This is the next post in my series on the building of multi-million dollar legal practices. My last article discussed the best way for attorneys to bring in new business. That article explained that truly successful firms don’t get more calls from “ideal” potential clients. Instead, they do a better job of turning marginal leads into clients. Also, successful firms provide a “lights out” customer service experience. The client is then more likely to leave a good online review and to become a referral source. These things have the effect of multiplying one client into several new leads. Firms that recognize this are going to do well while those who don’t are going to be on a one-way trip to Bankruptcy Court. In this article I’ll discuss another trait of firms that are, or are going to be, successful – the leveraging of technology. Let’s get to to it.
Attorneys must focus on efficiency over the growing of their case load
Before we talk about the need to improve your firm’s use of tech/IT, we need to look at an important point – the flawed approach which typical law firms take towards profit maximization. Good businesses, and good firms, focus on nailing their processes down before they worry about dramatically growing sales. Most lawyers, by contrast, ask how they can get more calls as opposed to figuring out how they can make more money off of the cases they already have. Improved processes/efficiency are crucial. Think of it like this – Attorney “A” handles a criminal matter for a $5,000 flat fee and finishes it in twenty total hours. Attorney “B” takes the same case, also for $5,000, but gets the exact same result in fifteen hours (due to increased efficiency). B is going to be exponentially more profitable in their practice. This is because “A” only has so many hours in the day. They will be quicker to hire staff and associates as a way of covering up their inefficiency. This means that, when “A” does $1,000,000 in revenue they will do so with significantly higher overhead than what “B” needs in order to bring in the same one million. This increased overhead will be in the form of extra staff, extra office space to house that staff, and all the other costs that flow from inefficiency.
You’ve got to improve your efficiency before you focus on growing your case load. If you have “x” number of cases in the office, and are inefficient, then you’re not making as much off those cases as you could. It’s frickin’ insane to focus on bringing in more cases just so you can be inefficient in the handling of those cases as well. Efficiency comes first. Growing sales comes second.
How attorneys can increase efficiency through the leveraging of technology
The cost performance of tech based office solutions has been increasing exponentially in recent years. Yet, for reasons beyond my understanding, a crazy number of law firms still have an IT infrastructure that looks like something from 2005. This outdated structure increases costs, downtime, and payroll. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
Do you still have a server in your office and/or host your own email?
It blows me away that this is so common. In today’s world, having your own server (and even worse – still hosting your own email) is like saying you’re going to have generators on your property to create your own electricity. I’m assuming you would rather pay the power company every month as opposed to dealing with your own generators. Cloud-based services, such as G Suite and Office 365, are used by some of the biggest organizations in the world. The beauty of them is that your email, document storage, etc. “just works.” You’ll also get vastly improved functionality than you will over having an “on property” solution. For a small monthly fee to these services (typically $5 per user per month) you:
- Stop paying for software licenses (such as for programs like Microsoft Outlook)
- Stop buying new servers/higher end computers to run all that local software
- Stop wasting money on calls to the “IT guy,” or worse, employing an on-staff IT person (these professionals are a relic of the past which attorneys seem to hang on to)
- Get rid of all that “down time” that comes with hosting your own solutions – cloud solutions work as long as your internet connection is up
- A whole bunch of other benefits that I’m not going to spend time typing
Are you still printing and signing documents?
I can’t remember the last time I printed something and signed it by hand. In our business we use an app called DocHub. If Joe sends me something to sign then, while still in the email which includes the document, I can open it, slap a signature on it, download the signed copy, and include with my response. In in other words, it’s signed and sent back before I even leave the email. How much time/effort in your office goes into simply printing a document so you can sign it and scan it? The whole process takes about thirty seconds, and no staff, in our business.
Do you still have paper sitting all over your office?
If the answer is “yes” then you’re paying someone to file all that paper away. Then, when you need something, it takes longer to find it than it would if you used a good paperless solution. If you love your paper files, and want to waste tens of thousands of dollars a year to payroll and inefficiency than stick with your current system. If you don’t like losses, then make a change.
Are you using a password manager?
It blows me away how many law firms either a) have horrible password practices (such as using the same one over and over) or b) spend many an hour every month trying to figure out a given password to some account. The latter is an extreme waste of time. Start using a password manager, such as LastPass, now.
Are you integrating your software solutions as much as possible?
It’s very, very, very, very (very) common for attorneys to have an application that performs tasks 1-4. They’ll use this application to perform tasks one and two, and then get a second application to perform tasks three and four. This is like saying “why have one app when I can have two at twice the cost and aggravation?” Get yourself onto as few platforms as possible – immediately.
Given that this article just hit 1,037 words I’m going to stop here to avoid this from becoming War and Peace. The big thing to take from the foregoing is that if you don’t focus on improving efficiency, before you focus on growing your client base, then you’re simply spinning your wheels. One of the biggest ways to improve your efficiency, is to upgrade your infrastructure. Multi-million dollar law firms and lawyers understand this.
Why do you think so many lawyers aren’t bothered by an outdated IT infrastructure? Please chime in through the comment form below.