Law firms across the country are buzzing, and it feels suspiciously like 2008. The word “recession” is being whispered in hushed water-cooler conversations. Many firms are looking to optimize their operations and hunker down in anticipation of lean times.
Weathering the storm will be challenging, but the law firms that come out strongest on the other side will be the ones that have figured out how to optimize their performance as part of their recession-proofing strategy. That optimization begins with a strong foundation of legal technology.
To start, take a look at your current legal technology stack. Are you getting everything you need from it? If not, consider what tools will give you the best return on your investment. Choosing the right legal technology tools now can help you save time and cut costs, ensuring that your firm can operate efficiently.
In this article, we’ll cover how to determine the ROI of your legal tech investment and what your firm should focus on as it prepares for a potential recession.
Return on investment (ROI) is one of the most important performance metrics that your law firm tracks. When your firm puts money into a project or investment (like updating its legal technology), measuring ROI lets your firm understand the value of the investment. Basically, it tells you whether it’s a winner or a loser.
ROI is a bit easier to calculate in some areas (for example, digital marketing) than in others. When it comes to evaluating your firm’s ROI for legal tech, it’s more involved, and you’ll need to consider several factors.
Start by thinking about what task you want to make easier (or eliminate) or what cost you’re looking to reduce. Are you trying to lower the time that lawyers spend on intake? Are you trying to expedite your billing and collections process? Or are you looking to lower data storage costs by moving to the cloud?
Once you have a firm grasp on what you want to achieve with technology, start evaluating the following factors to evaluate the ROI.
Calculating the ROI of legal tech is somewhat subjective and deeply personal to your law firm and its lawyers and staff. As noted above, the important components to keep top of mind are saved time and saved costs weighed against the cost of the tech and speed of deployment.
What’s the best way to figure out whether legal tech is working? We recommend asking your lawyers and staff first. They know best what features they use daily and which ones aren’t worth the time investment.
We recommend prioritizing legal technology that allows lawyers to minimize non-billable time as well as tech that focuses on clients and client relationships. Technology in each of these areas prioritizes money coming into the firm, whether through direct billing or ensuring the longevity of a client relationship.
Technology can also help improve staff morale, as it eases their administrative workload and reduces the need for repetitive work — two things that bog lawyers down and keep them away from their core work. Lastly, if your firm hasn’t already, moving to the cloud is a way to both save money and heighten security.
Work smarter, not harder. Your lawyers’ time is their most important asset, and your legal technology should help them prioritize billable tasks. Good legal technology helps lawyers rid themselves of mundane or repetitive tasks through workflow and document automation.
Legal technology can also upgrade the way your firm’s lawyers track time, increasing captured billable time (and thus your firm’s revenue). An organized and automated system will help to ensure that no billable hour goes untracked. Many legal productivity tools remove the tedium of billing, so your lawyers can spend less time writing descriptions and more time writing briefs. The removal of tedium is also good for morale and general employee retention.
Good legal technology also takes care of your clients. When thinking about ROI in this regard, it’s less about the dollars and more about ensuring that clients are satisfied and sticking around. A healthy client relationship can lead to years of business.
We recommend legal technology that streamlines client intake, allows you to communicate with clients easily and through different means, and has a secure client-specific portal that allows your lawyers to share documents with clients directly and for your staff to send bills. Keeping clients around during a recession is key to keeping your firm running.
Your firm may have hesitated to move to the cloud before, worried about the amount of effort and security. However, the benefits of using a secure cloud infrastructure far outweigh the risks.
If you’re concerned about saving your firm money, cloud-based infrastructure can reduce service and storage costs, especially if you need to scale up and down unexpectedly to meet fluctuating demand.
Show law firm leaders the numbers while also focusing on the intangible benefits of better technology. The legal space is becoming more competitive every day, and legal technology is one of the best ways to stay at the top of the game.
Intelligent technology that helps your lawyers work smarter and spend more time on billable hours is good for your bottom line. Your law firm will benefit from their heightened engagement, and clients will benefit from better strategies and advice. The right legal technology will also increase staff and client satisfaction, an important consideration regardless of how the market is doing.
If you’re interested in legal technology that can help your firm increase its billable output, strengthen client relationships, and streamline your lawyers’ workload, get in touch.
Paid online advertising can be an important part of a law firm’s digital marketing strategy, and it yields results in both the short and long run. If you want to optimize your online reach in 2023, your law firm should be looking at its online presence through both organic and paid search results.
Throughout the year as a part of our larger blog series, we’ll be covering digital marketing and how your law firm can build its 2023 digital marketing strategy. In this article, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of paid online advertising like PPC and PPL and how your law firm can benefit from incorporating these digital marketing tactics into your strategic plan.
