Four Score: Keep Your Practice Moving
Since it’s often a less hectic time for professionals, given the proliferation of vacation days being spent, summer is usually a season for getting re-centered. It’s an especially good time for entrepreneurs, like attorneys, to work on outstanding—typically administrative—projects and bigger-picture plans. To that end, here is a list of important summer projects for your law practice, upon which you can ply your energies.
1. Make sure your website is accessible by mobile devices.
A significant number of site visits these days occur on smartphones. Although figures vary, mobile visits look like they make up about 20 percent of web traffic, or about 1 in 5 hits to your site. To get started, check out Wirenode, Mofuse and Onbile, which usually feature prominently on top 10 lists covering tools for converting your website for mobile. A number of lawyers are using WordPress to build websites now, and plug-ins like WPtouch and MobilePress (and there are others) answer for mobile conversion of sites built on that platform.
2. Use a practice organization tool that is built for lawyers.
I don’t normally advocate the “for lawyers” route, because I think it’s generally an upsell (see Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Legal Edition); but I think it’s worthwhile for law practice management software (which I’ve written on for Attorney at Work before; twice, in fact: here and here). Almost universally, the bar discipline cases that come across my desk are rooted in a lack of organization. The robust practice management software systems that are available offer tailored features for controlling most, or all, aspects of a law practice. Because of that, effective use of this technology is one of the best ways to avoid malpractice.
3. Keep in touch.
Another great hedge against malpractice is to keep in touch with your clients. And an easy way to do so is to call about every non-closed case (active and inactive) every six weeks. Applying this method creates a check on you, because you’ll review the case before you call. That reduces the chances that you’ll miss something important that you need to do. This is also a fine marketing opportunity. Since attorneys have a reputation for being difficult to reach, clients love it when you call just to check in. If the every-six-weeks model doesn’t work for time frames in play for your practice, come up with another method for scheduling regular check-ins.
4. Revisit your rates.
You must do this on a regular, periodic basis and whenever a material change to your business occurs. Your fees are not like a Ronco rotisserie, that you can “set (it) and forget (it).” If you want to truly capture the value of your work, you must determine the present value for what you do. Just because you set a fee structure in 1985, and it seems to be working, does not automatically mean that a closer analysis will prove that presumption fact. Analyze your work in particular areas, figure out how long it takes you to do certain things, what the up-front and ancillary costs are, how much other similarly situated attorneys charge for like services, and address other relevant criteria. From there, you should have a better understanding of whether your prevailing fees properly address the current value of your work and can reset what you charge as appropriate. New attorneys lacking a historical record can locate mentors to query, check on their competition and utilize other effective strategies to set their fees. New attorneys should also schedule periodic rate reviews—and, to effectuate the same, should also consider tracking time across the board, even for flat-fee cases.
I know that four score is 80; so, think of this listing as “four ways to score” for your practice, rather than 80. That’s a longer post.
Get one or more of these things done, and you’ll surely be in fine whack come the fall.
Jared Correia is Senior Law Practice Advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. Prior to joining LOMAP, he was the Publications Attorney for the Massachusetts Bar Association. Before that, he worked as a private practice lawyer.
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