Category Archives: Ultimate Guides

The Biggest Mistakes Lawyers Make With Advertisements

Lawyers depend on advertisements to build an awareness of their legal services and attract new clients to their firm. While traditional methods are still in use, online marketing (via Facebook Ads and Google Adwords) are becoming the common trend for advertising.

If you’re considering to use advertisements for your law firm, here are some of the biggest mistakes lawyers make and what you can do to avoid them.

Unfocused Marketing Campaigns

You may have a large budget to spend on marketing your law firm, but if you don’t have a focal point you’ll be spending your money on nothing. You can create a generic “contact for a free consultation” marketing message and take anything that comes in the door.

Or, you can segment your marketing message and target the specific legal services you offer. Invest your time and money creating marketing messages related to the specific cases your law firm handles.

Once you concentrate your marketing efforts you can find the right prospects for your firm.

Poorly Written Content

The content you publish on your website is a representation of you and your law firm. The internet is filled with spammy websites and people know when they’re being sold to.

Your content should be informative, error-free, and relatable to the people you think will read it.

Also, to improve the effectiveness of your content, add logical and emotional reasons to hire you. People are searching for someone who can truly help them with their problems.

Use your content to tell people you understand what they are dealing with and that your legal services are here to help.

Asking For Too Much

Your advertising efforts may be effective and delivering high traffic to your website. However, you may find that no one is contacting you for more information or to start a consultation.

If you’re asking prospective clients too much information in your contact boxes, many prospects are likely to turn away. People are constantly concerned about their privacy and with the rise of identity theft, there is a hesitancy to sharing personal information online.

Nonetheless, lawyers require some information to begin evaluating their case and being able to respond to it. Only ask for as much as you need and after receiving their contact information you can begin to ask the questions needed to get their case started.

Complex Web Design

There’s nothing more frustrating for a visitor to a website than a complex and confusing web design. This is known as your bounce rate, which is the number of visitors that come to your website then leave right away.

When you’re putting your legal services online, consider your visitors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the most useful information my visitors need?
  • Does my law firm web design have a clear call to action (i.e. call for a free consultation)?
  • Is my contact information easy to access or will a visitor have difficulty finding it?
  • Does my website invite visitors to join my social?
  • Would adding a pop-up lead capture improve my conversions from visitors to clients?

If you’re struggling to come up with an effective web design for your law firm, consider these best law firm websites from 2017.

Also, if you have analytics set up on your website (i.e. to monitor where visitors are coming from and where they are frequently visiting) find your best content and feature them in the sidebar of your content pages.

Spending Your Entire Marketing Budget

Whether you’re using Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, you have complete control over the duration and style of your marketing campaign. If you spend your entire budget without testing different ideas, you may end up with a lower return than you hoped for.

Start by setting your budget low and creating a series of tests to see which messages make the most impact on your target audience. The analytics offered in Facebook Ads and your Google account can help you determine which campaign is effective and could use more of your marketing budget.

Incongruent Landing Pages

In the world of advertising, having a congruent message is crucial. You’re marketing message and your landing pages should live up to the promise you’re making.

Advertising something like, “Steps to take after getting in a car accident,” then sending them to a landing page with a promotion to your service may not deliver the best results.

The purpose of proving valuable content online is to establish yourself as an authority in law as well as trustworthy.

Use your landing pages to capture leads in exchange for content that people are looking for.

Not Focused On Converting Visitors

You can spend thousands of dollars on advertising to get traffic to your website. However, if your website is not developed to turn those visitors into clients, you’ll be wasting your marketing budget.

The purpose of any website, especially a lawyer’s website, is to convert visitors into clients. There are many ways to do this. You can send visitors clicking on your Facebook Ads to a landing page requesting their email in exchange for valuable content.

Or, perhaps the most effective method of converting traffic, is by adding live chat to your website. Having the ability to communicate with visitors while they are live on your site allows you to address any questions they may have and arrange a consultation immediately.

The alternative would be to hope they find your contact page and send you an inquiry.

Not Having A Unique Selling Point

Having a distinct call to action is an important feature for any lawyer’s website. In addition to that, your website should have a unique selling point which differentiates your legal services from others online.

What makes you different from other law firms? How can you help more than other law firms with the same legal services?

Having case studies and client referrals on your homepage are one way of showcasing your legal abilities to prospective clients. However, you should take a moment and ask yourself what can you offer that differentiates you from your competitors.