The three major types of paid digital advertising that law firms use are pay per click (PPC), pay per lead (PPL), and Google Local Services ads. We’ll cover all three in this article, with an emphasis on PPC and PPL.
With pay per click (PPC) advertising, your law firm pays for the number of “clicks” it receives from online users. For example, your law firm’s ad is featured on a given platform (e.g., websites, social media, or search engines), an online user clicks on the ad, and your law firm is billed for that click. Google Ads is the most popular system for placing PPC ads, as it enables your business to create ads that appear directly on Google based on a user’s search.
This seems like a straightforward process, but optimization (and getting the biggest ROI) requires strategic thinking and regular re-evaluation. As with all other digital marketing campaigns, you’ll want to begin by getting a feel for your target audience. Think about who they are, how old they are, where they live, and why they might be seeking legal advice. Focusing on your target market is important for creating the keywords that will be used in connection with your PPC ad.
With pay per lead (PPL) advertising, the amount that your law firm will pay depends on the number of leads generated by a third party. As a reminder, a lead is a person or business that has shown interest in using the legal services that your law firm offers. Typically, your law firm will be able to define what constitutes a lead and thus only pay when those requirements are met. An example of a PPL arrangement is one where a firm pays by the number of leads who provide their contact information or who apply for a free consultation.
With Google Local Services ads, your law firm can connect directly with people who search on Google for services in their area that your firm offers. It works like this: your firm’s advertisement will show up for customers in your geographic area who search for legal services related to your firm. Similar to standard PPL, your law firm will only pay if the lead calls or messages directly through the advertisement.
These Google ads require multistep verification and a fairly rigorous screening process. As with other advertisement strategies, Local Services ads should be optimized to showcase your law firm’s expertise.
The right answer depends on your law firm’s goals. Both PPC and PPL advertising offer your law firm the chance to increase visibility and build a strong reputation.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose between the two; you can opt to implement both PPC and PPL if your law firm’s budget allows. In making your decision, check out this chart, which highlights some key differences between these paid forms of online advertising.
|Time and effort||With PPC, you have more control over branding, over which type of clients are acquired, and over what messages your law firm sends. However, this process is time-consuming and requires learned skills, as you’ll need to monitor your performance and tweak your strategy to optimize your results.||With PPL, your law firm can rely on the skills of a third-party provider without having to implement strategies or conduct the keyword research yourself. If your law firm or marketing team is smaller, this can take a significant amount of workload off your plate.
|Cost||The costs of PPC strategies are less predictable than PPL. Law-related keywords have some of the highest costs per click out there: some have even reached $500+ per click. It might be difficult to find keywords that match your budget and your ambitions.||Because your law firm pays a specific amount for each lead acquired, you’ll be able to calculate your costs upfront, so you’ll be better able to predict your budget.|
|Quality||PPC is known for its quick results via increased web traffic. By routing visitors who click on your ad to your law firm’s website, you’re creating increased visibility. This is great for your law firm, but it doesn’t guarantee that the click will turn into a lead or paying client right away. However, with PPC, you can retarget these people by showing them your ad again and encouraging them to get in touch when they need your services and are ready to move forward.||PPL can lead to higher-quality leads. The leads acquired from PPL have already expressed interest in legal services. That means your firm should have an easier time converting them into paying clients. However, some PPL providers send the same leads to multiple firms, leaving your firm to duke it out and nurture the attorney-client relationship.|
In sum, the major difference is that with PPL, a third-party platform captures leads that are far along the journey of buying legal services. PPL services are doing their own marketing to attract those leads. PPC directly links to your law firm’s website through keywords in a search engine. A PPL arrangement is a great option for small law firms or solo practitioners who want their law practice to grow but don’t yet have the capacity for dozens of new clients.
If your firm has the time and capacity to focus on lead generation, starting with PPC is likely the right route. If your firm just wants to follow up on leads and see how they play out, then PPL is probably more your speed.
Paid online advertising takes some of the guessing out of the new-client pipeline. By advertising online through any of the methods mentioned in this article, your law firm will get its name out there and start building a reputation in the community.
If your law firm is looking for results, paid search campaigns are an important digital marketing tool to consider. They offer tried-and-true ROI in the short and long term. Both PPC and PPL are useful tactics to obtain new clients while simultaneously growing your digital presence and brand.
As a law firm, building authority and a positive online reputation in the community are essential to strengthening your overall brand. Your digital marketing efforts should support just that — the overall position of your firm and its reputation.
Plus, it’s all related. By emphasizing thought leadership and trust through digital marketing, your firm builds a reputation, and clients seek you out based on that reputation.
