4 Excuses Law Firms Use to Avoid Innovating (that are Total BS) pt. II

Part II of II. (Read Part I here.) In part I, I described two excuses (the false cost/benefit analysis and the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it excuse) used for veiling ulterior motives when law firms refuse to adopt innovative tools or technology, how knee-jerk reactions with excuses that cover ulterior motives can hurt a firm, and how a partner that recognizes his or her firm beginning to use those excuses should respond. 3) Time lost to upgrade/training What you say: “Installation/upgrading to the new (technology/equipment/software) will take too long.” “Our staff and attorneys don’t have time to learn a whole new software.” What you’re thinking: “Any time spent by my attorneys and staff that doesn’t equal billable time is wasted.” Why it’s B.S.: A partner would never hand a new case to an untrained associate. Instead, the partner starts small, case-by-case, trusting the associate with increasingly more complex and important tasks only over time. Why? Because only with training and practice will the associate learn how to handle the various aspects of a case. It’s true generally, without training and practice on your systems and tools, your people will never get the most out of them. (The list I referenced in the last post indicates the #5 reason for an associate to leave a firm is making the practice of law focused exclusively on the numbers.) A law firm’s employees, including staff and associates, should engage in training and activities that allows them to get the most out of the tools at their disposal. A partner who only quantifies the value of the firm by number of hours billed will... read more

4 Excuses Law Firms Use to Avoid Innovating (that are Total BS) pt. I

Part I of II (Read Part II here). Being partner of a law firm is hard work. It took hard work to get here, and even MORE now that you’re here. You have tough decisions to make, including whether or not your firm will invest its limited resources in certain tools or technology to help you do your job. Doing your job probably involves rejecting a whole lot more proposed purchases than you accept – that’s the nature of the game. Not every improvement that comes along is right for every firm. Declining to install new equipment can sometimes be justified by simple numbers (a solo practitioner who handles traffic tickets has no need for a $50,000 video conferencing center). Other times, a particular software may end up not being a good fit (cloud-based matter-management is declined after no one improved efficiency when tested). Rational thought and reasonable investigation led to decisions that a new tool or technology was just not in the firm’s best interest. That happens. And it’s a decision you’re right to make. Assuming you’ve done a thorough investigation. But what happens when you don’t seem to have the time or energy for a full investigation? Is it wrong to be satisfied with the systems you already have in place? You’re an attorney, after all, not a corporate CEO. So you put your head down, work on your cases, and the difficult questions disappear. Well, they seem to disappear. When someone comes to you now with a new idea, you don’t usually give it much thought. If it was that important, you’d be doing it already. And you haven’t... read more

Tweets of Wrath: Unethical or Just Hilarious?

Just hilarious. Have you ever looked up the wrong company because their names were similar? Maybe made a mistake when you searched on Google and accidentally thought www.dollarsexchange.com was something OTHER than a currency exchange. (Thanks, Business Insider!) It can be embarrassing, no doubt. Usually, upon realizing the mistake, you try your best to look shamed enough without letting EVERYONE around you know you messed up, and you get the hell out of there. Ok, now let’s get a little more specific. Let’s say you’re a lawyer (I know, fat chance getting an ACTUAL lawyer to read this blog, but play along anyway). You work for a big firm in, oh, Pittsburg. You practice… well… just for fun, we’ll say you practice various types of real estate law. And you mistakenly send a Tweet to  @SCOTUSBlog, rather than the Twitter account for the actual United States Supreme Court. When informed you were in the wrong place, your response would be “Go f@ck yourself and die,” wouldn’t it? No? Well apparently Steven M. Regan, partner at Reed Smith in Pittsburg, doesn’t feel the same way. Note: Since this story hit, the Twitter account for the user posting as Steven M. Regan, Esq. has, of course, been deleted. I have no hard information confirming that this account actually belonged to attorney Steven M. Regan, beyond what has already been reported. Ok, a little background: First, as reported by Findlaw’s Law Firm Business Blog the Strategist, the folks at SCOTUSblog routinely receive Tweets from people who think they’re actually a blog for the actual United States Supreme Court. Also as reported by... read more

