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Virtual Reality and Attorney Training

Virtual Reality and Attorney Training on bossreporting.com

A growing force in the future of the courtroom

Virtual reality (VR) is living up to its name by getting set to make big changes in how we live our lives. The typical image of the high-tech headset is taking hold with major companies from Facebook to Intel, while Google and Apple work away on their own versions. Many people view VR as a way for game players to unwind or to enhance other entertainment experiences, yet in reality, VR is also looking to prepare professionals for the job ahead. The medical field is using the tech to provide training, and even as a form of medication to aid both physicians and patients.

In a profession such as law, it may seem unusual that simulations would be effective, but VR training for attorneys is gathering steam quickly. There’s already proof of it’s promise in practice. What’s exciting is just how far VR may be able to go in advancing the practice of law.

The trial of virtual reality

The Young Lawyers Section of the MSBA in Maryland has been taking its first steps into VR training. Project heads Matthew Stubenberg and William Buschur are tackling the problem of those intimidating first cases by offering virtual dry runs in family law, consumer protection, guardianship, and expungement. Their video project is intended to allow new attorneys to see procedural matters taking place inside a courtroom. The footage was taken with a 360-degree camera and is best viewed with a VR headset. The training is geared toward increasing the confidence of new and prospective lawyers in a manner that’s more effective than traditional instruction.

The experiment is a fledgling attempt that shows real promise. It hints at VR’s wider educational potential while intending to “demystify the courtroom” and inspire young attorneys to represent low-income clients. This cost-sensitive approach is thankfully also adopted by Google, whose “Cardboard” headset is very affordable for any young attorney seeking to experience VR.

How VR stresses results over tension

This interesting article similarly focuses on the stress-relieving aspects VR can provide professionals. Effective training succeeds in keeping trainees cool under fire. If VR is good enough for the military, astronauts, law enforcement, and corporate decision makers, then it’s ideal for the high-pressure environment of the courtroom. Attorney training may even take on aspects of gamification which has proven to be highly effective in communicating information and skills in a more relaxed and interactive manner.

More possible practical applications

Beyond providing VR training for attorneys, the tech has some intriguing implications for other aspects of the industry, such as:

  • Possibly speeding up the legal system by allowing attorneys and juries to take part in cases remotely or participate at more flexible times
  • Offer large-scale training to an audience of new attorneys 24/7, worldwide
  • Allow reconstructions of relevant case data in 3D
  • Greater safety for high-risk witnesses who may participate in a trial from a secure location

With the current rate of technological advancement and the legal profession’s commitment to bringing a jury into the heart of the matter, the possibilities for VR in court are potentially limitless.

The shape of future law

Truly powerful VR won’t come cheap; to outfit every courtroom with the necessary hardware wouldn’t be an overnight process. However, with technology like Snapchat’s Spectacles, Google Glass and even concepts as radical as neural implants for lawyers and the fantastic future outlined by Elon Musk’s Neuralink either here or on the horizon, VR is becoming an increasingly believable way to improve the legal profession in the years to come.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations, and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist.

Modern Presentation Tools for The Courtroom: iPads, Apps And The Latest Technology For Legal Presentations

Modern Presentation Tools for The Courtroom: iPads, Apps And The Latest Technology For Legal Presentations on bossreporting.com

Modern technology has made its way into the courtroom, just as it has in nearly every facet of society. Advanced tools like tablets, specialized programs and apps, as well as video and audio equipment, have revolutionized the way attorneys prepare presentations for trials and other legal proceedings. We’ve put together a brief rundown of some of the tech tools that can help you close the case.

The tablet revolution

Any discussion of technology in the legal field must begin with the iPad. There is really no dismissing the impact that Apple’s tablet has had on our industry since its introduction in 2010. The iPad – along with computer programs and apps that were developed specifically for trial preparation – allows attorneys to give more dynamic, efficient presentations. These tools also allow you to go paperless. There is no need to carry huge folders, files, and banker’s boxes into the courtroom, because everything for your trial can be stored on a laptop or iPad for easy access. Along with trial preparation programs, there have been dozens of other apps developed for legal research, jury selection, social media research, word processing, note taking, dictation, and more.

The tech tools don’t stop there. PowerPoint is still a standard program, but others have upped the game in terms of presentation software, including Apple’s Keynote and Prezi.
In most cases, all of these programs can be used on a laptop and then transferred to an iPad when it’s time to go to trial.

Trial preparation apps

The two leading preparation apps are TrialPad and TrialDirector. Both programs help you organize, manage, search, annotate, and store documents, files, and videos, while leveraging the portability of an iPad. Both tools allow you to find and select any file easily, which mean you can skip from one point in your presentation to another seamlessly. So, if a question comes up later in cross-examination or redirect, you can quickly locate the corresponding file.

Why are these tools so powerful? They allow for more dynamic, seamless, and organized presentations. According to Above The Law, “Complex concepts or case theories can be distilled into demonstratives, such as graphics or animations, that can quickly convey the essence of a case. Technology lets us quickly arrange and rearrange our view of the case file by what each exhibit is relevant to: issue, standard of care, proximate cause, damages, or witness bias.”

Some highlights of TrialPad and TrialDirector capabilities include*:

  • Easy document storage, navigation & management
  • Callout, laser, highlighting & redacting tools
  • Display a section of a transcript for emphasis
  • Overlay exhibits for easy comparison (such as comparing handwriting samples)
  • Show split screen for side-by-side comparisons
  • Bookmark exhibits for quicker access
  • A variety of shapes, lines & drawing tools
  • Freeform drawing on a virtual whiteboard
  • Importing photographs and videos, as well as different types of files, including: JPG, GIF, PNG, TIF, multi-page TIF and TXT, DOCX, XLS, PPT, Keynote, Pages & Numbers

Projectors, screens and audio equipment

All the technology in the world won’t help if you don’t have the right equipment to display your presentation. Start by choosing a good LCD projector, as they produce the best picture quality. They can also be set to full brightness or dimmed to show darker colors, contrast or shadows according to the lighting conditions in the courtroom. If possible, choose a projector with a wide-screen (16:9) format, as the standard format (4:3) will leave you with a blank space at the top and bottom of the screen. Another good idea to consider is a short-throw lens, which will allow you to place the projector closer to the screen. This way, you can avoid walking in front of the projector and possibly causing a distraction.

You also need a good screen in order to display your presentation. These days, many courtrooms are equipped with built-in screens, but check the size, as they might not be big enough. You want at least a 7-8 foot screen. There are types in which the screen is stored inside a tube. The screen is pulled up from the tube so there is no need for a separate tripod or stand.

Often courtrooms will have a TV monitor rather than a screen. These are generally not big enough to be viewed very well in a large courtroom, however they do have the advantage of showing color and clarity better than a white screen. If you will be using a TV monitor, consider setting up individual monitors for the judge, jury and at the counsel tables. This ensures everyone has a good view of crucial evidence. According to Trial- Technology.com, “The added benefit is that this system may be used to preview evidence before it has been admitted into evidence, leaving the projector off. Once an exhibit has been admitted, the projector is then turned on for the jury.”

Lastly, make sure you have good external speakers if you are using video evidence or testimony. The sound will not be adequate if you rely only on a laptop or iPad.

These are just some of the latest tools available, which can enhance your legal presentations. Explore your options to ensure you are incorporating them into your trial prep so you can really make your case.

*Note: Not all features are available with both apps

Blockchain And Your Legal Practice: Innovative Ways Blockchain Technology Can Be Used in Law Firms

Blockchain And Your Legal Practice: Innovative Ways Blockchain Technology Can Be Used in Law Firms on bossreporting.com

The last ten years have seen monumental changes when it comes to technology. The digital revolution has transformed how we use computers, phones, buy and sell, bank, listen to music, read books, and more. There is another technology causing a big sea change. It’s called blockchain, and it could have a huge impact in the legal field.