Understanding growth marketing vs. demand generation is important as you think through your strategy. Growth marketing focuses on the entire customer journey from awareness to acquisition and from retention to common growth marketing tactics include search engine optimization efforts and email marketing campaigns.
Demand generation zeroes in on building awareness and interest in what your law firm has to offer in order to drive leads. Common demand generation marketing tactics focus on one element of your client’s journey, such as increasing online traffic or using call-to-action buttons to convert a web visitor to a lead.
The best law firm digital marketing plan uses a combination of growth marketing and demand generation strategies. The key is knowing which channel will work best for your law firm by looking at your firm’s key performance metrics and measuring changes in your online position over time.
Below, we’ll get into the details on four of the digital marketing channels from search engine optimization and social media marketing campaigns to email marketing and paid ads .that can help your law firm make the biggest online impact— for the best return on your investment.
SEO drives traffic to your law firm’s website by increasing its visibility in search engine non-paid results. Here’s how it works: Google search engine results rank the responses to a user’s search based on multiple factors, including the content of webpages. The more relevant your content is to the search terms entered by the online searcher, the more likely that your content and your firm’s website will appear at the top of a results page.
SEO is also measured by the quality of your law firm’s webpage. That means navigation and readability matter.
Lastly, local SEO can be another important aspect of your legal website’s overall SEO. Your law firm can optimize its geographic reach through local SEO, helping to establish your firm as the go-to in your community.
When properly executed, SEO will deliver returns well above the 5:1 ratio we mentioned in our blog post explaining the return on investment of marketing.
A social media presence helps prospective clients both find your firm and get to know all about your brand.
Through an approachable, robust social media presence, you’ll meet prospective clients where they are and encourage them to get in contact with you by demystifying the legal process. In addition, with a solid social media presence, your law firm can engage directly with current clients and leads, marketing its expertise while building stronger community relationships.
As with your overall digital content strategy, your law firm’s social media posts should be helpful, legally sound, visually appealing, and link directly to your firm’s website to capture any leads. We recommend getting started with Facebook, a Google Business Profile, and LinkedIn.
Engage current and prospective clients with thoughtful and helpful content and information. You can offer a free weekly or monthly newsletter, or access to your law firm’s blog. You can collect email addresses and stay in contact with current clients (and keep them updated on how helpful your law firm is).
Entice website visitors with lead magnets such as free guidebooks, white papers, or webinars that visitors can download directly from your law firm’s website once they’ve provided their contact information .
Once your law firm has a solid email list, you can plan effective email marketing. The emails sent out through this list should be targeted and positive, showcasing your firm’s expertise and how your attorneys make life easier for their clients.
If you are looking for the fastest, most direct results, paid search campaigns are another digital marketing tool to consider. The three main types of digital ads are pay-per-click, pay-per-lead, and Google’s Local Services ads.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
With PPC advertising, your law firm only pays for the number of “clicks” it receives from online users. For example, your firm’s ad is featured on a given platform (a website, social media, or a search engine), an online user clicks on the ad, and then your law firm pays for that click. It seems like a simple process, but optimization requires strategic thinking and regular re-evaluation.
As with SEO, research is important here. Your law firm will need to conduct research on keywords, organize those keywords into logical groupings, and then link to the correct landing page of your website to hook the lead as quickly as possible. PPC is a great tool to boost your law firm’s online performance at a relatively low cost.
Pay-per-lead (PPL) advertising
With PPL advertising, the amount that your law firm will pay for an advertisement depends on the number of leads acquired. Typically, your law firm will be able to define what constitutes a lead and pay only when those requirements are met.
An example of a PPL arrangement is one where a firm pays by the number of leads who provide their contact information. A PPL campaign is a great option for small law firms or solo practitioners who want their law practice to grow but don’t yet have the capacity for dozens of new clients.
Google’s Local Services ads
With Google Local Services ads, your law firm can connect with people who search on Google for services that your firm offers. It works like this: your firm’s advertisement will show up for customers in your geographic area who search for legal services related to your firm. Similar to standard PPL, your law firm will only pay if the lead calls or messages directly through the advertisement. These Google ads are relatively new and require multistep verification.
As with other advertisement strategies, Local Services ads should be optimized to showcase your law firm’s expertise. (Relatedly, we also recommend Facebook ads are another as a route to grow your firm’s local online visibility.)
The key to meeting your law firm’s business development goals this year is to build your firm’s digital presence so you can start reaching a broader audience of prospective clients. By investing in these four foundational digital marketing channels, you’ll open up new avenues to reach new prospects, build your reputation, attract more traffic to your law firm’s website, and begin building a more robust client pipeline.
Digital marketing isn’t just the future — it’s the now. To compete in the legal space your firm should be thinking about a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. With competition growing more each year, digital marketing isn’t something you should put off to the future — it’s what you need to be doing now.
