech. Unless you get unlucky, you won’t be presenting to an empty room, so you shouldn’t practice in an empty room either. If possible, get one or more friends or family members to watch a few of your last practice sessions.
Even if they only watch you practice a speech 2-3 times, having friends or loved ones watch your speech can be an excellent way for you to practice making eye contact and emotionally engaging with your audience. In addition, friends and family members can provide potentially valuable feedback about your speech and help suggest ways to improve it. If you realize that simply having family in the room makes you nervous and messes up your speech, that simply means that you’ll have to practice it with others in the room until you perfect your mistakes.
3. Look at one person in the audience at a time
Many individuals who fear public speaking say they feel as if the entire crowd is judging them at once– and for people who suffer from presentation anxiety, this feeling can seriously impact their ability to succeed in public speaking. One great way to reduce anxiety– and improve your body language, is to make direct eye contact with one person in the audience at a time. As you give the speech, you can slowly switch between multiple individuals in the audience. This can make it feel like you’re simply talking to one person at a time– instead of tens, hundreds, or thousands.
4. If possible, use engaging visual aids to support your argument
When giving a speech or presentation, you’ll want to use every tool available to make it shine– and that often means finding or creating a visual accompaniment. This can be an object, such as evidence, a chart or map, or even a video or a slideshow shown via projector. While it may not be possible to use visual aids in some legal settings, when it is, it can make a serious difference. The old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ is certainly true when it comes to public speaking, especially when engaging in courtroom or settlement negotiations.
When deciding which visual aids to use, it’s important to make sure that they work with you, not against you. Don’t bring anything to a presentation or speech unless it’s relevant to your argument or ideas– and most importantly, avoid anything that will detract or distract from your core legal argument.
5. If speaking in an unfamiliar place, visit it or look it up first
The closer you can simulate the conditions of a speech, the easier it is to practice for. So, if you know where you’re going to give a speech or presentation, check it out in person, and practice there if possible. If the place you’re going is currently inaccessible, such as a locked courtroom or an office in a different state, attempt to look up the location online first. This can help you more accurately visualize giving a successful speech, as well as increase the chance that you aren’t thrown off by any last-minute surprises.
6. Have your body language work with you, not against you
Many experts believe that your body language during a speech may be far more important than what you actually say, especially when you’re trying to persuade others with your presentation. Strong, confident body language will reinforce your speech, while sloppy, unfocused body movements will detract from it. When giving a speech, make sure you never turn away from the audience. In addition, while it may be a good idea to move around for certain parts of your speech, you’ll likely want to stay grounded and directly face the audience when introducing yourself and hitting upon important parts of your presentation. While it’s important to gesture during your speech, you don’t want to overdo it. Subtle, engaging gestures can enhance your speech, but waving your hands and over-gesturing will look unprofessional and could distract your audience.
Research, practice, and prepare to reduce public speaking-related anxiety
When it comes to public speaking, preparation is key. It’s always better to over-prepare than to under-prepare. In addition, remember to speak slowly, loudly and to pronounce every syllable crisply and cleanly. Most people tend to rush and slur their words when nervous, so you’ll want to take extra care to speak slowly and carefully, especially if you get particularly anxious when presenting in front of others. While public speaking can be tough for first-timers, giving a speech doesn’t have to be painful; and preparation can make all the difference.
To learn more about our law firm management tips and our advice for lawyers of all ages, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Transitioning to a different practice area can be difficult, so it’s important to be prepared.
While some lawyers are happy with their jobs, unfortunately, many are not. Research shows that 23% of lawyers experience chronic stress– a concerning number, by any measure. While much of that stress might be chalked up to long work hours and the intensity of the legal profession itself, it may also partly be caused by the fact that attorneys might not be practicing the right kind of law for their skills and interests.
Different types of law require the use of vastly different skills. For example, corporate lawyers may need to be excellent at drawing up contracts and arranging boardroom deals behind closed doors, while patent lawyers may need to have a great understanding of science and technology to understand, interpret, and argue the reasoning behind awarding patents to new technologies and radical inventions.
Unfortunately, many attorneys don’t choose their practice area for the right reasons. Compared to most other professions, the legal field is incredibly competitive, so many attorneys choose their practice area based on convenience or necessity instead of actual desires, skill, and interests. Different people are naturally suited to different kinds of legal practices, and attorneys who choose a practice they aren’t well-suited for are shortchanging themselves, both personally and professionally.
Research and networking are essential steps to take before making a big change.
While making a change in practice area can be an appropriate choice, it’s often a serious challenge. That means that before making this big change, it’s important to research, prepare, and weigh your options. Changing practice areas can be especially challenging for older lawyers, those who lack prestigious academic credentials, and those trying to break into highly competitive legal fields, such as trial law. A lawyer’s ability to switch practice areas is also influenced by the underlying economic conditions in the industry, which collectively determine the demand, and therefore, the amount of available law positions in a certain practice area.
The law school internship process often leads to attorneys choosing their practice area without significant consideration.
In most careers, individuals usually specifically determine the exact field in which they want to work, and then directly apply to jobs or internships within that field. In the highly competitive legal profession, however, things often work much differently. All but the top students usually engage in a protracted search for jobs and internships during and directly after law school, often accepting the best job they can find during that time.
As young attorneys gain more experience in their specific practice area, others in the industry often begin to categorize them and build expectations of them as either litigation, corporate, or patent attorneys. Unfortunately, this ‘typecasting’ can make it more difficult for an attorney to switch practice areas after more than a few years in one type of practice.
Academic credentials, professional connections, and industry demand all contribute to a successful practice area change.
Most law firms in the country still heavily judge potential employees based on the merit of their academic credentials. Having prestigious academic credentials can make it much easier for lawyers to change practice areas. Having great credentials can also help older lawyers who wish to change practice areas after already being well-established in one area of the law. Having a strong professional network is also extremely important if you want to switch practice areas. Friends and associates can help you get interviews, may be able recommend you to potential hiring managers, and can provide specific advice about how to apply or interview at certain firms.
What difference does practice area make?
While every law firm is different, and no lawyer’s individual workload is exactly alike, here are a few generalizations about the skill set and demands of some of the most common practice areas in the legal profession:
- Corporate: somewhat unpredictable workflow, may be good for those who like numbers, may fit individuals who are somewhat, but not overly extroverted
- Litigation: more predictable workflow, may attract more charismatic and/or outgoing individuals
- M&A: may also be more suited towards individuals who are extroverted, outgoing, confident, and assertive
- Tax: lots of paperwork and financial calculations; may be better for introverts and number oriented types
- IP: may also be good for introverts, requires considerable paperwork, so may be better for those who enjoy reading
Before attempting to switch practice areas by joining another firm, determine whether you can move horizontally within your firm first.
Considering the difficulty, time, and expense that it can take to switch jobs in the legal field, it may make sense for you to see whether it’s possible to move laterally in your firm before searching for an entirely new position. This may be an especially smart choice if you like your firm but want a change in the kind of work you are doing. Before asking for an internal transfer, you’ll want to make sure you already have a reputation as an effective attorney within the firm. If you can’t do your current work well, senior attorneys may not want to see you attempt to take on a new challenge at the firm’s expense.
While an internal transfer can lead to increased career satisfaction for some lawyers, some attorneys who think they want to change their practice area actually want to change firms. This may or may not involve switching practice areas. However, working with new people in a new environment (while keeping their practice area the same) may be enough to satisfy many people. Therefore, before making any big choices, it’s a good idea to consult with other friends or associates in the legal industry and do considerable research (and a little bit of soul searching), so you don’t make any choices you’ll regret later.
