For many lawyers, time is everything. But time is hard to manage, particularly when you are busy dealing with a slew of phone calls, emails, invoices and document preparation, which, unfortunately, are not typically billable. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at five unique ways to manage your growth and expand your law firm while being cost effective and without, in fact, expanding the number of people working in your law firm.
In our post-pandemic legal world, legal technology has received all the praise for allowing the legal profession to continue to defend their clients' rights, ensure that businesses keep moving and maintain compliance with the bevy of recent changes to the law. On the other hand, the daily operations of most law firms have dramatically changed – from large firms implementing work-from-home plans to the ubiquitous rise of Zoom conferences and Microsoft Teams – causing law firms everywhere to participate in a wild scramble for the latest and greatest work-from-home technologies.
While we don’t know how long the effects of the pandemic may last on the legal world, it is important to ask a key question during this time - What does law firm growth and expansion look like in a post-pandemic legal world? Well, the answer may just lie in the ability for law firms to take advantage of the technologies available today to work more efficiently. How can you best take advantage of today’s technologies to better manage your law firm’s growth?
Let an Auto-Attendant manage your incoming phone calls
For many small law firms, it is not uncommon for a single lawyer to transition between various roles. From starting the day off with administrative tasks, such as answering incoming calls and scheduling meetings, to actually completing legal work or developing the next marketing play. Auto-attendants are a good first step to manage your time and efforts more efficiently as a busy lawyer.
What is an auto-attendant exactly? An auto-attendant system is essentially a pre-recorded ‘attendant’ that answers each and every phone call to your law firm. The typical auto-attendant will provide the caller with a variety of options to choose from, which will help funnel clients to the right person or to the right voice mailbox. For example, a law firm’s auto-attendant may give you options such as: “press 1 to reach reception; press 2 to search through our directory; press 3 if you are a current client; press 4 if you are a current client…”.
Today, automatic phone attendants and VOIP phone systems are rather common for most businesses, including many law firms in Ontario. Some examples of popular companies that offer auto-attendant services are RingCentral, Corvum, Nextiva and Jive.
Live Virtual Receptionists: Customized Scripts, Scheduling and Client Emergencies
While auto attendants are a fantastic and relatively cost-effective method of managing incoming phone calls, a key shortcoming to these types of system is that they don’t necessarily manage the caller on the other end. Instead, auto attendants will direct callers to the right person, who is then managed by a live person. Again, this takes precious time and co-ordination away from a law firm.
Enter the live virtual receptionist, a real person on the other end of the phone that does exactly what you direct them to. For a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee, a live virtual receptionist can help your law firm claw back some of that precious time that may be taken away from scheduling, directing, and managing client phone calls. Additionally, speaking to a live person always provides for a better service experience for clients as compared to listening to elevator music while on hold.
A great example of live virtual receptionist services is Ruby Receptionist. With Ruby, your law firm’s incoming calls are seamlessly directed to Ruby Receptionists, where a live receptionist will answer the calls in accordance with a personalized greeting of your choice. From here, the possibilities are endless.
For example, you can have your live receptionist put new client calls directly through to you or schedule a meeting according to your schedule. You can book off a block of time that you will not be available for any callers except for emergency situations. You can even tailor your greetings whereby new clients and current clients will each receive a different greeting script from the live receptionist.
Taking physical mail into the digital world
While there are several solutions to help lawyers better manage their email inbox – from organizing emails into folders to relying on more sophisticated email archiving software (see PracticePanther’s Mail Sync & Label Sync) – managing physical mail can be a big challenge for many lawyers, particularly litigators.
Instead of managing your own physical mail room (which may now be your home), or even hiring a team to manage your law firm’s mail room, Earth Class Mail can handle all your mailroom needs for you. Earth Class Mail works by assigning an address at a secure location to your law firm, which can then be used as your new mailing address for important documentation. Any mail received at this secure location will be processed, scanned and sent to you in digital format.
Earth Class Mail can even take action on behalf of your law firm, such as depositing cheques or uploading your newly scanned documents to your desired location (i.e. OneDrive, Google Drive, Box and Dropbox). For many busy litigators, the support of a virtual mailroom may be indispensable during high-stress times, such as the week of a large looming lawsuit. No longer will your law firm need to manually process mail, physically scan and organize it into the requisite location.
Why you should transition to electronically signing documents
Ever sent a document to a client but never received an executed document back? How about the follow up email or call to a client for an invoice that was never paid? Unfortunately, it is often seen as a hassle for many clients to print out a document you may send, sign the document, scan it back into their computer and then, finally, email it back to the lawyer. DocuSign helps avoid the pain points of this process by digitizing the process of getting documents signed.
While DocuSign is not a free service, the value of the platform lies within the ability for lawyers to get a quicker turnaround and a faster response rate on documents that need to be executed in a short amount of time. This means less time following up or waiting on your clients to return time-sensitive documents. With DocuSign, the client has the flexibility of viewing and signing the document on their mobile device, laptop or anywhere else they can get access to their email.
Hands-off on collecting invoices and payment scheduling
In a similar vein to electronic document signing, billing and invoicing is another area that overlaps significantly with getting a document signed by a client. Following up with a client on invoicing is an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience for many lawyers. Additionally, the pandemic has led many clients to increasingly request payment plans from their lawyers.
One solution to this quandary is accepting credit card and other digital payment options. For many law firms, accepting credit cards is usually a distant third choice behind e-transfers and checks. Often a key reason given by law firms for why they don’t want to accept credit cards is the processing fee (typically about 2 – 3%), or the perceived learning curve in establishing a relationship with payment processors.
In the wake of the global pandemic and the economic uncertainties that is has created, the ability to securely and reliably receive funds may largely outweigh the processing fees. LawPay has significantly grown in popularity as a unique payment processing platform designed specifically for lawyers. From charging payment onto client’s credit cards to scheduling payment plans, and even even accepting electronic cheques, LawPay provides a suite of solutions to assist lawyers with seamlessly accepting credit cards as an additional form of payment for their services.
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