Category Archives: Business

Best Live Chat For Lawyer Websites

Choosing the best live chat for your law firm’s website may come down to pricing, support, and functionality. Before reviewing a few live chats you can use for your website, let’s look at a few key features to help in your decision making.

The first thing to understand is what you can do with live:

  • Pre-chat Message: provide a pop-up to a visitor to prompt them toward clicking the button and starting the live chat session.
  • Pre-chat script: provide a series of questions the visitor must answer before the live chat session begins.
  • Proactive Live Chat: offering a live chat session to a visitor upon arrival.
  • Reactive Chat: waiting for a visitor to initiate the live chat button.
  • Unavailable Chat: when live agents are not available, an optional form is sent to the visitor to provide their email.

Next, in the marketing world, turning a website visitor into a paying customer (or client) is known as a conversion. Live chats are a great tool to increase conversions if you know how to use them.

Quick Tips for Live Chat

Take into consideration the following when choosing and setting up a live chat solution on your law firmès website:

  1. Who Will Be Responding to Chat Requests? Will you be handling the chat notifications or an assistant? There is also the option of hiring a virtual receptionist and outsourcing. Are you aware of the ethical implications to answer legal related questions?
  2. How Are Chats Being Answered? If you understand the ABA’s ethics rules for lawyers, you’ll know what kind of information you can or cannot collect during a live chat. If you have chosen a live chat with outsourced assistance, will they be given a script? Are they proficient in English? How should they handle sensitive information?
  3. What Are Your Costs? There are many live chat solutions available and prices range from completely free to high hourly rates for active chat agents. You may also find the option to pay per lead or to pay per chat.

Now that you have an idea what to look for in a live chat software for your website, let’s look at a few options.

Live Chat for Lawyer Websites

Client Chat Live

Overview: Client Chat Live offers live chat solutions for small business, medical practices, and legal practices.

Installation: Their installation team provides you with the HTML to include on your website and simple steps to get started.

Features:

  • Proactive Pop-ups: invites visitors to start using the chat messenger
  • Branded chat boxes
  • Monthly chat reports (include all chats, summary of visitor details, and analytics)
  • Custom scripts for their operators
  • Live phone transfer
  • CRM Integration
  • 24/7 operator availability

Languages: Available in English and Spanish  

Pricing: Contact the company for a free quote. 

Legal Chat 24/7

Overview: Legal 24/7 is a live chat provider dedicated exclusively to lawyers. They offer a team of trained operators capable of using legal language. They can also assist in designing custom chat scripts that suit your law firm’s style.

Installation:  N/A

Features:

  • Legal training operators with focus on conversion
  • Live phone call transfer
  • Live chat 24/7/365
  • Branded chat boxes
  • Analytics
  • CRM integration
  • Lead notification (email, phone call, etc.)

Languages: Available in English and Spanish

Pricing: Pay per lead. Contact the company for more details.

Apex Chat

Overview: Apex Chat offers both live chat software and professional agents 24/7/365. They have agents specialized in personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, family law, immigration, estate planning, and other legal areas. Apex Chat is a leading provider of live chat solutions for lawyers.

Installation: N/A

Features:

  • Multiple chat agents available 24/7
  • Live phone call transfer
  • Practice area trained operators
  • Pre-defined scripts
  • Customizable messenger (for branding)
  • CRM Integration
  • Geo-mapping and routing
  • Detailed reporting

Language: Available in English and Spanish

Pricing: Pay per lead, with the ability to cap billing. For more information, contact their sales team.

The following live chat providers are not specific for legal services.

Chat.io

Overview: Chat.io offers a highly functional live chat messenger for your website. You’ll see a simple chat messenger in the bottom right corner of your website with the option to add the chat agent’s image and personalized message. They also offer 14-day free trial.

Installation: After you sign up for your account, you’ll receive an HTML code to place on your attorney website. They offer easy-to-understand instructions for this task.

Features:

  • Create canned messages
  • Check chat status
  • Share files
  • Create smart or manual chat (for offline)
  • Use on multiple websites and integrate into Facebook
  • Receive chat ratings
  • Access to agent profiles and transparency
  • Only $10 per teammate/month

Please note, this chat service only offers access to their live chat software. If you need agents, you may have to outsource.

Other live chat software similar to Chat.io include:

These live chat services offer manual live chat solutions. If you don’t have the staff to manage your live chats, you can outsource and provide scripts or set up an autoresponder requesting contact information.

Overall, the benefits of using non-legal focused live chats would be their affordability. However, the inability to hire staff available 24/7 can lead to missed leads and prospective clients.

In contrast, the live chat services devoted to the legal industry include operators who can speak both Spanish and English. In addition, with pricing being pay-per-lead from talented operators focused on conversions, you’ll get exactly what you pay for.

Guide To Google Trends For Lawyers

If you plan on using search engines to lead new clients to your legal services you’ll want to know the latest trends. Having all the latest data and information about what people are searching for on the internet is the key factor for any business offering their services online. Luckily, Google Trends offers a tool that does that.

Understanding the data surrounding search data allows for an effective marketing strategy to emerge. The behaviors of consumers are constantly changing and adapting. Search data reveals new insights about your clients, competitors, and industry.

Let’s explore how search data can influence your marketing decisions and the content you create for your law firm’s blog.

What is Google Trends?

Google Trends reveals the frequency (or popularity) of a search-term being entered compared to the total search volume across various regions of the world. Using this tool, you will be able to see the trend of a search term across time. You can also look at search data for in real-time, too.

Science Direct studied the usage of big data and found that notable search queries were performed for statistics, policy and law. This big data can be used to make informed marketing decisions for your law firm.

In addition to marketing, Google trends can:

  • Analyze the interest of search users related to your area of practice
  • Forecast legal issues that require immediate attention
  • Acquire a diverse set of information from various sources
  • Access raw search data related to your area of law

Having a better understanding of how people are using Google, especially in terms of people dealing with their legal questions, puts your law firm in a position where it can solve their problems.