Plus, the start of the new year is a perfect time to begin elevating your firm’s brand and position in your market. A good digital marketing plan helps your firm continue to sustain itself and also drive growth for the future. Your law firm’s bottom line will thank you.
In this article and throughout the year as a part of our larger blog series, we’ll cover how to measure and understand why digital marketing is worth the investment and share best practices for building your law firm’s digital marketing plan.
When your law firm puts money into an investment (like a digital marketing plan), measuring its ROI (Return On Investment) as a performance metric helps your firm understand it’s the value you are getting from that investment. It’s the way of knowing whether your firm is making money by spending money.
A “good” digital marketing ROI will depend on your firm’s goals and current circumstances. If you’re just getting started with a digital marketing plan, you can expect modest returns that should continue to improve the longer your plan is in place. As a rule of thumb, we recommend aiming for an average ROI of 5:1, meaning that your law firm makes five dollars for every dollar it spends on its digital marketing strategy. A ratio higher than 5:1 is excellent. A ratio below 2:1 means that your firm is getting returns that make sense for you to continue to invest and it’s time to rethink your strategy.
Monitoring your law firm’s digital marketing ROI is like using a flashlight. Without it, you’re fumbling around in the dark. But with it, you know what’s working and what needs tweaking. You want to ensure that you allocate your law firm’s marketing budget effectively, efficiently, and wisely.
To measure your law firm’s digital marketing ROI, you’ll need to know how much money your firm spends on a marketing campaign and how much revenue or value has been gained from it. A popular tool used in connection with calculating marketing ROI is Google Analytics.
It’s important to look at your results both individually and collectively to clearly see what’s working and what isn’t. So, evaluate individual campaigns such as a one-time marketing blast on social media, along with your entire social media marketing budget to ensure that you’re optimizing every opportunity.
A basic marketing ROI formula looks like this:
Digital marketing ROI = (Marketing revenue – Marketing costs) / Marketing cost
Let’s make this a bit more concrete! Say your law firm spent $1,000 on a social media campaign in August and you tracked $5,000 in revenue from that campaign in the same month. Using the above formula, your firm’s ROI would be 4:1. Given what you know from above, this is a good return, but it’s likely that your campaign could be improved.
You should also remember that only attributing direct sales growth from a campaign can be deceiving since clients may have been influenced by the campaign, but ended up coming to your firm through a different avenue. With regular monitoring, the data becomes even more powerful.
Monitoring your law firm’s digital marketing ROI is more complex and nuanced than only looking at how much money is brought in from each campaign and comparing that figure to your cost. It’s essential to monitor analytics and performance data. If you don’t, your law firm won’t be able to determine the totality of your marketing efforts successes and opportunities.
To get started, we recommend tracking and measuring the following marketing performance indicators. (Better yet, make them part of your law firm’s regular reporting process.)
A conversion rate is one of the best indicators of whether your digital strategies are effective. Your conversion rate is the ratio of people who click on an ad (or visit your firm’s website) to people who convert into a lead.
When reviewing your law firm’s campaign conversion rates, remember to look at conversions by channel. This metric will help your firm evaluate which channels are worth investing in and which can be deprioritized, resulting in an improved ROI.
Tracking conversion rates on your law firm’s website is also key. With the right reporting tools, you can track how long a visitor stays on the firm’s website, which pages they view the most, which pages have the highest bounce rates (visitors leaving the site), which visits result from organic searches, and how many visitors turn into leads. This powerful data can help you figure out where your customers are looking, what they are interested in and where they are leaving.
Your law firm should also track data about how newly acquired clients learned about the firm (e.g., from your firm’s website, social media, word of mouth, or referral). Start by simply asking clients how they heard of you or including it in your client questionnaire at the start of the engagement. We recommend reviewing this data bimonthly and adjusting your digital marketing plan as needed. For the highest ROI, focus on those sources that feed your firm’s bottom line.
Getting leads is important for the longevity of your firm. For optimization, it’s also important to figure out just how much your law firm is paying for each new lead. To calculate this metric, divide the total campaign spend by the total number of leads attributed to that campaign.
Also make sure you are looking at your lead close rate, which is how many leads generated are converting into new clients. If you find that you’re generating many leads, but those leads aren’t turning into clients and revenue, it’s time to make a change. Also keep an eye on your lead close rate, which is how many leads generated are converting into new clients.
Your law firm’s cost per acquisition will tell you how much it costs, on average, to acquire a new client. To calculate this metric, divide total marketing spend by the number of sales generated.
This figure is key to understanding your digital marketing ROI because it gives your law firm the big picture of your law firm’s spending. As with the other metrics discussed in this article, if your firm is spending more to acquire a client than the client brings to the firm, it’s time to adjust.
