Tag Archives: technology

How To Increase Revenue Per Lawyer At Your Firm

Is your firm struggling to increase revenue per lawyer?

Revenue per lawyer can be an indicator of a firm’s overall financial well-being. By developing an internal culture of business development, your firm can begin to generate more revenue. Nevertheless, not all employees find it easy to build client loyalty, manage expectations, and generate client referrals.

Client satisfaction alone does not translate into future business.

Lawyers must be proactive in at least two areas: (1) explaining legal services of the firm; and (2) providing value where other legal services have failed.

First, clients, in order to make referrals, need to know the breadth of services available at a law firm.

For example, a firm may have provided a client with labor and employment legal services to a technology start-up. This start-up may have a business partner in need of intellectual property legal aid, but not realize the same firm also offers this service.

Prep your lawyers on how to identify and maximize cross-selling opportunities. This may require a script prepared in advance for your lawyers to read to clients about the range of your legal aid. It should also include background research into the business needs of your clients and their industry.

Second, clients, in order to remain loyal, need to know the breadth of customization of services available at a law firm. So, for example, your firm may be willing to offer alternative fee arrangements, such as a fee deferral system.

Fee deferral systems or contingency arrangements are especially important today amid the growth of technology start-ups.

“Think about it. You’re basically saying you’re going to stand behind your client and you’re going to hope that they can succeed and if they don’t succeed, you’re not going to get paid,” explained lawyer Debbie Weinstein of her client-focused business strategy at LaBarge Weinstein LLP to Law Times.

“That builds a lot of trust, a lot of integrity, and it also builds a common bond. The client says, ‘You know what, these professionals actually think I can make it and they’re not looking to get paid before anyone else.’ That builds long-standing, great relationships, and we have multiple entrepreneurs who come back to us every time they start a new business.”

Not all firms are willing to take such risks. But, if your firm is among the few, it may carve out a niche of competitive advantage that is desperately needed to get ahead in the legal services industry.

Finally, don’t let your clients out-tech your firm. Learn how to utilize technology to support and accelerate key client development activities.

For some specific ideas and resources, listen to C4CM’s audio guide “Increasing Revenue Per Lawyer: Creating a Healthy Culture of Business Development.”

Time to target better business practices, in addition to better legal ones. Innovation is the first step in increasing revenue per lawyer.

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Effective Time Management In The Digital Age: Guides, Strategies, Phone Apps & More!

Do you ever look at the clock and think, “where did the time go?”

You know you’ve been working, but on what? For how long? Some days you can’t help but get caught up in the minutiae, whether it’s paperwork, responding to emails, or writing to-do lists for tasks you still—at 5pm—have yet to do.

This is why you’re still billing hours at the end of the day. This is why you’re unable to go home until midnight. This is why you hate coming to work on Monday mornings.

But, those wasted work days—the ones where you lose track of time—can come to an end. At least, Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email In The Morning, would have you believe.

“There are several reasons why our days have swelled,” says Morgenstern to Forbes.

“Companies continuously are trying to hire as few people as possible. Our roles are continuously changing, the world is changing, we’re in a time of rapid change—nothing is ‘business as usual’…”

And, when it comes to law firm professionals, Morgenstern is absolutely right. There’s no such thing as the “normal” associate. There’s no more “standard” for partnership track positions. In fact, law firms are changing the way they do “business as usual” through outsourcing the document review in the discovery stages, utilizing more electronic legal assistants than in-person ones, and even adding online services.

So how do law firm professionals adapt their time management styles to accommodate today’s digital world?

Try writing a time management diary.

Morgenstern suggests employees write down how much time they’re spending on a project, including when and why their workflow was interrupted, everyday. Soon, you’ll find out exactly what’s squandering your and what’s saving you time.

Management consultants are hired to help your firm operate more efficiently. But, you can start auditing your own your own activities is through a smartphone or tablet app.

Consider one of the following apps:

1. Eternity Time Log Lite – Personal Timesheet (Free)

This time management app lets you focus on the work that matters and avoid distractions through project lists and timers. The app creates reports about your time. Just review, and adjust your work habits, accordingly.

