Year-end planning: Collect Data about Your Clients

Year-end planning: Focus on current clientsFocus on your current clients

Part 2: Tips for year-end planning 

Year-end planning tips. Now is a good time to focus on what needs to be done to wrap up the business year and get a head start on 2017. As an attorney and business owner, year-end can become the most stressful time of year. To help you out, we put together this list of four areas on which to focus between now and year-end, while your business may be slower than normal. Area #2 – focus on current clients.

The last weeks of the year tend to be slow for getting new cases, so use this time to focus on your current clients – your source of income for the first part of 2017.

  • Pick out your 5-10 best clients from 2016. First, define what a best client looks like:
    • Maybe these are the clients that always paid on time.
    • Maybe they always provided you with and returned documents on time.
    • Maybe they referred you other good clients.
    • Maybe they were just genuinely nice people to work with.

Look through your client list and start rating your clients from 2016.

Tip: You need a way to capture this client rating system in your database so you can develop reports on your rated clients. Your law practice management software should have the ability to setup custom fields. These are a great tool for capturing this data. When you produce the report and are able to separate where your revenue for 2016 came from, you will probably see that 80% of your revenue came from these best clients. But without capturing this data – you will never know.

After looking at your list of “A” rated clients, pick up the phone and call them. Let them know they were/are one of your best clients and you enjoyed working with them. If appropriate, offer to take them out to breakfast in January and set up your first business development meeting for 2017. Also, keep this list in a place where you can review it every week and continually ask yourself “How can I get more clients like these?”

Current Clients are a Potential Source of Income for 2017

For your current clients, who are your source of income for the next few months, do something memorable when sending out their December invoice. Prepare a case summary, outlining and highlighting tasks completed, milestones reached and any upcoming dates and deadlines. This is a way to remind them of the work you have done on their behalf and may make paying the bill a bit easier.

Tip: For estate planning clients, the holidays are the time of year when children are getting engaged and they will have the need to update their estate planning documents. Using your nicely organized client database, run a list of estate planning clients who have children around the age of getting married. In their letters, include a note about your services for young couples.

Is your database not that well organized? Well then, you have a new goal for 2017: start capturing more data about your clients so you can make better strategic decisions. CPN Legal can help you set up processes to capture more data. Give us a call if you’d like to discuss this and prepare for a great start in 2017 for your business.


 

Peggy and Chris Gruenke are co-owners of CPN Legal, a company whose mission is to help solo and small-firm lawyers build better businesses. Peggy is active in the ABA GPSolo Division, where she heads the technology committee and is vice-chair of the national conference committee. Follow her on Twitter @PeggyGruenke.

Implementing project management in your firm: A few tips to guide you

Project Management Flow ChartMarch 2, 2015 | Peggy Gruenke | Practice Management Consultant | ABA Legal TechShow Speaker 2015

Project Management = Matter Management

Project Management is quite the buzzword these days. The ABA recently published a new book, The Power of Legal Project Management, which has resulted in a number of articles and new CLE programs related to this topic. Legal Project Management is a very broad and deep topic, (the book has 517 pages!), the focus of this article is to create the mindset that legal project management is nothing more that matter management. I’ll explain the basic components of matter management and how it can bring a competitive advantage to your firm.

While Legal Project Management (LPM) has been adopted by most larger firms, a new trend is developing where smaller firms are looking to improve profitability, billing realizations and gain a competitive advantage by designing and using matter management tools. The practice areas best fit for project management are litigation cases and even larger transactional cases. Over the next 5 to 10 years, matter management tools will become a normal way of doing business just like today, how client intake and fee agreements are part of every current law firms’ tool bucket.

At the basic level, matter management involves defining, planning, executing and evaluating. The reason it is growing rapidly, is it can be a competitive advantage in the following areas:

  • Enhance current client relationships by showing them your proactive approach to handling their matters
  • It provides a better way to monitor fees and costs
  • Improve communication with clients and eliminate surprises
  • Deliver greater value to clients by reducing clients’ total legal costs
  • Reduce the average cost of certain types of cases through the development of processes
  • Manage and share the risk
  • Increase profitability and realization rates
  • Improves financial reporting because you are capturing more and better data – key metrics
  • Develop better internal business practices and increase efficiency
  • Build good processes to increase productivity
  • Gain a better understanding of how you are getting things done

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A Sampling of My Favorite Products from 2013 ABA TechShow

Here is a summary of my favorite vendors and products from ABA TechShow 2013. I hope next year I can get a few Cincinnati attorneys to attend with me. Mark your calendars – March 27th – 29th. It would be such a pleasure showing you around the TechShow. While reading through my list of Top Picks, have an open mind and be willing to spend a little to realize the potential you have to make your practice more efficient. And more efficiency leads to happier clients and more revenue.

Three days of the ABA TechShow just may not be quite enough when there are so many great presentations, authors to meet and products to experience first-hand. But I did my best to make it around to most of the 100 vendors in the exhibit area. I wanted to visit and test drive products that I thought would add value to a solo/small firm practice. So here are my top picks. If there are any products you want to try, let me know. I have access to discounts for some of the products.