How to Use Google Trends

Getting started with Google Trends is simple and the best part is it’s free to use. On the main page, you can browse trending stories or explore topics using the search bar.

To start your own research and analysis of big search data go to Explore and enter your search term or topic.

Before hitting enter, you may want to adjust a few of the settings to obtain search trends related to your practice and your area. You can make adjustments to:

  • Choose your country or anywhere else in the world.
  • Choose from past hour, 4 days, 7 day, 30 days, 90 day, 12 months, 5 years, or from 2008.
  • Choose a category based on your area of practice (i.e. an personal injury lawyer may choose Autos & Vehicles).
  • Search type. Choose from News, Web, Image, Google Shopping, or YouTube.

How Lawyers Can Use Google Trends

If you’re wondering why traffic to your attorney website is declining, Google trends can help you reveal why keywords which ranked well before may no longer bring in new visitors.

However, SEO experts can spend hours creating a strategy from a deep analysis of Google trends. Here’s a few ways your law firm can use Google Trends:

1. You can use the search bar to explore general topics like “practice area + lawyer” or “law related search term” keywords (i.e. divorce lawyer or divorce in New York).The first screen you’ll see is Interest Over Time which shows the popularity of those keywords over a certain period of time.

When you add additional search terms you can better understand the overall search demands related to your area of practice. The peaks and dips show trends throughout the year which can guide you toward when and what you publish on your blog. 

2. Next, you can see where each search words and being used throughout the country. When you browse over each state and you will see the interest based on each search query.

After selecting one of the states, you can get more detailed results of trends based on metro locations.

3. At the state level, you can start to see some specific search queries being made throughout the state. This feature is useful to make decisions about opening an office in a location where law-related terms are being searched the most.

You can see that the search term Divorce has high interest in Bakersfield. This could be an ideal location to open an office because of the high search demand.

From the state level, you can go even deeper to see where and how popular a search term is being made. However, if there is not enough data you will see a notification. You can try using a more general search term to obtain more information.

4. Try searching YouTube trends. Not everyone is using Google’s search engine to find answers to their problems. YouTube is another great source to analyze trends and perhaps find ideas for your own advice or news related video channel.

5. Use Trending Search to find the latest news and searches trending right now. You can find this by navigating to the menu bar on the left. Trending searches is a great way to get ideas for your content. If there’s a popular news item or topic that’s related to your law firm, consider writing an opinion piece or offer your perspective on the situation. Doing so can put your law firm’s website into by spinning current events toward your legal services.

If you want to get notifications to your inbox as-it-happens, each day, or each month, you can click the “+” button to subscribe. When you regularly update your blog with fresh content, this sends a signal to Google and other search engines that your website is active and providing value. Knowing the trends can help you adjust your blog content toward an audience with a specific search demand.

Ready to Use Google Trends?

Remember, Google Trends is showing you what is or has been popular on their networks. Lawyers can use this information to:

  • Discover which keywords (or search queries) are most popular
  • Find related keywords that are becoming popular
  • Compare law related keywords that are gaining or decreasing in popularity
  • Identify geographic locations where keywords are used

While you can use this to create your content and social media posts, there are better and more accurate tools you can use for SEO.

Top 7 Law Firm Accounting Software For Lawyers

Accounting programs for lawyers make your legal services run more effectively and efficiently. There are many accounting programs available and most are designed to improve time management, billing, accounting, and case management.

To save you time, here is a review of the top 7 law firm accounting software designed specifically for lawyers. Hopefully, you will find the best software program that is the right fit for your legal services.

#1: Clio

Clio’s focus is to reduce the number of time lawyers spend on administrative tasks. The best part about Clio is that you only need to pay for the monthly subscription. After you subscribe, you won’t need a network administrator to maintain the software and you can run it on your PC or mobile device.

In regards to security, Clio’s cloud-based allows you to store sensitive information on your computer while being accessible to you anywhere.

Clio is one of the most simple accounting software programs for lawyers by handling all your basic administrative tasks while on the go.

Features:  

  • Matter Management
  • Time Tracking
  • Billing
  • Client Payments
  • Legal Accounting
  • Calendar
  • Lead Tracking
  • Document Management

Pricing starts at $39 per month and you can get started with a trial using just your email.

#2: Xero

Xero has been rising in popularity in recent years and has been in competition with QuickBooks (#5 on this list).

Xero features an easy-to-use software service because it is entirely web hosted. There is no downloads or installations required. You can access your accounting information from any device and all browsers (Google, Firefox, Windows, etc.).

With a subscription to Xero, you can add unlimited users to manage your accounting. There is no additional fee for users which is common in other accounting software services on this list.

The highlighting feature of Xero is that is most useful for small law firms and includes comprehensive user guides as well as responsible customer support.

Features: 

  • Payroll Management
  • Unlimited Users
  • Expense Tracking
  • Invoicing and Billing
  • Customizable Reports
  • W2’s and 1099’s
  • Direct Deposit

Xero’s starter plan limits you to 5 bills and 20 bank transactions. However, you can try their software free for 30 days.

#3: Bill4Time

Bill4Time is a dedicated billing software solution for lawyers. They focus on providing law firms with the ability to create professional invoices quickly and easily.

Clients will have the option to pay online which will be tracked and recorded on the dashboard. Bill4Time accepts Paypal, Stripe, and all major credit cards. From a billing perspective, Bill4Time makes client billing seamless.

Features:

  • Client Billing
  • Time Tracking
  • Invoice Templates
  • Client and Account Management
  • Reporting
  • Online Payments
  • Expense Tracking
  • Mobile Apps

Bill4Time’s starting price is focused on solo law practitioners with more options for those running a law firm with multiple partners. You can also sign up to try Bill4Time for 30 days.