2. Klock ($19.99)

Do you know how much time you spend in meetings? On the phone? Promoting yourself? Making sales calls? Keep track of anything with Klock’s work timer and visual display of how your days “fill up”. Klock can be synched across multiple employees. That way you can track time management across team members.

3. Frecke ($19+/month)

Says one satisfied user:

“The Pulse is my favorite feature and what sold me on Freckle. With the Pulse, I can easily see and keep track of how many hours I’ve done and for which client. This makes it really easy for me to see what I need to do for the rest of the week, and also plan for the time I can use for other projects. I can quickly see that I have already put in a certain amount of hours for one client and not yet another, so I know to dedicate some time to the other client. The Pulse really helps me manage my time better and keep track of how I’m actually using my time. It even lets me see when I’m not using my time efficiently.”

And eight more apps here!

You can also sign-up for C4CM’s information-packed guide “Effective Time Management: Take Control, Tackle Work Flow Chaos and Overcome Productivity Challenges.”

This 73-page, comprehensive guide provides many strategies for tackling time management issues at your firm, from handling crises to multitasking to burnout.

You work at a law firm. Chances are you cannot leave at 5pm with everything done like Morgenstern would have you believe. However, you can make sure that each hour you bill is an efficient one, and that each hour you don’t remains productive.

The first step in managing your time? Finding out where you’re wasting it!

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A To F: Alphabetical List Of Outdated Legal Technology

We’ve already complained about Luddite lawyers.

Technology is not only a pragmatic requirement of the practice of law; it is now an ethical one, too.

If your IT Department isn’t already the most integral and important part of your firm, it’s like you’re falling behind. Furthermore, if you use any of the following items on a day-to-day basis, it’s like your operations are as outdated, as well.

Eliminate some of these machines and office mores to get back on track.

“A” for Associates.

Associates are on the decline, and law firm employees on the rise.

Associate compensation models are changing as the legal marketplace becomes overpopulated with a generation of lawyers with very different workplace attitudes and expectations.

Firms are recognizing the growing obsolescence of the traditional lockstep model and are taking steps to rework it or replace it. Firms now have an opportunity to be much more creative in how their attorneys are paid and to use compensation as a way to drive long-term value. To create long-term value and retain good attorneys, a firm first needs to design a strong, coherent, and attractive strategy.

Rather than firing secretaries or de-equitizing partners, Greenberg Traurig law firm has created a new strategy for hiring associates in the form of a “residency program.” Firm managers view this program as a way to attract talented associates without having to endure the costly and risky hiring process. Also, it allows junior lawyers to sign on who may not have made the cut in the first place, reports Law21.

In addition, junior lawyers work case matters without billing their work at the high rates clients have come to expect. Sitting on conference calls and gaining on-the-job training, these “resident” attorneys gain the job experience needed to succeed in the future and sustain life in an over-saturated market today.

Greenberg is simultaneously creating a new non-shareholder-track position called the practice group attorney, similar to the positions at law firms Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. 

The age of the Associate is over.

“B” for Binders

Why are you till making copies, printing out transcripts, and creating binders? Sure, every once in awhile, there’s a need for a hard-copy backup binder. But, it’s time to go digital.

Papers can be scanned, digitally stored, text-recognized, and then made searchable to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your law firm.

Binders are out, and electronic case material software—MyCase, Amicus Attorney, AdvantageLaw, LegalFiles, and OneNote—is in.

“C” for Conference calls

How many people really benefit from conference calls? Already, it’s impossible for more than one person to speak, and—often—people accidentally speak over one another.

Is a conference call more efficient than a memo? Do five people really need to bill the client for the same call?

Conference calls can easily be replaced with a quick person-to-person conversation, memorandums circulated over email, lists distributing work product, or—for the advanced law firm—discussions over a wiki (Learn how to create one here).

Ditch the conference call and develop your social capital at in-person conferences instead.

“D” for Dictaphones

Della may have used a Dictaphone for Perry Mason, but outside the world of black and white television is the real world of iPhones and Macbooks.

Your smartphone, tablet, and computer is capable of recording and even transcribing audio. So why are you still using cassette tape recorders? The Dictaphone should die in a fiery death, the app Dragon Dictation, however, is worth its weight in Silicon.