To learn more about our career advice for attorneys of all ages, as well as our state-of-the-art law practice management strategies, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Studies show that workplace design has a huge impact on worker productivity, but many workers aren’t pleased with their workspaces
More evidence is beginning to show that the way a workspace is designed has a huge influence on a workforce’s ability to concentrate, collaborate, and perform– especially under high stress conditions. In fact, many studies indicate that the number one factor that determines how employees will perform is their physical environment. Despite the importance of workspaces, many employees aren’t too pleased with the offices in which they currently work.
Concerns like lack of worker privacy, lack of natural lighting, aging carpets and other factors are making it more difficult for workers to concentrate and feel comfortable. So, if you want to maximize your law firm’s bottom line, you may want to consider re-designing your firm’s office to better suit your workforce.
Current office spaces leave much to be desired, say many employees
Surveys show that 90% of workers are less than satisfied with their work environment, primarily because of a lack of privacy. Seventy percent of offices have an open layout, and this could be one of the biggest roadblocks to increased productivity among a company’s workers. Open-office plans may be great for inspiring collaboration, but they may not be the best for many employees. Even the most extroverted employees want a place they can go to concentrate quietly and have a private conversation if necessary. In addition, being exposed 24/7 may increase long term employee stress, especially in a high-pressure, high-stakes field like law, which often demands long hours and other challenging working conditions.
Decoration (or lack thereof), natural lighting, and temperature can have a significant impact on worker productivity
When designing or redesigning a law office, you should aim to create a positive and well decorated environment that inspires calm for employees and clients alike. For example, framed prints or canvases with tasteful inspirational quotes can be a pleasant decoration in many offices. In addition, if you’re choosing or renovating an office, it’s essential to keep in mind that natural light is essential for maximum productivity and health. There are many studies that show workers who experience a lack of sunshine, and therefore a lack of vitamin D, have disturbed circadian rhythms, and disturbed sleep patterns, which can often lead to drowsiness and chronic fatigue.
While tasteful decorations and adequate sunlight are important, they aren’t the only factors that can impact employee happiness and productivity. Studies show having a pleasing view is correlated with a 16% increase in work productivity and performance– so if you’re choosing between layouts or properties, you may want to go for the one with the better views. Seemingly little aspects like office temperature are and noise are also important in ensuring a comfortable work environment. Researchers say that the ideal office is temperature is around 69-71 degrees Fahrenheit, with colder temperatures increasing worker distraction and discomfort and warmer temperatures associated with sluggishness and sleepiness in many workers. In terms of noise, too much may also damage workplace productivity.
Removing environmental pollutants and investing in ergonomic technology can also serious impact employee performance
While it might not be the most obvious barrier to worker productivity, it’s extremely important to make sure that your office isn’t filled with environmental pollutants. The benefits to workers are obvious; for example, one study showed that when 20-year-old carpet was replaced with new carpet in an office, worker productivity went up 4%. in another office, a replacement of the office’s air filtration system resulted in a 10% decrease in the time it took to service calls. Other seemingly minor changes, like updating outdated technology, have also been correlated with a spike in worker productivity; one study discovered that offices using old CRT monitors had a 16% decrease in typing accuracy in comparison to individuals using new monitors.
Making sure your legal workspace is appealing for employees, managers, and clients isn’t complex, and most elements of a positive and uplifting workspace are obvious. Elements like natural light, cleanliness, modern technology, good views, and a decent amount of privacy aren’t new; but in the rush to cut costs and increase the bottom line, many firms attempt to cut office expenses first, and this could have serious effects on their workers’ productivity. To make sure your employees’ performance is helped, not hindered, by their environment, listen to your employees, take notes, and do research to make sure that you’re not making mistakes when it comes to developing an ergonomic, inspiring, and profitable law office.
To learn more about how to maximize your law firm’s work environment for success, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Honesty, positivity, and understanding are all essential to soften the blow from negative legal news
If you’re an attorney, giving clients bad news can be one of the toughest parts of the job. A lawyer’s work can determine someone’s reputation, their financial future, their ability to spend time with their families and, in criminal law, even their life and freedom. Delivering bad news the wrong way can upset your clients and reduce your perceived trustworthiness as a lawyer, while giving bad news the right way may actually enhance your reputation as a caring, understanding, and dependable attorney.
Honesty is always the best policy
As an attorney, it’s your legal responsibility to be honest and straightforward with all your clients. However, even if that wasn’t the case, it would still be a good idea to do so. Being dishonest with your clients won’t simply cause you trouble in the short-term, it can cause long-term problems over time, as you may have to work harder and harder to cover up what was originally a simple mistake. Therefore, no matter what the situation is, it’s usually best to be completely upfront about it– no matter whether you think your client will be upset or not. Even if they seem angry initially, many clients will thank you later for your honesty and straightforwardness.
Try giving bad news first, then finish with good news (and stay positive)
No matter how bad the situation or news you’re about to deliver to a client, there’s almost always a silver lining– and you should use that to your advantage. Ideally, you’ll first tell the client the bad news, then, you can focus on the positives of the situation. That way, the client has a better chance of leaving the conversation or interaction on a positive note.
Avoid giving clients bad news when they’re already stressed (with some exceptions)
If you’re on the phone with a client, and it already seems as if their world is about to explode, now might not be the best time to deliver bad news. If possible, see if you can call them the next day, or at the very least, in a few hours, when there’s a better chance that they’ll be calmer and more receptive to what you have to say. Of course, this isn’t always possible, especially if a client is asking you specific questions– as you should never, ever withhold any information from a client who wants an answer. Also, if not knowing certain information could negatively affect your client’s case, you should always tell them immediately, whether or not it will upset them.
Try to put yourself in your client’s shoes; acknowledge and show that you understand their feelings
Being on the receiving end of bad news can be difficult for anyone. Whether a client is set to lose a large amount of money during divorce proceedings, or a party has backed out of a lucrative litigation settlement, many legal decisions can seriously affect a client’s life for years to come. Because of the gravity of many of these situations, it can help to try to see the situation from your client’s standpoint before speaking with them. Ask yourself questions, including: How will this affect the client in the long run? What might the client be afraid of most? What details would you need to know if you were the client?
Going through this process can often help you develop a comprehensive, effective, and reassuring message to deliver to your client that will simultaneously inform them of the situation while allaying some of their fears. If you can effectively do that on a regular basis, you’ll show your clients that you’re understanding, trustworthy, and dependable– all traits that will boost your professional reputation and have your clients coming back again and again.
To learn more tips about law practice management and our career advice for lawyers of all ages, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Listening closely, asking for feedback, and going the extra mile are key if you want to fully satisfy clients
Even some of the most mediocre lawyers can get a decent amount of clients– but for lawyers who want to stand out from the crowd, getting a client is just the first half of the battle. To develop a truly successful legal career, whether as a partner, an associate at a firm, or as solo practitioner, you’ll need to retain clients– and even more importantly, make sure those clients recommend you to their friends, relatives, and business associates.
To do this, you’ll need to make sure that your clients aren’t simply ok with your work– you’ll want them to love it. To do that, you might need to start upping your game when it comes to customer service, and here’s how.
Listen, be attentive, and pay close attention to your clients
Even though every child learns the importance of listening in school, many attorneys seem to forget this as they get older. Perhaps it’s the stressful nature of the legal industry, or the fact that attorneys are trained to speak professionally. Either way, many lawyers could benefit from improved listening skills. Listening more– and more deeply– to your clients allows you to determine what they really want, what they really need to know, and what their major concerns are. Once you’ve determined this information, you can tailor your communications with your client to their specific needs– making them feel happier, better informed, and truly heard.