The pandemic taught us that tech not only helps us do our jobs better, but it also helps us become stronger advocates for our clients. Attorneys shifted to attending court hearings and holding negotiations on online platforms, including Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and began using cloud-based solutions to streamline access to information and to promote real-time collaboration.
As the demand for legal software continues to increase, so too will the number of questions about what would make legal tech too complex. In this article, we’ll discuss what can make software too complicated, how to identify the difference between essential and accidental complexity, and, most importantly, how to avoid software that might not fit your law firm’s needs.
The right legal software uses advanced technology to improve law firms’ efficiency and help them optimize their day-to-day legal practice. It should also provide a user-friendly, intuitive experience.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes software is more complicated than it needs to be. Let’s review some reasons why.
In software development, there’s no single right way to do things. However, there are many complex ways to do things that might otherwise be simple. If your software is designed to solve problems you don’t have — especially if the extra bells and whistles on software don’t get to the heart of the problems that your law firm does have — it can make legal work more complicated. Sometimes these complexities make software harder to use and limit personalization that allows software to match users’ needs.
If your legal software doesn’t take into account usability or has a ton of features that aren’t relevant to its purpose, then it might be overengineered. And if your team is complaining about your software, requiring extra hours to understand how to use the platform(s), or taking too long to do basic tasks, it’s a sign that you might need a simpler legal software solution.
The key isn’t for your legal software to be everything to everyone. It’s for your software to solve the problems that you actually need to solve.
A lot of legal software platforms tackle a single problem. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
But when a law firm has to use 10 pieces of software, each of which serves a singular function, to accomplish something that it could accomplish with a single cloud-based platform, it makes it harder for lawyers to get work done. That’s especially true if data is stored in multiple places without any integrations. When this happens, users have to access different platforms to find the information they need.
What’s even worse is when law firms choose tools that don’t talk to each other, especially if those tools aren’t easy to use remotely. With more lawyers engaging in mobile work, platforms need to work together and be accessible from any device.
Multiple systems also create additional data security risks. Every software platform that you add to a law firm’s technology ecosystem adds a new layer of complexity that your law firm’s IT team will need to manage to protect your client information from unauthorized access and comply with state data protection laws and regulations (e.g., New York’s SHIELD law). Plus, your IT team will have to ensure it implements every software update for every platform, especially if these systems aren’t built on a secure cloud infrastructure that automatically deploys the latest security updates.
Often, the problems that arise in practice are complex and require creative thinking. The same is true, of course, for software engineering. The key is keeping an eye on accidental complexity.
“Essential” complexity refers to the tools that are required to do the job the software is designed to do. Without them, the software or platform would lack necessary elements or be unreliable. “Accidental” complexity is what can happen when people are trying to “force” software to work, when taking a hodgepodge approach, or when adopting new technologies or tools without appropriate planning. Accidental or unintentional complexity can hurt the user experience by making the tech harder to use or more difficult to understand. For your law firm, this might mean difficulty using certain integrations, confusion about where to save certain files, or even a user interface that isn’t intuitive.
Your law firm should thoroughly research the capabilities of any software provider and how that aligns with your expectations. This means looking into the provider and any integration partners to see how long they’ve been in business, what their customer support looks like, and how they will handle your law firm’s data. Important questions to ask include how your documents and data might be accessed, saved, and backed up. Confirm that the answers are compatible with the workflows your law firm has or ensure that your staff and timekeepers are ready and willing to learn.
Learning about the functionality of the software itself is also key. Do you prefer built-in features or integrations? How about a blended approach? We recommend a comprehensive software platform that allows for add-ons and customization to suit your law firm’s individual needs. Depending on your law firm’s practice areas, you may need some tools more than others. Ensure that the software you select provides customizable tools and functionalities tailored to your firm’s needs and wants. Knowing your top priorities for the software is important to avoid software that is too complex for what you need. If your law firm is focused on revamping your billing and collections process, make sure that you like and can use the software you select. The same goes for your firm’s intake practice or document management. What’s most important in your software is whatever is most important to your firm.
Last, we recommend scheduling a demo or taking advantage of a free trial of the software that your law firm is considering. Functionality and the user experience vary drastically between software, so it’s essential to test it out. Your goal is to make sure that those using the software most often enjoy using it. If they don’t, you won’t see any return on your investment, and your software will quickly become obsolete.
If you keep your firm’s priorities and needs top of mind, you won’t choose software that’s too complex for your users.
Lacking reliable software or using software that is too complex can have a ripple effect throughout a matter’s lifecycle — and on your law firm’s bottom line. The profitability and productivity of your timekeepers and the entire firm may suffer. That’s why it’s important to start putting the proper systems and software in place to handle matters effectively and efficiently.