“E” for E-mail

Experts agree, e-mail is outdated. A meeting-less morning, a conference-call free afternoon, or e-mail-less day goes a long way in productivity for the firm and project deliverables for your clients.

Reading and answering e-mail takes up approximately 28 percent of the average workweek for employees, reports a 2012 study by McKinsey & Company. Communicating and collaborating internally takes up 14 percent of the workweek, and searching and gathering information just 19 percent.

Have you ever e-mailed a colleague who shares a wall with you? If so, it’s time to reconsider your e-mail etiquette and e-mail frequency.

Electronic communication certainly has its advantages. But, its overuse has made e-mail under-perform in comparison to old-fashioned office visits.

“F” for Faxes

Ok, keep your fax machine. But only if it’s paid for or used as a paperweight, museum item, or reminder to what legal assistants had to go through to file motions in the past. Otherwise, stick to e-filings or eFaxing.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with times, just consult The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s list of courses and audio conferences on technology integration for law firms.

Also, keep reading this blog, http://lawfirmsuccess.wordpress.com/, for more tips of the legal trade.

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Lawyers Finally Forced To Embrace Technology (& Snubb Ned Ludd)

In 1985, Robert Calvert wrote and recorded a song “Ned Ludd,” which says:

They said Ned Ludd was an idiot boy
That all he could do was wreck and destroy, and
He turned to his workmates and said: Death to Machines
They tread on our future and they stamp on our dreams.

The year of 1985 was the year of the Polaroid, original Macintosh computer, and the digital Casio Keyboard. In 1985, Nintendo was shipped from Japan to the USA and revolutionized gaming. We also got a glimpse of Windows 1.0.

So, with so many amazing technological advancements, why were people singing homages to Ned Ludd?

Ned Ludd, for those who don’t know, is the person who gave Luddites their name.

In 1779, Ludd supposedly broke two stocking frames in a fit of rage. Thereafter, any and all violence by 19th century English textile artisans who protested against new, labour-saving machinery—the Luddites—was blamed on Ludd (read more on Wikipedia here).

Luddites hated technology. They fought against the Industrial Revolution. In the 1980s, the computer boom, like Calvert’s song, was experience a minor backlash of critism. Today, we are witnessing the same.

But, are lawyers Luddites?

That has been a frequent topic of conversation of late, particularly since the recent amendment by the ABA House of Delegates to Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 on Competence. The phrase (in bold italics) below was added to Comment 8:

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

The Lawyerist featured an article in December 2013 titled, “Luddite Lawyers Are Ethical Violations Waiting to Happen.

The article’s author, Megan Zavieh, comments, “During my first year of law school, we were not allowed to do computerized research. Instead, we were taught to use the leather-bound reporters, Shepherds, and treatises. It was only during our second year that we were deemed worthy to use Westlaw and Lexis to ‘confirm’ our book findings. (Of course, I doubt any of us ventured into the stacks again.)”

“This approach reflected the general attitude of the legal profession in the mid-to-late 1990s.”

Of course, the 1980s and 1990s for law and technology look nothing like the legal practices of the 21st century. “In 2013, email is ubiquitous, and just about every lawyer has some form of electronic research available on his laptop, tablet, or phone. And everyone—lawyers included—uses Google to find everything else,” writes Zavieh.

“In law practice, that includes research on witnesses, opponents, judges, and anything else not found in a Fastcase, Westlaw, or Lexis database. Technology is an unavoidable part of practicing law.”

The Lawyerist article is powerful, citing case precedent where technology—including “reasonable efforts” to conduct online searches during jury selection or considering the inclusion of social networking sites in due diligence as part of a “matter of professional competence”—has entrenched itself in courtrooms and cases.

Being ethical now requires lawyers to be technological. So, what does that mean for your firm?

First, “old-school” partners can no longer shun firm training sessions on legal services software. “The age of the law firm partner who can’t remember what Facebook is called, or who asks his secretary to print out his emails, or who goofs up a video conference during trial, is past,” Zavieh reminds us.

Second, new associates should be tested on their technological knowledge before being hired. Always.

Third, your firm might reconsider how it conducts its due diligence, and disseminate technology-friendly policies.