WordRake – I have tried this product and it is one of the best Word add-in products for editing I have seen. WordRake helps you write better by instantly editing Microsoft Word documents and suggesting changes you can accept or reject to create clear and concise documents by eliminated useless words and phrases.  It’s an editor that identifies extra language to remove for brevity and clarity. With WordRake legal editor, you’ll edit your legal documents quickly, professionally, and all within Microsoft Word! Once you step back and realize the amount of time you spend composing documents, this product is just a no-brainer. $99 for one year. You can download a 3-day trial, which is what I did. You’ll be hooked. Just do it…

logo_legal_transcriptionE-Typist, Inc. – This is a small company right here in Ohio. I liked the simplicity of this product – you dictate, transfer you audio files, E-Typist transcribes, proofreads and sends them back to you – for as little as 1¢ per word. Really, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. There are 4 options for submitting your audio file – Just do it…

  1. Dial in your dictation on a toll-free line OR
  2. Upload files from your digital voice recorder or PC to a secure server OR
  3. Email your voice files OR
  4. Dictate on your iPhone, Smartphone or Blackberry and send your files  (you will need to download an app – $14.99). Dictate directly into your iPhone, utilizing the Dictamus app or DictaDroid for Androids. Then save your dictation and “share” it. You can record up to 90 minutes of dictation. The apps have all the recording features of a digital voice recorder – and won’t use your cell phone minutes.

orange-clock-black-rimChrometa – Even with the trend towards flat fees and other alternative billing arrangements, the billable hour is not dead yet. I started using this product day I got home. I love it. It tracks everything I do on my computer – every email written, every document I produce and every phone call I make from my mobile device. The web interface is easy to use and it has not affected anything else running on my PC. You can sync your time entries right into Clio, Rocket Matter or export to an Excel file or .iff file for QuickBooks.  It’s a beautifully seamless product for capturing your time, applying time to the correct matter and producing more accurate invoices. Since you are capturing more time, you just might make more money. And it’s priced right – $19/mn. Give it a try. It really is simple. Just do it…

abillity-TM-logo_236x77_RGB_72dpiAnother simple product, focused on one thing – capturing time spent on phone calls. A few minutes here or a half-hour there adds up quickly, and before you know it, you’ve lost billable hours and left sizable revenue on the table.  With this product you can capture time not only on your mobile phone but also on your office phone (if you have a VoIP system). You can record or type a quick memo about the call, as it happens, for quicker reconciliation and more descriptive billing records. All call records are accessed via a web portal and can be exported to a .csv file for integration with your billing system. I tried it and saw first-hand how simple and quick this application worked. It is currently in beta mode. If you would like to participate as a beta user, let me know.  Just do it…

SmokeballFinally, a simple and affordable document automation application that integrates seamlessly with Outlook and Word. And it has a cool name. This tool sits within Microsoft Word to assist you in generating forms and letters for your matters. But the really amazing part is it comes with thousands of Court Forms at no extra charge. They maintain the forms making sure they are always up-to-date and they are stored as Word documents so you can easily modify them. Smokeball stores the details of all clients and matters as you work, so it is automatically building your database for future access. For $29/mn you get a document automation system that includes automation of letters and forms, document management and version control, and email management with Outlook plus 1000s of court forms. At this time, not all states are available. But they are committed to adding court forms as requested and the tool is simple enough for you to convert any current Word document into a form. Just do it…

logikcull128E-discovery products were a the largest product category represented in the exhibit hall. One of the newcomers in this growing arena is Logikcull.  Here is a nice article by Brett Burney about this great e-discovery software. No gigabyte fees – you are charged by month for the amount of documents you need to upload. It’s a very robust product, well designed to work on mobile devices, recognizing that legal professionals also use mobile phones and tablets to get work done. Go mobile with your e-discovery, when you upload your documents into Logikcull, they get converted into web-viewable formats so you can access them without the constraints of original software. You can try it for free. If you do, let me know how you like it. Just do it…

Hope you find the time to check out these products and see how you can use them in your practice.

And finally, keeping with the theme, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite motivational speeches – “Just Do It”, a speech by Art Williams . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y86o1snrC-I

Peggy Gruenke, LawBizCOO

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Headed to ABA LegalTech Show

I am sitting on the MegaBus on my way to Chicago for the annual ABA Legal Tech Show, an event I look forward to every year, using my iPad to write this log post. Besides the show, it’s my favorite city to visit (get to squeeze in a visit to see my daughter and her friends). Packed days, great dinners and after dinner parties. This is where I get to see in person my Twitter legal tech friends.

I have my ABA TechShow app downloaded and mapping out where I will spend my time this year. Because there are so many great vendors and products to explore, I’ll spend a fair amount of time in the Exhibit Hall, checking out what’s new for solo/small firm attorneys.

Then there is the Meet the Authors opportunities and great prices on books. The ABA bookstore is also a favorite place to hang out. I really do not need another book but because I get the chance to look at all the offerings and talk to the authors, it’s inevitable, I’ll have a few more in my backpack on the way home.

The sessions – so many choices, too little time. I’m still choosing but online marketing, social media, paperless technology, document production and cloud computing will some of my first choices.

The Taste of ABA TechShow was an ingenious idea. So you pick a legal tech topic you want to learn more about and meet-up with a small group for dinner with the discussions led by one of the tech show speakers. I’ll be hanging out with Jared Correia (author of Twitter for Lawyers) and Dan Pinnington and Reid Trautz.

So I have no doubt I’ll be returning with lots of information to sort through and will be sure to report back to you on what looks new, different, and beneficial to your practice. Maybe next year you can join me.

Peggy Gruenke
Pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com
LawBizCOO