Doubling Your Billable Hours with Virtual Receptionists and Live Chat

How to maximize productive time and ensure those contacting you get a responsive, personal experience? Virtual receptionists and live chat. A typical attorney captures as little as 2.5 billable hours per day. While some non-billable time is spent on administrative work, marketing, and business development efforts, large chunks are lost to unexpected phone calls and other distractions. In fact, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain focus after every disruption. That time adds up. If you charge $350 per hour, for instance, five calls in one day could cost you $678 in missed revenue. How do you maximize productive time while ensuring everyone who contacts your firm receives the responsive, personal experience they expect? The answer lies in virtual receptionists and live chat. Virtual Receptionists Virtual receptionists work remotely, offering callers the opportunity to connect with a real, live person who represents your firm. Unlike automated phone systems, virtual receptionists delight callers and clients while performing the same tasks as an in-house hire at a fraction of the cost. You can choose to forward your calls to virtual receptionists full-time or part-time, or as backup: Full-time answering is perfect for attorneys who prefer to respond to client calls on their own time. Virtual receptionists answer all your calls live 24/7 or during the hours you set. In addition, you can choose to have calls connected directly to you once they’ve been answered, or have the caller announced so you can decide whether you’d like to take the call, have the receptionist take a message, or send the caller to voicemail.Part-time answering is ideal for attorneys who want to be available for callers sometimes but prefer to block out certain days or times of day to focus on work. With the right virtual receptionist provider, you

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Recycle Your Bottles, Cans and Work Product

Current thinking about marketing holds that a business’s success depends on creating quality marketing content. For example, the Content Marketing Institute preaches that businesses are not selling goods and services; they are selling their content across multiple platforms, which in turn induces people to purchase the actual good or service. Creating Content Well, you may be thinking, that’s fine for a business with a dedicated content creation team. But I’m trying to practice law here. More writing tips from Teddy Snyder Counselors, it’s time for a mind reset. You are regularly creating content in your briefs and memoranda. The trick is to recycle the document you’ve already created into marketing content. Sometimes you can do this right away, though you do need to take the time to camouflage identifying data. Who knows? Maybe your judge will see and be influenced by the persuasive arguments you publish. Other times you will want to wait for the relevant matter to conclude. Even then, respect client confidentiality rules and just plain courtesy. First Quick Recycle: Email Marketing After you have put in the work to create a legal document, edit it for your email marketing newsletter. That entails scrubbing client identifying information and any secret strategies. Make sure your newsletter speaks your client’s language, as in plain English, not legalese. Include definitions of any terms of art. Second Quick Recycle: Blog Post Post that same content to the firm’s blog. Assuming you have not made that blog private, now the world (and Google) can see your content. Third Quick Recycle: Social Media Post links to your newsletter and blog posts on the social media platforms you frequent. Minimally, that’s likely to include LinkedIn for a business-to-business practice and Facebook for a consumer practice. And don’t overlook Twitter. Fourth Quick Recycle: Medium.com You can

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IOLTA 101: Tips for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers

The Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account, commonly called IOLTA, is one of the most valuable tools for expanding legal representation to appear in recent decades. Unlike traditional attorney trust accounts, IOLTA programs, available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, allow lawyers to hold client retainers, settlements and other money in interest-bearing accounts. The interest collected statewide funds legal assistance programs for low-income people and traditionally underserved populations. The community and social benefits of IOLTA programs range from financial assistance for legal fees to clinics, classes and workshops. But IOLTA management can present a major challenge for lawyers, particularly those in solo practice or small firms. IOLTA regulations vary from state to state but tend to be complex and time-consuming. Moreover, the penalties for mismanagement can be severe, including disbarment. While large law firms have advantages of scale, including dedicated accounting and bookkeeping resources and robust technology solutions, solo attorneys often manage their own office finances. That creates a significant burden and has several drawbacks, especially regarding IOLTA management: Most attorneys don’t have accounting or financial management training or experience.Spending time on bookkeeping means less time for helping clients.Spending time on bookkeeping reduces billable hours. For lawyers working long hours without proper training in financial management, an oversight or accounting error can quickly develop into a major transgression. Common Mistakes Lawyers Make in IOLTA Management Commingling client funds with the firm’s operation account, failure to maintain three-way reconciliation and poor record-keeping, in general, are the most common mistakes lawyers make. Avoiding these common errors requires time and attention — precious commodities in a lawyer’s life. Lawyers who fail to maintain proper accounting for IOLTA can face professional discipline, including censure, suspension or even disbarment. In fact, some lawyers, anxious over the complexity and risk, simply avoid

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How to Prioritize When Everything Is Urgent and Important