Now that you know some of the mistakes lawyers are making with their advertisements, you may want to review advertising regulations from the State Bar.

Which Lawyers Make The Most Money?

If you’re getting into law just to make money, this may not be a career for you. Lawyers are responsible for working on some sensitive cases that can alter the outcome of people’s lives. Keeping this in mind, there is much more to the law than just money.

However, money is a motivating factor in any career. For recent graduates from law school with heavy debts, getting a good paying legal job is likely a top priority. Also, listening to an experienced lawyer with a six-figure salary might tell new associates not to worry about the money can be demotivating.

Instead, let’s take a look at which lawyers are making the most money.

High Paying vs. Low Paying Salaries

Whether working at a law firm or as a solo practitioner, lawyers, in general, make a decent amount of money.

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, these are some of the published salaries for lawyers in America. On the lower end, the average salary is just over $50,000. In comparison, some of the top paying salaries can earn over $200,000.

There are two major factors that influence the amount of money a lawyer earns which are location and area of specialization.

Highest Paying Cities for Lawyers

Depending on where you practice law, you could also earn more money. According to the BLS, the following states offer the highest salaries: California, New York, Florida, and Texas.

Highest Paying States for Lawyers

Some states have a higher salary than others. Here are the best paying states with the highest mean salaries according to the BLS: District of Columbia, California, New York, Massachusetts.

Highest Paying Industries for Lawyers

If you’re an in-house lawyer, you can earn more money depending on which industry they work for. Here’s the what the BLS says are the highest paying industries for lawyers: Scheduled Air Transportation, Industrial Machinery Manufacturing, Beer, Wine and Distilled Beverages, Semiconductors and Other Electronics.

Highest Paying Government Lawyers

There are some positions in government that pay significantly more than others. Public interest lawyers often have the lowest salaries whereas lawyers at the federal level can earn six figures. Here is a summary of the top paying government salaries for lawyers from the BLS: Federal Government, Local Government, State Government.

Highest Paying Law Firms

If you’re wondering which law firms offer the most money, that’ll depend on whether you are a partner or just an associate. The following law firms are some of the top-earning firms in America as of 2016: Latham & Watkins; Baker & McKenzie; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom; Kirkland & Ellis; and Clifford Chance.

Here’s a look at those numbers in more detail:

Firm
Name
Year Established Yearly Revenue Profit
Margin
Profit per Lawyer
Latham & Watkins 1934 $2.65B 50% $606,000
Baker & McKenzie 1949 $2.62B 35% $183,000
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom 1948 $2.41B 51% $727,000
Kirkland & Ellis 1909 $2.3B 55% $771,000
Clifford Chance 1987 $2.11B 36% $251,000


Source of Law Firm Statistics:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_law_firms_by_revenue

Solo Practitioners

What does the salary look like for a solo practitioner? Information for the amount of money earned by solo practitioners gets released each year by the IRS. Often, these lawyers have considerably lower salaries than those listed above.

In 2012, salaries were reported to be as low as $50,000. However, this amount is often seen as the starting salary for new solo practitioners.

The reason why solo practitioners have a lower salary could be due to the fact they are responsible for all aspects of their legal services. If it is not in their budget to hire legal staff to reduce time spent on menial tasks such as administrative and financial related duties, it can limit their salary.

On the other hand, there are various affordable solutions for lawyers to make their legal services more efficient and effective. Legal software help lawyers to free up more time to work with clients and network.

In addition, solo practitioners can be more successful at finding new clients if they have a website for their legal services and learn how to use online marketing.

One thing to remember is that pursuing a career in law should not be for the money. Instead, pursuing a business career may prove to be more lucrative if money is a lawyer’s true motivation.

Law Firm Websites, Advertising, and the ABA: Overview of Online Ethics for Lawyers

Having a website for your law firm is a great way to set your legal services apart from competitors. You can showcase your expertise in a blog, market your services to prospective clients and turn website visitors into new clients.

However, before you make your website live, spend money on advertising, or activate a live chat service, there are ethical rules and regulations every lawyer should follow.

The American Bar Association (ABA) provides clear guidelines for lawyers to follow when it comes to their online activities. This article will cover just a few of the most crucial points and you should review the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct for the state you practice law.

Overview of the ABA Rules for Ethics and Online Compliance

As a practicing lawyer, you should be aware that some advertising materials and online content are prohibited. The rules outlined by the ABA vary from state to state and interpretations can be tangible.