#4: Legal Files

Legal Files provides case management and matter management solutions to improve a law firm’s legal management needs.

Legal Files is commonly used by corporate legal departments, law firms, university legal departments, insurance companies, and various levels of government.

Its features allow lawyers to manage their cases, emails, documents and contracts, contact information, e-billing, and invoicing. Legal Files’ key feature is that it allows lawyers to automate their office workflow to free up time for lawyer’s to dedicate to their clients.

Features:  

  • Corporate Matter Management
  • Government Case Management
  • University Matter Management
  • Insurance Litigation Management
  • Contract Management
  • Law Firm Case Management
  • Investigation Management
  • Legal Aid Case Management

Legal Files offers pricing licensing packages with a one-time payment. You’ll have to contact the company for more information on a package that suits your firm.

#5: QuickBooks

QuickBooks made the list because it provides a powerful accounting software solution for every industry. It has detailed reporting metrics allowing you to capture the costs of all your firm’s activities. From gas mileage to expenses to payroll, QuickBooks does it all.

QuickBooks for its well-rounded accounting solutions and robust set of features. They have an as strong reputation and have been in operations since 1983.

While the capabilities of using QuickBooks and all its add-ons may seem overwhelming, their user interface and customer support make integration into your law firm’s accounting needs simple and straightforward.

Features:  

  • Cash Flow Control
  • Expense Organization
  • Spending Automation
  • Custom Invoicing
  • Easy Payment Solutions
  • One-click Reporting
  • Multiple-user Access
  • Payroll Solutions
  • Taxing

QuickBooks has some of the most affordable pricing plans for their accounting software. You can save 50% by purchasing right away or start with a trial for 30 days. There are also additional add-ons such as Enhanced Payroll ($19/month) and Full-Service Payroll ($49/month) available for the Simple Start, Essentials and Plus plans.

#6: PCLaw by LexisNexis

PCLaw by LexisNexis is a trusted software management solution used by over 15 000 law firms. It offers complete control over your billing and lets you charge for the time effectively.

PCLaw is a robust accounting software for lawyers and is streamlined toward accurate billing through their Time Entry Advisor.

Installing PCLaw just takes minutes and all upgrades are managed within your maintenance plan. For a worry-free, lawyerfocused accounting software, PCLaw would be a great choice.

Features:  

  • Accurate Time Tracking
  • User-Friendly Interface
  • Billable Hours Tracking
  • Accounts Payable, Receivable, and Banking
  • Financial Reporting
  • Trust Accounting
  • Advanced Security Settings
  • Visual Analytics

#7: ProLaw by Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is a dedicated and trusted intelligence technology company that has developed ProLaw specifically for lawyer’s accounting needs.

This accounting software is suitable for mid- to large sized law firms. Their suite of accounting solutions provides expense management along with mobile tracking for lawyers who spend time working on cases remotely.

Like other law firm accounting software on this list, ProLaw offers custom invoicing, accurate tracking, and document management. The program is more sophisticated than others here but their training modules and both online and email support provide you with the help you need to get set up.

Features:  

  • Case and Matter Management
  • Secured Data Storage
  • Financial Reporting (1099s, Budget, Billing, etc.)
  • Cost Recovery
  • Expense Tracking
  • Calendaring & Docking
  • General Ledger
  • Online Bill Payments
  • Billing and Invoicing
  • Bank Reconciliation
  • Accounts Billable and Receivable

To start using ProLaw, you’ll have to contact their sales team for a quote.

38 Digital Marketing Tools Lawyers Can Use

The old days of listing your law firm in the local newspaper may not be entirely dead, but there are now many effective and cost efficient ways to market legal services. From ads that cost you per click to clever tricks to drive traffic to your attorney website, here’s a list of digital marketing tools even lawyers can use.

Notice: some of the marketing tools on this list may not be specific for legal services, however, these are popular tools used by digital marketers.

1. Lawyer Website. This had to be at the top of the list. If you don’t have a website for your law firm or legal services, you won’t be able to take advantage of the rest of the tools on this list.

2. Law Blog. Starting thinking of a law blog as a tool to attract potential clients to your law firm. You can write about trending topics or provide valuable information about your area of practice.

3. Google Trends. When it comes to popular stories and search terms that create the most buzz, try Google Trends. You can find all the hottest words related to your law firm. You can also read this about Google Trends for Lawyers.

4. Google Keyword Planner. SEO is dependent on keywords. Once you know which words are trending, use Google Keyword Planner to find variations and other stats to influence the content you make on your blog.

5. BuzzSumo. Many digital marketers use BuzzSumo and can lawyers to find the best content across social media and search engines.

6. Google Webmasters. Putting your law firm’s website on Google Console allows you to debug any critical errors to your SEO or receive notifications should your site get hacked.

7. Canva. Here’s a place to get creative elements, such as graphic designs, logos, posters, flyers, and more for free. Use this to attract more prospective clients from your Facebook ads.

8. Visually. If you want to offer a stunning infographic explaining the increasing rates of divorce throughout America, try Visually. Here you can get great ideas and images to create incredible online content.

9. Lexicata. This CRM (Customer Response Manager) is made specifically for lawyers. It helps you with client intake and managing your messaging system to deliver to the perfect message at the perfect time.

10. SEMRush. If you’re serious about your SEO and want a premium tool to dig deeper into popular search terms, use SEMRush. They also provide strategy ideas, content ideas, and technical SEO solutions to help your firm’s SEO methods gain traction.

11. Google Adwords. Once you have an understanding of the keyword your soon-to-be clients are using, start a Google Adwords campaign. You’ll be able to put your law firm’s services to the top of Google’s Search Engine.

12. Facebook Ads. Alternatively, you can tap into the millions of people who are actively using Facebook. Lawyers can use Facebook Ads to target specific people, locations, and other detailed demographics.

