We’re excited to be featuring Jared Correia of Red Cave Consulting as our January, 2017 attorney of the month. We’ve previously featured Matt Majeski and Elise Holtzman as attorneys who offer insights as to how one can be successful in today’s legal services market. We’re featuring Jared as he is well known throughout the legal community and focuses his time on helping attorneys to improve their efficiency which, in turn, improves the bottom line. Let’s get to it.
Tell us about your background and how you came to start Red Cave Law Firm Consulting?
I was a debater at Saint Anselm College. Our team was really good. We lost the national championship by one point my senior year, when I was a co-captain. From there, the logical decision seemed to be to go to law school. I went to work at small firms for a little while, joined the Massachusetts Bar Association to manage their CLE publications, then moved to the state’s practice management consulting program, where I stayed until mid-2016. I started Red Cave in October 2016, in order to reach a national audience, and to expand the sorts of services I could offer.
I always had in my mind, however, that I would not practice, but consult instead. I told the guidance staff at my law school about it, and they told me it was a really stupid idea! Maybe they were right.
A lot has been made about the shrinking number of law firm jobs and the struggles of smaller firms. Where do you see the profession going from here forward?
The numbers thing is always cyclical. Fewer folks are now attending law schools, which means that applicants and available jobs will eventually even out. It won’t be long before people start saying, ‘Hey, maybe it’s time to look at law school as an option again . . .’
It’s always going to be hard to run a small law firm, in large part because it’s difficult to run any small business. Plus, lawyers have the disadvantage of having to also comply with specific, jurisdictional ethics rules, potentially for multiple jurisdictions.
What are some of your biggest concerns for those attorneys who don’t recognize the changing nature of the legal profession?
Generally speaking, lawyers are well behind the curve on business management trends. It’s because they’re all head-down on the practice. The vast majority of lawyers would prefer to do the substantive work, and would love to have someone else bring the cases in. But, that’s not the reality. The most successful lawyers are the most successful rainmakers. That’s never going to change. But, in addition to generating new business, lawyers need to start thinking more about efficiently managing the businesses they have. And, that includes adding processes and systems, where most attorneys prefer to operate in an ad hoc fashion, running their practices by guile and gut reactions.
What role will technology play in helping attorneys meet and overcome the concerns you just mentioned?
Boy, I hope a large one — and, not just because the ethics rulemakers are starting to come around to the fact that lawyer competence is tied to the reasonable use of modern technology solutions. The fact is that law firms that use the right technology in the right way are more efficient than their competitors; so, generally speaking, they can take more work, bill more and spend more time with their families. Technology can be overwhelming; but, if it’s directed effectively, it’s a real boon for small businesspersons.
What role can Red Cave play in helping attorneys implement technology into their law practice?
We have a deep understanding of the available options that are built exclusively for law firms. Talking to us means you don’t have to wade through 100’s of product demos. Attorneys tell us what they’re using now, what the problems are, what their needs are, and we direct them to solutions. We also offer IT services, which means that, not only can we tell you what software and hardware to use, we can implement it, and maintain it, as well.
While leveraging technology is going to be crucial, a system is only as good as the person using it. After all, if someone never inputs data into their case management software then the software doesn’t do them much good. How do you help attorneys make sure that they are getting the benefit of their new systems?
It starts at the top. Traditionally, managing partners have wanted to ‘set it and forget it’, and have staffpersons choose, implement and maintain technology solutions. But, at this point, that’s tantamount to an ethics violations. So, I always try to bring home to attorneys that this is not an oversight responsibility that can be sloughed off. They need to be involved in developing workflows and processes, and seeing that those are implemented appropriately. More than anything else, as you allude to, the data needs to get to the right places. Of course, it’s hard to get folks excited about data entry.
What are some of the most common forms of law firm mismanagement that you see as a law firm consultant?
The number one mistake that lawyers make is neglecting their clients. Other lawyers don’t tend to report their colleagues for ethics or malpractice issues . . . angry clients do. So, the best way to steer clear of issues is to keep your clients happy, by apprising them of what is going on, on a regular basis. In fact, I recommend that attorneys follow-up with all active clients at least every six weeks, even if nothing is going on, in order to stay on top of the cases, as well as to give the appearance that they’re doing so. Another common issue is poor calendar management. Miss a deadline as a lawyer, and it can be deadly.
How does Red Cave’s business management consulting assist firms and what are the benefits of those services?
It’s a way for solo and small firm lawyers to stay on track. Having access to a monthly check-in with an outside voice, gets you out of your own fishbowl a little bit, and thinking about larger business issues that often get drowned in the day-to-day. Plus, talking to us is like adding another partner . . . who knows a hell of a lot more about business management than you do.
What are some common traits, of your most successful clients, which other attorneys should try to emulate? How do you help attorneys to emulate those traits?
I think the dividing line between successful small and solo and small firms and those that are less successful is hustle, frankly. Those lawyers who are willing to really work at making a successful business generally do what they set out to do, even if it takes a while to get there. As alluded to above, those lawyers who adopt technology and actually implement it achieve a competitive advantage over their peers. Increasingly, however, those lawyers who are willing to offer flat fees or alternative fee arrangements are winning clients from those firms that stick to hourly billing.
I’ve been at this long enough that I can pretty quickly pick up where lawyers need to be addressing business management issues, across a breadth of areas. What may be a blind spot for a practicing lawyer, constantly working in her practice, looks like a black hole to me. Once I can spot an issue, I have had enough experience in seeing the various methods that different law firms have used to handle similar problems that I can offer different tactics for moving forward — which is important, because this sort of consulting is high-touch, and highly personalized: there is no one-size fits all solution.
We can’t thank Jared enough for taking the time to appear on our blog. If you have questions about his services then contact him through Red Cave’s website. We will be featuring other prominent legal professionals through the course of 2017. Stay tuned!