What is blockchain?

First, blockchain is not actually new. It’s been around since 2009, however it has recently come into the mainstream as more companies seek to streamline data and make it more secure in an age of increased cyber attacks and data breaches.

Blockchain is also known as “decentralized cryptocurrency”. It uses a database to keep track of all transactions in a distributed ledger. According to law360, “Blockchain is essentially a computerized public ledger that can apply to almost anything a person might typically save into a database or spreadsheet. Whatever content is uploaded to the blockchain is shared among users so that all participants to the transaction can view the blockchain and be in sync.”

Since the ledgers are distributed across multiple networks, there is no centralized keeper of the data, like a bank or store. Bitcoin and PayPal are some of the most well known companies using blockchain technology today, and more companies are incorporating the technology in the computer, music, energy, healthcare, and real estate sectors.

Blockchain and the protection of data

Blockchain offers a better way to safeguard sensitive information. First, all data in the ledgers is encrypted. Second, it is almost hack-proof. According to Law Technology Today, “A blockchain is time-stamped upon creation and the data can never be changed. If someone attempts to change the data it will be rejected by the network…Once data enters the blockchain, it is resistant to alteration, hacking, or deletion.”

Using blockchain in the legal industry

Blockchain can have many uses in the legal profession:

  1. Record keeping – Storing and sharing documents among multiple parties could be easier and more secure than ever. Changes can be made to documents as long as all parties agree to them. It could minimize human error and reduce the need for reams of paperwork. Blockchain might also be used to process legal notices, especially if a party involved does not have a set or known address.
  2. Legal contracts – Think of this as “smart contracts.” First, distributing a contract through blockchain makes it instantly transparent. Enforcement can also be automatic. According to law360, “If the parties to a contract agree that a certain amount of money shall be transferred to a party from the other party on a certain day, enforcement of this payment can be made automatic through blockchain.” This can apply to everything from the sale of real estate, stock trades, banking, health care services, and more.
  3. Intellectual property management – Blockchain is the ultimate copyright. In fact, it might be better because it provides an immediate trademark that is time-stamped to protect things like music, books, video games, and hardware/software, etc.
  4. Storing land records and deed management – First, it would provide a digital database that would be easy to share among all parties. It would also simplify the process of conveyances, liens, and title searches.
  5. Financial transactions – Bitcoin may be increasingly used as a form of payment from client to firm and client-to-client, especially for international parties. Other areas of the law that deal most often with the distribution of assets – such as estate planning, probate, divorce settlements and bankruptcy – might find uses for blockchain technology as well.
  6. Identity – Identity theft is a huge issue these days. Blockchain technology could be used to prove you are you, without revealing sensitive personal data.
  7. Chain of custody – One of the most important elements of any legal case concerns where and when information or evidence was moved and who had custody of it. Blockchain can be used to track and timestamp exactly who had control of certain data or evidence in real time.
  8. Blockchain is just one of the new technologies coming on board that can be applied to the legal field and your practice. In the coming years, law firms across the country may be using it in all aspects of business.

Partner Efficiency – Finding the Sweet Spot

Partner Efficiency – Finding the Sweet Spot on bossreporting.com

Which tasks are best suited for delegation at your law office?

Delegation is the art of getting more work done by personally doing less. It’s often a difficult thing for a leader to do. After all, if your first instinct wasn’t to shoulder most of the burden you wouldn’t be a leader. Many who are in positions to delegate have to fight that instinct to over-perform while also maintaining faith that their team can perform as well as required.

The term “doing less” means designating tasks so the entire firm can achieve even more, integrate successfully and grow profitably.

The costs of poor (or no) delegation

If the efficiency of your firm is low, then your reputation and bottom line will be the same. A heavy workload can place the full weight of various client demands firmly on the senior partners. While it’s good to be in demand, this scenario sets your firm up for lower efficiency overall.

As a senior partner, you’re in a good position to gauge what your junior staff can handle. The greater the importance of a case, the higher up the chain of your firm it should be handled. If you’re successfully diversifying your client base and case type (a smart and safe practice) you’ll be able to allow more junior partners to handle lesser cases. This allows for a more selective (and ultimately profitable) focus by senior practitioners in how to allocate their services and time.

If you’re finding it tough to delegate, then you may even be harming your own reputation with your staff. You may think it’s the better option to handle the bulk of the workload but consider for a moment the feelings of your employees. They may be wondering if you see them as capable, and that kind of uncertainty can become doubt in their performance or unhappiness with their position in the firm.

The internal benefits of delegation

We’ve discussed delegation as an efficient allocation of resources and time. More important than the health of your profit margins is that of the people who create them. Delegation can help you create a very healthy balance in your firm between the professional, the mental, the physical and the emotional. The American Institute of Stress cautions against the severe effects of work-related tension in high-stress occupations (of which the legal profession is certainly one):

“The severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Scientific studies based on this model confirm that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands but have little control are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

A great contributor to combating these negative effects is introducing organizational change which promotes the feeling of being more in control of one’s work tasks. For senior partners in a law firm the reduced stress of delegation will allow them to narrow their avenue of focus and gain some breathing room, while their delegation has the added benefit of increasing both a sense of control and morale for those beneath them. Communicating with your team and guiding them with their increasing projects will pay off.

Delegation develops talent and trust

Younger partners will feel trusted, capable and able to grow in experience and confidence as their workload increases. This in turn creates trust toward management among lower-tier employees that their superiors have faith in them. Delegation breeds a more experienced, effective staff and ultimately a more successful firm. The hard facts continue to back up the positive impact of delegation. Depending on the size and expertise your firm’s earnings could increase anywhere from 20% to 50% according to this study by the Harvard Business Review.

Some further thoughts

In the end, only you can decide which tasks to delegate and to whom. Every firm is unique with equally unique staff. Ultimately all leaders must take responsibility. The question is: what would you like to be responsible for? Mistakes are unavoidable in business but through effective delegation you’ll become responsible for far more progress than you will problems.

You can have the same faith in your team as you have in yourself if you invest your time, experience and budget where necessary. Start small with delegating if that’s what makes you comfortable and leave room for development, questions and error. Let your people grow and you’ll free yourself and your practice to grow right along with them.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist.

Video Marketing for Lawyers Can Be Effective

Video Marketing for Lawyers Can Be Effective on bossreporting.com

…but only when it’s done right

When Forbes magazine labels something as the future of content marketing, it’s a good idea to take notice. The figures in favor of business video marketing are fantastic: a video in an email can increase clicks by up to 300%, video embedded website landing pages convert 80% more visitors and putting a face to a name increases recall by another 80%. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one minute of video marketing is worth 1.8 million. With the average business producing 18 videos every month (and more eye-opening statistics), is your law practice keeping up a visible profile?

Business video marketing is the firm handshake with eye contact for the modern firm. As a lawyer, video marketing is your opportunity to connect to a vast potential audience. If you’re an established practice you can let people know and draw in even more clients. If you’re on the rise, a well-produced video can project just the professional image required to attract new business.

The way to create winning video marketing

The one thing to remember above all others when creating your business video marketing is that this video spotlighting you, starring you and promoting you is not about you. It’s about the client’s need for information and assistance. When the camera rolls, the best legal video marketing will put prospective clients’ potential problems front and center while stating clearly how you can help.

Inform, empathize and incentivize. Show them you know what they’re going through, that it’s your business to help, and finish with a strong call to action (CTA) as to why you’re the best firm for a solution.

