This post was originally posted on the Smith.ai blog
Lawyers get decision fatigue. You have so many things to think about as you run your law practice. That’s why lawyers tend to ignore things in their law practice that are broken. It’s just easier to tolerate things than taking the time to find a workable solution. Am I right?
You simply don’t have time to track down all the information you need to make a decision. And why bother when you are clever enough to create a work-around that works for now. Someday, you’ll get around to doing something about your email that is a hot mess.
Can I be honest with you? That attitude is costing you money. You’re not just leaving money on the table. You are throwing cash out of the window, flushing it down the toilet, and handing it back to clients.
How? You have money leaks in your law practice. There are problems that you aren’t addressing, which cost you billable hours and opportunities. Let’s take a look and see if we can’t plug those leaks up.
1. Stop doing intakes personally
You are the boss of your practice, but that doesn’t mean you must have your fingers in every pie. You do not need to be the one to take client intake calls. Really. Clients tell me that they have to do the intake for potential clients because they know the right questions to ask. They say clients want to talk to you directly. Poppycock! Spending time talking to potential clients who may or may not qualify to be your clients is not the best use of your time.
You can save your time and maintain the quality of new clients by working with a virtual receptionist. Your receptionist can use your scripted questions to determine if potential clients so you don’t get trapped on the phone or accidentally giving free legal advice. Even better, working with a company like Smith.ai means that you can create a workflow system where your receptionist screens clients, and then qualified leads are fed into your software, including on to your email list (check out their full list of integrations and their Zapier app, which will help you automate workflows). No more retyping.
Bonus: If you choose to give Smith.ai a try with their 10-call/30-day free trial, once you’re satisfied, you can use the code DINA50 to get $50 off your first month!
2. Get a bookkeeper
You know the old chestnut: Lawyers are bad at math. I don’t generally believe that, but I do know I’m a lawyer, not a doctor, for a reason. Seriously though, you need a financial team to run your law practice. The billable time that you spend doing your books and invoices is lost, and unless you are an accountant yourself, you can never be completely sure the books are correct.
Instead, build your essential financial team.Your bookkeeper will take over the time-consuming tasks of managing the day-to-day numbers. Your accountant will help you keep more of the money you worked so hard to earn. You need a wealth advisor to help you plan to fund your dreams.
Your time is really too expensive to invest in doing the books or sending out invoices. Use a company like Mazuma, a licensed accounting firm in Utah that provides you with ongoing bookkeeping and tax services at a very affordable price. No more groaning for you. Experience the joy of knowing there will be no surprises at tax time.
Quick story: I worked with a lawyer who launched her law practice without any team. She was reluctant to add staff to her practice when her monthly income was unclear because her practice was so new. We discussed her end goals and realized that adding a bookkeeper would be a good move. It turns out it was a great move: With a little help, her monthly income jumped from 5 to 6 figures within just months.
3. Collect your money
Isn’t it ironic that lawyers are great at causing or resolving conflicts for others, but are so bad at managing their own conflicts? I’m talking about non-paying clients. I know lawyers who wait months before sending out invoices and others who let unpaid invoices drag on for years. Neither is a good look. Hire help to collect your money.
You may not want to work with a conventional collections agency. That’s fine. But do look at alternative options like using your Smith.ai virtual receptionists to make the payment collection calls. You’ll be able to turn an awkward situation into a high-touch, thoughtful encounter that helps clients get over feeling embarrassed and get on with paying you. Plus, the cost of a receptionist call is magnitudes less than the 30-50% fees of a collections agency.
Increasing your collections rate is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to increasing your overall revenue.
4. Automate client communications
The number one bar complaint is failure to communicate. Did you know that? Clients want to be kept informed about the news and status of their legal matters. You can do that without spending your time on the phone.
Technology like Case Status, a client relationship portal, is your new best friend for creating happier clients. This app allows you to give clients instant access to the information they want through the portal. Clients can check their status and ask questions — all without directly interacting with you. Their secure communication platform allows you to be engaged, yet reduce those client emails, phone calls, and texts. You get to focus on practicing law.
5. Do an exit interview
The end of a case is not the end of your relationship with a client. You want to continue to nurture that relationship and get data on how to improve your client experience by doing exit interviews.
An exit interview is your opportunity to thank the client for their trust and business, something most lawyers are not doing in such a high-touch and intentional way. You can also get direct feedback to improve the experience for future clients, and refine your intake criteria to eliminate undesirable clients or cases. Asking your Smith.ai receptionist to do exit interviews is a non-threatening way to request final payments without damaging your relationship if you have non-paying clients.
Create your outsourcing strategy
The best way to earn more money in your law firm is by creating and using services, systems, and automation tools properly. That takes planning. You’ll reap the benefits over the long term when you invest in creating an outsourcing strategy. You’ll be able to focus on what you do best and allow other qualified professionals to do the rest of the work to make your law firm profitable and sustainable.
Not sure what teammates and software will best address your needs? Not to worry. You can get my undivided attention and advice during Streamline