Category Archives: Law Firm Management

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time management

5 Tips to Make Your Law Firm More Efficient

As the old saying goes, “Time is money,” and that’s especially true for attorneys and billable hours. Making your practice more efficient will ultimately make it more profitable, so it’s worth setting aside a little of that precious time to think about where your inefficiencies lie and what you can do to change them. Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Go Paperless
Or at least consider making do with less paper. This small change will not only reduce cost and clutter, it will make your practice more efficient. The potential benefits (reduced costs and labor, inexpensive and easily searchable document storage, improved client communication and storage) far outweigh the objections (hackers, computers crashing), especially when there are now solid solutions for these objections (back-up power, off-site data storage, firewalls and more). It may be tough to transition at first, but you’ll be glad you did.

2) Don’t Multi-task
Multi-tasking may seem efficient, but the reality is that it’s one of the least efficient things you can do. Dividing your attention between two or more tasks at one time ends up increasing the time it takes to complete each task. Try giving your undivided attention to one task at a time, and you’ll likely find that your remember things more clearly and that you spend less time searching for emails, tasks and pieces of paper (which you are using less of, right?).

3) Utilize Case Management Software
Case management software helps run processes and keeps workflow moving. Designed to help you manage client information, cases and business matters, case management software makes it easier to manage, protect and share information, as well as track and shape your cases to make them more manageable.

4) Track Your Time
Keep track of how you’re spending your time (whether it’s with a timekeeping program or with practice management software) and learn to recognize inefficiencies in your routine. Tracking and reviewing how you spend your time may seem like busy work, but ultimately the records will help you see where you’re wasting time, and hopefully galvanize you to take steps to weed out those inefficiencies.

5) Use Document Automation Software
Document automation software plays a critical role in providing legal services in an efficient and effective manner. By automating the creation of repeatedly used legal documents, you can avoid the hassle of finding the right form to use and stop cutting/pasting the same information over and over again. You save time, increase consistency across staff members and multiply your billable hours.

There’s no time like the present to start making your practice more efficient. Start with a free trial of JurisDOC’s document automation software.

JurisDOC makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. The software also tracks hours, generates invoices and tracks payments, so you can spend your time doing what you do best. Click here to get started.


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5 Reasons NOT to Start Your Own Practice

Debating whether or not to start your own law firm? As I discussed in a previous post, there are a number of issues to consider when deciding whether or not to hang a shingle. You may have already decided that going out on your own is right move for you, but if you’re on the fence, here are a few reasons NOT to start your own practice:

1) When You’re on Your Own, You’re on Your Own

At a firm, you can turn to experienced attorneys when you need advice on a matter. As a solo practitioner, you’re going to have to handle these matters on your own—or cultivate mentor relationships with attorneys from other firms. If you’re planning on going solo straight out of law school, this may prove especially difficult.

2) Crazy Hours

Face it—you’re going to have to work some long hours if you start your own business. During the startup phase in particular, you’ll need to work weekdays, weekends, holidays and plenty of nights, too. Once the business is up and running, you may be able to scale back on the hours, but if you have no one else to cover cases, it will still be difficult to get away for a vacation.

3) It’s Expensive

Starting your own business is not cheap. You’ve got to pay for malpractice insurance; the phone bill; legal research; accounting software; maybe even an office and a few employees. All of these expenses add up, and it may be more than you’re willing or able to pay.

4) Risk and Debt

With those kinds of costs, your income will probably be pretty limited or even nonexistent for a while after just starting out. If you’ve got student loans and/or a family to take care of, the potential reward may not be worth the risk. Especially considering that, according to a recent survey, solo practitioners and two-person firms rank lowest in terms of billing efficiency. At only a 39% efficiency rate, most solo practitioners and two-person firms are getting paid for less than half of the time they work. Yikes.

5) Difficult Clients

You’re going to get some clients who are a pain to deal with. They might fight the bill, micromanage, or email you with 50 different questions every day. Or even worse, you might wind up with an angry client who sues you, complains to the bar, or otherwise makes your life miserable. Whatever it is, rest assured not every client will be a walk in the park.