Fourth, your e-discovery software should be state-of-the-art.

Fifth, your IT department should circulate monthly memos on the top tech trends and how to incorporate them at your firm.

Sixth, your younger associates should keep track of technology-related legal precedent and what it means for important case matters.

Finally, if you’ve rejected any of these simple steps toward streamlining technology into the day-to-day operations of your firm, it’s likely you’re a Luddite. And, these days, Luddite lawyers are about as outdated, un-recruited, and under-performing as 19th century looms.

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Law Firms & Tech Start-ups: How To Get High Returns On This High-Tech Mix

Tech start-ups, they’re everywhere.

Anybody with a keyboard is now a nontrepreneur—an entrepreneur who needs nearly nothing, non-ness, to make an invisible product or intermediary service with questionable social welfare output.

Nontrepreneurs are intermediaries, connecting people, companies, or services that have already existed in markets deeply ingrained in our society for decades.

“In essence, software (which is at the heart of these startups) is eating away at the structures established in the analogue age. LinkedIn, a social network, for instance, has fundamentally changed the recruitment business. Airbnb, a website on which private owners offer rooms and flats for short-term rent, is disrupting the hotel industry. And Uber, a service that connects would-be passengers with drivers, is doing the same for the taxi business,” writes Ludwig Siegele for the print-edition of the Economist magazine’s article, A Cambrian moment.

Recruiters still exist, but with LinkedIn as a complementary asset. Gites and family-style B&Bs still thrive, but with a forum to post availability and through which customers can compare their quaintness.

What exactly is coming out of this tech-start-up boom? Is this another Silicon Valley boom, bubble, and bust?

Experts don’t think so, high-tech is here to stay. Although, they do blame the blase millennials, a lazy generation who do it themselves in order to delay what grandparents called paying-your-dues.

“A lot of millennials are not particularly keen on getting a ‘real’ job anyway. According to a recent survey of 12,000 people aged between 18 and 30 in 27 countries, more than two-thirds see opportunities in becoming an entrepreneur,” writes Siegele.

“That signals a cultural shift.”

Opportunities in nontrepreneurship have increased. Buzz words like “innovation” or “invention” abound.

So how will tomorrow’s economy accommodate so much creativity?

“The prevailing model will be platforms with small, innovative firms operating on top of them. This pattern is already emerging in such sectors as banking, telecommunications, electricity and even government,” continues Siegele.

Basically, people need a change. They want something new—a new lifestyle, a new product, a new way of working.

This cultural shift is a threat to the legal industry who prides itself on being old, established. Law firms project the image of being solid, like the granite walls of a courthouse or the mahogany legs of an office desk.

To survive in such a brave new world of tech start-ups, law firms must embrace the new in one of two ways:

  1. adopt innovative legal tools—software and alternative billing arrangements; or
  2. cater their old-style services to new-fangled sectors, like M&A, venture capital services, and entrepreneurial advising.

For instance, in London, JAG Shaw Baker is a leader of the pact in European law firms dedicated to venture capital and advising start-ups and investors in high growth industries.

“The fact it’s in London signals the fact that the ecosystem there is growing at a clip, and is rapidly acting as a hub for international startups,” writes Mike Butcher in 2013 for the TechCrunch article, A Rare Launch In Europe—Big New Law Firm Dedicated To Tech Startups.

So if your firm hasn’t already, it’s high time to develop a strategy for capturing high-tech industry market share. Whether it’s a new HR regime, new website for attracting clients, purchasing legal software, or providing new services to nontrepreneurs, law firms should embrace this tech boom or risk going bust.

Start your firm’s high-tech upgrade today by offering your high-tech clients alternative billing arrangements. Read about the trends with C4CM’s report here.

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Is E-mail Outdated? A Law Firm’s 2014 Guide To Best E-Mail (& Productivity) Practices

Remember study hall in school? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one hour every day in the workweek to devote to “homework”—that is, to complete all those deliverables and other documents you couldn’t quite finish between case status meetings and conference calls.

Reading and answering e-mail takes up approximately 28 percent of the average workweek for employees, reports a 2012 study by McKinsey & Company. Communicating and collaborating internally takes up 14 percent of the workweek, and searching and gathering information just 19 percent.