Time is a major factor

Secondly, keep it brief. You don’t want to rush your video marketing message. However, you’d be wise to remember the attention span of the modern content viewer. Such is the proliferation and speed of modern media that the average attention span is less than that of a goldfish. This doesn’t mean you should hurry or cut valuable content; just trim the fat and don’t ramble.

This awareness of your time window will help you craft a more concise message. If you’re dealing with a small budget and therefore serious time constraints, the simple inclusion of a GIF in your social media marketing can still help your exposure and business take an upturn.

Look and sound the part

The quality of your visuals is a crucial element that goes hand in hand with a well-written CTA. A strong message with quality sound won’t matter if your video looks terrible. Make sure you use the best possible camera equipment available to you, and select an uncluttered background. The variety of available options available for visual recording puts quality video content within reach of every lawyer intent on achieving it.
How your content looks also depends on how you visually present yourself. Consider the impression you want your clothing, stance and mannerisms to make. There are many approaches to suit the myriad personalities and practices out there. Just remember to always be clear, concise, calm and sincere.

Seek feedback on your video from neutral parties

Finally, you want to find out the impression your content is making before it reaches its audience. The odds are you will either be too kind or too hard on the finished product if left to grade its quality alone. Friends and family may let pride or tact interfere with their own appraisal of your video.

Thusly, unbiased feedback on your video marketing is extremely valuable. If you’ve enlisted the help of a marketing team you can be sure they’ll make you look your best. If you’re handling the video yourself, it’s very important to gather the opinions of neutral parties. Any criticisms can be used to strengthen your message and the impact of your marketing content.

Following these key pointers will bring you into line with your competitors who are likely already using business video marketing to positive effect. If they’re not, you’ll be ahead of the game.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist.

Does Your Law Firm Need New CRM Software?

Does Your Law Firm Need New CRM Software? on bossreporting.com

Here are some of the best choices

Is there a more important factor to the success of any business than managing customer relations? For the modern business, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is the digital extension of those vital people skills. CRM software not only helps streamline a firm’s operations and increase efficiency by storing and managing your clients’ data, it can assist in staff training and generating new leads and contracts, among other invaluable features.

Strengthening your connection with, and awareness of, your clients and their needs is beneficial for both parties. CRM software is available for both large and small firms with varying degrees of options and features. Here are some of the best CRM choices if you’re thinking of investing or reviewing your current package.

The best options for your CRM

We’ve taken note of the best-reviewed law firm CRM software out there to provide a list of possible options for your firm. From free packages to industry-leading multi-tier programs there’s something to consider for every practice interested in cultivating customer relationships.

Bitrix24

If your firm is dealing with a tight budget you may find this free CRM software just the thing to assist you. With features such as free email marketing, unlimited records and optional Cloud storage, Bitrix24 offers far more besides. It’s a viable option if you’re looking to get the basics of CRM in place without breaking the bank. If this sounds like a good fit for your firm, the full software manual is available for review.

Lexicata

Lexicata offers an all-in-one CRM package designed to streamline client intake. Ease of form management is their strongest feature, with clear client contact and lead management, lead sourcing and the ability to keep everyone in the firm up to speed with developments. Lexicata’s rates are dependent on the size of the practice planning to use the software. They offer a free quote to find out how much you’ll need to pay for unlimited contacts, matters, intake forms and e-signatures.

Firm Central

This Cloud-based software from Thomson Reuters offers user-friendly and fully integrated CRM software. Of particular note is their integrations option which grants users access to further Thomson Reuters resources such as Westlaw: a premier legal research platform with over 125 years of available legal analysis. Add this to practical law material created by over 100 legal experts, and extra assistance against drafting errors in your documents, and Firm Central shapes up to be worth its free trial.

Abacus Next

They’re one of the largest providers of law firm CRM on the market and offer a very impressive range of packages. They’re partnered with Microsoft, Thomson Reuters and Sage and provide tailored bookkeeping services alongside customizable cloud solutions. Their Amicus Attorney option is feature-laden and offers over 30 excellent features to empower your firm. If you select their Abacus Law service you’ll gain a multitude of options designed to streamline your case management.

Practice Panther

Practice Panther offers a website that’s as vibrant as their name and their CRM software provides features to place it strongly alongside the competition. The lesser length of their free trial (only seven days) is offset by no charge for set up, training and migration costs plus free future upgrades. Users can cancel or upgrade at any time and no credit card details are required to take advantage of the free week.

LexisNexis

This company provides a CRM service with an emphasis on insight and intelligence. With Lexis Interaction you’ll be able to fully capitalize on strengthening relationships within and without your firm. Whether it’s your staff, another practice, or your clients, LexisNexis claims you’ll build powerful partnerships that will pay off. The atVantage feature could help you stay one step ahead of the competition by keeping you up to speed with news and developments in the legal sector.

Clio

Clio also offers a free trial of their feature-rich CRM software offering bank grade security, mobile apps and a campaign tracker. Their software is suitable for firms no matter what area of law they operate in, and their resources page offers a wide array of in-house white papers covering vital areas of practice along with guides, articles and webinars.

Houdini Esq

With the immediately attractive feature of a 30-day free trial, Houdini Esq offers a wealth of features including time tracking, automated documents and templates, calendaring and staff, security and client management. It supports several operational platforms including Windows and Linux and is payable as a one time, monthly or yearly expense. Cloud-hosted and serving small, medium and large business models, Houdini Esq also offers training in how to use the software.

At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can help.

Dressing the Part: Fashion Tips for Lawyers

Dressing the Part: Fashion Tips for Lawyers on bossreporting.com

Dressing smartly can accelerate a lawyer’s success at any stage of their legal career

On TV, lawyers are some of the best dressed people on Earth– but real life doesn’t necessarily mirror that trend. While some lawyers dress extremely well for work, others don’t quite know what to wear– and their lack of legal fashion sense could seriously be holding them back. If you’re an attorney, dressing well isn’t just a good idea; it’s the only way to maximize your chances of career advancement and solidify your reputation as a qualified legal professional.

 

Offices across America have become more casual, but law firms haven’t (for the most part)

While appropriate office workplace attire has become significantly more casual in the last few decades, in America, law is still an extremely conservative profession. This is especially the case at older and larger firms, which often have a particularly entrenched culture and a unique dress code. Additionally, legal fashion customs vary by region, practice area, and specific firm. For example, employees at a mid-size real estate law firm in Honolulu might wear sandals every day to work, while employees at a NYC criminal law firm don’t go a day without a suit and tie.

As a lawyer, it’s better to overdress than underdress, especially if you’re a young and hungry attorney still trying to prove yourself. While it’s important to dress well every day, displaying good legal fashion sense is especially important for interviews, performance reviews, big meetings, and courtroom appearances.

Women and more experienced lawyers have more fashion options– but greater opportunities for error, too

In the game of legal fashion, women have more options, but more opportunities to mess up– as they can wear both suits, dresses, and skirts. Additionally, more established lawyers, law partners, and solo practitioners have significantly more options than entry level attorneys. However, these more experienced lawyers still need to make sure they don’t sabotage themselves by dressing sloppily. Unlike younger lawyers, senior attorneys and partners may not be fired or reprimanded for not dressing well, but doing so may hinder their career advancement by turning off potential clients and other important decision makers.

Legal fashion for men

While it might sound stale or old-fashioned, the truth is that most entry-level male law associates (especially those at big firms) still need to wear a well-pressed suit and tie pretty much every single day. Legal career experts recommend that first-year law associates stick to a formal dress code (i.e suits), even on birthdays, holidays, casual Fridays and any other time the firm allows employees to dress down.

