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Few lawyers make most of opportunities online

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//November 5, 2015//

Few lawyers make most of opportunities online

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//November 5, 2015//

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We all know how to use the Internet, right?

But could we be making better use of it still?

For most lawyers, the answer is a resounding: Yes.

“There are still some attorneys walking around out there who don’t even have a smartphone, or some have smartphones but don’t use apps. They use it for email. And that’s a huge benefit, but they’re missing so much more,” said Jeremy Tobin Cherny, a tech consultant and owner of Tobin Solutions Inc. in Wauwatosa.

Whether it’s for work flow or business management, electronic tools can be used in a myriad ways to improve efficiency, marketing and business.

Here are a few tips and tools to consider:

Get noticed

Blogging: “The best thing a law firm can do is write a meaningful and accessible blog for the industries they serve,” said Paul Hager, CEO and president of Information Technology Professionals, a security and IT consulting firm that has worked with nearly 90 law firms in Wisconsin.

To get started, Hager suggested you stockpile three months’ worth of posts before putting anything online. Once you go live, post twice a week. Then, whenever you’re speaking about your firm or your practice, mention the blog.

Only about 5 percent of bloggers commit on that level, Hager estimated. And, even then, it can take an average of two years to establish a successful blog.

Whatever your schedule, just make sure you’re consistent.

“A well-done blog, posted every week, can increase website traffic and clients by one hundred times.” But, Hager said, “a blog sitting online with no posts since 2013 can show a firm’s lack of commitment.”

And, if you’re worried you won’t remember, Cherny suggested setting a calendar alert to keep track of recurring events, appointments or tasks – such as blog-post deadlines. That can be done using web-based Google Calendar or the smartphone-friendly Office 365, which also includes apps for Excel and PowerPoint.

Social media

If the idea of a blog exhausts you, consider social media.

“It’s free to set up Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Even if you just focus on one, just jump in, set up the account and put some things out there. You can really worry about managing it, but that can all come later.”

It doesn’t have to take much time. Particularly helpful are websites such as Buffer, which shares articles using social media and coordinates with other sites to post stories according to a schedule.

So, instead of spending time every day scouring the Internet for relevant news to post online, you can spend 20 minutes a week, flag the things you want to post and tell Buffer when to post them.

“You can post one each day or one every week. You can even go on vacation, and the posts will continue,” Cherny said.

Also, Cherny said, don’t be afraid to share a bit of yourself online.

“Not what I had for lunch, but maybe something like, ‘It’s a beautiful day out. I’m so excited to get to work.’ One post like that can generate so many responses.”

Networking – the new way

Forget the golf course, Hager said. The links you really want to hit are on LinkedIn.

“Managing partners talk about building networks by going to Rotary meetings, hitting the golf course,” Hager said. “But networking has changed significantly. If you need to be a rainmaker today, you build a network in LinkedIn.”

Similar to social media, Hager said, lawyers can use LinkedIn to offer daily insights or reflections on legal news.

Once you’ve got people’s attention, Hager said, “Ask if they need legal services, or if they know people who do. Before you know it, you’re a rainmaker.”

Networking – the old way

If the new ways aren’t for you, email marketing is still a good way to go. And programs like Constant Contact make it easy. (Available by subscription, starting at $20 a month. Free 60-day trial available.)

“They have templates, so you’re basically throwing in some email addresses and your logo, putting in some bullet points and you’ve got your newsletter,” Cherny said.

Whatever you do, just do it

“Perfection is the enemy of good enough. It really stops people cold,” Cherny said. “And that’s just not how it flows nowadays. It’s just get out there and get in touch with people. Obviously, it’s got to look decent. But the templates and the content don’t have to take hours and hours and paragraphs and paragraphs. It could be links. It could be news, ‘Hey, we won a case!’ or ‘You might think of us for personal injury, but we also do litigation.’ Just let your clients know you’re there.”

Improve workflow

  • Using an extranet product like Box lets lawyers pass documents with military-grade encryption without using email as a carrier of large attachments. And it works with everything from Google Apps to Office365. (Available by subscription, starting at $5 a month. Free 14-day trial available.)
  • Instead of sending out paper forms for legal staff to re-key into document-automation systems, you can have clients enter the information for their next estate plan or contract online using Clients can view their documents immediately or after a lawyer has reviewed them.“It makes any law firm into a more efficient LegalZoom shop with your custom forms and documents,” Hager said. “You don’t even have to buy expensive document software, like HotDocs. And it’s meant for law firms, so it lets you focus on consulting rather than filling out templates.” (Available by subscription from $49 a month.)
  • Eliminate paper using electronic-signature services, such as Clients can sign their name on a tablet. And, if you’re a user, you should know that RightSignature works with Box, allowing the e-file to be sent in whatever form you need it, such as an electronic receipt.“So, no more scanning. No more paralegal time making it digital. It was made digital and stays digital. It’s a more efficient way to do business,” Hager said.

    And e-signatures are enforceable in court, thanks to IP address tracking and encryption.

  • OLYMPUS Dictation: Free smartphone apps and subscription-based dictation-delivery services, such as Olympus, make it possible to dictate into an iPhone or Android device. You can then send the recording electronically to whatever transcriptionist you choose. (Apps are free; Olympus Dictation Delivery Service by subscription, $100 a year).


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