Know your clients and understand their industry (especially important for business law)
If your client is a business owner or executive, they will understand far more about their business than you ever will as an attorney– but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop some level of expertise. Nothing feels worse for a client than realizing that his or her attorney knows almost nothing about the business and industry for which they’ve devoted their life to work.
So, instead of sounding ignorant about your client’s business, do your research first– and try to learn enough to carry out an interesting conversation with them about it. Being able to do this will put many of your client’s worries to rest and it shows them that you truly care about their well-being as individuals. On a professional level, demonstrating your industry knowledge shows clients that you’re committed to getting them a positive legal outcome– and have the information to do it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and accept criticism
Much like listening, accepting criticism can be tough for many attorneys– but it can also be an invaluable skill that can make the difference between mediocrity and incredible success. Asking for feedback from your clients on a regular basis allows you to learn from your mistakes in real time– and, perhaps more importantly, is another way to show clients you truly care.
However, to fully satisfy clients, you need to be good at accepting all kinds of criticism– not just the kind that comes when you ask for it. While you may not be able to (and shouldn’t) accept ridiculous demands from clients, when a client approaches you with a reasonable misgiving about the way you or your firm handled (or mishandled) a situation, it can pay to listen carefully and accept the fact that you, and perhaps your employees or co-workers, made a mistake.
Go the extra mile to help clients (even with non-legal matters)
Being an excellent lawyer and a good communicator aren’t the only ways to impress clients and show them that you care. A smart attorney always keeps his or her ears open for ways to help clients, even if it’s in an unexpected way. For example, if you have one friend or client that could use the products, services, or expertise of another friend or client, it can pay to put the two parties in contact.
In addition, many smart lawyers also keep all their client’s birthdays on file, send them cards for birthdays, holidays, bereavement, illnesses, and on other appropriate occasions. Much like keeping an ear out for ways to help your clients, sending cards will help them see you as the compassionate, caring, and attentive professional that you are (and that they want you to be).
To learn more about law firm management techniques and our career advice for lawyers of all ages, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Accessibility, honestly, and industry expertise are essential if you want to fully satisfy clients
What do clients really want out of their lawyer? Surprisingly few attorneys ask themselves this question– and even fewer ask themselves on a regular basis. While the answers might seem obvious, if you’re not fulfilling these needs for your clients, they may not be fully satisfied with your work. A lack of client satisfaction means that your customers are much less likely to recommend you to others– and even less likely to come back to you the next time they need legal assistance.
So, if you want to work toward retaining and building your client base, it’s smart to try to understand exactly what they want and not what you think they want, or what you think they should want. The three elements of client satisfaction we’ve listed below are easy enough to understand, but can be surprisingly difficult to employ at times (especially when an attorney’s juggling a full caseload of highly demanding clients). But just because maximizing client satisfaction can be difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try– in fact, it could easily be the difference between success and failure in your legal career.
Most clients want their attorney to be reasonably accessible, especially if they don’t understand the legal process well
Some clients want to talk to their attorney 24/7– whether you’re sleeping late at night, relaxing on the weekend, or going on a vacation with your family. Depending on the importance of the client and the case, you may have to indulge them, but in general you should set specific limits on when and how you’re available. That’s not the kind of clients we’re talking about here.
In general, clients simply want to stay informed every time a significant development occurs on their case, and want calls, texts, emails, voice messages, and other communications returned within 24-48 hours. If you can do this reliably, the clear majority of clients will be satisfied with your accessibility and communication skills. Plus, to save time, you can use an assistant or paralegal to answer questions that don’t need to be answered by an attorney, including dates, scheduling, and very basic legal info.
Being honest has both short and long term benefits for lawyers, and is essential if you want to comply with professional standards and maintain an excellent reputation
Like in any other profession, in the legal field, you’re only as good as your word. In fact, keeping your word and being honest is much more important in law than in many other industries. Legal judgements can not only affect people’s bank accounts– they can seriously impact your client’s lives, freedoms, and families.
While honesty in the courtroom is required under the law, honesty with your clients is just as important– especially if you mess up. The majority of clients would rather you own up to a professional mistake immediately rather than be forced to find out later that it negatively impacted the outcome of their case, mediation, arbitration, or trial. Moreover, being dishonest with your clients could get you disbarred– so telling the truth is always the best idea– even if it hurts.
Industry expertise helps clients feel at ease and puts you ahead of the competition
Whether your legal practice or firm focuses on technology, entertainment, or personal-injury law, it’s essential to know your area(s) of practice from front-to-back. Understanding the industry that your clients come from will help you be a better lawyer– and it can also help you woo potential clients, many whom will feel far more confident in you if you can demonstrate in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of their industry or specific type of case.
To brush up on a specific area, lawyers can subscribe to trade journals, customize their online news alerts, and read books, blogs, and other industry publications on a regular basis. Additionally, what you don’t understand you can ask friends and clients in the industry. If you ask intermediate to advanced level questions, they’ll likely be impressed with your eagerness to learn more and diversify your non-legal business knowledge.
Being a good lawyer means listening to your clients
While accessibility, honesty, and industry expertise are important ways to make your clients happy, nothing is more important than listening to your clients themselves. Listening closely to your clients’ comments, ideas, thoughts and concerns will help you satisfy them more than reading this article ever could. So, open your ears next time you meet with or call a client and try to find out what they’re really saying– you might just be surprised by what you hear.
To learn more about law industry news and our career advice for lawyers of all ages, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Look at Saul’s mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself
While Saul Goodman’s ethically and financially-challenged character is certainly eccentric, that doesn’t mean that Better Call Saul’s main character doesn’t have a few real-life lessons to teach lawyers– especially those trying to grow their clientele, as Saul (unsuccessfully) tries to do during the show’s first two seasons.
So, what exactly can a TV-show character teach us about getting more quality clients? Let’s find out.
Target clients and projects who can give you reasonable amounts of work
In one episode of Better Call Saul, Saul spent a ridiculously long time listening to a client who’s only going to pay him $140 for a will. Considering that many good lawyers and firms charge well over that amount for an hour of work, it clearly isn’t efficient to take on clients that require lots of personal time investment unless they can provide you a reasonably large amount of income. If for example, you’re just starting out as a solo practitioner, it can be tempting to take any job that comes (even if it pays $50), but this strategy simply isn’t effective in the long term.
It’s important to realize that each client and project you have requires a significant amount of time due to logistical and administrative factors. For example, if a lawyer desires a revenue of $200,000, it’s better to have 20 clients paying $10,000, than 400 clients paying $500. Therefore, even if you’re just starting out, it may be a good idea to set a lower limit– perhaps $500- $1,000 for work you’ll take– unless you’re doing a special favor for friends, family members, or professional colleagues.
Check out your sales leads before investing (or wasting) time in a meeting
If Saul had pre-screened the client who was only willing to give him $140, he might have been smart enough not to take the appointment. That’s why you should determine if what a potential client can offer you is lucrative before agreeing to meet with them in person. If possible, discover a client’s name, profession, the exact nature of their legal situation, and any information about their ability to pay you before taking a meeting. While you need to gather information, you don’t want to seem like you’re interrogating a client, so you’ll want to be subtle and respectful when trying to solicit personal information from potential clients before they’ve hired you.
It’s often a good idea to have someone else speak to clients before you do, if possible, so that you don’t have to directly say yes or no to a client. Therefore, asking clients to fill out a form on your website, or having them speak to a secretary or legal assistant with good phone skills, are both good ways to question clients before agreeing to an in-person meeting.