That means, the time that’s left for role-specific tasks—the tasks your employees were actually hired to perform, for which your employees were trained—take up only about a third (39 percent) of the average workweek.

So why does coordinating effort between employees and communication take up so much time and dry up so much productivity?

In many ways, e-mail has transformed menial labor into a performance-eating monster.

E-mail, once a more efficient way of communicating from your law firm in New York to its client in Shanghai, has now become the most abused way of communicating from your law office on Floor 1 to its counterparts on Floor 2.

What’s the solution for this time-sucking glut of a technology? Some experts are calling for a total elimination of the culprit.

Is e-mail over?

Recently in an article with Wired Magazine’s Marcus Wohlsen, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz admitted he had trouble keeping up with the 180 employees he oversaw.

“I would spend weeks collecting information about the state of the world,” explained Moskovitz.

“And by the end, it would be a couple weeks out of date.”

The world has come a long way in terms of digital communication—Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates, Instagram photo posts. Moskovitz left Facebook to establish a single application to combine project management with a communications system. He co-founded such a technology with Justin Rosenstein in their San Francisco start-up company Asana.

Although both Asana founders still use e-mail, “Rosenstein says that, with Asana, he needs just 15 minutes a day to get through the email that needs his attention. The rest of his time, he says, he can devote to real work,” writes Wohlsen in his article for Wired.

“All the email and meetings, all that work about work, all this soul-sucking effort, is not real work. It’s a distraction,” Rosenstein says.

“If we can get rid of that distraction so we can actually get some work done, that just totally opens the doors.”

It may be a couple of years before Asana’s product reaches law firm doors. And, who knows if a new communications platform will ever—in our lifetime—replace the golden standard of e-mail.

Nevertheless, it’s time to stop wasting billable hours on inefficient e-mail habits. Come up with a friendly and effective e-mail guidance policy. One with rules such as:

  • E-mail across U.S. states or national borders, not walls
  • Never use “reply-all”
  • Face time with firm partners goes farther than Facebooking
  • Monday mornings are a firm-wide e-mail blackout. Whatever needs to be said should be conducted in-person or on the phone

Perhaps it’s time law firms and businesses reinstate the school study hall. Choose an hour, an afternoon, or a day to black-out technology and write-in work. A meeting-less morning, a conference-call free afternoon, or e-mail-less day goes a long way in productivity for the firm and project deliverables for your clients.

E-mail is not dead yet, but innovative time-management ideas for your employees might be the next best thing.

Still got a lot on your plate? Read C4CM’s guide: Effective Time Management: Take Control, Tackle Work Flow Chaos and Overcome Productivity Challenges.

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Are Machines Replacing Man? How To Put Law Firm Professionals & Technology In Sync

This is no longer a question limited to science fiction novels or Hollywood films. Instead, real-life economists and statisticians are debating a larger-than-life issue: are machines replacing man in the labor market?

Stenographers in court cases have already butted head-to-head, so to speak, with their digital technology counterparts. New Jersey recently transitioned to high-tech digital recordings to track legal proceedings, replacing salaried stenographers.

Man vs. machine, is one becoming obsolete in law?

Apparently, according to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article (online, of course), robots are getting all the good jobs.

“’What’s different now is the speed and scale of what’s happening,’ says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business. Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, co-authors of the recently published book Race Against the Machine, argue that the economy is in the early stages of a ‘Great Restructuring’ that is hollowing out the labor market and exacerbating inequality,” reports David Lynch from his computer.

Instead of a human resources department, your law firm uses Google Analytics and LinkedIn.

Instead of a public relations department, you have first-year associate updating Twitter feeds and posting to the firm blog.

Instead of masses of associates filtering through discovery, you’ve outsourced doc review to India.

Instead of rooms full of documents and binders, lawyers talk about accessing servers and storing to the cloud.

Who or what really make up your law firm staff?

On the other hand, some aren’t buying into the debate.

James D. Hamilton of the University of California at San Diego reminds us that technology constantly ruffles—not replaces—the labor force.

For example, today, only 2 percent of Americans work on farms. However, in 1900, 41 percent of Americans toiled the Terre. This doesn’t mean 39 percent of ex-farms were forced into unemployment. Nope, they found new jobs.