However, if after reading all this you DO decide that opening your own practice is the right move for you, having the right technology will help ensure success. JurisDOC can help your practice run more smoothly with our legal document assembly software that makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. JurisDoc also tracks hours, generates invoices and tracks payments, so you can spend your time doing what you do best.

You can start with free use of JurisDOC, and see how it can be useful in your practice—saving time and turning that time into money. Find your free trial at http://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.


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5 Issues to Consider Before Starting Your Own Law Practice

You survived law school and passed the bar. You’ve been working at a law firm for some time now, and have recently been feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the job. Or maybe you were laid off and are trying to figure out the next step in your career.

Whatever the reason, you’re considering hanging out your shingle and starting your own firm. But before you pack your briefcase and bolt from your cushy office, there are several important questions to consider.

First, you need to establish whether or not you would be comfortable establishing your own firm. Consider the following:

#1   Are you comfortable taking on multiple roles?

To run your own law firm, you must be more than just a good lawyer. You will have to take on administrative and money-management duties (and personnel management if you decide to expand your practice), in addition to your normal responsibilities. In short, you need to be a business man/woman, as well as a lawyer. If you don’t already have strong business skills, be sure you are willing to learn them.

#2   Which do you value more—security or autonomy?

Opening your own firm involves taking risks. Be prepared to live with uncertainties such as not having a steady paycheck and your company’s expenses exceeding your projections. If these are not situations you think you can live with, then starting your own firm is probably not the best course of action.

However, if you’ve come this far and feel that you have the right personality for starting your own firm, now it’s time to consider your personality and preferences in order to determine what kind of firm to start.

 #3   Are you a lone wolf or a team player?

Knowing what kind of work environment in which you work best will help you decide whether to be a sole practitioner or to bring others into the practice. If you thrive off of the energy of others and prefer a team approach, enlist others to join you. If you prefer to work on your own, a solo practice may be the way to go. Tailor the company to your strengths, and it will be more likely to succeed.

Personality traits aren’t the only thing to consider in the matter of starting your own firm. You also have to think about the following more practical considerations:

#4   Do you have the money?

If you do not have money saved, be ready to borrow. This may be with a line of credit or with a credit card. In addition, you will want to keep overhead costs as low as possible—it may be tempting to rent a nice office with a view and hire a lot of staff right off the bat, but if you can work out of your home or find another low-cost option and function with no or only a few staff members initially, you will reduce your overhead significantly. Most businesses fail because they don’t have enough money to get through the first year, so be realistic about what you can afford.

#5   Do you have the experience?

One thing that will help your business succeed is having experience in a specific field. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but things will likely go more smoothly if you have a level of experience and expertise that allows you to feel comfortable fielding any question a prospective client might have. If you are fresh out of law school or still very new to the area of law in which you want to practice, you may want to consider waiting a year or two (or more) before starting your own firm.

If you decide that opening your own practice IS the right move, having the right technology will help ensure success. JurisDOC can help your practice run more smoothly with our legal document assembly software that makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. Priced at only $50/month per user, JurisDOC delivers a quick return on investment and frees you to focus on clients, not paperwork.

We’re so sure that you’ll find JurisDOC useful that we offer a free trial. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can start saving time and money.


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3 Steps to Make Legal Document Assembly Software Pay Off

Imagine you are part of a small-to medium-sized law firm (for many of you that may be extremely easy) that is considering the implementation of document assembly software in your practice. What might on the top of your “must have” column when deliberating such a decision?

Is it “a chance to be labeled an innovator?” Or, “a need to keep up with the times?” Maybe those are on your list, but I’ll bet you’ve saved the top slot for “get a return on investment.” And, I certainly don’t blame you. When spending money on integrating any new technology, you want to know that — eventually, quickly — it will be worth the up-front expenditures.

#1 Start with a Baseline Measurement

Understanding whether you will get that return on investment (ROI) requires accurate measurements of what you spend and what you will get back. That in itself might involve some data gathering. Before you spend a dollar on automation, it’s a smart idea to know how much time and person power — and therefore, money — go into the workflow tasks of your office.