Advertise to the right clientele
In another entertaining episode of Better Call Saul, Saul puts up a billboard to advertise his legal services. At first, Saul is excited about all the calls he’s getting about potential legal work. However, he soon realizes that most of the people who’ve called him are ne’er-do-wells who don’t have more than a few dollars to offer him for his services. In the real world of legal marketing, targeting the wrong audience is a serious concern. The goal is to have people purchasing legal services, not just to get your name out there (though reputational marketing can sometimes have a place in a law firm’s overall marketing strategy).
That’s why you need to actively do research to determine the correct target demographic to which you market your legal services. This can vary significantly due to factors like geographic location, you or your firm’s personal network, and the types of law you or your firm practices. It may help to enlist a marketing firm or advertising agency with experience handling legal clientele to develop strategies and campaigns that can effectively target the right audience with marketing techniques including social media promotions, online video advertising, and print and television ad campaigns.
In the end, talking and advertising to the right clients can help protect your law firm’s brand
After taking a variety of undesirable clients and trying various off-kilter marketing campaigns, Saul’s reputation wasn’t at all where he wanted it to be. That’s why taking high-paying clients with good reputations and creating professional and appropriate marketing campaigns isn’t just important for your law firm’s short term success, it’s also important to preserve your firm’s long-term reputation and economic viability. As soon as your firm develops a reputation for being ‘less than professional,’ your ability to market yourself is significantly reduced– so you always want to make sure potential clients and professional colleagues see you in the best light.
To learn more about marketing strategies for lawyers and law firms and our career advice for lawyers at of all stages, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Set boundaries, improve communication with clients during work hours, and don’t be afraid to turn off your phone.
Whether you’re a solo practitioner, run a small firm, or are part of a large legal organization, one thing is a constant; legal clients can be incredibly demanding. While it can be difficult to say no to clients who want to consult with you on nights, weekends, or holidays, setting boundaries in the beginning of the relationship is essential to make sure that both you and your client have reasonable expectations of each other.
If you work for a large firm and aren’t part of the management team, it may be difficult or impossible to prevent clients from invading your free time, but if you have an understanding boss, you still may be able to incorporate several strategies to help maintain a healthier work-life balance.
Set work hours and exceptions before an emergency happens.
Creating specific work hour boundaries is a great first step in setting the tone for a healthy and balanced attorney-client relationship. While optimal hours for each attorney depends on their personal habits, office hours, work preferences, and other factors, they usually run between 8-10am and 4-6pm– so if you’re available around 8 hours a day, 4-5 days a week, you’re giving your clients a wide variety of potential times to contact you.
Of course, since law is a high-stakes field, you will often have to accommodate for emergencies in some circumstances– at least in some types of law. However, some clients might see any case development as an emergency, so it’s also important to define in advance what counts as an emergency and how they should contact you in those specific situations.
Improve the quality of communications so you don’t need as much quantity.
When a client consistently wants to contact their attorney during nights, weekends, and holidays, it’s not usually to ensure their case is going well (even though they might say so). Legal cases can be tedious and are often slow moving– and cases rarely (though occasionally) have breakthroughs that need to be dealt with immediately.
Often a client’s reasons for contacting you at these times have to do with anxiety or insecurity about either the viability of their case or your ability to do your job as an attorney. Therefore, boosting a client’s confidence in your abilities– and keeping them well-informed about the status of their cases may be able to prevent the after-hours calls. Basically, if a client feels that they’re getting enough out of you during work hours, they’re not as likely to feel the need to contact you at random times.
Keep separate phone lines and find an effective voicemail service.
Keeping a separate phone number for work can be one of the best ways to prevent after-hours communications from clients. If you’ve already set your boundaries and given both a business and personal phone number to clients, they’re far less likely to call your personal line unless it truly is an emergency.
Additionally, voicemail is an excellent way for clients to feel like they’re in communication with you without disrupting your personal time. Often clients don’t necessarily need to hear specific information from you– they simply want to share an idea, concern, or a few thoughts with you, and leaving a voicemail is a great way to do that.
Specify email response times as well as phone times.
Clients may also attempt to contact you via email during off-hours– and if you’re inclined to answer immediately, this might also cut into your personal time during nights and weekends. Much like setting a time for phone calls, you can also set times for email responses. Depending on you and your clients’ preferences and needs, these hours can be the same or different than your phone hours. For example, if some of your legal cases are incredibly high-stakes and daily developments may seriously affect the viability and success of your client’s case, you may wish to set aside an hour on weekends to answer emails from a specific list of high-priority clients.
Setting boundaries can improve your happiness– as well as the quality of your work as lawyer.
While you might think that being available 24/7 is the best way you can help your clients, you could be sabotaging the quality of your work by doing so. Taking time off work, whether via taking a relaxing vacation, or by simply making the most of your nights and weekends, has been scientifically proven to correlate with higher productivity at work.
So, if you want better results for both yourself and your law clients, it pays to stop working when you’re off-the clock. Even if they aren’t enthusiastic about it at first, your clients will eventually realize that the increased attention, care, and focus you’ll be able to give them as a happier, more balanced individual is worth losing the ability to contact you at 11pm on a Saturday night.
To learn more about law practice management strategies and career advice for lawyers, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Outdated designs, disorganized layouts, messes, and more office faux pas
Having a dirty, disorganized, or less than fashionable office may not affect your firm’s ability to perform quality work– but it could interfere with your efforts to woo new clients and maintain current client relationships. While making your office more visually appealing might seem like it should be the last thing on your list of priorities, the way your office – and staff – looks – sends a strong message to clients about your ability to get the job done, especially in a client-facing profession like law.
1. If your office reeks of the 80s, your clients can smell it. It might be time for a facelift.
Aged brown office chairs, a tan carpet with coffee stains, and walls painted the color of a hospital in bad need of renovation: if this describes your office, you might need to make some serious changes. A good law office needn’t be fancy– but it should look clean, comfortable, and relatively modern. Otherwise, it looks like your firm isn’t doing well enough to afford new office chairs and a fresh paint job. Even if it isn’t, that’s not the impression you want to give to potential clients.
If you are on a budget, simply purchasing some relatively new office chairs from a discount office supply store, buying some new-ish tables, chairs, lamps, and decorations for a waiting room can often make a huge difference on how your office is perceived by others. Of course, if you have the cash, a full-blown redesign might be a good investment, but it isn’t the only way to improve the look, feel, and attractiveness of your office environment.
2. Grey cubicles may not send the right message to clients.
While grey cubicles are still standard fare for a great many law offices, they might not be sending the right message to clients. In today’s ultra-competitive market, firms want to show that they’re innovative, efficient, collaborative and won’t hesitate to communicate with clients on a regular basis. Tall, grey cubicles usually send the opposite message. Instead, you might want to opt for a more open work area in which clients and other visitors can see the firm’s attorneys at work. If the budget’s right and/or you’re managing a smaller firm the addition of glass, both for interior and exterior facing offices, can increase natural light and can lend your firm’s office a more open, modern, and collaborative appearance.
3. Messy workers and disorganized desk areas can make a bad impression, too.
Even if your office is somewhat modern and cubicle-free, if it’s messy, it still won’t send the right message to clients. Regardless of how effective you and your colleagues are at practicing law– if you can’t clean up your desks, clients may begin to question your professional abilities. Practicing law can get messy– and while your desk doesn’t have to look like it came out of the latest issue of Architectural Digest, it should look somewhat organized. This also goes for document rooms, break areas, office kitchens, and other places that can easily be seen by waiting clients.