The obvious benefits of a law firm website allow distribution of information to the general public, a 24/7 marketing tool, and immediate access for contacting a lawyer.

In contrast, the content being provided can result in website visitors misunderstanding the information or being misled by legal advice. Visitors may use this information to try and answer their personal legal situation.

Another concern when it comes to providing access to legal services online is the safety and security of sensitive information. Email and live chat servers may be saving copies of digital communications which a lawyer can compromise a lawyer’s commitment to confidentiality.

To combat this, lawyers must avoid publishing misleading or inaccurate information. The ABA expects lawyers to provide updated content containing only general information applicable to a lawyer’s area(s) of practice. This also includes links to any blogs or forums which the lawyer makes a contribution.

In regards to confidentiality, there are a few measures a lawyer can take to secure sensitive personal information. Lawyers are in complete control of how their website interacts with visitors. The ABA expects lawyers to consider how they will interact with visitors and discourage the submission of confidentiality. Having a noticeable disclaimer can help.

Overview of Ethical Rules for Law Firm Websites

Lawyers providing access to their legal services or sharing general information about law should follow the following rules to remain compliant.

  • Disclaimers are used for a range of ethical concerns that can arise online. From confidentiality to the images of people on your pages (i.e. using actors to portray lawyers, judges or fictitious events), a disclaimer should use warnings or cautionary statements for visitors on a law firm’s website.
  • Don’t Make False Client Expectations. Using your lawyer website to convince visitors that you can win their case can be very misleading. You have to be reasonable with your client expectations while convincing clients you are the best choice to hire. If you have factual support and a disclaimer like, “prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes” can prevent a breach of the ABA’s ethical rules.
  • Don’t Make False Statements. In rule 7.1(a), the ABA allows lawyers to (1) make statements comparing other legal services; (2) share testimonials from clients or former clients; and, (3) make statements about the character or quality of your legal services. However, as mentioned before, you must provide a disclaimer, provide factual support, and receive permission from clients to share their testimonials.  

There are more rules regarding lawyer’s and their websites. Some states may require you to submit your entire site for review or just a few pages.

Overview of Ethical Rules for Advertisements

The first thing you should know about advertising, especially via email, is that you may have to include: “Attorney Advertising.”

The next thing to consider is whether the state you practice law requires a submission of advertising materials. In Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, you are not required to submit websites or other advertising materials. However, other states may have mandatory, optional, or different rules for submission and review.

Image result for lawyer advertisements

Another important consideration is where you obtain your advertisements. Lawyers can use a lawyer referral service that has been approved by proper authorities; use written, recorded, or electronic advertisements; and, must provide an address or contact information to the lawyer or staff from the firm responsible for the ad.

Rule 7.2 covers the ethics of advertising in more detail.

Overview of Ethical Rules for Live Chat

Live chat is becoming a popular feature on websites because it allows lawyers or their staff to interact directly with visitors. While each state has their own interpretations of the ethical rules, here is a quick summary:

  • Duty of Competence: Lawyers should be cautious when responding to questions outside their area(s) of practice.
  • Client Confidentiality: Lawyers must maintain confidentiality to current and former clients.
  • Communication with Person Represented by Counsel (Rule 4.2): Lawyers must be careful not to communicate with an opposing party being represented by counsel.
  • Unauthorised Practice of Law (Rule 5.5): Lawyers are not permitted to answer legal questions regarding states where the attorney is not authorized to practice law.
  • Communication of Lawyers Services (Rule 7.1): Lawyers must ensure not to use false or misleading communication. Some states require a “Disclaimer” when communicating via live chat.
  • Solicitation (Rule 7.3): Live chat, depending on how it’s used, may not be used to solicit legal services for prospective clients.

This article is just an overview of the ethical rules and/or interpretations of those rules, it does not cover all possible ethical concerns regarding Website, Advertisements, and Live Chat. For a complete review, go to the ABA’s Model Rules.

Solo Lawyer’s Guide To Websites

Being a solo practitioner comes with added obstacles and challenges that established law firms may not experience. From office administration to employee management to client intake, there are many tasks that must be performed in order for a legal service to succeed.

This article will focus on the importance of lawyer websites and why having one would benefit a solo lawyer.