“In 2005 the average U.S. worker could produce what would have required two people to do in 1970, what would have required four people in 1940, and would have required six people in 1910,” Hamilton writes in an e-mail correspondence with Lunch for BusinessWeek.

“The result of this technological progress was not higher unemployment but instead rising real wages. The evidence from the last two centuries is unambiguous—productivity gains lead to more wealth, not poverty.”

Nevertheless, this month’s issue of The Atlantic and Forbes magazine unearths this question once more. Should you use Big Data to hire, fire, or promote employees?

Grant Gordon for Forbes advises companies to take advantage of both works. Target undervalued or unemployed workers via technology, but the rely on human instinct and in-person interviews to finish the job.

Who or what most efficiently gets the job done? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Only your managers can evaluate that. So, get together with your IT department and weigh the pros and cons of man vs. machine.

Certainly there will be advantages to both. But, the real value add is when man understands machine, and in tandem, these productivity gins lead to more wealth for your firm.

In the end, don’t blame technology for the recession. Embrace digital systems within the walls of your office, and you may soon find the ensuing growth of your firm leads to a need for more professionals—the ebb and flow of an industry lies in our continuing to advance with it, not against it.

Take, for example, these C4CM analytics of alternative billing trends. According to the 2010 Alternative Billing Benchmarking Study, more than 87 percent of practitioners have some sort of alternative billing arrangement available to clients. Find out what billing arrangements you can offer clients in this training resource here.

-WB

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Do Lawyers Need The iPhone 5S? Look At These New Legal Apps & Decide

This week, Apple announced the new features and selling price of the iPhone 5S and 5C.

Equipped with a newer, faster chip to provide desktop computer-esque performance, an improved camera, and a fingerprint security scanner, Apple’s senior vice president, Phil Schiller, claims the 5S is the “most forward-thinking phone perhaps anyone has ever made,” according to the Telegraph.

Now, instead of remembering four numbers (which, let’s face it, was just your birthdate) the circle button that has traditionally served as the iPhone’s home button will now work as a fingerprint sensor, called Touch ID (I guess Apple lost the trademark battle for iTouchID).

The iPhone 5C is a cheaper version of the iPhone 5S. Both are available in a variety of colors, and both have prices that will make you grown as loudly as the stock market. Right after the unveiling, Apple’s stock price declined. Why? Investors—along with consumers—were unhappy about the price.

“The timing of this launch is crucial as the industry is getting close to the end of the third financial quarter and the iPhone’s performance during this period has been largely below expectations, particularly in China where the growth rate is falling rapidly,” said Malik Saadi, analyst at Informa, said to the Telegraph.

“It is becoming obvious that Apple can no longer afford to address the whole world as a single market for its iPhone.”

The iPhone 5S will set you back $649 or £549 for 16G. Along with the additional power, customers will receive additional battery life.

Whatever your opinion on the new iPhone, you don’t need an upgrade to enjoy its mobile apps. Lawyers have been making the switch from Blackberry to iPhone in recent years, and here are a few reasons why:

  • The ABA Journal is free on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • The American Lawyer is free on the iPhone and iPad.
  • California lawyers can download California+ app for $4.99 to get detailed information about all members of the California legislature.
  • Cliff Maier of Waffle Turtle Software sells several iPhone legal reference apps for Federal Rules and various state statutes (including California and New York) at affordable download prices ranging from $0.99 to $8.99.
  • Courtroom Objections app is only available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, so lawyers can review lists of common objections to admissibility and objections to form on the go and on the spot. Select from categories like, “authentication” under “Objections to Admissibility,” and see suggested language for and an explanation of the objection. Then click “Rule” to view the relevant rule of evidence.
  • Lawyers make use of LawBox for iOS devices, a legal reference app that provides access to the text of the United States Code and state statutes from Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas.
  • Smart Dockets app by American Legalnet Inc. is a new legal calendaring app for the iPhone and iPad that helps you to calculate dates and deadlines using court rules…. for free.
  • TrialEvidence is an app available for iOS devices. This reference tool helps attorneys review common courtroom evidentiary foundations used to admit items into evidence. 