Since you’ll likely be wearing a suit nearly every day (at least for your first few years as a lawyer) you’ll need to buy quality. That doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, but if you’re not willing to plunk down top dollar for a suit, you’ll probably need to invest a lot more time searching for quality items at a reduced price. It’s a good idea to mostly stick to grays and blues for most of your suits– charcoal is an excellent choice, as it’s subtle, elegant and can seamlessly coordinate with a variety of shirt and tie colors. You may want to have one black suit– but if you do, you’ll need to use it sparingly and make sure to coordinate good corresponding colors for your shirt and tie. Done right, black suits can look elegant and professional– but done wrong and they can look overly flashy or even funerary, both things you’d probably like to avoid.

Wearing a suit also means wearing a tie, and smart attorneys think before deciding which ties to purchase and wear. If you’re a younger lawyer, you’ll likely want to avoid wearing red– it’s a power color and could be viewed as cocky or even aggressive by your senior colleagues. As a junior attorney, you’ll also typically want to avoid bold patterns, printed words or images, and garish colors. Shades of light and dark blue, as well as yellow, are generally safe bets, but you can go with almost any color (other than red) if the tone is somewhat subdued and the pattern is subtle. In comparison, senior attorneys and solo practitioners usually have a lot more leeway when it comes to tie colors and patterns, but they should still be careful not to let them become a distraction.

Legal fashion for women

Much like their male counterparts, many female lawyers may find themselves wearing formal suits during much of the first year or two of their legal career. Female attorneys, however, aren’t limited to pantsuits and dress shirts– especially if they’re more established in their profession, they can branch out to blouses, and even dresses, if they’re business appropriate. In terms of accessories, experienced female attorneys may want to consider pairing dresses with plain or patterned tights, necklaces, and earrings, and footwear including work-appropriate heels, pumps, or flats. For both men and women, watches can be a nice accessory, but they shouldn’t be too flashy or distracting.

Practicing good legal fashion can help attorneys avoid getting attention for all the wrong reasons

Law, as previously mentioned, is somewhat unique in its continued formality despite decades of increasingly casual workplace dress policies. That means that for lawyers, it’s better to risk blending in than to stand out for the wrong reasons. Part of this is because of the important and sensitive nature of legal work. Lawyers are expected to be calm and professional while guiding their clients through a variety of stressful situations– so they need to be mindful to keep everyone’s focus on helping the client, not on their attention-getting sartorial choices. Bad, strange, or outlandish outfits can detract from a lawyer’s appearance and professional reputation, making them appear less dependable and trustworthy– especially in the courtroom.

No matter what, make sure your clothes are reasonably new (i.e. not overly worn or distressed), clean, and well-pressed, ironed, or dry-cleaned on a regular basis. Many attorneys have all work clothes dry cleaned to ensure a professional appearance at all times– and this isn’t a bad idea, if you can afford it.

Good legal fashion sense isn’t rocket science, but it can help propel your career in the right direction

Having good fashion as a lawyer isn’t rocket science; all it takes is common-sense and a little effort. Surprisingly, however, many lawyers of all genders, ages, and types just don’t “get it” — often harming their career in the process. Like everything else you do, you want your clothes to make a statement. If you make sure they’re saying the right things, you’re in the clear.

To learn more career advice and tips for attorneys of all ages, as well as our law practice management strategies, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Casting the Client Net: Webinars Are a Winning Way to Court Potential Clients

Casting the Client Net: Webinars Are a Winning Way to Court Potential Clients on ossreporting.com

In the world of law, courting new clients is an important and ongoing process. Stamina is required, and so is creative consistency. Couple that with the present-day need for a current, evolving, and authoritative web presence to solidify your expertise. How can this type of viability be achieved on a regular basis? With webinars, which are a key component strategy to winning new clients. Webinars are the only content medium that simultaneously utilize audio, video, and (in some instances) real-time interaction. Think of webinars as a live meeting, without the inconvenience or expense of travel and conference center hosting fees.

Webinars not only provide an opportunity to showcase an individual lawyer’s or firm’s informative assets and achievements, but they also chronicle the productive history being put forth, making it easier for potential clients to see and engage in the merit of your ongoing and informative progress and success.10 Ways to Use Webinars to Court and Win New Clients:

10 Ways to Use Webinars to Court and Win New Clients:

  • Reach out to those types of clients you and your law firm wish to engage in business. Webinars are an efficient and effective way to share useful information with those who seek and require it most—physicians, insurance companies, white collar criminals, whomever your clients may be.
  • Join forces. Webinars allow you to cohost with other knowledgeable individuals from organizations that align with your firm and/or target group, giving you and your law firm more perceived viability, depth, and substance.
  • Drive traffic to your website. A well-planned and recorded webinar, with strategic keywords, will appear in online searches for future viewings. Hence, giving you and your law firm continued exposure through a larger targeted audience.
  • Create Credibility. An effective webinar can command and instill authority, instantly making you and your law firm a sought-after and trusted source.
  • Expand your potential client email database. Provide those who view your webinar with an opportunity to sign up to receive email notifications, which in turn drives more traffic to your site, and garners you and your firm more exposure.
  • Give yourself or your law firm a distinct voice. Webinars are a great way to speak directly to an audience that wants to know you better. Make it clear to them who you are, and how what you do is effective.
  • Encourage new ideas. Even the best lawyers and law firms can learn and improve. Use your webinar to invite direct discourse.
  • Generate publicity. Well-done and widely watched webinars will generate interest, and interest leads to interviews. The more widely known you become, the easier it will be to attract and sign new clients.
  • Display your creativity. Webinars aren’t confined to words—because a picture is worth a thousand words. Therefore, showcase your expertise with pictures, imbedded videos, music, anything that will help grab and hold a viewer’s attention.
  • Finally, make it obvious that you enjoy doing what you do. Regardless of how serious your legal focus may be, if your passion comes through in the webinar, it will impress potential clients and make it easier to secure their business.

To learn more about how to court and win potential clients through the use of webinars, and by other means as well, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Are You a Fast Food Franchise? Managing Client Expectations on Fees and Pricing

Are You a Fast Food Franchise? Managing Client Expectations on Fees and Pricing on bossreporting.com

They don’t know what they don’t know. Maybe they just need to learn how lawyers charge for their services—and why.

Is there ever just a single way to do something? It may seem that way if it’s the way things have been done since anybody can remember, but seldom are you required to keep on doing it in the same fashion.

This is particularly true if you discover that it’s just not in the best interest of your customers. As long as anybody can remember, law firms have billed clients using the format of the billable hour. There was no a la carte ordering possible. It was like going to a fast food franchise. Sorry, no substitutions allowed. You can have whatever you want, as long as it’s up on the menu board. That works fine for a burger and fry combo with a large soda, but not so well for the often-unpredictable nature of legal proceedings.

Is it a cost, or an investment?

We live in the age of the empowered consumer. While they don’t necessarily expect to tell you how to run your business, today’s clients will press you for an explanation on why your fees are structured the way they are. Take the concept of the billable hour.

How is it possible for them to understand and appreciate the cost of services if they’re focused on the amount of time you’re putting in for them rather than the value you’re creating? What’s more, the rest of the world has become far more transparent, offering customer-centric pricing.

Is it less expensive pricing? Are businesses sacrificing income in order to acquire and retain customers? The answer is a resounding no. All these businesses have done is to set and manage their customers’ expectations.

And that’s important for a law firm. Unless you’re someone who has a constant or ongoing need for legal services, an understanding of how lawyers charge for their services—and why—is a totally foreign concept.

All a new client might truly know is that they should have the right to easily calculate how much this is going to cost them.

The default mode

Like any professional, we have a tendency to immediately launch into doing what we are trained to provide for clients when they seek us out for our services. In doing so, we often skip a crucial aspect that sets the stage of what a client should expect from us.

Do they know?