13. Facebook Audience Insights. Perhaps you should do a bit of research on your target audience before setting up your ads. Facebook Audience Insights gives you a detailed look at the types of people using Facebook, it’s perfect for understanding the types of clients you can help the most.  

14. Medium. In addition to your attorney blog, you should try this popular platform where people share stories that matter. Who knows, you may be the guru of law your country needs.

15. Ahrefs Blog. For those lawyers with a curiosity for the way to web works, Ahrefs Blog offers incredible insight toward SEO and online strategy.

16. HubSpot Blog. This is a place where you’ll find many digital marketers turning to for internet marketing advice. Maybe you can find some fresh new ideas to market your law firm here.

17. Buffer Blog. If you’re a social media enthusiast, the Buffer Blog is best to read about the latest trends and gain new insights.

18. Adspresso Blog. Sometimes Facebook Ads can leave a dent in your marketing budget. If you check out Adspresso’s Blog, you learn a lot about setting up and succeeding with your ad campaigns.

19. WooBox. Do you offer a free consultation and want to share this with as many people as possible? WooBox helps you create all kinds of creative campaigns to marketing your law firm.

20. MailChimp. Email marketing is a common strategy to send information and content to past clients and newly acquired emails. MailChimp is a simple email automation tool that lawyers can use for their drip campaign.

21. Ad-Roll. Re-targeting is a method of featuring your ads throughout the internet after someone visited your site or saw your ad in a different location. With Ad-Roll, you can tap into their vast network and feature your legal services in your region.

22. Sizmek. Advertising is all about impressions and Sizmek focuses on making the most out of the impressions you get while saving you ad dollars. They use a data-focused approach to serving up and managing your law firm’s ad campaign.

23. Vimeo. Does your law firm offer video content? An alternative to publishing all your videos on YouTube, you can use Vimeo to share your content and reach more viewers.

24. Unbounce. Instead of sending web traffic to your website you can use Unbounce to create landing pages. Here you can design a strong message that tells potential clients why your legal expertise is the best in town.

25. VWO. Marketers understand the internet in terms of conversion optimization. This means the traffic you send to your website has a greater chance of purchasing a product (or becoming a new client). With VWO, you can get detailed analytics and test variations of your lawyer website, content, or call to actions to achieve the best results.

26. Google Analytics. This free analytics tool gives lawyer a basic overview of the traffic coming to their website, from what source, and more. Setting up Google Analytics requires an account then adding a small piece of code to your website.

27. Facebook Analytics. Does your law firms use Facebook? If so, setting up your Facebook Analytics will give you additional insight to optimize the journey from your Facebook Page to your law firm’s office.

28. IFTTT. Is this you? After you write a beautiful blog post you publish it, then share it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and any other place you can find that will accept your link. Well, with IFTTT you can automate that process and save a significant amount of your time.

29. Feedly. You can use Feedly to create an aggregate of news channels and offer them on your website. If you’re a personal injury lawyer, you can add blogs and other news sources related to accidents and incidents in your community.

30. Scoop It. If you want to join a content network, join Scoop It. Here you can share your latest blog posts and write exclusive articles to drive new clients to your firm.

31. ColorZilla. If you’ve ever seen a color on the internet and wanted to know what it was you can use ColorZilla to get you the code.

32. Evernote. You likely keep your office organized and you can use Evernote to help with your computer related tasks. However, as a lawyer, you may want to keep confidential information off this platform and stick to more secure apps for lawyers.

33. Calendly. Looking for a simple solution to schedule new intakes directly from your website. Calendy lets you manage what times you are available which can be particularly resourceful if you want to offer a free 15-minute consultation by phone.

34. Trello. If your law firm has a lot of lawyers and you want an efficient way of sending notes and making sure office related tasks are achieved on time, use Trello. Their platform lets you create “boards” with lists of tasks and to-do lists which can improve the workflow in your office.

35. Chat.io. When visitors come to your website having a live chat button in the bottom right corner can help turn questioning visitors into new inquiries. Chat.io offers an easy to install lawyer chat on your website which can be monitored by your or your staff.

36. Screaming Frog. Sometimes a small improvement to your website can increase the amount of visitors. Screaming Frog is a free web auditor tool which can evaluate your law firm’s on-site SEO.

37. PageSpeed Insights. Here’s yet another resourceful Google tool that allows you to measure your site speed and receive suggestion on how to improve it. Remember, a website with a faster load time improves the likelihood they’ll stick around for it to load and contact the firm.

38. SimilarWeb. Have you ever wondered why your competitor’s law site is doing so much better than yours? With SimilarWeb you can figure out their online strategy by gaining an inside look at their content and keywords.

Office Supplies Every Lawyer Should Have

For lawyers who are starting their own law firm having the right office supplies with help with staying organized and improving productivity. An additional purpose that office supplies should provide lawyers is to set a strong first impression whenever clients enter the office.

Whether you’re changing directions in your career or just getting started practicing law, having the right supplies and best website design will be determined by your budget and personal preference. However, one thing to consider is that purchasing the supplies for your lawyer’s office is one of your first business decisions. Purchasing a beautiful mahogany wood desk then experiencing budget cuts, later on, could result in an office environment that’s less than ideal.

Furniture Set First Impressions

Although legal services aim to help people in various situations, lawyer’s must consider their practice with business in mind. Setting a good first impression begins the moment prospective clients steps foot in your office, takes a look at your suit, and scans the conditions of your office.

