Recently I’ve had the opportunity to interview a dozen lawyers and was shocked by the basic mistakes coming from such smart people. It’s true that, as the CEO of FactBox, a legal-tech company, I’m an educated consumer and likely have high expectations. But still.
In the past year, professionally, I led the hiring of new corporate counsel and, personally, I hired landlord/tenant counsel in two jurisdictions. Going through this experience reminded me of my previous experiences interviewing and working with attorneys. Lawyers are almost always whip-smart and take their jobs very seriously, but perennially make mistakes that, in my mind, cost them clients and yet are easily fixable.
These days there are plenty of tech options to banish these common mistakes. In the same way that the now-ubiquitous spellcheck helps you avoid basic spelling errors, legal-tech products can help you avoid embarrassment with your current and future clients.
Following are the five pervasive mistakes I’ve experienced while hiring lawyers and some tech solutions to fix them.
1. Spelling your potential, or current, client’s name wrong.
Reading this, you probably don’t believe me that this is a problem that happens 100% of the time, but it does. Nothing loses confidence in your ability to stay on top of my matter than not paying enough attention to see that my firm is an “Inc.” not an “LLC” or that my last name has always been spelled the same way in every communication we’ve ever had (Kaslofsky), and not Kavloski or Kaffloky or Kasslosky. How can I believe you’re going to get the details of my case right if you can’t get the spelling of my name, my title, or my company right?
2. Using an old engagement letter/filing/briefing to make a new one and leaving old information in there.
There are many new automated solutions that make templates to generate engagement letters, common court filings and other documents with some new items and mostly reused items. Seeing the name of your other clients in my documents brings up concerns that you will keep my information confidential.
• Legal practice management app Clio has automated document templates in addition to ways to keep track of your potential and new clients and their matters.
• Newcomers in this space are Contract Room, Legal Robot, and X Ref—all promising to automate commonly used documents for lawyers.
3. Making it difficult for me to hire you.
It’s 2016. I need to pay you by check? You still want me to find a printer, scanner, thumb drive, and laptop to engage you?
Please make it easier for me to give you money. And I understand you need me to sign an engagement letter and to sign documents you are drafting on my behalf. I also understand that the retainer payment and document signing are often time-sensitive. But I’m not always at my office and, frankly, neither are most business people you’re servicing. I might have a laptop but chances are I do not have a checkbook, printer, and scanner near me. Just this week I had to leave a conference, find and drive to a Kinko’s and navigate their byzantine processes to sign a stipulation—an unscheduled loss of two hours in my day for what could have been a 10-minute solution.
• LawPay is a new credit-card processor designed exclusively for the needs of lawyers. It guarantees compliance with the IOLTA guidelines and ABA Rules of Professional Conduct. Other options are Stripe or PayPal.
• Contract management apps like Concord offer in-document signatures that make it easy for your clients to review and sign documents.
• Similarly, Adobe offers the ability to easily review and sign PDF documents via the Adobe Document Cloud.
4. Missed internal deadlines.
Luckily, I have yet to experience an attorney missing a court or regulatory deadline. What I have experienced many times is an attorney saying he’ll get me a document to review the next day and then not follow through. Or equally frustrating, expound on the need to do something right away and then not doing it right away. To a client, these missed deadlines raise concerns that you are not on top of my matters and that perhaps a more serious error will occur. Lawyers manage multiple client demands; with the technology available today you never need to miss follow up or an internal deadline.
• There are fantastic legal practice management apps available today; enough to choose the one that best fits your style, budget, and firm needs. I’ve heard great feedback about PracticePanther, Clio, MyCase, and CosmoLex.
• If you don’t want or need all of the practice management features, another option is a client-management app for your iPad called iClient.
5. Blaming the client…for anything.
Manage your stress, dude! Managing a law firm and the enormous, high-stakes demands of your clients create stress, anxiety, and high blood pressure. But your client is stressed out, too, and is relying on you to be the clear, assured voice for their legal needs.
• Apps like Headspace and InsightTimer make it easy to take a highly productive 10-minute break.
• Others find success with standing or treadmill desks, and training apps like MyFitnessPal can help you take a short de-stressing break.
I’m lucky to work with rock star lawyers who take care of my business and do things I’d never be able to accomplish. My excellent lawyers provide great counsel, preserve my time and ask questions that wouldn’t cross my mind.
Don’t lose potential clients over these simple mistakes; use the fantastic technology available to you and your practice.