4. No decorations (or the wrong decorations) could make clients feel uncomfortable.
If your law office is sterile like a medical lab, it might not make clients feel so great about trusting you with their cases. That said, if your office is filled with strange, offensive, or off-putting decorations, it won’t help you either. To give your office a little more character, fill walls (especially near entrances) with paintings, drawings, prints, or other artwork– but avoid anything with a strong political or religious message (unless you know for sure that it aligns with the views of your clientele).
Plants, as long as they’re watered, trimmed, and regularly maintained, can breathe some fresh life into a dull office, while pictures of family members and other tasteful desk decorations can also help give your office a bit of character.
Decorating a law office isn’t rocket science– but many lawyers simply don’t pay attention
While it might sound odd, the way your firm’s office looks is simply another weapon in your marketing arsenal– and another way to reinforce your firm’s image and its competitive advantage in the minds of your clients. Your office doesn’t have to look like the Taj Mahal to satisfy clients- it just must be comfortable, up-to-date, and professional. Changing-up an aesthetically displeasing law office usually takes less time, money, and effort than you might think.
You deserve a law firm that thrives. Contact Boss Reporting today to learn more about effective law firm management tips and other career advice for lawyers.
Planning, communication, and setting boundaries are all key
You might be neat, but that doesn’t mean your co-workers are– and especially in a high-stakes, high-stress profession like law, an untidy business partner can give you anxiety– not to mention turning off clients and other important people who visit your office on a regular basis.
So, what do you do about the mess? You could go ballistic, but that won’t help you or your law partner and it’s unlikely to get you the reaction you want– a cleaner office. Instead, consider opening up the lines of communication between you and your law partner to determine the root of the issue and try to settle on a solution that can satisfy both of your needs.
Talk to your law partner– but remain calm and respectful
The first step in the de-cluttering process is simply to speak to your law partner about the issue. It’s best to do this in a calm, friendly, and non-confrontational manner. Mention what you’ve noticed, why it’s impeding the firm’s goals, and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Sometimes, a gentle reminder or a small nudge is all it takes for someone to get their desk and the surrounding office neat, organized, and efficient.
If a simple reminder doesn’t work, try to get to the root of the problem
If you’ve tried bringing up your partner’s mess multiple times– but you haven’t seen the progress you’d like, it may be time to investigate the source of his or her messiness. If you can find the root of the problem, you might be able to help. For example, if your partner is suffering from a deluge of legal paperwork, like case files, research, or other documents, you may want to try to transition the office to a more efficient, easy-to-organize software program, and having an office assistant or paralegal scan and file current documents to store digitally, in order to reduce the volume of the mess.
If your partner simply doesn’t have a good system for organizing files, offer to help create one, or teach/reinforce the system that the rest of the office currently uses. If you or your partner has an assistant, this is another opportunity for them to help out. See if you can have them (with your partner’s permission) do a daily, weekly, or monthly filing session to completely organize your partner’s desk area and put away old, unnecessary, or duplicate files. You might also want to gently suggest habits and systems that have helped you keep your desk from getting messy– if you really are neater than them. They might be able to learn a thing or two.
If all else fails, consider offering to organize your partner’s desk area yourself
While it’s far from an ideal solution, if you simply cannot find another way to get your law partner’s area clean, you may need to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Once again, it’s good idea to get your partner’s permission before you do this, as some people are incredibly sensitive about their desk areas. You wouldn’t want to accidently throw out something extremely important that you mistakenly believed was trash.
If no progress has been made, attempt to conceal your partner’s mess with a little re-organization
If, even after doing this, your partner remains messy, consider moving or re-designing your office to conceal his or her mess. If your office is very small and/or has a completely open layout, this could be a big challenge– but you’ll likely be able to make the office look somewhat less of a mess when your clients come to visit. One great way to do this is to set up an office partition– basically a small, moveable wall that can separate your partner’s area from your own, even if you’re in the same room.
If you do have the luxury of working in a large office with multiple rooms, you probably won’t need a partition to make effective changes. Instead, try to move your partner or switch offices with them in order to keep them away from entrances, waiting rooms, main areas, and elevators– basically anywhere where your clients can see just how messy he or she is.
Dealing with a messy law partner can be challenging, but progress can be made with effort and a good strategy
With studies indicating that 33% of workers clean their desk only once a year, messy co-workers are an incredibly common problem in a variety of industries– and law is no different. When trying to communicate with your law partner about his or her messiness, remember to stay calm and avoid anger– and remember, their desk doesn’t need to be spotless; it just needs to be somewhat presentable.
Scientific research suggests that some people actually work more efficiently and effectively in a cluttered or messy environment, so you’ll want to strike a balance between keeping a clean office and letting your partner have an environment that’s optimized for his or her personal tastes and work needs. And, if all else fails– you can always hire a professional organizer– or find a new law partner.
If you want to learn more about law firm management techniques, career advice for lawyers, and updates on the state of the legal industry, Boss Reporting has you covered– simply contact us today for a free consultation.
Communications skills, trustworthiness, and timeliness are essential traits for a great receptionist
For busy lawyers, a receptionist can serve multiple functions; gatekeeper to clients and co-workers, schedule-organizer, assistant marketer, and much more. Finding a good receptionist can save countless hours by helping to avoid wasteful meetings, useless appointments, double-bookings and cancellations– thereby improving their efficiency and helping to take the edge off of a variety of stressful situations.
A great receptionist is an excellent communicator– and has good people skills
Communication skills may just be the most important trait for a quality receptionist. Understanding the wants and needs of both attorneys and their clients can be difficult and requires asking questions, listening carefully, and interpreting what to do in various circumstances. Beyond simply being a good listener, a stellar receptionist (or employee in general) should be considerate, a team player, and should be able to both give and receive criticism calmly and respectfully.
The ideal receptionist is extremely organized
A large part of a receptionist’s responsibilities involves effectively and efficiently scheduling meetings, court dates, hearings, and other important events for attorneys– so it pays to find a receptionist who is extremely organized. An ideal candidate should be able to juggle the schedules of multiple attorneys and a multitude of clients at once, as well as being able to easily shift schedules at a moment’s notice due to emergencies or changes in a client’s case.
Look for a receptionist with a professional appearance and a demeanor that fits in well with your firm
Different firms have different cultures– and that’s perfectly okay. Just make sure to find a receptionist who fits in with your firm’s culture and can make a good impression on clients. Not surprisingly, much of a client’s impression of your receptionist (and the firm he or she represents) will come from the way they are dressed. If you’re a solo practitioner in a relaxed town, you may be satisfied with a receptionist who wears casual attire work. However, if you’re a partner at a large, white-shoe firm in New York or Chicago, you may need a receptionist who will wear a suit or professional dress to work at all times. This concept translates to attitude and presentation as well. Since your receptionist will likely be spending a lot of time on the phone with your clients, you’ll want to make sure their general demeanor and style of speaking is consistent with the attitude of your firm and its clients.
A good receptionist should be able to multitask– and have basic technical skills
Due to the busy nature of law offices, a receptionist may have to juggle multiple responsibilities at once– such as taking and re-directing calls on multiple lines, dealing with in-person clients, helping lawyers with research or scheduling problems, and more– so they should be confident in their ability to multitask. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure any potential candidates have a good handle on basic technical skills before you hire them. While this usually isn’t a problem, some candidates may not be proficient in practice management programs, spreadsheet software like Excel, and social media platforms.
Trustworthiness and timeliness
These two traits are essential in any employee– but perhaps more so in a receptionist, who can seriously affect your relationships with and reputation among your clients. Trustworthiness may be hard to measure when looking at a candidate– so you may have to go with your gut feeling as well as checking references and conducting a thorough interview. Timeliness is also key,so be sure to emphasize that during any interviews, phone calls or other communications with candidates for the position.