  • Desks: This will be your workstation. Having a spacious and large desk can help with productivity and reducing the feeling of working in a cramped space. You should consider the height of your desk in relation to your body size. If you have a computer, will you place it on your desk or have an additional side table to use it?
  • Chairs: While your desk is vital for your workflow, having the right chair requires careful consideration. Consider this the throne of your working world. You’ll want to invest in something that is comfortable for the days you’ll spend hours working on your cases. Depending on whether you purchase a chair with wheels or four wooden legs, you may want to purchase a plastic floor covering to improve mobility and reduce damage to the office floor.
  • Bookshelves: these are a necessity for a lawyer’s office. Bookshelves allow you to organize all your law books, keep them in place, and show them off to those browsing around the room. It’s best to choose a bookshelf that matches your office furniture to avoid clashing.
  • Writing Supplies: this one may seem obvious, but it is important to have a bulk supply of writing instruments to work with your clients. In addition, your clients may be required to fill out forms and provide their signature so it is important to have extras at hand. As your practice grows, you can invest in branding your law firm, you can get pens with your logo, law firm name, and contact number.
  • Envelopes: here’s an office supply lawyer’s don’t want to run out. Law offices send out letters to clients and other attorneys on a daily basis. Buying envelopes in bulk is a simple and affordable solution which allows you to have envelopes available whenever you need them.
  • Lighting: most offices are built with good lights to keep the office bright and functional. However, you may find that some parts of the office may feel darker than others, especially if you’re stuck working after hours. Investing in a lamp to provide additional light in the office can help make it more inviting.

A few more fundamental supplies lawyers should have in their office include trash cans, recycling cans, magazine and coat racks.

Lawyer Office Supplies: Quick Checklist

In addition to the items above, you probably need the following items below. You can cut costs if you buy in bulk and keep extras in a storage space. Also, creating a partnership with a supplier can provide you with additional benefits and discounts.

As you prepare your office it can be easy to forget all things you need for your office. Here’s a checklist to ensure you have everything you need:

  • Stationary supplies
  • Legal pads
  • Paper (legal-size and standard)
  • Envelopes
  • Protective desk covers
  • Coffee Machine (a must)
  • Sticky notes
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • File folders
  • Staplers
  • Staple remover
  • 2 and 3 hole punch
  • Tape
  • Sticky tabs
  • Scissors
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips
  • Corkboard and pins
  • Three-ring binders

This list should serve as a starting point to getting the supplies you need at your office. You will be able to find most of these supplies at your local stores or you can shop online to find more variety and style. While it may be tempting to cut corners to save some money in the start, remember that the environment of your lawyer’s office can shape the overall impression of your legal practice. If you’re not too concerned about your office space because you often meet clients somewhere in the community, here are some things you’ll find in a lawyer’s briefcase.

10 Tips To Avoid Legal Malpractice For Lawyers

Although lawyers fight to protect their client’s interests,  it is equally important to protect themselves from legal malpractice. Lawyer-client communication is one of the biggest factors that lead to situations where clients turn on their lawyers. Others include time management and not meeting deadlines.

Regardless of the reasons behind the claim, there are a few things lawyers can do to avoid legal malpractice.

  1. Require a retainer. To avoid losing funds request money in advance for your services (you can set up an automated accounting system to remind you when your trust fund is running low). Whenever a client fails to replenish the retainer, stop working. Your services are based on the hours you put in for the client which they have to pay for. By establishing this strict guideline, it holds you accountable for your services and reduces problems with collecting payments later on.
  2. Have a written contract. When you’re consulting a new client, be sure to provide them with your core services in writing. Include in this document information about your retainer, terms of service, and clearly define what you are obligated to do under the retainment.
  3. Document diligently. While it will be impossible to document every detail regarding your matter, putting a consistent effort toward documenting your interactions with clients can reduce legal consequences should your client sue. Letters may be effective, however having emails, notes, and documents with time-entries can be most effective. If you’re providing advice regarding serious issues due to drastic situations, you may want to consider recording this information. If for any reasons a client confuses your words and questions what you said, you can look back on your documentation to provide clarity and avoid malpractice.
  4. Get to know your client. This point should be number 1: know who your clients are. If you’ve established your law firm as a limited liability company (LLC) you’ll have to clearly distinguish between your responsibilities, your interactions with your client, and the relationship with the firm. You may have to state in clear terms that you are only a representative of the firm and what that means between you and your client.
  5. Never miss a deadline. For new lawyers, they can be most challenging if you underestimate your workflow and time management. Setting realistic deadlines and completing tasks ahead of schedule can avoid conflicts with your clients. Remember, when you deliver earlier than the client expects, the results tend to lead to a satisfied client.
  6. Avoid suing your clients for fees. Although you may have the documentation and support to provide a claim against your client, pushing a lawsuit on a client to collect fees can backfire. If you sure your client, they’ll likely review their own documentation and experience then find a way to countersue for malpractice (i.e. implying that was the reason they stopped paying in the first place). Even if you are insured, some insurance policies are exempted from protecting you from malpractice claims if you are suing your clients for missed fees.
  7. Refer clients to others. It can be tempting to take on clients in an area you are not familiar with if you are experiencing financial pressures. The best thing to do is to build your network and refer such clients to close connections to avoid misrepresenting a case that may be too much to handle. In the long run, building relations with other lawyers and firms can lead to referred clients coming back to you.
  8. Understand the ethical rules. This applies especially to conducting online marketing and other web related tasks. The ABA has ethical rules that all lawyers are expected to follow. While the rules themselves may not be black and white, understanding what you can and cannot do online can help you avoid problems should sensitive information be leaked or clients have a bad experience with some of your outsourced legal staff.
  9. Connect with your client. It is important to know your client, especially when detailing the contract for your services, but it is just as important to build rapport. Are you operating a profession or running a business? While it can be enticing to provide legal services to earn a salary, there comes a line between working for money and working for people. If your clients are just a means of making money to enjoy your lavish, rich lifestyle, it shouldn’t be a surprise that malpractice lawsuits continue to come in.
  10. Get malpractice insurance. In the worst case scenario, having malpractice insurance can protect you. Malpractice insurance policies vary from provider to provide so you should review carefully the terms and protective benefits before choosing the right policy. Here’s more information about malpractice insurance for lawyers.