Facing a busier than ever week ahead? Use these steps to figure out how to prioritize when you are overwhelmed. Here’s my week: I have three transactions closing on Friday and I need to work on them all right now. One is not more important than the other. I have two articles due today by the end of business, both of which require my immediate attention. I am changing jobs and must figure out my medical insurance. Of course, I need to call during business hours to do that, and I have to accomplish this by Thursday or I won’t have coverage. Also: There are two contracts that needed to be reviewed last week that I still haven’t looked at, one client who needs revisions to his estate planning documents so he can sign on Friday before he travels out of the country, and another client who is very ill and needs legal advice regarding her will. Plus, my daughter has back-to-school activities, needs to be driven to her extracurricular programs — and we adopted a puppy! How the heck am I supposed to prioritize when everything is important and needs to be handled at the same time? Help! Five Steps for Figuring Out How to Prioritize It All Here’s what I do when I am faced with times such as this, when there is too much to do and no easy way to prioritize. 1. The first step is to breathe. When we take deep breaths, it calms our bodies and minds so that we can think more clearly and make better decisions. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the “rest and digest” system that allows us to remain calm in the midst of the chaos of our busy lives. Once we are calm, we can

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Three Reasons Why It’s Easier to Run Your Practice Visually

When Janelle came to us, she was running her busy litigation practice off an 18-page to-do list she kept on a yellow pad on her desk. I’m sure you can picture that list. Frayed edges. Tasks jotted down in the margins while she talked on the phone. Assignments written on little flags sticking out of the sides. Things crossed off in red and other things highlighted with a rainbow of colors. Every time Janelle looked at that list, her stress levels went through the roof. Sure, most of her tasks were there, but she had to flip through multiple pages to remember what she’d assigned to whom and then go through her emails for the latest information. Tasks and to-dos related to a single matter were scattered across the pages. Dates were meaningless. And she’d completely forgotten what the highlight colors meant. Janelle was coping but she wasn’t managing, much less managing effectively. She was constantly chasing people for updates because she was worried about missing something, and she wasn’t sure if her team had the bandwidth to take on new work. Without clear insight into how work moves through your firm, you’re running your practice in the dark. You can’t see who’s working on what (and neither can anyone else).You don’t know where matters stand at any given time.You don’t know if you’ve got the capacity to take on more work.You can’t answer clients’ questions quickly when they call or email you for a status update. The result: You take on work when you don’t have the capacity for it, everyone ends up working crazy hours, and your best employees burn out.You commit to deadlines you can’t meet, driving your stress levels through the roof, working too hard, and sacrificing personal events that are important to you.You don’t spot

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Write Like People Read

People don’t read, they skim. If you want your clients to understand you, make it easy for them and write like people read. Have you noticed that the way you read websites, emails, text messages — even magazine and news articles — has changed over time? A growing body of research suggests the internet is changing how people pay attention to writing. The most anxious accounts describe a burning platform: The internet is degrading our ability to pay attention for long periods and so also process extended chains of causal reasoning. I prefer more pragmatic accounts: People just are reading differently, and the challenge for writers is how to adapt to these new conditions. Clearly, the pragmatic approach is important for lawyers hoping to be understood by clients. People Don’t Read, People Skim How you’re reading this article is a good example of how most people read most of the time. You first noticed the title, right? Then read a little bit of the beginning, possibly skimming over the content until a word or phrase caught your attention, reading a few sentences, then skipping to the next bold heading, and starting to skim again. Sound familiar? My favorite book about pragmatic writing is technically a book about web design. Steve Krug, the author of “Don’t Make Me Think,” describes the No. 1 fact of life on the web as, “We don’t read pages. We scan them.” Scanning happens for three reasons: People on the web are on a mission. Goal-oriented behavior (where to eat tonight, how to file a form online) keeps people moving constantly toward their objective.People know they don’t need to read everything. Goal-oriented web use means that most of the information on any page is unrelated to our interest or task. (Ironically, this is the first thing

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Status Update: Case Status Releases SMS for Legal, a New Business Texting Feature

Case Status software’s new SMS for Legal app helps law firms easily and securely text with clients as part of their case workflow. Case Status is a client connection platform for law firms. In other words, it’s a one-stop-shop for all client communications needs. Functionally, Case Status is a law firm-branded portal, designed to be mobile-first, through which law firm users can push — and law firm clients can access — up-to-date case information and notifications. Case Status integrates with lots of case management/law practice management software and with Zapier, making it a fairly extensible tool. In its fullest flowering, Case Status can replace email for client communications, in much the same way that Slack has replaced email for internal office communications. Textual Analysis Many law firms have taken an alternate path over the course of history, by trying to avoid client contact whenever possible. That has (not) worked to the tune of virulent complaints from dissatisfied clients. In fact, the No. 1 complaint against law firms is lack of communication. So, if your law firm can add software with a focus on communications with clients, well, said software should shoot up to No. 1 on your purchase list. SMS for Legal Introduces Texting to the Communications Platform My mom knows that if she wants to reach me and get a quick response, she should text me. And, for sure, one line of demarcation for considering the addition of a technology component to your law practice is whether elderly people get it and use it. Texting has become ubiquitous in that way. Starting out, texting was largely used as a personal communication method. Over the course of time, customers began to text businesses, and businesses had to be responsive. Of course, this has been a boon for businesses, too. Texting