Here’s a quick overview of everything this solo lawyer’s guide will cover:

  • Getting a website
  • Finding web design ideas
  • Starting a blog
  • Promoting the website
  • Improving the website’s performance

Reasons Solo Lawyers Need A Website

Solo lawyers have the ability to choose their own hours, select who they work with, and decide which cases they want to work on. While this may sound appealing at first, the additional work required to run a law firm by yourself can take a considerable amount of extra time.

To reduce some of the inevitable work, solo lawyers can use a website to delegate many of their regular office tasks.

Here are a few benefits solo lawyers can get with their website:

  1. Advertise Legal Services.
  2. Find New Clients
  3. Establish a Brand / Reputation.
  4. Improve Intaking.
  5. Share Professional Legal Knowledge

There are some DIY website builders or if you don’t have the time to build a website yourself, you can hire a professional developer.

Website Design for Solo Lawyers

Although a website should provide useful information, the design and functionality can affect whether a visitor will use your legal services or search somewhere else.

Most visitors coming to any website will be searching for the information they need right away. If your solo lawyer website takes too long to load, has an unattractive design, or is confusing to navigate, expect visitors to leave before ever inquiring about your practice.

Designing a website with your prospective clients in mind will have greater benefits in the long term. Here are a few tips to guide you toward a good website for your solo service:

  • Choose A Good Design. The aesthetics of your solo lawyer website is important. Consider the look and feel of your website. Ask yourself, does it showcase your professionalism? Expertise?
  • Don’t Confuse Visitors. When visitors come to your website, keep the message clear and make your pages easy to navigate. Nothing is more frustrating to someone online than landing on a website and not knowing what to do or where to go.
  • Offer Quality Content. While it may be useful to have a website featuring your office hours and contact information, you can improve your website’s performance by adding a blog and providing helpful information.
  • Have A CTA. You need a Call To Action on your website. This could be an onscreen pop-up requesting an email or your contact number in large font that offers the visitor a free consultation if the contact you today.

When you discuss your website with a web designer, remember to focus on the website’s function while paying attention to the overall aesthetic and design. To get more ideas for you website design, check out 2017’s best lawyer websites or 2018’s best law firm websites.

Blogging About Law

Solo lawyers with a blog on their website can improve their reach for prospective clients. Blogs are a great way to share informal information, showcase your expertise in your area of law, and build an online reputation.

Blogs allow solo lawyers with competitive strategy for marketing their legal services. For example, the information and expertise about the law may be unique to you. Sharing some tips, such as what to do after getting in a car accident, can help you stand out against other law firms in your area.

To create a successful lawyer blog, you’ll want to consider the keywords people are using in search engines. For example, if you’re a solo lawyer practicing divorce law in California, you’ll want to write an article with similar words inside. Keep reading to learn how keywords in your website can improve its performance. 

Promoting Your Legal Services

In order for a solo lawyer website to serve its purpose, finding new clients, it is going to need visitors. Paid promotions can be an effective method toward promoting your legal services and finding your next client.

To get started, two of the most common places to promote a website include Google PPC and Facebook Ads.

Google uses competitive keywords to provide ads on the first page of their results to people making searches related your selected words. Facebook offers this same feature, however, it has an even more powerful tool for targeting the perfect audience.

Depending on your budget and goals, Google PPC and Facebook Ads can have different results. For more information about which one you should use to promote your website, go to Google PPC for Lawyers or Facebook Ads for Lawyers.

Check out the free PDF: Advertising Tips for Lawyers to get some design ideas and easy-to-use tools to a powerful advertising message.

Improving Your Website’s Performance 

For alternatives to paid promotions, you can make a few modifications to your website to improve the performance. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method of making your website better recognized by search engines which presents your website to more people.

As mentioned before, having a blog is one way to improve your SEO. Blogs allow you to add various keyword rich pages to your website which can improve the likelihood of your website being discovered.

Other methods of improving your solo lawyer website’s SEO includes:

  • Obtain backlinks from other websites
  • Perform competitive keyword research
  • Add titles, sub-headers, and meta-information
  • Submit website to directories

Improving the SEO of a website can be both technical and confusing. To get a better understanding of SEO and the things you can do to improve your website go to SEO for Lawyers.

8 Effective Online Marketing Techniques Used By Lawyers

Lawyer’s with websites need marketing techniques to introduce prospective clients to their legal services.

Whether you’re small- or medium-sized law firm, the techniques in this article can be used by you or review with your team to create an effective marketing strategy.