Are they fully aware of what you will provide for their investment in your firm’s services? You know your full range and capacity. They, however, do not. And often, the only certainty they have is the established billable hour price they will contract to pay.

This sets up a lopsided dynamic. Both you and your client need an atmosphere of complete transparency—but what you may have instead is an unspoken distrust. They might show a tendency to be unwilling to interact with you because as far as they know, every minute is going toward that (not fully understood) billable hour.

There’s a simple solution, and it can go a long way toward establishing your firm’s value proposition. Manage their expectations. Set their mind at ease by taking a zero-based assumption approach. It’s human nature to question and dispute what we don’t know. Often, though, it’s simply because no one took the time to explain it to us.

Your clients may not necessarily be looking for ways to dictate how your firm charges them for services. They could simply be searching for clarification and understanding.

It’s In the Mix: Practical Advice Learned from Other Industries About Maintaining a Diverse Client Mix

It’s In the Mix: Practical Advice Learned from Other Industries About Maintaining a Diverse Client Mix on bossreporting.com

Diversifying your client mix can reduce risk and protect your law practice from unexpected economic downturns

The old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never been more true– and that’s especially the case when it comes to practicing law. Since many firms (particularly smaller ones) rely on just a few main clients for most of their billings, they’re leaving themselves potentially vulnerable to a variety of risks. Clients come and go and, unless a firm’s attorneys are careful, a firm could be bankrupted because one or two major clients moves, goes out of business, or decides to use the services of another firm. This is especially the case if the firm’s major clients are over-concentrated in the same business area– and more so if clients are operating in potentially volatile industries such as real estate, or finance.

Despite the many risks of client overconcentration, many attorneys still see their law practice as a vocation, rather than a business– so they fail to take precautions to diversify their income sources (i.e. clients) from market downturns and other risks. By failing to diversify their client base, these attorneys put both themselves and their employees at greater risk– but those risks can be avoided with a little preparation and a smart strategy.

Smart law firms make sure that no one client represents an outsized percentage of their revenue

In the last few decades, savvy lawyers have increasingly been treating law firms like what they are– businesses. Taking a business-like perspective with your law firm doesn’t just mean watching the bottom line; it also means making sure that the firm consistently retains diversified streams of revenue. If you were running a flower shop or a cafe, you’d know that relying on one client for more than a small fraction of your overall business is a disaster waiting to strike.

In fact, many experts suggest that businesses should ensure that no one client represents more than 10% of a company’s overall business revenue– and there’s absolutely no reason that shouldn’t apply to law firms, as well. However, in many cases, firms don’t hesitate to allow one client to represent 15%, 25%, or even 30% of their total revenue– and that can leave them in a shaky spot if a major client leaves the firm.

Smart firms also look to expand their practice by geographical area, when possible

In addition to diversifying clients by size of revenue and industry, it can also pay to expand your law practice’s marketing reach beyond your local area. For smaller firms, that could mean expanding to several counties around the area where most of the firm’s client base is situated, while medium-size firms may wish to expand statewide, or even to multiple states (if one of the partners is licensed to practice law there). A small number of small and medium-sized firms may wish to expand their marketing strategy internationally, but this is usually only appropriate for specific legal areas (i.e. immigration lawyers in South Florida marketing to clients in Latin America and the Caribbean).

Hiring a diverse employee base can help foster client diversity, too

If you’re hiring new employees and you’re looking to diversity your client base, you might want to consider diversifying your staff, as well. Whether that means looking for employees with different ethnic, cultural, or educational backgrounds, or hiring a new attorney who may be able to bring the firm a book of clients in a slightly different practice area, having a diverse staff can pay dividends when it comes to attracting a diverse client base.

In many cases, staff members with different backgrounds and areas of expertise can help solve client’s problems in innovative ways, while each helping to contribute their client expertise to a firm’s integrated marketing strategies. By giving your newly diversified staff occasional marketing tasks, such as blogging, attending industry events, or doing a limited amount of pro-bono work to help give your firm a helpful PR boost, you can help attract a diverse client base and effectively market your firm across a variety of high-ROI demographics.

Whatever you do, don’t depend too much on one or two clients to keep your firm in the black

In the legal industry, putting all your eggs in one basket can easily become a financial disaster. In the last few decades, several of world’s largest and most respected firms have gone under– a catastrophe they may have been able to avoid by taking proactive steps to diversify their client base to multiple practice areas, industries, and geographic areas. Nearly every other industry, including finance, tech, and media, knows that diversification is key to the long-term financial stability of a business. The legal industry is no different. So, if your firm’s clients are over-concentrated, it’s your responsibility to start marketing your firm to a wider range of customers. You, and your employees, will thank us later.

To learn more about how to diversify your law firm’s client base while protecting yourself from economic downturns, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Alternative Fee Arrangements: What Works for Firms as Clients Dictate How They Want to Pay

Alternative Fee Arrangements: What Works for Firms as Clients Dictate How They Want to Pay on bossreporting.com

Alternative arrangements can cut costs, improve satisfaction for both parties

The billable hour: it’s the most common way attorneys calculate their fees– but it’s not for everyone. Around the country, both firms and clients are beginning to embrace alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) as a new way for firms to determine part or all of their client’s legal fees. Some clients prefer AFAs because they feel like they’ll pay less, while others simply need to know general costs well in advance to make sure they’ve properly budgeted for all anticipated expenses.

No matter what the reason clients want them, AFAs are here to stay– and it looks as if they’re growing more common each year. So, while the majority of U.S. legal clients are still billed by the hour, that might not always be the case. Here’s a look at how alternatives to the billable hour are helping modernize the legal landscape by providing a more simplified, streamlined, and efficient way for clients and their law firms to do business.

Why AFAs are consistently increasing in popularity

In today’s high-tech, high-competition, and ultra-customizable world, clients are used to fee structures being designed around their needs, not the other way around. Today’s businesses use a variety of professional service firms– including advertising and marketing agencies, accounting firms, and IT and software firms, to name a few. Most of these service businesses offer streamlined, flat-rate packages for a specific set of services, so clients know exactly what they’re getting up front and just how much it will cost– and some clients are beginning to expect the same from their law firms. And, while the economic squeeze on the legal industry has lessened in the last year or two, law is still a highly competitive field– and firms need to do everything to attract and retain clients, even if that means taking a radically different approach when it comes to fees.

Some clients have long disliked the billable-hour method of billing, feeling that it prioritizes time work, not lawyer productivity or value created for the client. In certain cases, miscommunications or misunderstandings about the actual amount of a client’s legal fees have ended up with angry clients suing their firms– and much of the time, the firm is forced to eat a portion of the fees it’s owed. While an increase in situations like this has caused many firms to be more careful about what they track as billable hours, a distrust of the billable hour remains among some legal customers. For these clients, using an AFA can help avoid billable hours altogether, putting the client at ease, and giving your firm a leg up on firms who may not be able or willing to offer alternative fee structures.

AFAs can spread the risk of legal cases between the client and the firm

Because of the unpredictable nature of many kinds of legal proceedings, it can be very difficult for firms to determine the price of some kinds of legal services in advance. This can be dealt with in a variety of ways. One such method is by flat-fee billing clients in sections, or blocks, such as a new fee for every few weeks of legal work. This way, the firm doesn’t have to calculate their anticipated costs for an entire case or project at once; instead, they only must calculate the costs for the next stage of the project.

In other cases, a firm will calculate the entire cost up front, understanding the fact that they may lose money over the case. As long as a firm keeps a good ratio of “in the black” cases to “in the red” ones, (i.e. a good ratio of profitable to unprofitable cases) their AFA cases can still be profitable in aggregate. In yet other cases, a flat fee is used with a discount or bonus depending (or contingent) upon the outcome of the case– such as a 30% increase if the client wins, and a 30% discount if they lose.