These are just 10 points to avoid malpractice at your law firm. If your focus is providing exceptional legal services, build connected relationships with your clients, while providing fair fees, getting sued should be the least of your worries.

Legal Document Software for Lawyers

Imagine having a solution to writing out the same forms, again and again. For lawyers manually inputting information, legal document software may be a new way forward.

Legal document software provides lawyers with the ability to accurately and quickly create legal paperwork. Automation in the legal world may seem like a frightening future. However, when you can save time on redundant tasks, greater opportunities for the firm can be found.

What is Legal Document Software

Legal document software is a modern approach to improving efficiency and workflow at the office. By reducing the workload, lawyers can focus on reducing costs, saving time, and keeping their clients happy. Don’t be confused with legal management software, as this focused primarily on creating important legal materials.

Legal document software provides lawyers with a variety of templates that can be branded, designed, and customized for every client’s need. Templates allow lawyer’s and their assistants to complete tasks in much less time.

Functions of Legal Document Software

Aside from the obvious time-saving benefits of having ready-to-use documents, legal document software provides the following functions:

  1. Document Scanner Tools. If you have to scan your documents, you can easily upload into the program and convert them into PDFs and images to send to clients.

  2. PDF Tools. Since PDFs are a common document format lawyers send to clients, the PDF Tools allow editing, modifying, and adding signatures to legal documents.
  3. Automation Tools. There are certain parts of documents that must be added to every document. By creating a template in advance, these elements can be added to a legal document to save time.
  4. Data Control. Saving and organizing files are easily managed. You can also ensure that newer versions and updates never override previous versions to reuse them again if needed.
  5. Integration Tools. If you have a CRM service or want to send documents directly to your client’s emails, the integration tools allow you to connect your accounts.
  6. Legal Signature Integration. Some legal document software can be used with digital signature tools to create legally binding documents for computers or mobile devices.

Legal Document Software Precautions

Just as you secure your legal documents in locked cabinets and safe locations, you must consider the safety and security of your digital documents. Failing to keep your legal documents safe can lead to some serious legal consequences. Protecting your digital documents from hackers and theft must be a top priority.

To combat comprised data, legal document software offers a range of solutions to ensure you legal documents remain safe. Some may use a two-step authentication (i.e. providing a password and a pin code on your phone) or require a direct portal through a secure channel.

Storage Options

When deciding on which legal document software to purchase, you’ll want to consider whether to have a cloud-based storage or on-premise storage.

Cloud-based storage offers a secure server from the service provider to save and access data. Going back to the previous point, you should check with the service provider to ensure that your data is encrypted, has back-ups, and high-grade security.

These cloud-based products are offered via subscription license. You will be expected to pay a recurring monthly fee, or if available, a reduced annual rate. This may seem like an appealing choice as the fees are much less in the beginning.

On-premise storage allows you to manage and store documents directly on your devices. You own the software, instead of subscribing month-to-month, and you may require your own IT support. Keeping your data on private servers and away from your own laptop can prevent a situation where your computer malfunction and all data is lost.

Examples of Legal Document Software

MyCase offers cloud-based document solutions to improve communications with clients and minimize daily legal tasks. It features an intuitive form filling tool with task automation. They also provide solutions for organizing case documents, sending encrypted messages to clients, the one-click firm generated reports, billing solutions (i.e. invoicing and payment collection), and calendaring.

Pricing is just $39 per month for their cloud-based subscription. You can also try MyCase free for 30 days.

Abacus Law provides case management and document automation software. This is a cloud-based service with AES 256-bit encryption. With applications for androids and iOs, you can even access documents from your smartphone. In addition to their automation services, Abacus Law offers a full suite of useful tools such as email management, analytics software, and accounting software.

You’ll have to contact their sales department for a quote or schedule a time to see a demo.

TimeSolv has not only document management solutions and automation but also other tools to manage many aspects of your firm. Their document automation software allows you to create custom files unique to each customer while reducing the workload with custom templates.

They have a sliding pricing scale, depending on the size of your firm, with the starting price being $34.95 per month/timekeeper. You can also try it free for 30 days.

PracticePanther offer legal document solutions for small sized law firms. Their focus is to cut costs and save time for lawyers. They also offer a suite of services such as 1-click invoicing, email integrations, CRM, chat applications, and trust accounting. They offer a secure cloud service following HIPAA compliance.

Their monthly plan starts at $59 per month with a 7-day free trial.

Important Note

Legal document software is not an alternative to creating and managing all documents. The vast number of documents required for lawyers to perform their duties can be too much to convert into digital documents. Digital software should be used primarily to reduce redundant tasks and improve workflow in critical areas of your practice.

Can Lawyers Really Work From Home?

You’ve seen them on hit TV series Law and Order, the lawyer prepares for the courtroom sitting in an expensive leather chair at a monumental building in the big city. This is the industry standard required of a practicing lawyer, right?

Let’s examine a few career paths that allow lawyers to never step foot in an office and work from the comfort of their home.

Solo Practitioners

As a solo practitioner of law, there tends to be much more flexibility and freedom over the amount of time they work but also where they work. When a lawyer works for themselves, they don’t have to follow the traditional path of finding a commercial office space

Instead, solo practitioners are able to open up their own offices in the comfort of their homes. Alternatively, lawyers can set up a virtual office. Setting up a virtual office uses a SAAS application which provides secure and effective methods to communicate with clients and arrange their appointments.

It should be noted that just because a lawyer works from home, it doesn’t mean they’re less professional. Lawyers should always maintain their appearance and are expected to perform their legal duties.

Telecommuting Attorney Jobs

The legal industry is rapidly changing and adapting to the advancements of technology. Some legal services are now providing access to license attorneys via telecommunications.

Telecommuting attorney jobs come on a part-time basis. They are ideal for freelance lawyers and solo practitioners looking to supplement their current caseload.