Take some time to decide which techniques are worth your time and efforts. You can always get one started and begin testing another later on.

The marketing strategy you create for your law firm will be completely unique to you.

Content Marketing

Content is the key to attracting visitors to your website and generating leads for your firm. Here are a few ways to use your content more effectively:

  • Offer Downloadable PDF. This is a simple way to capturing contact information from those visiting your website. Simply write a guide are common legal concerns, your area of expertise, or a course of action to take in situations requiring legal services. Putting your contact information inside the guide is a great way to encourage readers to contact your firm.
  • Write Quality Content. This can be difficult. Writing blog content that connects with your readers can entice them to share your content on their social media, thereby increasing your exposure and readership. Try focusing on the common concerns your prospective clients may be facing. As well, don’t be afraid to add a “share this with your friends” at the end of each article.
  • Share Your Content. For your content marketing to succeed, you have to share it in different places. Join Facebook groups, online forums, and answer questions on Quora. Once there, you can write responses and insert relevant links from your website.

Online Discussions & Groups

As mentioned previously, joining online communities, active forums, and places like Quora is a great place to share your content. In addition, you can also establish yourself as credible and reliable.

Instead of blasting out promotions to your content and links, maintain an active presence and build relationships with those online. Start by choosing just a few places to dedicate your time like LinkedIn, Facebook Pages, and other forums where discussions are regular.

Social Media

If you don’t have a social media presence, start now. As you share your best legal information online, having a place to reach out to prospects and build a community around you can minimize significant time and resources.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are still leading social media platforms where you can provide a place to build your online community.

The people who like your page or follow your accounts are likely genuinely interested in your services. Share content directly with them, they are your closest supporters.

Email Marketing

Lawyers using contact forms to collect leads can nurture those prospects through email marketing.

Email marketing is one of the lowest marketing costs and can lead to the highest ROI.

As you build your list of prospective clients, consider sending text-based emails only. Most people are familiar with opening emails from friends, families and business associates.

Emails that appear too noisy or filled with distracting images can immediately lead to the garbage bin, or worse, marked for spam.

Make A Video

In today’s media-rich world, video tends to be the dominating trend for both entertainment and sharing messages with others.

Creating videos can range from expensive high production features or your law firm to simply flipping on the camera and talking about your legal knowledge.

If you’re already blogging, consider turning your blogs into a full feature discussion involving you in your office. Having both videos and content related to the blog is appealing to a wider audience as well as boosts your credibility.

Facebook Ads / Google Adwords

Wondering how to increase your following on Facebook or boost traffic to your free consultation landing page?

Facebook Ads provide a range of possibilities to target prospective clients. You can set up your Facebook Ad account in a few steps. After that, you can begin to explore the demographic targeting feature to share your ads with specific audiences.

You should start with a low budget then adapt your ad campaign according to which ads are returning the most.

With Google Adwords, you can push your website to the top of search engines. Unlike Facebook Ads, your ads will be triggered based on relevant keywords that people are using to search online.

Knowing which keywords people are using can help your marketing attract more visitors to your website. However, something to keep in mind is that these keywords can be very competitive causing the price per click to be very high.

Before starting your first ad campaign, you may want to consider these Ethical Rules that lawyers must follow by the ABA.

SEO

If you’re a lawyer unfamiliar with how websites are ranked by search engines,  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

There are both on-page (i.e. modifications to your website) and off-page (i.e. your activities away from your website) which can influence where your website appears in search results.

Improving the SEO on your website is a great alternative to paying for advertisements because this can get you free traffic. However, the SEO changes you make today may not take effect right away.

Some things you can start doing to improve your SEO are:

  • Creating more backlinks to your website (i.e. sharing your content and pages on forums and other places online)
  • Improve the quality of your articles
  • Perform keyword research and use the appropriate words on your web pages and articles.
  • Improve your website’s page speed (page speed is an important factor that search engines use to rank your website)

Note: As you publish more content on your website, you’ll organically improve your SEO.

Live Chat

 Imagine being able to communicate with your visitors while they’re on your website.

Adding a live chat messaging system to your website can enable you to capture more leads and convert more visitors into clients.

Live chat works by triggering a message like, “How can we help you today?” whenever a visitor arrives at your website. Either you, your staff, or an outsourced agent can interact with that visitor.