Hybrid fee arrangements combine the best of flat fees and billable hour-based charges

In some firms, clients don’t have to choose between AFA and billable-hour fee arrangements; instead, they can get the best of both worlds with a so-called ‘hybrid’ fee arrangement. These arrangements differ in nature depending on the firm, but they combine the characteristics of both types of fee methods. For example, a client may require two types of legal work; work that’s more “cookie-cutter” (in which the costs can easily be anticipated), and more complex work, in which it may be much more difficult to estimate potential costs. In this case, the ‘cookie-cutter’ work may be charged as a flat-fee, while the other work would be charged via the traditional billable hour method.

Alternative fee arrangements are all about providing your clients options

The growth of alternative fee arrangements in the legal industry is just an offshoot of the growth of products, systems, and services that are highly customizable to clients. Today’s clients– especially today’s business clients, want more options– and they won’t accept anything less than a stellar customer service experience molded to the needs of their organization. Firms that understand this will have a serious leg up attracting and retaining clients— while firms that don’t, remain at a serious (and increasing) disadvantage.

To learn more about how alternative fee arrangements can help grow your firm’s legal clients while maintaining strong profitability, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Brain Balance: A Cautionary Tale of Trying to Substitute Critical Thinking with Technology

Brain Balance: A Cautionary Tale of Trying to Substitute Critical Thinking with Technology on bossreporting.com

Technological mistakes put lawyers and their practices at risk

Lawyers today live in an unprecedented era– a time where previously hidden information and expertise from around the world is available at the click of a button. Today’s lawyers take advantage of a variety of digital technologies each day in their practices, from conducting case research online and using e-discovery software, to implementing legal billing and case management programs in an attempt to streamline their firm’s internal processes.

While much of the change technology brings to lawyers is positive, not all of it is. In some cases, the use of technology can leave lawyers complacent and more prone to make serious errors. In an industry as high-stakes as law– where livelihoods, careers, and freedom sometimes hang in the balance, your clients can’t afford error. So, while technology can make a law firm faster, speed up the research process, and sometimes even speed up or enhance processes in the courtroom itself, lawyers need to seriously avoid outsourcing their decision-making skills to an app. Otherwise, they put both themselves and their clients at serious risk.

To-do lists, essential court filings, important meetings– keep a physical backup to avoid making a serious mistake

Scheduling software, case/law firm management programs, and team productivity apps have revolutionized (and organized) law offices across the country. While these software programs can seriously help streamline the legal planning and scheduling process, it’s all-too easy for attorneys to become over-reliant on software to handle all their appointments and assignments for the coming days and weeks.

For lawyers, relying only on one software program could be dangerous. Whether a glitch changes the dates of some or all appointments, or an unexpected computer crash leads to full-scale data loss, failing to back your appointment and scheduling data up could have serious consequences. That’s why you should print out a physical backup of your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule and/or keep important dates recorded in a notebook– and at the very least have a separate digital copy of your schedule to protect against data loss. While a co-worker may excuse a meeting missed due to a software error, a client or judge may not– and with the tiny amount of time it takes to create a physical duplicate, backing up your legal scheduling info is an incredibly worthwhile investment.

Lawyers leave themselves vulnerable by giving away information, answering emails, or speaking on the phone with high-tech scammers

Even lawyers are vulnerable to digital con men– and many criminals start by directly calling a law office, sometimes claiming to be a support employee from a software company or bank, offering to help with a situation or get the firm a discount. Since lawyers are generally highly-educated, many might think they’re ‘above’ falling for common credit card fraud, data theft, or identity theft scams– but sadly, they’re not. And, while the scams targeting lawyers and firms may not necessarily be different than those targeting the general population, lawyers and law firms have much more to lose than the average individual– including sensitive client and firm information, such as private case files and client billing and financial data.

Many scams begin with an email– and all someone has to do is open an attachment in order to release malware, spyware, or viruses onto their computer. Sometimes this leads to criminals secretly stealing data or running keystroke logging programs on a victim’s computer in order to detect and collect passwords, while in other cases, hackers may take a victim’s data hostage for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. This can put firms in a serious predicament, and many may be forced to pay a ransom rather than lose access to essential information that could significantly impact their clients’ cases.

In other cases, victims receive emails that look as if they were from the victim’s financial institution. Not knowing the email is a scam, the victim attempts to “log in” to their bank, debit, or credit card account, and by doing so, unknowingly reveals their information to a scammer. This process, called phishing, is one of the most common digital scams– and this is another reason why lawyers should avoid doing any work on unsecured personal computer or unsecured personal email addresses. Attorneys should be extremely careful when giving their email or phone number to unknown individuals and untrustworthy online subscription services.

Lawyers who don’t bring backup tech to legal and courtroom presentations leave themselves open to disaster

Lawyers make important presentations on a regular basis– whether it’s simply a firm strategy presentation for an important partner at their law firm, or a presentation of video and photographic evidence in a criminal defense trial. Many of these presentations involve technology– including the use of video projectors, televisions, computer monitors, laptops, speakers, and slide projectors. Despite the benefits of these technologies, If the technology a lawyer is about to use stops working, it could leave them in rough spot– and many lawyers, so confident in the latest tech, fail to take any precautions in case their presentation technology doesn’t work as intended.

Therefore, to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself when making an important legal presentation, it’s essential to make sure you have one or more backups to protect yourself in case of emergency. “Two is one and one is none,” is the U.S. Marines’ famous saying regarding supplies and equipment– and while the saying was intended to refer to military supplies, it certainly applies to legal presentation technology as well. Therefore, a lawyer about to make a presentation involving a laptop, projector, and speakers should make sure to borrow, buy, or rent an additional laptop, projector, and set of speakers, as well as all required cords and accessories.

In addition to a digital backup, it sometimes helps to have a physical backup, such as a poster and an old-style “boom box” CD player, in the event of a power outage or other electrical failure. It can also help to have “lower-tech” options like a traditional bulb slide project available, in case something happens to your computer(s). It’s also important to make sure that presentation data is backed up— both physically (i.e. on 2 USB or hard drives), and in the cloud (i.e. on a secure server or a secure email inbox).

Lawyers need to use critical thinking skills to retain their competitive advantage and protect themselves from costly mistakes

Whether you accidentally botched a major presentation due to a broken projector, your sensitive client files are being held hostage by a hacker, or you failed to attend a client’s hearing due to faulty case management software, technology can get you in serious trouble if you fail to complement it with adequate critical thinking skills.

In today’s legal industry, where pre-written contracts can be found with a click and potential clients sometimes turn to Wikipedia instead of an attorney, having critical thinking skills might be a modern attorney’s number one competitive advantage over a machine. However, if lawyers don’t use their critical thinking skills, they leave themselves open to serious mistakes– and may just find themselves replaced by the machines they rely too heavily upon.

To learn more about how to keep your law firm running smoothly, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Deconstructing the Billable Hour: Are You Tracking the Right Costs?

Deconstructing the Billable Hour: Are You Tracking the Right Costs? on bossreporting.com

Hourly billing may not be your favorite task as a lawyer, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either

The billable hour; depending upon who you ask, it might be one of the worst (or best) parts of working as an attorney. Despite an increasing amount of people calling for a change in attorney billing practices, and a shift toward flat-fee legal rates, the billable hour is here to stay— at least for now. And, since the billable hour isn’t going anywhere, you might as well make it work for you. A big part of that is knowing how to track the right costs.