To see more legal apps, see UCLA’s School of Law website’s complete guide.

In sum, to get these great apps and more, you don’t need the new iPhone. But, to get these great new colors… well… that part’s up to you.

-WB

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56% Of Consumers Use Social Media To Search For Attorneys

 How Your Firm Can Profit From & Avoid Pitfalls Of Social Media

This Spring, Tumblr hit the 100 Million mark—100 million blogs, that is. If we’re talking about numbers in terms of profit, Tumblr far exceeded mere millions. In May, social blogging platform CEO David Karp sold the company to Yahoo! for a cool $1.1 billion.

Karp, for those who don’t already know, is a 26-year old high school drop out who built Tumblr while still living at his mother’s New York City apartment in 2007, writes Brian Warner for Celebrity Net Worth.

In the same period it can take lawyers to settle a single lawsuit, Karp created and sold a billion-dollar business. If there was ever a time to praise the popularity of social media, Tumblr’s milestone in millions of blogs could certainly serve that purpose.

That’s why it’s not surprising to read in a recent study conducted by The Research Intelligence Group that 56 percent of consumers and 72 percent of minorities who searched for an attorney in the past year reported doing so via social media.

In fact, over one-fifth of survey participants went so far as to consult the social media pages of the specific lawyers or firms that they were considering during this search for legal representation, reports Kevin O’Keefe for Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

Law is a time-honored profession. As such, it maintains certain traditions and history. Ergo, lawyers aren’t often known for being on the cutting edge of technology.

Nevertheless, most law firms today have a website. Keeping that website up-to-date is critical.

Firm websites help you attract more clients, rise in search engine rankings, keep up with technological developments for electronic legal tools, update your firm and practice area information, and increase interaction with the legal community and community of potential clients, in general.

Recently the Virginia Supreme Court in Horace Hunter v. Virginia State Bar ruled on the extent to which law firms can promote their practice and previous legal wins via a blog or website:

“The Virginia majority held that Hunter did not have to seek clients’ permission to discuss past closed cases, even if there was a possibility that the clients would suffer embarrassment or some other harm by the public airing of their affairs. The court also ruled that Hunter’s blogging about past courtroom successes on his firm’s website constituted an advertisement, even though he also included commentary on the criminal justice system. As a result, the majority said he should have included a standard disclaimer cautioning against too much reliance on past results.” (via Above The Law)

Thus, with proper disclaimers, your firm can join the Twittersphere.

In the end, websites, blogs, Twitter, and other social media are not a new development in technology. The Research Intelligence Group’s survey shows that although the number of Internet users declined with age, a surprising 30 percent of survey respondents above the age of 50 were also professed social media users.

And, among survey respondents, nearly one-quarter made a final selection of a lawyer based, in part, on what they gleaned through their social media research, according to Kevin O’Keefe for Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

So, what are a few “must-haves” for attorney websites?

LexisNexis’ own blog suggests:

  • Areas of Law Practiced. Specify your areas of legal expertise and the services that you offer in each of those areas. If visitors can’t find this information quickly, or if it’s unclear, they are likely to leave the site.
  • Experience. Prospective clients want to know how long you have practiced law and whether you have previously handled cases like theirs.
  • Education. Reassure visitors that you have the know-how to resolve their legal issues. Tell them where you went to law school, and when and where you passed the bar exam.
  • Photos. Offer a glimpse of your personality through pictures, but remember to always use professional-looking shots. People who visit your site are searching for an attorney they can trust, not a drinking buddy.
  • Biographical Data. Sharing information about your family and your interests/hobbies conveys personality and helps build connections with potential clients. Just don’t overdo it. (But if your goal is to secure referrals from corporate counsel, our research indicates you should minimize such details.)

However, training your team in technology serves your clients in more ways than one.

In today’s Facebook world, lawyers use social media to attract clients, but they can also have an obligation to perform research on social media sites during investigations, as well.

Social media profiles are a potential treasure trove of information in litigation. But using social networking can ensnare attorneys in ethical traps in two different ways: (1) when accessing information in someone else’s profile, and (2) when an attorney’s own profile information might be used against them.

How can you effectively use social networks to gather information to gain a legal edge while ethically keeping out of trouble?