How long does it take to create a legal document? How many partner hours go into it? How about the time commitment of your support legal secretary, paralegal or admin staff? Remember, you can’t measure anything effectively without good data.

#2 Define Your Win

Even if you have a clear measurement on how much time and money currently goes into your document assembly process, the concept of ROI is not defined universally across all law practices. For some firms, ROI is measured in minutes saved, and those minutes translate to time that can be spent on client work or other billable hours.

According to a 2011 study by LegalFutures, taking instruction and drafting one of several common legal documents requires about 86 minutes on average. When using an automated system, that time can be cut by an average of 50%. That time saving can be passed on to more premium billable hours, and over the long term, can generate substantial new revenue.

Some firms may measure that ROI in increased efficiency. Document assembly software streamlines processes, manages version control, and reduces typos. Whether your firm handles high-volume, low-profit margin documents or low-volume, high-profit ones, production time for producing high-quality contracts or agreements without multiple rounds of revisions is slashed.

#3 Calculate the Numbers

Many firms may want to use dollars and cents to measure the advantage of incorporating document automation into their offices. Researching cost and scope of software alternatives — and there are many — can give you a better idea of what kind of system would be most advantageous to your infrastructure and current staff. Using the simple ROI formula of:

Net Profit/Total Investment x 100 = ROI

to determine your short-term and long-term returns will help calculate cost-benefit analysis.

ROI can be measured in many ways, but at JurisDOC, we believe that time is money. Our software — with legal document assembly, time tracking, billing, and processing payment functions — is newly priced at only $50/month per user, which delivers a quick return on investment, no matter how you measure it.

We’re so sure that you’ll find JurisDOC useful that we offer a free trial. Click here to learn more or click here to download your free trial. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can start saving time and money.


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A Good Lawyer Is Not Enough

For many lawyers looking to run their own firms, taking the idea of a solo or partner practice and putting it into — well, practice — requires one part entrepreneurship, one part business acumen, and two parts patience to handle a transitional period that could take years.

Bringing in the clients — and the money that comes with the clients — rests on the shoulders of you and your associate lawyers, but once the work becomes regular enough to warrant extra help, you’ll find yourself ready to take on non-lawyer personnel. Whether you view and treat your staff as overhead or as valuable assets will determine how critical they become to the growth of your firm.

Know the Right Position
Traditionally, law offices have been supported by legal secretaries and paralegals — each having a unique and separate list of responsibilities. Legal secretaries performed administrative and office duties, while paralegals, or legal assistants, conducted research and provided support to lawyers on client cases.

But, times, they are a changin’. Like every other industry, the business of doing law has evolved with technological advances in workflow and communication.

We lawyers no longer rely on secretaries to transcribe and mail letters for us. We write our own emails and hit the send button. Paralegals search for information in databases rather than in law books or cardboard boxes of files. Legal assistants use automated legal software to populate paperwork instead of cutting and pasting from previous documents.

In fact, many times the functions of these positions can blur job roles or spawn new ones, like that of a legal technology specialist or an e-discovery professional — someone with a background in IT and law, who uses technology to assist in legal proceedings.

For lawyers who may not be as versed in technology, hiring a tech-savvy staff member provides a crucial element of support for the firm. To attract someone who is looking for a career in the field, make sure you get a good understanding of the value such a team player brings to the table and offer a competitive salary and benefits package.

Nurture the Right Personality
While hiring from a pool of prospects with high-level skills may guarantee an employee who is competent and understands how technology supports a modern office, you can’t ignore the basics of matching the right personality with the job description and day-to-day tasks.

If you’re looking to fill a client-facing position, you need someone who enjoys working directly with people. Conversely, a researcher should feel content sitting alone sifting through online databases for hours at a time. Fulfilling careers are ones that align with people’s attributes, and if you understand that as a manager, you’ll foster a team of dedicated and fulfilled employees.