Lawyers considering this career path may require a strong ability in drafting and negotiating commercial contracts, handling compliance issues, knowledge of IP, data privacy, real estate, litigation, and more.

Often, previous experience at a law firm or legal department is necessary to obtain these positions.

Nonetheless, these jobs allow lawyers to practice law wherever they want while providing the proper legal suppose to their clients. Some courts have now begun to offer virtual case reviews and hearings. The old fashion attorney attending the courtroom may soon become obsolete.

Legal Writers

Lawyers looking to increase their monthly income can become a legal writer. Depending on their expertise and skills, lawyers can provide a range of writing services.

Here are a few places legal writers are needed:

  • Brief writers – research and drafting of briefs, memos, motions and other legal documents required by a law firm.
  • Web writersblogs and other publishing companies require well-researched materials related to the legal industry to be used on law firm websites and other online publications.
  • Legal analyst – provide summaries of case law, prepare news articles and create other written papers.
  • Legal editors – offer editing of legal documents to be used for publication.

Lawyers who wish to provide legal writing services should also understand the importance of SEO.

In-House Lawyers

In-house lawyers, not to be confused with lawyers working from their home, are those that work as solicitors for in the corporate sector. These lawyers provide legal support for financial, manufacturing, utilities, retail, wholesale, construction, transport, communications, media, and publishing services.

As can be seen, the range of possible working experiences is vast. In-house lawyers are required to take care of the legal aspects of the organization. These lawyers may be selected and hired on a part-time, contractual basis which provides more flexibility than permanent in-house hires.

Choosing this style of legal career offers more diversity in the field of law. However, this requires a lawyer to be prepared to handle various situations which can include international law.

Freelance Lawyers

All the options found on this list are examples of possible work for freelance lawyers. Freelance lawyers are becoming a great economical choice for both corporate and individual legal situations.

As well, more lawyers are pursuing a freelance style of service for these reasons:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Closer relationships with clients
  • Ability to work remotely
  • Potential for more earnings
  • Opportunity to work on diverse cases

Becoming a freelance lawyer is also becoming much easier with the rise of online resources offering a place for lawyers and those seeking legal services to connect. Places like eLawyer, The Lawyer, and The Law Society are just a few of places to find freelance of in-house jobs in law.

Perhaps one of the biggest businesses catching onto to this recent trend in freelance lawyers is Lawyers on Demand (LOD). LOD is a fast growing company created by a law firm called Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP and a merger with AdventBalance. They have adopted a non-traditional freelance model of legal services which is dedicated toward providing organizations with the support required for their legal needs.

The kind of work you can expect with a service like LOD are project-based contracts, part-time in-house work, or offering legal expertise at a pre-established firm. This short-term and interim legal services offers new opportunities that cater for businesses with unforeseeable legal incidences.

Summary

Although it may sound unprofessional to think that lawyers are practicing law from the bedroom, the changes in technology and the effects it has on the legal industry has clearly changed the way things work.

Lawyers with the ability to work wherever they want are still able to:

  • Complete all text-based work, including emails and document sharing, with their main office or in-house clients.
  • Send and receive documents from clients and other parties. This can be achieved using secure cloud systems.
  • Make voice calls and perform teleconferences.
  • Arrange meetings with clients in alternate locations, such as a cafe or in the privacy of a client’s home.

Freelance lawyers offer an alternative and exciting new career choice for those who want to have greater control over their personal career. Possibly, lawyers working from home may become a rising trend in the near future.

Should You Become A Partner At A Law Firm?

When you’re law career begins, you may find yourself working at a law firm as an associate and provided with a base salary. Transitioning from employee to becoming a partner at a firm is a great leap.

The path from associate to partner at a law firm may not always be clearly defined. However, there are a few criteria that can assist you if you’re being considered or have been offered to become a partner at a law firm.

The Path to a Partner at a Law Firm

Firms hiring lawyers often choose the best they can find. Applicants from top law schools are recruited first with interviews being limited to specific schools only.

There is a chance of distinguishing yourself in another way, however, most candidates for law firm positions will be considered by pre-selected schools.

Upon hire, your career often starts as an associate. You will be working with a mentor to learn how to practice law. At this time, you will be paid a relatively high salary as the law firm is investing in you at their firm.

While law firms seek to find the best potential lawyers, not all make partner at their firm. Some may leave to start their own private practice or start a firm of their own after a few years with the firm. The path to becoming a partner can be long and take now take over ten years before it occurs.

Partner vs. Non-Partner

On becoming a partner at a law firm, you not only take on more responsibility but also receive an equity stake in the firm’s profits. This provides you access to draw profits to cover your bills and monthly expenses. At the end of the year, you’ll be able to take a larger share when profits are distributed.

This is the typical style of partnership, however, there is also the possibility of becoming a non-partner which does not give you an equity stake in the law firm. Law firms have been adopting varying styles of multi-tiered partnerships which provide increases in salaries (and responsibilities) instead of receiving a small percentage of the firm.

In some cases, law firms may have different types of partnerships available. For example, you can be able to become an executive or managing partner.

There are many factors that influence the structure of a law firm and how it establishes available partnerships. Depending on the size and growth of a firm, offering a non-partnership promotion may be more financially secure than offering equity stakes. Law firms can be an LLC or a corporation and their level of success can determine how much access to equity their rising associates may receive.

Cost of Making Partner

Becoming a partner may not come cheap. Law firms that offer a partnership with an equity stake will often ask for a “buy-in.” That amount varies for each firm, however, some of the top firm’s may require hundreds of thousands of dollars as a capital investment.

Law school is already an expensive investment and many lawyers take years to pay back their loans. If you’re one of the few being fast-tracked to a partnership, consider the capital that may be needed to partner-up.

The “base” capital investment is not the only expected cost new lawyers are expected to cover. Becoming partner means you will be responsible for the costs of benefits and additional income tax deductions.