Centerbase’s comprehensive platform consisting of financial, timekeeping, document, and practice management tools puts everything you need to know about every matter at your fingertips. And what’s better is that you’ll be able to stop worrying about details that you’re forgetting or those sticky notes cluttering your desk with reminders of the tasks you need to complete.
In short, we can help your law firm reach its full potential with software that is customized to your firm’s needs. Sign up for a free demo of our legal practice management software and learn more about how our platform can help you streamline your law firm’s operations.
[vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]You clean out your paper files, desk, and office refrigerator. So why wouldn’t you do the same with your law firm’s online data?
A robust data classification system is a must for your law firm. You’ve been entrusted by clients to not only zealously represent them but also to do no harm. To accomplish these goals, you must protect their sensitive data through a comprehensive and secure data classification system — one where you review and purge data regularly.
By having a carefully constructed data classification system, your law firm can protect itself against a possible data breach, make sure that it is properly compliant with the ethical rules regarding client record management, and better evaluate your firm’s performance and bottom line.
In this article, we’ll cover all of this and more while sharing a roadmap to help you start cleansing your law firm’s data.
Data cleansing is the process of detecting and then correcting or removing defective, duplicate, or incomplete data.
To determine what data might need purging or correcting, think both big and small: your firm’s client records, filing records, document databases, scheduling books, emails, contact information, and employee information, to name a few data sources. Think about any potential data repository, both in your firm’s servers and computers and other electronic equipment as well as on your staff’s mobile devices.
Basically, this process means recognizing what is missing, incorrect, or unnecessary in your law firm’s data and then rectifying it. It’s a process that requires forethought and one that is best handled with a bit of help.
Cleaning your firm’s data is important to protect your firm. Sound data classification and cleansing practices can transform your law firm by reducing risks and improving profitability. With cleaner, error-free data, your law firm can protect itself against possible data breaches, make sure that it complies with the ethical rules regarding client record management, and better evaluate its own bottom line.
Clients entrust their sensitive, confidential data with your law firm. To fulfill your ethical responsibility to your clients, you must go the extra mile to keep only the data you need. Organizing and cleaning your data regularly helps to protect your clients. Data retention schedules and auto-deletion features can ensure you purge client files, emails, and other data once they are no longer useful to your firm.
This is important because protecting your clients and their information is a fundamental ethical responsibility — and it’s also just a good business practice. Lawyers are required to protect all client information from disclosure, including in a data breach. The American Bar Association has issued ethics opinions on securing communication of protected client information, and numerous states have their own data protection laws (e.g., New York’s SHIELD law). Because your license and practice are at stake, it’s critical to establish data security measures.
Clean data is also good for your bottom line. With cleaner data on your law firm’s performance, you’ll have better analytics, thus allowing your law firm to make more informed business decisions. Clean data (along with the right legal practice management software) makes for more accurate tracking. So, you’ll be able to keep a clear eye on practice area performance, monthly revenue, cash flow, and work-in-progress reports.
With cleaner (read: better) data, your firm can compile more useful reports and respond and adjust intelligently. You’ll also just keep better internal systems and records with clean data. It’ll be easier to run payroll, order supplies, and run your law office.
To maintain clean data, it’s crucial that your firm establish a data classification system. Without one, your law firm will be poorly positioned to both avoid data breaches and respond effectively if one happens. Classifying data is the first step to protecting it, and a well-planned data classification system is essential.
Classifying your law firm’s data is not always an intuitive process. As your law firm grows, this process only becomes harder and more time-consuming. Our advice is to start organizing now and put repeatable processes in place so it’s easy for you to maintain clean data.
Begin by identifying your firm’s data and taking inventory of all the data held by your firm. Be methodical and ruthless in your analysis.
Then consider your collection processes. Do you actually need to collect all of the data that your firm is housing? Consider whether you can cut certain things and, if so, update your client information forms as needed. Minimizing unneeded data collection will benefit your firm in the long run.
We also recommend putting a data retention policy into place and setting automatic deletion features after a set period, particularly for certain sensitive information.
Once you’ve completed the identification stage, you can move on to actual classification. Most law firms (and businesses more generally) use tiered levels of confidentiality: public, sensitive, and classified. By having clear classifications, your law firm can set strong policies based on the different categories. When classifying data, remember to also keep in mind who owns the data, where it might be stored, and what the substance of the data is. With the right software, you’ll be able to organize and create controls to best organize and protect your client’s data (and your law firm’s data too).
This process may sound overwhelming. But it’s worth the trouble and will help your law firm to optimize your systems. When your data is categorized and controlled, your staff can find the information they need faster. As you know, optimization means higher productivity, which means more revenue.