During after hours, your live chat can continue to collect leads by providing information to contact you via email. You can return to office the next day and respond to any messages in your inbox.

There are a variety of live chat services dedicated to lawyers which is a consideration to ensure confidentiality and privacy of information shared over the chat system.

Inside The Courtroom, Who’s Doing What?

There are a lot of different people who enter the courtroom for a trial or hearing. The common players are the lawyers, their clients, and the judges making the ultimate decision. Let’s take a look at all the people found in a courtroom.

The Parties

The people or entities (i.e. a business) who are involved in a lawsuit are known as “parties”. In civil cases, you’ll have plaintiffs (the suing party) and defendants (the party being sued). In criminal cases, there will only be the defendants involved with the crime. Particularly in criminal cases, defendants have a constitutional right to be present at their trials. The Sixth Amendment says, “the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted by the witnesses against him.” Whereas in civil cases, you can opt out of attending the trial.

The Lawyers

Inside the courtroom, lawyers represent their clients or state-appointed parties in the lawsuit. Lawyers provide the majority of the speaking while presenting their party’s side of the case. Lawyers must follow legal procedures while trying to prove a defendant’s innocence or verify they should be accused of their crime.

Criminal cases involve a defense lawyer which can be state-appointed or hired by the defendant and a prosecutor. The prosecutor attempts to prove guilt while the defense lawyers attempt to prove innocence. In some cases, a jury may be present.

Civil cases do not necessarily require a lawyer, however, if a representation is needed, each party must pay for their own.

Lawyers have certain duties to maintain in court, according to the American Bar association, which include:

  • Not seeking court sanctions
  • Not withholding or delaying the disclosure of information regarding discovery objections
  • Only ask questions appropriate for the prosecution or defense

For the complete list, please see ABA’s Lawyer’s Duties.

The Witnesses

In court, witnesses are those who provide a testimony which includes facts and perspective on the case. Witnesses are asked called to the witness stand where they make their statement and can be examined and cross-examined by both lawyers present. Both sides can have witnesses and the kinds of witnessed may be known as plaintiff’s witnesses, defendant’s witnesses, or government witnesses.

The Jury

In some court hearings, a selected group of people, known as the jury, may be present in the courtroom to determine the outcome of the trial. The jury is responsible for listening to and understanding the facts. Afterward, they must apply the law which has been instructed by the judge prior to the hearing. If the facts are conflicting or confusing, the jury must decide together the truth and reach a verdict. Court hearings can get very complicated and jurors have to decide who is telling the truth and make a decision that’ll have a dramatic effect on someone’s life.

A Judge

Playing the most important role in the courtroom is the judge. Judges are responsible for the following tasks:

  1. Presiding over the hearings and maintaining order;
  2. Ensuring that the evidence presented by the parties illegal or not;
  3. Educating jurors before a jury trial about the laws that apply to the case and the conditions they must follow to assist them in making a decision about the facts they hear in court;
  4. Listening to the facts during bench trials to determine what are the facts and decide the outcome of the case;
  5. Convicting defendants in criminal cases.

Courtroom Interpreter

In cases where one or both parties cannot speak or understand English, a courtroom interpreter may be required. Courtroom interpreters will assist with the translation of a testimony which will be included in the court’s records. This is a challenge position since details can be lost in translation. Therefore, interpreters must be precise and only interpret exactly what is said by the witness or defendant. This means, if someone is lying, they must continue with the translation and not make any alterations whatsoever. Doing so can lead to a mistrial and other consequences.

Courtroom Reporter

The courtroom reporter is responsible for recording everything that is said and the evidence that is introduced during the hearings. Reporters use a machine called a stenograph to type information or they can create a recording. After the trail, this recorded information becomes the official record. Courtroom reporters will be responsible for creating a written transcript if either of the parties seeks to appeal the decision made in court. Occasionally, reporters may visit lawyerès offices to record depositions and conferences for judges.

Note: Stenographs are more commonly used by courtroom reporters. This machine uses symbolic keystrokes based on the spoken word. These machines can record upwards of 300 words per minute. Electronic sound recordings will use a special microphone placed within the courtroom. Both recording methods require a written transcript of the hearings afterward.

Courtroom Clerks

Court clerks are responsible for administering the oaths made by witnesses, interpreters, and parties. In addition, these clerks work within the courtroom to take care of records, authenticate copies of court documents, keeps minutes of the hearings, as well as prepare judgment and verdict forms. Courtroom clerks are essentially the judge’s assistant throughout the trial.