Finally, some associates moving into a position of being a full-fledged lawyer may experience a shift in lifestyle. This too can come with a heavy price tag.

Putting the financial situation into perspective, law firms don’t want to see their selected partners making less than senior associates. Partners are carefully groomed into their position and law firm’s take precautions to choose them carefully.

Why “Buy-in” to a Partnership?

The capital required to “buy-in” to a partnership position is needed to make investments and expansions at the law firm. You may not have to contribute the full amount as some law firms allow for a contribution that is spread out over a couple years.

Firms may offer a loan structure which secures the capital while imposing a debt onto the partner. However, other firm’s may opt out of requesting “buy-in” capital to avoid paying out a partner who decides to leave after the first few years. Another approach may be to delay the required capital investment by a year so that new partners can develop their services and get into the flow of their new career.

Benefits to Becoming a Partner at a Law Firm

After years of law school and enduring the high-stress legal world as an associate, becoming a partner adds the following benefits to a career in law:

  • Increased pay
  • Equity stake in the law firm
  • Greater prestige and power

Disadvantages to Becoming a Partner at a Law Firm

While the increased pay and access to the firm’s profits may seem like a lucrative leap in your career, here’s a few things that may be disadvantageous:

  • May take years to the firm before being considered a partner
  • Greater liability (i.e. sued for malpractice or if the law firm goes bankrupt)
  • Must pay additional fees: medical insurance, malpractice insurance, etc.
  • Required capital “Buy-in”
  • Consequences for not keeping the firm profitable

If becoming a partner at a firm is not your interest, you may want to consider starting your own law firm.

Steps For Setting Up A Virtual Office At Your Law Firm

For a solo practitioner or a small law firm, setting up a virtual office at the office can make legal services run more effectively and efficiently.

A virtual office allows for lawyers to reduce their management and also their marketing efforts. This can help free up time to focus on client cases and other aspects of growing the firm.

If you’re thinking about setting up a virtual office, here are 5 steps to help you get started.

Step 1: Understand your needs

A virtual office can exist anywhere with the common belief that telephone operators from developing are taking calls and working the front desk.

In the legal world, having inexperienced and unprofessional telecommunication companies handle the intaking and scheduling of your prospective client’s can be both bad for your reputation and your business.

There are telecommunication services available that are dedicated to lawyers. They have trained staff that may even be specialized in your area of practice, such as criminal defense or family law.

Alternatives to using a telecommunication service are to add Live Chat to your law firm’s website. In this list of the best Live Chat services for lawyers, you can quickly and easily add a professional button to your website and interact any visitor.

Overall, there are various types of virtual office solutions. Here’s an overview of a few services virtual office service available to lawyers:

  • Customer Relation Management (CRMs)
  • Live Chat
  • Accounting Software
  • Virtual Receptionist

Virtual offices allow you to automate and improve the efficiency of your daily routines at your firm. In addition, with technology trending toward mobile interactions, you can expect to find various solutions you can manage with your smartphone.

Step 2: Consider the Pros and Cons

Establishing your law firm into a virtual office comes with both benefits and disadvantages. If you’re sure this is the right decision for your firm, there must be substantial reasoning and benefits to do so. Here are some of the benefits a virtual office can include:

  • Reduce costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Effective client intaking
  • Flexible employment
  • Operate your intaking 24/7/365

The disadvantages to a virtual office may be difficult to imagine. However, when considering the sensitive information that passes through a law firm, you may want to think twice before outsourcing work to those outside the office. Here are a few disadvantages to establishing a virtual office:

  • Reduce moral in current employees
  • Lack of support
  • Privacy liability
  • Bad for reputation (i.e. outsourcing calls)
  • Security risks

Using technology and outsourced solutions will always alleviate the workload at the office. However short-term benefits may have long-term consequences. Carefully evaluate which services are right for your legal practice.

Step 3: Measure costs

Cost reduction and savings are two major factors that influence the decision to establish a virtual office. Accounting software can provide invoices with the click of a button while tracking cash flow to make taxes easier. Virtual receptionists can handle inquiries at the office and schedule appointments for serious inquiries.

When selecting the services for your law firm, it’s best to shop around. The pricing and features offered with each will vary. There is a competitive market to provide solutions specifically for lawyers and each service will provide similar yet varying options.

If possible, you can start with a trial of their services which is usually free and does not require a credit card.

Step 4: Stick to your budget

When you sign up for virtual services you’ll be locked into a monthly or yearly billing cycle. You’ll have to determine your monthly costs accordingly and select the services that you feel will help your law firm yield the best returns.

There are services that stick to a monthly pricing plan and others that invoice you per client or lead they acquire. If you’re paying per lead, be sure that you are successfully converting those prospective leads into new clients. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your money.

Step 5: Analyze effectiveness

Even though you have spent a significant amount of time and money investing in potential virtual office solutions, it is best practice to analyze their effectiveness on a quarterly or yearly basis.

If you’re using a virtual receptionist, measure how many new clients they help you acquire per month. Determine whether their services are providing you an improvement to your legal services or simply using up your budget.

Here are a few points to analyze with your law firm’s virtual office services:

  • How many clients does it yield
  • How much time is being saved
  • How are much are costs being reduced
  • How many issues have occurred
  • How often is tech support needed

The ease of installation for more virtual office services may reduce the hassle of finding a talented staff to hire at your firm, taking the time to develop in-house employees can sometimes be worth the effort.

In-house staff can reduce headaches of spending hours on a phone with support teams that may or may not be able to resolve your problems right away. Also, training staff can establish to long-term employees which understand the process of how your law firm functions and can lead to better performance than outsourced solutions.

These 5 steps are just a guideline if you’re thinking about turning your law firm into a virtual office. For solo-practitioners, reducing the number of administrative tasks may be the best option to improve efficiency and effectiveness of your legal services. If you’re looking for the best virtual solutions, check out these law firm management software.