Proposed agenda for your firm's retreat

I'm going to be a bit presumptuous and strongly suggest that your law firm needs a retreat to focus on changes in the legal service marketplace and how law firms should be using technology today.

Here are some great starting places for those issues. Hopefully, you'll find the information useful and it will spur you to actually have a law firm retreat, even if it is only a closed-door meeting with all the decision-makers for a couple hours.

Digital client files

While it is challenging to convert a law firm from paper client files to digital ones, the benefits cannot be overstated. These include remote access to the entire client file, the ability to do data backup of the entire client file rather than just a backup of the documents the firm has created, the ability to make up-to-date billing information easily accessible, and not being tied to a paper client file.

Practice management software

The paperless law office is powered by practice management software tools. Today, many of these tools are cloud-based, making it very easy for the small law firm with no dedicated IT staff to easily manage. I recognize some readers will dismiss this advice as "not the way we work," but digital client files powered by practice management software tools is the way many law firms are working today and almost all law firms will work in the future. Each of these law practice solutions will have staff available to show you the features of their services.

Client communications

As with most professional services firms, the client of a lawyer does not receive a tangible product to examine. Instead, the client learns of the value of the representation through communication from the firm and legal documents that may be created and delivered. Examine how well your firm does on topics such as the initial client interview, the attorney-client agreement, communications during the representation, and setting and fulfilling client expectations.

Security and confidentiality concerns

An ad attached to the cover of the May 2016 issue of Legaltech News contained the following quote by former FBI Director Robert Mueller: "There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be."

As lawyers, we have an obligation to protect our clients' confidential and privileged information. Not disclosing your clients' confidential matters to others is the easy part of that equation.

But in today's world the challenge, of course, is that we are lawyers and not digital security experts. We can probably best start by educating ourselves on email encryption and security of our office network.

Automated document assembly

From templates to macros to quick parts to full-blown document assembly tools, there are many ways to make your document creation more efficient.

In some circumstances, document automation can remove some of the drudgery of your day-to-day work and allow you to provide better work products for your clients. Of course, this concept also goes hand-in-hand with alternative fee agreements.

Online marketing plan

Every law firm's marketing plan should be less about print and more about online marketing. That does not mean all traditional marketing efforts should be abandoned, but in today's environment, people search for all sorts of consumer goods and services online, including legal services.

It is particularly important that most solo and small-firm lawyers have an online presence. The minimum presence would include a traditional website that has pictures of all of the attorneys in the firm.

Traditional graphic images like gavels and bookshelves full of law books should be minimized, if not banished, in favor of more interesting graphics. The bare minimum is that the website is reviewed and updated at least twice a year, and the best practice is that it be updated much more frequently.

Other personal social media that should be linked to the website include LinkedIn profiles for all the lawyers and a law firm Facebook page. Ideally, the Facebook page would be updated at least several times a month.

Trust accounting

The concept of trust accounting is one that hasn't changed much over the years, but there are different tools to help you manage your trust accounting. Many of the tools allow you to automatically generate client ledgers, which can be a significant timesaver. Look for "Top Trust Accounting Software Products" on www.capterra.com.

Conclusion

There is certainly no doubt that more changes are ahead. But certain things will never change in the legal profession, like our commitment to deliver the best possible legal services to our clients.

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Jim Calloway is the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He publishes the weblog Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips at http://jimcalloway.typepad.com.

Published: Fri, Sep 16, 2016