The best receptionist knows what you need before you do
The ideal receptionist can quickly get an understanding of the patterns, challenges, schedules, and interpersonal relationships at a law firm of any size. They can therefore anticipate the needs of other employees before he or she is asked and prevent potential problems before they happen.
To learn more about what to look for in a qualified legal receptionist, and for more tips about law practice management, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Whether you’re moving to a new space or simply redesigning an old one, the design of your law office can seriously affect worker productivity and satisfaction, improve client relationships, and even help prevent burnout.
Design for employee experience first
When designing an office space for a law firm, it’s essential for the design to prioritize the needs and comfort of employees first. While a huge waiting room and small offices might look impressive to clients, they might not really fulfill the needs of your workforce. Throughout the design process, you’ll want to make sure that the space you’re creating will help make your firm’s attorneys (and other employees) as comfortable and productive as possible while they’re there. However, that doesn’t mean you want to neglect client spaces either. For larger firms, waiting rooms should be comfortable and stylish as well.
Lighting is an essential element of good office design
One of the most important aspects of a comfortable and effective office is an abundance of light. Natural light is best– so if you’re choosing a new office, attempt to find a space with abundance of it– or as much of it as your budget will permit. However, if you’re faced with renovating an existing space, there are several design techniques you can apply to make the most of existing light.
Color is important to setting the right office ambiance
An increasing amount of scientific research is beginning to show a strong correlation between the colors of office walls and employee satisfaction and productivity. One recent study showed that colors like green and blue improved efficiency and focus while creating feelings of well-being among office staff. The same study also suggested that bland colors like gray, beige, white, and harsher colors like purple and orange, may significantly contribute to gloomy or depressive thoughts among office employees. It’s a good idea to avoid them at all costs when painting or repainting an office.
Choosing the right color may come down to seeing what your specific profession needs psychologically to succeed. For example, psychologists often recommend painting yellow for office areas that thrive on innovation and creativity– such as artists, writers, designers, or other creative professionals. Researchers also say that red can be used in office design to help inspire feelings of energy, excitement, and passion. It’s best used sparingly for areas and objects, like fire extinguishers, that merit additional attention from workers and others in the office space.
Don’t skimp on chairs and desks
Many lawyers sit for upwards of 10 hours a day. No matter your budget, it’s important to invest in comfortable, ergonomic seating, as well as making their entire desk space more comfortable, and efficient to improve satisfaction and productivity. When purchasing a chair, making sure it’s adjustable is key, with some studies suggesting lawyers can gain an up to a 17% increase in daily productivity simply by being able to adjust their chair to their particular height and comfort settings.
If you have the budget, you may want to experiment with installing standing desks. Standing desks may be able to reduce many of the health risks associated with spending too much time seated, as well as potentially improving worker productivity. For those that use traditional desks, laptop stands may be able to prevent additional strain on wrists, necks and eyes by raising employee laptops to eye level.
For larger firms, a survey may help
If you’re in charge of a large firm and are about to invest heavily in designing a new office environment, it makes sense to ask employees what they want most out of the new office’s design. This will help make sure that the new space is actually aligned with employee needs, as well as show employees that they’re an integral part of the firm’s decision-making process. It can also clear up any misconceptions about what employees and managers actually desire out of the space. For example, management may believe that employees would prefer larger offices, but they may, in fact, prefer a larger break area or more workplace amenities.
Bottom line is: you don’t really know what your employees need until you ask. So be open– don’t be afraid to discuss your thoughts, pros/cons of various decisions, as well as to listen to their concerns throughout the re-design process– especially if workers are going to be displaced for an extended period of time.
To learn more about law firm design, law firm management, and tips for lawyers and their practices at every career stage, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Tech tools form the backbone of a successful small legal practice
Whether you’ve just made the transition to solo practitioner or you’re looking to start a small law firm, you’ll need a variety of tech tools–both hardware and software– to succeed in a rapidly changing legal environment. Solo practitioners and small firms often don’t have the manpower and financial resources to operate the way large firms, big corporations, and government agencies can. They can easily compensate by becoming more efficient, more organized, and streamlining their work processes– all with the help of a few smart gadgets.
The most important tools for lawyers
When it comes to specific tools, some of the most essential include a laptop, a smartphone, a laser printer, and legal project management software. A laptop can be considered the information center of the firm. Tablets like iPads often aren’t versatile enough to comfortably handle all necessary business functions. There are limitations such as a lack of storage space and small screen size. Typing difficulties may still ensue. However, tablets can give lawyers extra on-the-go computing power and can be helpful for giving presentations and reading documents. Project management software will be essential to keeping a firm organized and constantly in touch with clients, witnesses, government officials, and others. A printer will be needed to handle physical paperwork. Finally, a subscription to research software will be needed in order for attorneys to efficiently conduct legal research.
Project management/legal practice management software– the information core of a small practice
Even if you have the fastest laptop and desktop computers and a fully stocked tech suite for your office, you’ll need to stay organized if you want to hit deadlines and exceed client expectations. Therefore, you’ll need an effective software program to tie everything together– from billing and client information, to sales and marketing, projects, documents, deadlines, and more. Software like this is all the more valuable if you don’t have an army of secretaries, assistants, and associates helping to manage your schedule and the firm’s overall workflow– as you might have in a larger firm.
A good practice management program can also help you visualize your schedule days and weeks into the future. This prevents you from missing appointments and deadlines, having meetings involving different clients overlap, or encountering other scheduling conflicts. Especially when first starting a firm, this allows attorneys to work as their own assistant, if need be, without adding hours to an already heavy workload. If your project management software doesn’t handle billing (or doesn’t handle billing effectively– as many don’t), you might also want to consider getting basic accounting software like QuickBooks, or alternatively, billing software specifically designed for lawyers.
In addition to practice management software, you’ll need basic word processing capabilities– which means either purchasing a subscription to Microsoft Office or Google Apps for business. Free google apps offer limited storage– and are considerably less customizable, professional, and secure– so if you want to stick with Google software, it makes sense to upgrade.
Laptop and computer accessories are a must for making your practice portable and efficient
We’ve already covered that you’ll definitely need a laptop. Most name brand laptops now have more than enough processing power to handle the needs of most lawyers– simply find a machine within your price range– and don’t forget to check customer reviews and product ratings before making a final choice. In order to securely store and back up data and case documents, an external hard drive is best. Be sure it’s encrypted before transferring any sensitive client information onto the drive. For file transfers and secure document transfers on-the-go, it also makes sense to have a small, portable flash drive as well.
Laser printers are needed to handle physical paperwork for clients and courts
While we might be moving toward a paperless world, the inconvenient truth is that lawyers are still required to use physical paperwork in a variety of situations. Judges, juries, and other court officials may depend on paperwork for handouts, samples, and exhibits– depending on the type of court and specific jurisdiction. Likewise, some types of legal paperwork still need to be delivered and signed in person. Printing paperwork may also be needed if clients request printed versions of bills and legal documents. While most printers today have built-in scanning abilities, you’ll need to make sure yours does before purchasing it. The last thing you want is to have to purchase an extra scanner while working on a limited budget.
Research subscriptions provide the information lawyers need to construct a case
For law students and lawyers at larger firms, having a comprehensive research subscription is often taken for granted– but that doesn’t mean you can do without one if you’re going solo or starting a small firm. While Google Scholar is nice (and free), it just doesn’t cut it if you want you and your firm to stay competitive. You don’t have to break the bank on a multi-year subscription to a costly research service. Luckily, there are less expensive options out there, such as LexisNexis for Small Law Firms, which provides the power of LexisNexis and the ability to subscribe by the day, week, or month. Westlaw Next for Solo/Small Firms and Shepard’s Citations Online offer similar pay-as-you-go options for firms looking to up their research capabilities while operating on a tight budget.