In-person client meetings, preliminary case, issue, or contract research

Much of the legal work lawyers do today doesn’t involve getting up in front of a judge or jury– instead, it involves several hours of meticulous legal research. Since many areas of the law are so complex, many legal cases may need a team of lawyers researching for multiple weeks– or even months, depending on the size and scope of the case and the various issues at hand. In addition to taking up the time of attorneys and other staff, research can be expensive in its own right. In fact, many firms may have to make hundreds or even thousands of dollars of purchases to effectively research a case. These might include:

  • Specialized research software or legal software
  • Special or additional subscriptions to legal or academic search engines
  • Paid access to scholarly articles, scientific studies, or research papers
  • Physical books or paperwork purchased for research purposes

Consultation with outside counsel, subject-matter experts or potential expert witnesses

While any one lawyer may be a bona-fide subject matter expert in two or three areas, many complex legal projects can involve a variety of legal and non-legal subject areas, which can often overwhelm attorneys if they’re not prepared. In some situations, a firm may need to contract with another lawyer outside their firm with more expertise in a specific legal area. These attorneys, acting as ‘outside counsel’ to the original firm, are usually hired to provide lawyers and their clients clarification or legal advice on the specific details of a complex contract or case.

While hiring outside counsel can be extremely beneficial in certain cases, the costs can easily add up– especially if a lawyer from a different firm is called for the entire duration of the original firm’s work. While an hour or two consultation with another firm’s lawyer may not cost much, an outside lawyer providing additional counsel throughout the entire duration of a lengthy trial could easily add up to tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Getting bills from two lawyers can often anger and confuse clients who don’t understand what’s going on, so you need to be clear– and careful, about how and when you use (and bill for) outside counsel.

In other cases, lawyers and their clients need a subject matter expert to provide guidance on a non-legal matter that affects the case at hand— such as a private criminologist examining a crime scene involved in a legal dispute, a doctor conducting genetic testing, or a computer forensics expert looking at a hard drive.

Travel and transportation costs can add up, especially in certain kinds of cases

If a legal matter has you or members of your firm traveling to meet a distant client on-site, or you’re involved in a lengthy in-court legal dispute, certain kinds of legal work (and certain clients) may have you traveling significantly. This can greatly add to your costs, since travel eats up otherwise productive time (even if you do get some work done). To a lesser extent, the actual costs of travel themselves can also add up, especially if a lot of driving or flying is involved. Therefore, it’s essential to incorporate these costs in your billable hours.

Many lawyers, for example, bill at half their hourly rate for travel, in addition to charging the customer any tolls, parking fees, and a certain amount of money per mile driven. Others charge their full billable hour rate, while others charge a flat fee, or even nothing at all. Whatever you charge clients for in terms of travel, it’s essential to let them know up front. Otherwise they could be footing a huge expense that they never even knew they had– something that many clients would consider unfair.

Make sure your clients understand what, why, how, when, and how much you’re billing them always

If you’re a lawyer, accurately tracking the right costs is essential, but making sure your client pays (and pays on time) is equally as important. In addition, you want your client to be satisfied with (or at least accepting of) your fee, otherwise, they’ll be less likely to return in the future and less apt to recommend your firm to others. To accomplish this, you’ll want to make sure that any bills you send your client are clear, sufficiently detailed, and relatively easy for a layman to understand.

Many business owners, executives, and other clients are extremely busy– and it’s not their responsibility to understand the law or how you used it to help them. It’s your responsibility to succinctly explain it to them, both during the time you’ve spend with them, and on the invoice you send. In most cases, the more a client understands about how and why you’ve billed them (provided you’re being honest) the more likely they are to be satisfied with the amount.

When billing, avoid multi-hour blocks and clear up confusion before clients owe you big

In addition to explaining the general what, how, why, when and how much you’re billing, experts also suggest that attorneys avoid automatically billing their hours in multi-hour blocks. Instead, it may be better to bill for each individual activity, whether it takes 25 minutes, or three hours. In addition to keeping language simple, this single-activity billing method can go a long way towards clearing up any confusion on the part of your clients about how all those billable hours were spent.

Finally, it’s important to remind attorneys that it’s considerably easier to resolve any problems with clients early in the billing process, rather than later. If you think a client may be confused, won’t want to pay, or may not understand how much and why you’re billing them, it’s much better to clear things up before they owe you a significant amount of money.

To learn more about how to make billable hours (or other fee schemes) work for you and your law firm, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Your Value Proposition: Why Customer Education is the Best Way to Help Clients Understand Your Fees

Your Value Proposition: Why Customer Education is the Best Way to Help Clients Understand Your Fees on bossreporting.com

When it comes to purchasing your legal services, an informed customer is your best consumer

If you’re a lawyer who wants to maximize the value your customers receive from your legal services, properly educating them is paramount to your success. Law is an incredibly complex field– and it can be easy for customers who don’t understand the law to be less than understanding of the fees you charge for your firm’s services. That’s why providing accurate, comprehensive, and specifically relevant information about how the law affects your client’s business isn’t just the best way to help clients understand your fees; it’s the only way.

Lawyers and firms have a diverse array of customer education tools at their disposal

From customized emails and e-books to blogs, presentations, and seminars, lawyers and firms have never had more ways to educate their clients about how legal affairs can impact their lives and businesses– and how their services may be able to help. The education format (or formats) that a lawyer or firm chooses can depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Attorney/firm preferences
  • Client preferences
  • Availability/ease of access/use
  • Cost/time investment

Each method of education has costs and benefits, and firms may find that certain methods are great for some types of clients, while not others. For example, older, professional clients may appreciate the in-person touch and interaction of a bi-monthly talk or seminar, while a younger and more tech-savvy client may appreciate a personalized email or a series of blog posts tailored to their specific business or industry. While, for example, an in-person seminar may be a much greater expense in terms of time and money than an email, it can offer a much more enriching experience for certain clients. Each firm or attorney will need to do research and speak to clients to determine what exact mix of educational materials, communications, and experiences they want to create for their clients.

Attorneys and firms should consider education as part of their continuing marketing process as, in many ways, a law firm’s marketing efforts shouldn’t stop when a customer comes in through the door. Instead, a firm should constantly and consistently demonstrate their value to clients by not only providing excellent customer service, but by providing them comprehensive information about how the legal environment will affect their business now, and in the future.

List email newsletters are a common mainstay– but personalized emails may be a better move

Many law firms offer weekly, monthly, or quarterly email newsletters to clients. While these are often a step in the right direction, they sometimes don’t offer the personalized touch that clients want from their attorneys. Instead, it may be more effective to have specific articles, blogs, or news-flashes sent directly from the client’s attorney– not just the firm. While this may take considerably more time than a standard newsletter, it can often pay dividends in strengthening your firm’s relationship with its clients.

However, you don’t necessarily have to send one-on-one emails to address your client’s specific needs. Instead, you and your firm may wish to send out two to four separate versions of your newsletter, each to a different group of clients. For example, if your firm deals with clients in the aviation, technology, and media industries, it may be prudent to send out a different newsletter for each group of clients. Therefore, your clients don’t simply get general information. Instead, they get highly-focused news and data specific to their individual industry and overall business needs.

E-books and blogs can provide comprehensive knowledge on complex, industry-specific legal matters

From depositions to arbitrations and settlements, law can be full of terms that may be very basic to you, but could seem complex to a client. In today’s digital media landscape, publishing blogs and e-books may be two of the best ways to educate your clients about basic legal terminology, as well as keeping them updated about how laws are changing in their industry.

In whichever sector your clients work, if they aren’t aware of legal terminology, they may not understand what you’re billing. As every lawyer knows, preparing for days in court, submitting documents to judges and other attorneys, and preparing contracts for multiple parties can all be time consuming processes— sometimes necessitating the work of multiple attorneys and an army of clerks, advisors, and assistants. That doesn’t include special costs that could arise, such as calling in a legal expert from another firm, or an expert witness to help shore up an argument in court. In many cases, what seems like a simple accomplishment to a client may have taken many hours of time and the contribution of multiple attorneys. However, the more clients know about the law, the more likely they are to understand the painstaking work and long hours it takes to get them the outcome they desire. Writing about the law is an excellent way to inform them.