Incentivize Right for Success
Even if you don’t consider work as fun, you want to at least be content in an office where you spend a large percentage of your time. Make sure you are aware of the importance of how your employees’ environment and office structure affects morale and productivity. Are managers encouraging and empowering? Is the work-life balance tipping too much to either side? Are you giving quality of work precedence over hours logged? Take regular stock of how you are motivating your staff to put forth their best.

Remember, too, that the needs of your office will change as it grows. Are your staff members evolving, as well? Talented personnel may desire an increasing level of challenge over time. Being open to developing roles and responsibilities within your office structure can prevent personnel turnover.

Nurturing your non-lawyer staff can result in increased productivity and efficiency in your office, which is well worth the initial investment you may make in people and technology. At JurisDOC, we believe in making those investments. At JurisDOC, we believe in making those investments. Click here to download a free trial of our legal document assembly software and see how quickly you can save money — and time.


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4 Fundamentals for Managing a Law Office

Fellow lawyers, whether you are green around the ears or counting the days until retirement, the amount of time you spend in your law firm office probably rivals the hours you spend outside of it. How smoothly that office is maintained and how effectively the management is handled makes a huge difference in how content you are spending all of that time there.

A law office, whether large or small, is only as successful as the team running it. Without clear policies and procedures in place, a lack of cohesion creates a shortfall of focus. If you’ re in charge of managing that office, it could mean the difference between efficiency and chaos. Consider these fundamentals:

#1 Do One Thing at a Time
Multi-tasking is only an effective practice if you’re able to focus equally on each task you’re tackling. And, since it’s a good idea to give 100% of your focus to whatever endeavor you’re undertaking — especially client work — the benefits of multi-tasking quickly dim.

I know we live in a business world that’s short on minutes, patience, and tolerance, but promoting an office atmosphere that focuses on doing one job right the first time may save money and hours in the long run. Encourage partners and employees to turn off device notifications when concentrating on client work. Suggest follow-up phone calls for clarification rather than an endless stream of misunderstood texts or chats.

#2 Respect and Be Respected
Get a whole bunch of lawyers — or actually a whole bunch of anybodies — working together in an office and there are bound to be conflicting personalities.

The key to maintaining harmony in the office is ensuring everyone understands how to play nice. Create and keep a respectful workplace by having established rules of conduct. No aggressive behaviors, no bullying, and no personal attacks. It may sound obvious, but some folks with larger personalities may need to be reminded about the basics of appropriate decorum in an office setting.

When possible and practical, gather your staff to socialize and get to know each other. Practicing the law can be a full-court press of client interaction, research, deadlines, and court appearances. Taking time to celebrate, to commiserate, to motivate each other builds relationships and strengthens the whole team.

#3 Invest Today and Save Tomorrow
Investing in an office means spending time and money on technology and people. Central workplace servers and automated legal document software streamlines workflow and saves hours.

Take the time to train employees on standard policies and procedures. Educate associates on the way the office is run, the internal billing structure, and other supporting technologies. Instruct office staff on integrated systems and software.

And whether it’s the administrative staff or associate attorneys — professional development supports individual career growth and increases each person’s value to the firm. Encourage your team to explore and exploit learning opportunities, and if you can, help them pay for classes or workshops.

#4 Write It Down
As lawyers, we know that anything worth doing is worth documenting. We tell our clients to document their actions, and it’s wise advice that we should follow, too.

Remove ambiguity and keep policies and procedures clear and concise by compiling them into an employee handbook to be reviewed and signed by staff and partners. Include any non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and professional contracts together with documentation on confidentiality and client rights.

Promoting a client-focused office environment means creating a cohesive group of like-minded lawyers and employees. That’s exactly what we strive to do at JurisDOC. Visit our website to learn more about a free trial of our legal document assembly software and see how quickly you can start saving time — and money.


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Firing Law Firm Employees: Keep Your Humanity Intact

One of the most difficult tasks of running a law firm, or any business for that matter, is firing someone. There’s no easy way, and both sides — being let go or letting someone go — are very unpleasant.