Mobile App Review: eSign by Landtech

Among the most powerful tech tools available to the mobile attorney is the electronic signature. All an attorney needs is their tablet and an internet connection, and documents that formerly needed to be printed and signed at the office can now be signed and sent without ever taking paper form. Among the most popular apps on the market for electronic signatures is eSign by Landtech. And it’s popular for a reason. This fantastic app allows you to electronically sign any PDF document and email it to its recipient, right from your iPad. What’s the big deal, a lot of apps do that? See for yourself… eSign comes built in with a number of options for opening documents AND for what you can add once you’re there. When you first open the app, it will request a default email address. This is the email that all of your signed documents will be sent to once signed (don’t worry, you’re able to specify a different email or additional emails at that point). The strength of the app becomes apparent immediately when you realize how many different ways eSign allows you to import a document for signature. Opening a document eSign allows you to receive a document for signature in a variety of ways. As you can see, you’re able to open documents from email, from your Dropbox account, or by photo-scanning a document with your tablet’s camera. However, this list truly gives an incomplete look at how many ways you can open documents for signatures in eSign. With an easy-to-use interface, and step-by-step instructions available, eSign allows you to add a... read more

A Better Firm Website: 3 Videos You Need to Have

Part V in a continuing series on improving your firm’s website Part I: 7 Tips to Improve Your Bio Page Part II: 5 Best Practices for your Practice Areas Part III: Video is a Game Changer Part IV: 4 Reasons You Should Blog Part V: 3 Videos You Need to Have Part VI: 4 Reasons to Ignore SEO Part VII: 4 Steps to Know (and Track) Your Audience Recently, I wrote a post on improving your firm’s website about how video in a website is becoming a game changer for law firms looking to stand out in a crowded field. Videos offer a sense of engagement with the potential client that a bio, or even a blog, just cannot offer. Moreover, videos personalize you and allow the user develop a level of comfort and trust that increases the likelihood they will hire you. Always a winner, right? I recently ran across this article by the ABA’s Law Technology Section taking that suggestion a step further, offering their suggestion of the 3 videos every lawyer should have. The article focuses on three videos for potential client engagement, with a focus on making a good first impression. While keeping your clients informed through video may be helpful, I agree with the article that the real strength of video on your firm’s website is the effect it has on potential clients. Here are the three videos you need to have on your firm’s website: 1) “Hello, my name is…” No, I don’t necessarily recommend starting your video this way, but this is your introduction. Remember everything I said about putting the information that potential clients want... read more

7 Top Tactics Hackers Use to Steal Your Data!

Doing my daily research for this blog, I stumbled upon an interesting looking article by PC World about seven of the top tactics that hackers use to get data off of your computer. Many of us think about hackers as people aggressively attacking systems, like medieval soldiers attempting to breach castle walls. However, as was learned by the hacker Kevin Mitnick, sometimes it’s a whole lot easier to just call up your target and ask them for their password! The PC World article listed seven ways that hackers essentially get you to hand over the information they need to get access to all of your important data. So many articles and posts talk about what you can do to your equipment to make it safer, while other articles remind you that it’s all nonsense. The real trick is knowing when NOT to be the guy whose only question when Kevin Mitnick asks for secure source code from Motorola is “[w]hat version do you want?” So for you and your clients’ security, here are PC World’s 7 Top Tactics Hackers Use: Photo credit: Wikipedia 1) Fake wireless access points. With the right basic software, any computer can become a wireless access point (“WAP”), connected to a legit WiFi network. A hacker may sit outside a coffee shop and name their fake WAP “Starbucks Wireless Network.” Or go to the airport and use the name “Atlanta Airport Free Wireless.” You connect your computer, and all the unprotected data sent back and forth via the WiFi connection is saved right on the hacker’s computer. According to PC World, “[y]ou’d be surprised how... read more

Florida Bar on Ethics: “Get Off My Lawn!”

“… rotten kids.” Ok, so I’m paraphrasing, but I couldn’t actually get anyone to go on the record! Seriously, anyone who has paid any attention to the ethics rulings coming from the Florida Bar recently must either be scratching their heads, shaking their heads, or just pointing and laughing… unless you’re an attorney in Florida! There’s no question that legal ethics experts and advisors everywhere have had a really tough time dealing with the march of technology at use in law firms in the 21st century. Among the most vexing issues has been how to apply existing ethical standards to new types of media, particularly social media. The ABA, for its part, has recommended that states add new rules requiring attorneys to keep up with technology to meet competence requirements. Many states, addressing specific examples, have done impressive work making existing rules applicable to new media. And Florida’s reaction? “LALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Am I being a little over-the-top? Yes. But I really wanted to find a way to use that picture. Before I go any further, you should know that I hold those charged with maintaining the ethics of our profession in high regard. My mentor, G. Gray Wilson, is about as ethical and honest an attorney as you’ll ever find (and a state bar counselor). I’d turn to self-mutilation before I let him down by committing an ethics violation. That said, let’s  take a look at Florida’s approach to the ethics of social media: 1) Lawyers who are not board certified in a certain area may NOT use the words “certified,” “specialist,” or “expert” in online... read more

Lawyers and the Cloud: Better Check Your Internet Connection!