We recommend starting with something easy like subscriber information. It’s okay to cleanse the contact information for folks who haven’t interacted with your law firm in years. Especially if your law firm has an active online presence, these clients will be able to find you anytime in the future. Set your own policy for contact retention, and be sure to follow it.
Also, keep an eye out for bounced emails and update or delete your contact records as needed. The same goes for document recordkeeping. Don’t hesitate to delete non-priority records that have been inactive for years. Chances are that the information you have is outdated. Plus, if your law firm has an active online presence, these clients will be able to find you with ease.
This holds true for the information your law firm has been collecting on itself. The cleaner your performance and financial data, the more accurate your analytical financial reports will be.
Next, figure out which data is worth retaining. For example, if you’re looking to update your current client contact records, you’ll want to put resources into identifying which clients have incomplete records and start reaching out to gather the missing information.
The same goes for ongoing client matters. It’s worth ensuring that you have fully executed documents for recent transactions and complete records for matters that might turn litigious and be subject to a litigation hold.
By recognizing which data is necessary to complete and hold on to, you’ll be able to better use your firm’s resources.
Once your firm has figured out its priorities and established a system of data cleansing, it’ll benefit from putting policies in place and establishing good data entry habits. If your law firm relies on manual data entry, it’s important to have firmwide guidelines. For example, you should specify whether your firm spells out or abbreviates certain terms and what spacing and punctuation should be used. And you should make sure to enter names and addresses following a consistent protocol.
And, unfortunately, you’ll need to cleanse your data again, and again, and again (and again). Your firm should regularly review newly added records for consistency and completeness, which can also help to catch spam or incomplete data. To keep your law firm’s data clean, you’ll need to assess and purge as a matter of course.
Clean data is the foundation for a sound data classification process. The cleaner your data and the more consistently your firm follows your data classification system, the less your firm’s risk of data compromise, the stronger your law firm’s performance will be, and the better you’ll be able to forecast your finances, manage your client matters, and build your client pipeline.
If your goal for your law firm’s website is to increase traffic and attract new clients, you’ll want it to rank highly in search engine results. However, getting it to do so is often easier said than done. One of the best ways to improve your law firm website’s SEO performance is by publishing high-quality and informative blog content.
In this article, we’ll explain why content is crucial to SEO, go over best practices for writing legal blog content, and give examples of law firms whose blog posts earned huge increases in page views.
Search engines like Google want to provide search results that are valuable and relevant to the user. Therefore, when you regularly publish content that is helpful to your audience, your rankings will likely increase, and more people can find your website in their search results.
The phrase “content is king” exists for a reason. In terms of SEO, high-quality content is the number one factor Google uses when ranking search results. It’s important to note that while high-quality content can improve your site’s SEO performance, poor-quality content can do the opposite.
Producing high-quality content is about creating pages that increase user time on a page, lower bounce rate, and provide valuable content to the user. When determining the quality of search results, Google uses a principle known as “E-A-T,” which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
The more you incorporate E-A-T into your law firm’s marketing strategy, the better your website’s SEO performance will become.
Tips for Creating SEO-Friendly Blog Content
You could publish a new blog post every day and still not see an improvement in your site’s search engine results page (SERP) ranking, because while consistency is important, search engines like Google value quality of content over quantity. Below are a few pointers on how to create blog content search engines will love.
Your blog posts should cater to your audience’s needs, and that means providing them with the answers they’re searching for in a direct and succinct manner. In contrast to practice area overview pages, blog posts allow you to answer specific legal questions people commonly ask. For example, if your firm focuses on divorce and family law, you could write a blog post that outlines what a person should do if their ex-spouse is failing to make child support payments.
How do you know which questions to answer? A great way to start is by performing a Google search of your targeted practice area's keywords (ex: “drug laws in Tennessee”) and seeing what autocomplete terms show up. Another place to look is the “People also ask” box found on the results page. Once you have an idea of what questions people are asking, you can start writing blog posts that answer them.
Be careful, however, not to oversaturate your post with keywords. This practice, known as “keyword stuffing,” makes content awkward to read and doesn’t provide a good user experience. Search engines know how to look for keyword stuffing and will likely penalize you for it by lowering your search results ranking.
Alt text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user's screen. Not only does alt text allow search engine crawlers to better index and rank your website, but it also makes your content accessible to more users, as it helps screen-reading tools describe images aloud to users who are visually impaired. Alt text should be a short, but descriptive sentence that includes the keywords you’re targeting. For example, “Man and woman seated at desk signing divorce papers.”