As uncomfortable as the situation might be, sometimes firing is unavoidable. Whether you must fire an associate attorney who is just not working out or you let go of office staff because you don’t have the amount of work hoped for, you can follow these guidelines to make sure that everyone walks away from the table on the best terms possible.

Make Sure It’s Legit
All states, with the exclusion of Montana, allow employers to exercise an “at-will” employment policy, giving them the option of terminating for any reason at any time. Except for a few reasons that are illegal, which include:

Military duty
Violations of the Family Medical Leave Act
Jury duty
Discrimination
Whistle-blowing

As a lawyer, following the letter of the law in my business practices rates pretty high on my list of priorities. Make sure the situation in which you dismiss an employee is on the up and up. And, don’t forget to check your original employment contract to ensure you’re not violating any of your own binding language.

Firing Well Starts with Hiring Well
Getting fired should never come as a shock to the employee. When someone feels they’ve been fired out of nowhere without prior discussion or forewarning, they’re more likely to seek legal redress. And that’s something disgruntled associate attorneys may know quite a bit about.

The best way to avoid firing people is to be careful when hiring and working with them. When you make your expectations for employees clear and provide regular and constructive criticism through feedback, there should be no surprises if those expectations are not met. Commit to the practice of CYA (Cover Your Assets) and document disciplinary issues, performance reviews, and applicable client feedback.

Keep Calm and Carry On
During a closed-door termination discussion, volatile emotions may arise and be expressed (sometimes, loudly). If you’re not the type to enjoy confrontations – and really, who is – you may find yourself in an increasingly negative situation of accusatory back-and- forth. A terminated employee — especially a lawyer — may want to argue in their own defense.

Once you’ve made a formal decision to let an employee go, don’t belabor the point or debate it. Stay calm, follow your script, and end the discussion. Getting emotional and saying things you might regret later paves the way for legal retribution.

Don’t Make Them Fight for Their Rights
Getting fired is upsetting and sometimes humiliating. When an employer drags their feet on providing details about continuing health coverage and unemployment insurance, it’s like pouring salt in the wound (not to mention, it’s illegal).

Don’t stand in the way of former employees’; rights, and instead, let them get on with their lives as quickly as possible. Know your responsibilities as an employer and obligations when it comes to offering temporary health insurance and eligibility status for unemployment.

Running a successful law firm sometimes means reorganizing your staff to best serve your clients. At JurisDOC, we pride ourselves on hiring and keeping employees who provide an outstanding level of customer service to our lawyer customers. Visit our website to learn more and download a free trial of our legal document assembly software. An asset to any law office, JurisDOC can save you time — and that means saving money, too.


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How Law Firms Hire for Success

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Category : Law Firm Management

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” I can think of many situations that old adage applies to, including the process of successfully building and maintaining a staff for a small law firm.

As a lawyer, you understand the process of research and negotiation to arrive at a favorable outcome for your clients. As a business owner, you need to apply the same techniques to develop team of lawyers and support staff to keep your office running smoothly.

Hire Lawyers with Hearts
When hiring for junior associate positions, you may assume GPAs and alma maters matter most, but that thinking is out of date across many industries. What’s become just as important are “soft skills,” or emotional intelligence capabilities, which are not taught – at least, certainly not in the school I attended. For a fellow lawyer, qualities like resilience, leadership, and empathy ensure a level of dedication to the firm and its clients.

Attorneys, like the rest of the human race, have all different kinds of personalities. Some possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and others feel most fulfilled working as part of a group. Since the hiring process for small businesses is expensive, make sure the lawyers you interview are the right “fit” for your business culture and will contribute to the overall atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual support.

Just as a football team comprised solely of quarterbacks will not win the Super Bowl, a team of lawyers with identical traits will not win the most clients. Understanding the unique attributes of your firm’s associates and hiring someone new, who brings something different to the table, allows you to serve the most diversified clientele.

Hire Staff with Smarts
You might not want to believe this, but there IS such a thing as “too many lawyers.” If your small firm doesn’t have a strong support staff keeping up with research and office management responsibilities, you can’t provide quality services to your clients.