C4CM’s comprehensive webinar, Using Social Media in Legal Investigations: Traversing the Ethical Minefieldon July 16, 2013, from 2:00 P.M to 3:15 P.M. Eastern time, explores key strategies to improve your legal investigation on social media while keeping yourself safe from legal and ethical pitfalls.

If you’ve found this blog post via social media, you’re off to a great start. Keep up the momentum by exploring other important online tools for law firm managers here.

With so many consumers consulting social media, it’s time for law firm professionals to (*ah hem*) follow suit.

-WB

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Out Of This World! A Story of Two Unique Law Firms & The Mars Rover

When Curiosity landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, few people believed such an amazing feat could become a reality.

The Bradbury Landing site was less than 1.5 mile from the center of the rover’s planned touchdown target after a 350,000,000-mile journey. Not only did the massive spacecraft land at the right spot, it landed at the right speed, angle, and positioning to successfully roll into infamy.

See, the best scientists in the world were tasked with the impossible. Build a rover that could investigate the Martian climate and geology; assess whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life; investigate the presence or history of water; and study the in preparation for future human exploration.

Oh, and don’t break the rover on landing.

Luckily for NASA, Allen Chen was one of the many MIT alumni working on this aerospace challenge.

“We can’t use airbags (as the smaller twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity did in 2004), because the one-ton rover is too heavy. If we land the rover on a platform (to protect the legs), we need a way to get it onto the ground. That means it will have to roll down a ramp, but what if the rover lands on a tall rock, or on a hill, and the whole assembly is tilted? Then we’d need ramps of different lengths. Well, why don’t we just land it on its wheels? How do we do that? Dangle it from above … Eureka!” Anne-Marie Corley describes Chen’s thought process in her MIT Technology Review article, “Destination: Mars.”

Thus, the idea of a sky crane was borne.

Director of the Mars Program told Ms. Corley that one of the best parts of his job as program director was convincing NASA headquarters that the sky crane “wasn’t just crazy; it was crazy good.”

That’s the problem with senior management today—tunnel vision. They tend to be more conservative thinkers compared to their out-of-the-box junior counterparts.

In science, as with the Mars program, it’s a bit easier to recognize creativity and the birth of the next big idea. After all, scientists work in programs and office spaces designed for exactly that.

Meanwhile, in law offices, not laboratories, professionals are struggling to find sources of inspiration and innovation.

Finding an inventive and more profitable way to practice law seems as impossible as men on Mars. Still, men were on the moon and a robot is roving the deserts just one Planet over, so perhaps the impossible is near.

For example, Boston-based firm Exemplar Law Partners is a 10-lawyer firm that committed itself to an impossible: offering all cases on a flat-fee basis. Most lawyers remain in defense of the billable hour. Yet, these daring few are eschewing the tradition.

The legal services industry (rather, its clients) can thank Christopher Marsten, who founded Exemplar in January 2006 straight out of law school. His unconventional business plan includes the requirement that all firm partners possess a business degree in addition to a J.D.

Marsen’s martian business practice is not alone in the world. Hardcore Superstar Legal Management Corporation’s legal strategy stands apart, as well.

The firm claims it is the “new paradigm in effortless corporate services.”

Joseph Briante and Theresa Holiday James co-founded the firm in Vancouver, British Columbia, where they have attracted a handful of exceptional-quality clients in finance, software and technology, according to the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Practice Magazine’s article, “Maverick at Law: How Do You Get Inspired?”

One of the unique services offered is the firm’s Legal Services Audit. This service provides clients with a comprehensive audit of their outside counsel’s work, “carefully examine bills and work product of your legal team; prepare a report card for your legal team based on our findings; and provide recommendations, instructions and tips on effective use of counsel to keep down your legal bills,” reports the ABA.

“We’re definitely more fun than dealing with your current counsel,” boasts the firm.

In the end, while your law firm may not have NASA’s billion-dollar budget, it can still offer its clients a celestial-sized redesign in terms of innovative (1) billing structure or (2) range of services.

So, law firm managers, next time your subordinates pitch a seemingly space-age idea for your more grounded business problems, hear them out. You never know when dreaming big will actually land your law firm among the stars.

-WB

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