Networking events can also be a great way to educate clients– and potentially meet new ones

Blogging, e-books, and other online publishing activities are essential for modern law firms– but they’re not without their limitations. A huge segment of the population, including many people born in the 40s through 60s, still prefer to do most their interaction in person. This means that if you want your client education programs to be truly effective, they need to incorporate an in-person option as well.

Many attorneys hold monthly or quarterly speaking events, in which they rent out a local space, create fliers and marketing materials, and invite both clients and members of the public to discuss a legal topic of interest to local business owners. Not only will this help educate clients about the value of your work, but it can also serve as a powerful marketing tool, attracting new clients to your business. Other attorneys hold weekly or monthly lunches or office meetings, inviting close friends, clients, and other attorneys to have a frank, in-depth discussion about how the law affects each of their industries, and how new legal developments impact their businesses and their lives. This can be a slightly more intimate way to solidify your relationship with current clients and to help them better understand the work you do.

Understanding legal matters can help clients realize just how long a project might take– which may also help them stomach a higher fee than they initially expected

If some of your clients seem angry or surprised at the size of a legal bill, they might not just be frugal; instead, they likely have a serious lack of understanding about how the legal system itself works. Bridging this gap of understanding isn’t just about educating your clients; it’s about laying out the potential legal fees a client will face beforehand, as well as going into detail during and after the legal work is complete to attempt to explain the costs a client is incurring.

It’s important to make sure that any statements you send them details how each hour was used– as well as notes about any potential areas of confusion or extra fees and expenses the client might be facing. If a client sees a reasonable and easy-to-read breakdown of expenses, and has been informed upfront about both general fees and your billable hour rate, they’ll be much more understanding about the expensive nature of so much of today’s legal work.

To learn more about how to help your legal clients understand and appreciate the value you provide, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

Lawyer, Market Thyself: How to Make Sense of What Will Work for Your Practice

Lawyer, Market Thyself: How to Make Sense of What Will Work for Your Practice on bossreporting.com

DIY marketing combined with a little professional help can go a long way for solo practitioners and small firms

Whether you’ve recently set out on your own as a solo practitioner, or you’ve started a small firm with a few other attorneys, getting new law clients is often a number-one priority. To do that, you’ll need a business plan– and by making one, you can create a solid roadmap for your practice– full of strategies you can use to see what kinds of marketing activities work best for your law firm– and a smart plan to implement them.

To make the most out of self-marketing, you’ll need to know your goals, including your ideal client

To effectively create a DIY marketing plan for your firm, it’s essential to know your exact goals. To do that, it helps to ask yourself questions, including:

  • If you’re a solo practitioner, how much revenue and profit would you like the firm to (realistically) bring in?
  • If you’re a partner in a small firm, how much would like you and your partners to bring in?
  • What exact legal services do you want to promote?
  •  Who is your ideal client? What’s their age? Gender? Industry? Ethnicity? Net worth?

Asking and answering these questions is a great first step to legal marketing success– and knowing the answers will allow you to make more efficient, effective, and rewarding choices when it comes to marketing your law practice. Without knowing yourself and your clients, you’ll simply be trying to find your way in the dark.

Email, Facebook, LinkedIn, print ads, mailings, and more: Which is most effective, and which comes first?

When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to be confused by the multitude of options. As much as you want to see (and potentially mimic) what other successful firms have done, you also want to make sure that your firm does something a little different, or extra perhaps, to give it a competitive edge over the competition.

To know which marketing activities are likely to provide the biggest ROI for your firm and generate real, quality clients, you’ll have to learn a bit about them, and, after consulting with co-workers, employees, or yourself (in the case of solo practitioners), decide how they fit into your integrated marketing strategy. Here are how some of the most common marketing methods might align with your firm’s goals:

  • Facebook: Creating a fan page or business page for your firm is essential; firm partners and other employees can use their personal Facebook pages (and friends) to draw traffic to the firm’s page (just make sure all public info on personal accounts, including photos, is business appropriate.) Later, firms may also want to purchase Facebook ads or “boost” page posts in order to increase customer awareness.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily have the massive reach of a platform like Facebook– but its users include many business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs, all of whom might be potential clients for your firm. To increase credibility, lawyers can have other clients and professionals offer recommendations– and they can also post blogs to share thoughts and ideas with others on the site.
  • Blogging: Blogging is another essential part of legal internet marketing. Law firms should update blogs regularly, either writing the posts themselves, or hiring a marketing firm or blogging service to create informative posts of interest to potential clients. Blogs can and should be posted and promoted through a firm’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages– and it helps to get creative. Multimedia tools, like helpful (and shareable) videos and infographics, can make your marketing succeed on even the most crowded of platforms.
  • Websites: While nearly every firm has a website, not all law firm websites are equal. Ones that look dated, extremely plain or too flashy, don’t provide essential information about the firm’s attorneys and their practice areas, and don’t prominently feature the firm’s blog may not be ideal for attracting new clients.
  • Mailings: While the ROI differs greatly between different markets and practice areas, many businesses (including law firms) have stopped using mail as a marketing technique due to an increased focus on digital marketing strategies. This means that, since there may be fewer competitors, mail marketing could help your firm succeed in a crowded legal marketplace.
  • Print Ads: Print ads might be considered an afterthought in the age of digital marketing, but the truth is that many older customers still crave the sensation of reading printed newspapers and magazines– especially on the local level. Due to digital advances, local print advertising may be offered at a steep discount in many markets, and some firms that print ads can significantly boost the combined ROI of their sales and marketing efforts.
  • Email: Some experts posit that email marketing has the best (on average) ROI of any digital marketing method– but it can be tricky to master. Developing a big contact list, and a creating a consistent (yet non-intrusive) communication strategy are key to making sure your emails help, not hurt, your marketing initiatives.
  • In-person events: Having your firm’s attorneys give free, in-person talks throughout the community can be one of the best ways to increase local exposure for your law practice and create goodwill for your firm. When giving a talk, you never know who might be listening– and a random audience member could become your firm’s next big client.

When it comes to legal marketing, success is not determined by how many tools you use, but how you use them to achieve your firm’s goals

All the marketing options listed above are simply a fragment of the options law firms have to promote themselves. Unless you or your firm has a big budget (and a lot of time) it’s best to stick to 2-3 at first and do them well. Trying more than that at once can often be confusing and demoralizing– after all, you’re not just marketing–you’re running a practice at the same time.

In many cases, it can also be effective to bring in a little outside help, even for solo practitioners on a small budget. That could mean consulting with a local PR agent to get a local speaking engagement, or purchasing a few hours of consultation with a small advertising agency or marketing company in order to brush up on your email and social media strategy. Remember, just because you’re doing it yourself doesn’t mean you should do everything alone. Even if you’re willing to put the hours in to make every Facebook post and write every blog yourself, it can pay to make sure that you’re going in the right direction.

Smart legal marketing isn’t necessarily complex– but it can be time consuming. However, if you do your research, make smart decisions, and aren’t afraid to sweat, a little work can go a long way toward building the rewarding legal practice that you deserve.

To learn more about how to manage, market and protect your law firm in a changing world, contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.

6 Tips to Conquer your Fear of Public Speaking

6 Tips to Conquer your Fear of Public Speaking on bossreporting.com

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.

Thinking of Switching Your Practice Area? Here’s What You Need to Know

Thinking of Switching Your Practice Area? Here’s What You Need to Know on bossreporting.com

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.