Hiring paralegals, assistants, and office managers of the highest caliber requires looking beyond resumes. Folks who are adaptable, communicate effectively, and are genuinely interested in the law make the best employees. Remember, you are investing more than just a salary in a new hire. You are spending time, providing training, and allowing access to your firm’s confidential documents – make sure the fit is right.

Today’s small business must adapt and change to industry trends; it is critical to any company’s success. Today’s small law firm relies more heavily on emerging technologies designed to expedite tasks and cut costs. Your support staff needs to develop and sustain these capabilities. They should feel comfortable using legal form software and customer relationship management tools. Hiring staff who are capable, willing, and eager to keep up with new technologies is as important as implementing them in the first place.

Hire Teams Who Start
When choosing both lawyers and staff, you want a team that leans forward. You don’t want a group who just waits around until they’re told what to do. Find people who take initiative, work collaboratively, and think innovatively. This is the team who will propel your firm to the next level.

Above all, create a cohesive workplace of associates and staff who are committed to your company ethics, vision, and culture. This takes a bit of work, but, the pay-off is worth it: a team of trustworthy, adaptable, and client-focused professionals who deliver expertise, confidence, and success.

Implementing document assembly software and training staff to use it is one way law firms can support client needs. At JurisDOC, we pride ourselves on hiring employees that provide an outstanding level of customer service to our lawyer customers. Visit our website to learn more about a free trial of our legal document assembly software and see how quickly you can save money – and time.


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Why Customer Service Should Matter to Law Firms

Fellow lawyers, here’s a quick question for you: If I were to ask your last few clients what most impressed them about your firm, what would they say? Would they marvel at your ability to put together a flawless legal brief? Would they sing the praises of the wording choices on your non-disclosure agreement? How about your skill in breaking down your billable activities on an invoice?

I’m guessing none of those things really impress your clients. Because they’re probably not lawyers. And, although obtaining legal advice and representation is a commodity that folks are willing to pay substantially for, increased competition and access to information online means a broad range of choices for potential customers.

In fact, a recent survey found that 60% of corporate clients had replaced one of their primary law firms in the past 24 months due to dissatisfaction. Just like companies in any other service industry, law firms are increasingly expected to provide more than just the requested forms and motions; they are required to deliver outstanding customer service.

So, how can you make sure that you are keeping your clients happy enough, not only to stay on with your firm, but refer you to others? Provide a level of service and care that your customers can recognize as above and beyond.

Be Available — and, I Mean YOU
Your clients are paying top dollar for your advice, so when you don’t respond to their voicemails and emails, or have your assistant make a call for you, they can feel cheated. Not to mention, legal proceedings can be confusing and anxiety provoking for non-lawyers; they need to know you’re handling their case effectively. Make sure you are keeping your clients informed and get back to them promptly when they reach out to you.

Listen to Your Clients — and, I Mean REALLY Listen
Clients want to know they are more than just the 2:00 p.m. slot in your Outlook calendar. Building customer loyalty means learning about your clients and understanding their unique needs and perspectives.

Think about client interactions beyond the case particulars and instead consider how successful ones can enhance your professional relationships and strengthen loyalty. Remembering a child’s name or an interesting hobby can go a long way towards providing that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Value Can Be Priceless
If customers feel they’re being nickeled and dimed, I can guarantee they won’t recommend you to others. Be clear on your invoices as to what is being charged and why – make sure clients understand how every activity billed supports their case.

And, remember that value goes beyond dollars and cents; it’s a feeling you want your clients to experience. Figuring out how to provide that to each person you’re helping is priceless.

Use Technology to Your Advantage — and Your Client’s
Implementing technology to cut down on the time it takes to serve your clients helps them and you. Whether you’re storing contacts and leads in an online database, incorporating a customer relationship management solution in your office or leveraging JurisDOC document assembly software to make your firm more efficient, you should be taking advantage of leading-edge tools that make customer service a heck of a lot easier.