Part II in a continuing series on adoption of cloud-based systems by law firms. Part I: 5 Things to Consider Whether your firm is going to be fully automated, with cloud-based practice management software and full paperless implementation, or if you’re just checking out the option of storing your electronic documents with a third-party service such as Dropbox, the VERY first thing you need to do is make sure that your office’s internet infrastructure can handle it. Most people know that they need to have WiFi routers or sufficient ethernet connections to plug in to. However, neither will matter much without sufficient internet service from your ISP. If you don’t check your internet connection, your transition to the cloud could bring the operation of your firm to a screeching halt. For addressing the ever-growing problem of what to do with all the data your business accumulates, adopting cloud-based services can be a cost-effective solution. Want to know just how much data your office accumulates? Just look at how big your own Outlook data file is, and you’ll get a glimpse of how much is being stored on your firm’s servers. Now that you’ve decided to move to the cloud, all that data has to be able to move smoothly from your third-party vendor to your office’s computers and your mobile devices via your firm’s internet connection. Ok, I get it. We need to have sufficient internet. So… how do I know what is sufficient internet? Now is when we get a little technical, so try to stick with me. Your internet connection really comes down to two things: 1)... read more

Can a Law Firm Become a Social Media Rock Star?

Yesterday, I happened to come upon an article in Forbes by Christine Comaford titled “Become a Social Media Rock Star in Four Easy Steps.” Intrigued by the title, which was worded perfectly to catch the eyes of people like me, I read it. Essentially, the article discusses a four-step process, as described by social media guru Vala Afshar, to get the most out of prospective social media. The steps, which can apply to all types of social media – from Twitter user to full-time blogger, are designed to help anyone make their social media presence into a powerhouse tool of influence and client recruitment. However, after reading them, I wondered whether the tools could really help law firms, particularly those firms who tend to be averse to social media engagement. After some deliberation, here are 4 steps to becoming a social media rock star… for law firms! According to Comaford’s article, “it is valuable, timely content that drives social success. Become a source of insightful content, well-focused on your target audience, and over time you will build an engaged network that will help you grow both personally and professionally.” 1) Curate from the best. This step is the beginning. Once you’ve decided what type of content your social media will focus on – preferably something interesting to whomever will be tasked with writing the posts – you need to, as the article puts it, “[p]ut your antenna up and collect, forward, and amplify topical information on your field of interest.” For your law firm’s social media engagement, you have to come up with a plan. Figure out who you... read more

Astroturfing: Fake Online Reviews are Bad News For Law Firms!

If you’re anything like me, whenever you buy or research a product online, you automatically disregard any review that gives the product/service the top available rating. I always look for the lowest reviews for two reasons. First, I’d like to know if there are people who are complaining about flaws in something that might bother me in a similar way. Second, and more importantly, I expect that at least a few of the highest ratings were written by, or on behalf of, the person selling the product. Given the opportunity, who wouldn’t endorse themselves, particularly when it improves the chances that someone will buy whatever you’re selling? Well, there is a name for posting false reviews to make a product or service look better: “astroturfing.” The Urban Dictionary defines astroturfing as “the act of trying to boost one’s image online with fake comments, paid-for reviews, made-up claims and testimonials.” Well, recently, the pervasive nature of astroturfing for law firms has drawn the attention of the authorities (most notably the New York Attorney General’s office), and the results aren’t pretty! Why is astroturfing really such a big deal, you ask? Well, first and foremost, astroturfing is essentially posting a false client testimonial about the quality of legal services provided by your firm. Which is quite clearly against the rules. Furthermore, astroturfing your ratings inflates your credentials online. Search engines frequently rely on ratings from sites like Yelp as part of the algorithm used to determine where your firm ranks for certain search terms. Inflated reviews results in a higher place on the page (Lawyerist.com really explains it best here), and... read more
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