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Say Hello to ClientCredit, the First Legal Services BNPL Solution from LawPay

How can an attorney increase their overall collection rate, decrease outstanding accounts receivable and substantially reduce time spent on billing? By offering clients a “Buy Now, Pay Later” (BNPL) option. BNPL can be a game-changer for your firm, and adding it as one of your accepted payment methods is about to get even easier with ClientCredit, a new offering from LawPay. What Is ClientCredit? ClientCredit is the first BNPL solution for legal clients on the market and is exclusively available through LawPay. With ClientCredit, your clients have the ability to pay for legal services in installments while your firm still receives 100% of the invoiced amount upfront. ClientCredit is the next generation of payment solutions for the legal industry and was developed in response to the growing demand for BNPL options. The Rising Popularity of Buy Now, Pay Later Statistics show that, when given a choice, consumers are increasingly opting for BNPL plans. Between July 2020 and March 2021, the use of online payment plans grew by nearly 50 percent. Cardify, a market research firm, found younger adults, in particular, are frequently choosing online payment plans even when they have the funds to cover the total cost of a purchase. This is likely influenced by the demographic’s growing aversion to credit cards—in fact, about one in four Millennials don’t have a credit card. ClientCredit enables you to easily accommodate these evolving payment preferences and provide a flexible, client-focused payment experience. How Your Firm Benefits from ClientCredit In addition to expanding your available payment options and making your law firm more attractive to prospective clients, ClientCredit improves the consistency and reliability of your cash flow. One of the most common reasons lawyers hesitate to let clients pay overtime is that traditional payment plans can have a higher incidence of late and

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How to Request Information About Your Veterans Benefits

The U.S. government provides many different benefits to military veterans and their families. But navigating the maze of benefits to determine which ones are available to you and your family can often seem complicated if you don’t have some outside help. By requesting information about your veteran benefits directly from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you’ll be able to get a detailed guide to help you determine whether you’re entitled to benefits, what benefits you can receive, and how you can begin receiving them. Below, learn more about how you can request this important information. Got a legal question? Get legal advice in minutes. Real Lawyers. Real Answers. Right Now. Get your answer What benefits may be available to veterans? The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers dozens of programs to assist veterans and their families with everything from housing to medical care to entrepreneurship. Just a few of these benefits can include: Short- and long-term disability compensation.A pension through a veteran’s pension program.Access to free or inexpensive medical care and treatment at VA-sponsored hospitals and facilities.Higher education programs and student loan assistance.Mortgage guarantees and housing assistance.Job training and certification.Death, pension, or accrued benefits (called the DIC) to a surviving spouse and/or minor child if the veteran passes away.Small business loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).Funeral and burial assistance and services, including a headstone at no cost and burial in a national cemetery. Because these benefits span such a broad range of needs, knowing which ones you qualify for (and which ones you’d like to take advantage of) can require some further investigation. Who qualifies for veterans benefits? The length of service for each type of benefit can vary, but most veterans will qualify for benefits if they are discharged from active military services and their

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The Only Client Intake Checklist You’ll Ever Need

Download the Client Intake Checklist! Ah, the client intake process — unquestionably one of the most time-consuming and laborious parts of being a lawyer. Yet, like it or not, it is one of the most critical elements of ensuring your law firm’s success. So don’t screw it up! First impressions are everything in life, and onboarding your new clients is no exception. Why would a client be compelled to hire you if you never get back to their initial phone call or take too long? Exactly. First impressions count. That’s why you need to make sure you have an effective, streamlined intake system in place. Don’t have one in place yet? Don’t panic! The good news is that it’s never too late to take the reins and turn things around. We’ve created this comprehensive Client Intake Checklist to get you started, including tips on how to automate several pieces of the onboarding process. Here’s a quick look at what’s inside (you can download the complete checklist here): 1. Think Like a CEO The first step is adopting the mindset that your law firm is a business. 2. Develop a Process In the absence of a systematic intake process, a law firm quickly becomes chaotic. Leads are never followed up, opportunities are squandered, revenue is lost. 3. Follow Up Right Away For years, studies have continued to show that long response times affect closing deals. A recent survey showed that 42% of the time, law firms take an average of three or more days to get back to a message from a new client. 4. Pre-screen Your Clients Before the initial consultation, it’s important to pre-screen. Not every lead that comes to your firm is going to be the right fit for you, and that’s just the way it is. 5.

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