Great customer service should start with the first client interaction and should end…well, it shouldn’t end. At JurisDOC, we pride ourselves on providing an outstanding level of customer service to our lawyer clients, and that commitment has paid off.

Are You Ready for a New Opportunity? We’re Hiring!
JurisDOC continues to grow, and we’re excited to expand our team. We’ve got the software and law aspects of the business covered, and we’re looking for a person who will focus on sales — introducing potential customers to JurisDOC and helping them get up and running with the software.

The ideal candidate will come equipped with successful experience in tech sales and also be knowledgeable about law office operations. We’re offering a commission-only compensation arrangement that can deliver significant income to a successful salesperson. If that’s you — or someone you know — please contact me directly at gtharris@jurisdocpro.com.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how our automated document assembly software can make your law office more efficient and productive to keep your clients coming back for more, you should consider a free trial of JurisDOC. There’s no better way to see how quickly you can save time — and money.


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Good Client Service vs. Firm Profitability . . . Why Not Both?

These days, clients are demanding better service for less. Providing good client service, however, does not have to come at the expense of your firm’s profitability. In fact, if approached properly, the two will go hand in hand. It’s all a matter ofmaking smart changes.

Value Pricing
You probably already know where I’m headed with this: alternative fee arrangements (AFAs). Clients want law firms to explore alternatives to hourly billing in order to obtain legal services at prices that reflect how they value these services, not just how the law firm values them.

That’s not to say that the clients are the only winners with this type of arrangement. Alternative billing should be based on what’s fair and reasonable to the client and the lawyer—that way you both come out on top.

Of course, clients perceive value in a variety of ways. The key to pricing legal services effectively is to understand what your client values most in their engagement with you (reputation, speed, highly specialized expertise, etc.), and to establish pricing accordingly.

In addition to being a fairer way to price your services, AFAs demonstrate that you care about what the client values. Clients who feel valued become loyal clients, who are more likely to return and to recommend you to others.

Staffing
As you well know, much of what goes on in legal work does not actually require highly experienced attorneys, so there’s no need to require clients to pay exorbitant prices for work that can be done for less. Several staffing alternatives offer equivalent work product at better cost-efficiency to clients.

Legal process outsourcing firms (LPOs) can provide routine contracts, legal research, document review, discovery, and intellectual property (IP) services. Experienced, former “Big Law” attorneys and in-house lawyers can be contracted on a project-by-project basis and their services provided directly to clients.

You can also reduce the costs affiliated with associates who are on track to partnership by hiring flex-time, part-time and temporary associates as needed. Traditionally, these attorneys accept lower salaries and ask for fewer benefits than lawyers on a partner track.

Another way to contain staff costs is to decrease the ratio of legal assistants to lawyers. Savings can go straight to the bottom line, or put toward the addition of personnel in litigation support, IT, marketing, project management, pricing, or any other area where your firm needs more staffing.

Efficiency
One of the biggest struggles for law firms today is increasing efficiency in order to remain competitive. Clients are happy when you do your work efficiently and happy clients are the ones that keep you in business, so it’s in your best interest to find ways to improve practice management, accomplish more work in a given time, and to do a better job. One of best ways to do this is to embrace legal technology.

Case management software makes it easier to manage, protect, and share information, as well as track and shape your cases to make them more manageable. Timekeeping software or practice management software helps you maximize efficiency by tracking and analyzing how firm personnel—including you—spend work hours.

Document automation software saves time for you and your staff by helping to select proper forms and completing them to the extent possible. Your team works with a database of forms to customize documents and build templates that can be used for individual cases and across the firm—reducing time spent on assembling documents, hunting for forms, and correcting inconsistencies.

Excellent client service and firm profitability don’t have to be competing goals. While it may require a little more initial effort, adopting alternatives such as AFAs, new staffing models, and legal technology is worth the investment. Your clients will thank you, and so will your bottom line.

JurisDOC provides document assembly software that makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. The software also tabulates hours, prepares client invoices and tracks received payments. Learn more at our website or click here to download a free trial of the software now.


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