Making smart tech choices doesn’t have to be expensive
While it might seem like there’s a lot of tech mentioned above, many lawyers can put together an effective (if slightly bare bones) setup for $1000 or less upfront (subscriptions may cost more over time). Expand the budget to $2,000, and a solo lawyer can practice in comfort and style. The best part is that many major tech purchases, such as laptops and printers, are constantly falling in price– meaning that as time goes on, startup lawyers will likely have more money to put into other things– like project management software, marketing initiatives– or better yet– their own pockets.
To learn more about law firm tech and how it might be able to increase your firm’s efficiency, contact
Improve your firm’s efficiency and profitability with these easy tips
Being organized isn’t just a luxury for law firms these days. It’s a necessity for firms that want to remain competitive in a constantly shifting marketplace. If your firm isn’t properly organized, documents may go missing or be misplaced, wasting valuable work time– and worse, potentially putting your client’s cases at risk. All it takes is a misfiled (or un-filed) document or a missed deadline to create a serious problem for both the firm and its client.
However, many of these calamities can easily be avoided by creating an organizational system for your firm– a series of goals and policies that can bring your firm closer to the most innovative and efficient workplace it can possibly be.
Cleaning out office mess is the first step toward getting organized
No matter how great your new organizational policies and procedures are, they likely won’t work effectively if your office is still messy. Even if you’ve just cleaned up recently, duplicate or unneeded paperwork, old or expired case files, and other unneeded paperwork and objects can seriously stack up in a short period of time. When attempting to getting rid of unneeded files, it’s a good idea to rely on a “one-touch” policy- meaning that you look at a file once, and decide whether to keep it, store it, or get rid of it on the spot. Avoid leaving a file at a desk or on a table and waiting until later to decide what to do with it. Generally, there’s no reason to have any files that aren’t pertinent to an open and active case inside your office. Older files can go into storage to be accessed when needed.
Create an organizational operating procedure for files and tasks
After destroying or disposing of unnecessary files, it’s time to organize the firm’s remaining files and paperwork. Current files may be organized alphabetically, by date, or in order of importance (or some combination of all three) depending on the specific needs of the firm and its clients. So that your firm has all significant organizational events on record, it’s a smart idea to create a set of procedures for each common task that your firm’s employees do on a day-to-day basis. This includes, opening, closing, destroying and archiving client files, ordering new office supplies, sending payments to employees, and contractors, accepting payments from clients, and many other routine tasks.
Consider using software to help employees become more organized
Many law firms now use software programs to do everything from tracking billable hours and billing clients to organizing documents and paying employees. Depending on the needs and resources of the individual firm, it may be better to purchase integrated law firm management software that is capable of handling all the above functions and more. However, some firms choose to rely on a patchwork of individual programs, each handling 1-2 functions. While each program may be the best for handling a certain task, firms may lose out on the synergy and efficiency generated by having all the law firm’s business handled under one digital “roof.”
Teach organizational skills and encourage good employee habits
While much of this article describes how firm policies can improve organization, the truth is that you cannot have a fully organized law firm without the regular actions of individual employees. Even the best employees may be slightly disorganized and may benefit from a training session or employee memo that suggests helpful habits and workplace policies. Additionally, it’s important that firm management encourage each employee to keep their space tidy, as well as to contribute to keeping the firm organized on a larger level.
Office layout and design may affect the organization of a firm
Finally, after considering a variety of other factors, you may want to make some slight adjustments to the layout of your firm’s office and furniture. Different layouts have different benefits and drawbacks, and making small changes could help your employees work as a more efficient team. If considering a move to a new office, firm management should closely examine the new office space to assess whether it’s likely to contribute positively or negatively to a firm’s level of organization.
Without being fully organized, a firm can’t fully exercise its competitive advantage in the legal marketplace. It’s important to keep in mind that being able to do something faster and more efficiently than other firms can provide a big leg up in a competitive industry– and being more organized can allow your law firm to do just that.
To learn more about how to improve your law firm’s organizational readiness, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Save money, get more organized, and help the environment by going digital
When someone thinks of a law firm, they might often imagine a large, bustling office filled with tables stacked to the brim with paperwork– and until recently, they’d probably be right. However, in the last few years, more and more law firms have crossed the digital divide– mostly or completely sharing and creating all work documents electronically.
Getting rid of paper at the office seems to have a multitude of benefits for law firms both large and small. If you make the leap, it’s important to take a few precautions to ensure the safety and privacy of your documents during your transition to a new digital workplace.
How going paperless can save time– and money
Going paperless, more than anything else, has the potential to increase your law firm’s efficiency by a staggering amount. In fact, some studies have reported that making the switch can increase a firm’s efficiency by up to 50%. Attorneys often have to write off valuable billable hours when time is wasted looking for missing, damaged, or misplaced documents– something which happens far less often in a paperless firm. Client communication is also streamlined, allowing the quick transfer of important legal documents at a moment’s notice. Additionally, transitioning to a digital workspace can help lawyers save money on paper, printer ink and other traditional paper-based office supplies. While this might not seem significant at first, eliminating these expenses can potentially save a firm thousands of dollars per year– money that can be well spent increasing salaries, bonuses, or purchasing other valuable resources to increase the firm’s efficiency.
The environmental benefits of going paperless
While helping the earth might not be first on a stressed-out lawyer’s to-do list, it’s another great benefit of going paperless. Without using paper and the associated supplies, a firm reduces its contribution to global deforestation and global warming while simultaneously decreasing the amount of waste it’s producing– all boons to the environment. While these environmental benefits may not lead to a direct increase in profits for a firm, it could be good news for the firm’s PR and marketing efforts– especially if some of the firm’s potential or existing clients have a personal or corporate focus on supporting the environment.
Paperless law firms and security
Whether a law firm is filled with paper files or completely paperless, ensuring client privacy by securing sensitive documents is always a priority. Law firms that have not yet gone paperless run the risk of valuable or private documents being stolen or misplaced. Paperless law firms could also face risks like hacking if they don’t take the right steps to ensure that their digital information is secure. It is essential for firms to make sure that whatever online digital work system or project management software they use is highly protected. It’s also important to secure company email accounts, which are often linked to the firm’s online project management software.
Additionally, firms should create specific, concrete cyber-security policies for their employees to avoid risky behaviors that could compromise client data. These might include logging on to their work email or digital workspace on an unsecured or public wifi network, using unapproved drives to transfer files to or from a computer with sensitive legal data, doing work on personal computers that have not been properly secured with anti-viruses and other protective software, or accessing dangerous websites on a company computer.
Before going completely paperless, don’t forget to…
Your firm should have a game plan and a checklist before going paperless. Select and thoroughly test a document management, project management, or digital workspace software that fits well with your firm’s needs. Before removing or destroying any paper client files, your firm should offer them to the client. It’s also essential to make sure that your document management workspace is completely up and running so employees will have full access to important files. Finally, it’s a good practice to keep client files archived securely (digitally or hard copy) for 10 years after the date of last representation.
No matter how much paper is stacked on your law firm’s desks, it’s never too late to attempt a paperless office. Going paperless has the potential to improve communication both internally and with clients, save a firm money, allow lawyers and staff members to work faster, and to help the firm avoid losing sensitive client files — a potentially embarrassing and expensive setback.
To learn more about how going paperless may be able to benefit your law firm (and how to do it) contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.