Courtroom Officer

Inside most courtrooms will be an officer responsible for security. These are the law enforcement personnel in the case that a hearing gets out of hand and the must maintain order.

Who Works for the Court?

Of all the people inside the courtroom, only jurors, judges, reporters, clerks, and officers work for the court system. Lawyers will work for themselves or their law firm and require fees to receive support or legal advice.

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.

Life After Law School: What New Lawyer’s Need To Know

You’re one of many who have spent years in school studying the intricacies of law and spending thousands of dollars to get to the bar exam. Then, after all that hard work, what’s life like after law school?

You may have ambitions to become the best state lawyer or you may simply want to become a partner at a local firm. Whatever path you choose to go on, here you’ll get a glimpse of life after law school.

Competing for a Place in Law

There are only so many big law firm’s offering high paying positions. Often these firms are selecting the top of class from the world’s best law schools.

If you’re unfamiliar with these school, every year the National Law Journal (NLJ) publishes a report on which schools are sending their graduates to practice biglaw. Here is their list of the top 5 schools:

  1. Columbia Law School
  2. University Pennsylvania Law School
  3. University of Chicago Law School
  4. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  5. Duke Law School

To see the entire list from NLJ, go here.

If didn’t attend one of the top schools listed above, there are still many choices available in your career of law. Some graduates choose to become an intern or start a clerkship to gain the experience and expertise to practice law at a higher, more competitive level.

Some internships offer a paid position and clerkships are done alongside a judge. Taking this route after law school can provide you with insight into how the law is practiced within the courtroom and prepare you for other aspects of the law.

Other options include continuing to study law at a doctorate level and obtaining a degree such as:

  • Juris Master – M.S.
  • Master of Laws – L.L.M.
  • Doctor of Judicial Science – S.J.D.
  • Doctor of Comparative Law – D.C.L.

Each of these educational routes will add an additional year or two of study. However, the investment can be well worth the time and can lead to a better paying lawyer salary.

Life as an Associate

Traditional law firms use to function using a two-tier system for lawyers which included: associates and partners. An associate would be expected to work at the firm for almost a decade before being considered a partner. If you became a partner, you would be given equity and given a share of the firm’s profits.

Before the 1980s, many associates would stay with one law firm working hard to become a partner. However, when American Lawyer, a monthly magazine dedicated to lawyers, published a listing of the country’s profits per partner at the largest firms, the working world of law began to change.

Now, it is likely that both associates and partners will work at multiple firms, for both experience and profit, over the duration of their career. Life after law school can be extremely stressful for newly appointed associates that have high debt while dealing with a heavy workload.

However, as an associate, you will have the freedom to explore the area of law that interests you. As well, responsibilities like court appearances, client consultations, and depositions will gradually increase after the first year of practice. You may even be expected to continue educating yourself about your area of practice as you work at your firm. This is a part of the grooming process if you plan to stick around and become a partner.

Becoming A Partner

Although the path to partnership differs from firm to firm, most associates seek to become an equity partner and receive a portion of the profits.

Before becoming a partner, you may first become a senior associate and then a non-equity partner. Both advancements will receive a higher salary and significantly more responsibility. However, when becoming an equity partner, there is also an added level of liability which makes you responsible for keeping the law firm profitable for years to come.

You will likely not become a partner straight out of law school, however taking this big step in your career provides guaranteed employment and becoming a partial owner of the firm.

For more about becoming a partner, go here.

Alternative Paths to Law

Depending on your situation and your experiences out of law school, you may decide that working law firm as an employee is not fit for you. The years, dedication, and hard work may seem too far away to yield the career path you dreamed about while studying for the bar.

An alternative path to becoming an associate and waiting to become a partner may be starting your own law firm.

There are a few things to consider if starting your own law firm is the path for you:

  • Registering your business (i.e. LLC, Sole-proprietorship, etc.)
  • Establishing your presence in your community
  • Developing a website for your law firm
  • Marketing your legal services
  • Finding new clients
  • Avoiding malpractice

If you’re thinking about starting your own law firm, here are a few articles to guide you toward developing a successful legal career:

Getting Your Law firm Started

Having A Website For Your Lawfirm

Marketing Your Law firm

Understand Risk

Software to Improve Your Law Firm’s Efficiency:

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.