Legal partnerships have many benefits, but choosing the right partner is essential
If you’re a solo practitioner, or you’re planning on becoming one soon, you might be wondering whether it would be better to enter a partnership with another attorney. As the old saying goes “two heads are better than one,” and law partners that work well together can share overhead costs, double their network ability, and often gain the ability to take on larger, more complicated, and potentially more profitable cases than solo practitioners.
However, choose the wrong law partner, and you could face a loss of profit, a damaged reputation, and even legal trouble down the line. So, is it better to stay solo or launch a legal firm with a partner? The answer: it depends.
When should you enter a law partnership?
Before making any serious decisions about entering a legal partnership, it’s important that you and your potential companion have similar expectations about your vision for the firm. For example, if one attorney wants to work 25 hours a week to take care of family, and the other is willing to work 80+ hour weeks to create a large and powerful law firm, it could lead to serious conflict down the road.
It’s also important to make sure that you’re on the same page about the kind of law you’re practicing— and while you don’t necessarily have to practice the exact same type of law for a partnership to work, your two practice areas should at least be complementary. For example, a corporate lawyer and a specialist in IP law may be able to form an effective partnership, but it may be more difficult (if not completely impossible) for a divorce lawyer and a patent lawyer to make a legal partnership work. While larger law firms can afford to be more diverse in their practice areas (due to the ability of hiring groups of new attorneys,) for smaller two or three person partnerships, it usually pays to be more specific so you can develop a base of clients with similar legal needs.
Finally, it’s important to make sure your work ethic, morals, and personal habits match together well. Even things like working hours can cause major conflict if they’re not properly addressed in the early stages of a partnership (or as part of the decision process.) Even if both lawyers work 50 hours each week, if one sleeps in late and works through the night, while another is an extreme early bird, it may be quite difficult for them to effectively collaborate at work.
The benefits of entering a law partnership
A good partnership, much like a marriage, allows both parties to save money by putting their funds together—allowing attorneys to save money on office space, marketing and advertising expenses, staff and employee costs, and other expenditures.
With two partners, each brings into the partnership their own network of contacts—and by combining the two networks, the practice may be able to attract a variety of new clients and bring in significantly more profits.
Finally, a partnership can be rewarding for psychological reasons—going at it alone can be challenging, and having a partner gives lawyers someone to commiserate with, ask for advice, and work with through challenges, problems, and tough situations.
The risks of partnerships
Much in the same way that a good partnership is like a marriage, a bad partnership can be like an acrimonious divorce. If one attorney has committed illegal acts, or committed serious ethical violations in the partnership, the other lawyer may be blamed for some of his actions—potentially tarnishing both attorneys’ reputations, and even leading to lawsuits or sanctions from the state bar association.
It’s not uncommon for lawyers dissolving a long-term partnership to engage in heated disputes over clients—and if clients have been contacted by both lawyers, it could have the unintended effect of the client finding an entirely new attorney. Logistically, a legal breakup can also be difficult and time consuming—as any remaining assets, such as offices, furniture, and employees, need to be split between the two attorneys.
Finding the right partner is essential to a successful legal partnership
With the right partnership, two lawyers can help each other skyrocket to professional success. With the wrong partner, careers can be ruined, clients can be lost, and lawyers can face serious professional consequences. So, if you’re an attorney thinking of partnering up—it pays to think long and hard before making a choice.
To learn more about law firm management and other tips for your legal practice, contact Boss Reporting today for a free quote.
Why are lawyers always so stressed?
It’s no secret that lawyers work in one of the world’s highest-stress professions. In fact, research shows that lawyers are nearly four times more likely to experience clinical depression than similar service professionals in other fields. But what specifically leads lawyers to get so stressed? Is it something inherent in the profession, or in the lawyers themselves? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why lawyers get burned out so easily—and what can be done to fix it.
Extremely high expectations of workplace performance
Unlike many industries, the legal profession often deals with very high stakes—and in many cases, when lawyers make a decisions, their clients’ livelihoods, lives, and futures hang in the balance, meaning that lawyers have little error for mistakes, errors, or lapses in judgment, no matter how well-intentioned they are. These high expectations, often rigidly enforced by a strict hierarchical management structure, means that new employees are often harshly reprimanded for mistakes and not often thanked for their hard work. However, this is only part of the problem. The way in which lawyers and law firms get paid for their work is also a factor.
Since the mid-1970s, the majority of law firms have used billable hours as the primary method of charging their clients for work performed. Unfortunately, this has many potentially negative side effects for the lawyers that work for these firms. Considering that law firms are charged by the length of time it takes to complete an assignment, project, or case, workers are incentivized to work as long and hard as possible, not as efficiently as possible. Billable hours and the quotas they create are some of the primary reasons why many lawyers are expected to effectively work 80+ hour weeks—far beyond that of the average American worker and closer to the workload of resident physicians and junior investment bankers (other professions notorious for overworking their employees).
Recent changes to the legal profession
The 2008 recession was not kind to lawyers. Huge layoffs and closures among once successful law firms, as well as hiring freezes, demotions, and pay cuts affected tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of lawyers across the United States– many of which are still significantly affected by those changes today. However, it can easily be argued that the 2008 recession simply accelerated the process of shrinking and consolidation that began in the 1980s.
Online legal help websites offering standardized contracts, and automated processes gobbling up much of the routine work that used to be the daily grind of lower-level attorneys has made finding, and keeping a job far more difficult– and a glut of new law schools churning out graduates throughout the early 2000s has only increased job competition among both recent graduates and experience lawyers alike.
The expansion of technology
Today, most major law firms expect employees to be on call nearly 24/7, and smartphone access is seemingly required at all times. It’s very important for workers, especially those in high-stress professions, to have a clear distinction between work and leisure—and the emergence of tech like smartphones, Skype calls, email, and other new forms of communications constantly blurs this distinction.
The adversarial nature of the legal profession
Beginning in law school, law students are trained to identify potential problems and find ways to defeat their legal adversaries. While it’s a lawyer’s legal duty to protect their clients interests’, it becomes problematic when these adversarial (and sometimes aggressive) personality traits follow an attorney outside the courtroom. This style of thinking can lead to lawyers seeing everyday individuals as enemies (such as a rude driver who cut them off in traffic) and to assume the worst in friends, relatives, and spouses.
What can be done to fix the problem of lawyer burnout?
There are many things an individual lawyer can do reduce their own stress and take more control over their attitude, mindset, and thought processes. These include meditation and mindfulness training, exercise, healthy eating, speaking with a counselor, advisor, coach, or therapist, and making sure to spend time with friends and family. If these do not solve the problem, then it may be time for the lawyer take a look at his or her working conditions and see how they may be changed or improved to reduce stress.
For a low level employee at a major law firm it may be difficult or impossible to change or improve your working conditions without simply leaving the firm. However, a partner at a larger firm, a senior employee at a smaller firm, or a solo practitioner may find they have many more options. Some ideas for senior employees, partners, or solo practitioners include creating policies to reduce the amount of professional communications that occur outside work hours, to increase vacation time, among many others. Additionally, many firms are shifting the emphasis away from billable hours (or even getting rid of them altogether) in an attempt to fix many of the issues inherent in charging clients and tracking attorneys by billable hours.
It’s important at times to understand that in terms of working policies and conditions that make employees happy, being a lawyer is just like any other job—and law firms are just like any workplace. Employees given reasonable working hours, clear work expectations, positive reinforcement, and a respectful understanding of the difference between work and leisure time are much more likely to thrive– both personally and professionally, than those who are not provided with these working conditions. While many– if not most law firms struggle with employee burnout, small steps, like those detailed above, can go a long way towards making lawyers happier and more engaged at work.
To learn more about law firm management and other legal industry tips, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.