Meta descriptions are found beneath the page titles on a SERP. These one- to two-sentence summaries give users and search engines an idea of what the page’s content is about. Meta descriptions show up in rich snippets, so including them can provide an accurate description of your website to search users.
Incorporating internal links in your blog posts encourages users to explore your website in a way that feels natural to them. This tactic tends to keep people on your website longer and reduces bounce rates, which tells search engines like Google that your site is providing users with valuable information. When adding internal links, be sure to choose anchor text that is relevant to the linked page instead of an obvious callout. For example, if you want to include a link to your bankruptcy practice area page on one of your blog posts, link text that says something like, “experienced bankruptcy attorney,” rather than “click here.” That way, both the user and search engines will know what kind of page will open once they click on the linked text.
If you're looking to boost your law firm’s SEO performance, it’s not enough to publish a handful of blog posts and call it a day. You need to consistently update old posts and add new ones in order to increase your chances of earning a higher SERP ranking. This is because the more frequently you update your website, the more frequently search engines’ site crawlers will index it and re-arrange your site’s ranking.
We’ve discussed how the best legal blog posts establish credibility, improve site visibility, and generate high-quality leads. However, we also understand if, as an attorney, maintaining your law firm’s blog is not necessarily your top priority. Consider delegating the responsibility of your blog to a professional content-generation service so you can focus on running your firm and assisting your clients. Below are two examples of law firms whose outsourced blog posts resulted in serious improvements to their SEO performances.
MC Criminal Law’s blog post titled “What to Expect at a Title IX Hearing” is the top result for a Google search of the term “title ix hearing.” They rank first nationwide, not even in just the firm’s city of Dallas, Texas. There are many reasons why this post performs so well, one being that it gives the reader the exact information they are looking for. The blog post breaks down what happens before, during, and after a Title IX hearing and mentions how an attorney can help. It also weaves industry-related and geographical keywords into the content in a seamless way and does a great job of breaking up content with section headings.
The Heritage Law Group, a real estate law firm in San Jose, California, had a blog post on easement disputes perform so well, the firm had it taken down because it was generating too many leads for them to keep up with. The firm’s website also contains valuable real estate law information that likely contributed to its blog post’s successful SEO performance.
Start Using Your Law Firm’s Blog as a Powerful SEO Tool
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your blog’s potential. Use it to create SEO-friendly content that improves your website’s SERP ranking, stands out among your competitors, and earns you more leads. The sooner you start publishing high-quality blog posts, the sooner your firm can be discovered by more potential clients.
We’ll state it simply: making your legal website compliant with the requirements of The Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) is critical. It’s important for actual accessibility, it’s important for human dignity, and it’s important for legal reasons. You care about your law firm’s clients and potential clients. Ensuring that your law firm’s website is ADA compliant is another way to show that you care.
In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of the ADA and ADA compliance. We’ll also dive into how to make your law firm website accessible and why, above all, accessibility matters and should be strived for. Let’s get moving!
The ADA is a federal law enacted in 1990. Its chief aim is to end discrimination based on differing abilities and it requires organizations to provide certain “reasonable accommodations” to folks with disabilities. For the physical world, this means wheelchair-accessible ramps and entryways, elevators, and other equal-access accommodations. For the world of the internet, it means something else, and that meaning is still evolving and changing.
The text of the ADA (even as amended) does not explicitly address website or online compliance. Because of this, it has fallen to the courts to determine how the ADA applies to websites. The courts have looked to Title III of the ADA, which requires that every owner, lessor, or operator of a “place of public accommodation” provide equal access to users who meet the ADA’s standards for disability. Many courts have ruled that commercial websites (like your law firm’s) are “places of public accommodation” and therefore are subject to the requirements of the ADA. Other courts have ruled using different reasoning, but have arrived at the same conclusion: websites must be accessible. The Department of Justice (the DOJ) supports the reading that websites are “places of public accommodation” and thus websites must be ADA compliant.
What this means is that your law firm’s website must achieve certain levels of accessibility as defined under the ADA. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of accessibility and accommodation under the ADA below, but we also want to note that absent legal enforcement, ensuring that your law firm’s website is accessible is important. It shows clients and prospective clients that you treat everyone with dignity, that your law firm is committed to equity, and that all are welcome. Making your law firm’s website ADA compliant is good for everyone.
In guidance on web accessibility and the ADA published in 2022, the DOJ states that it requires public accommodations to ensure websites are accessible per the ADA requirement of “general nondiscrimination and effective communication provisions.” The DOJ does not specify any explicit website accessibility standard; however, the DOJ does and has made it clear that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are helpful guidance for companies to reference when making their own websites ADA compliant. The current golden standard is WCAG 2.0.
Good question! At its most basic, WCAG is a series of guidelines that provide information about website accessibility. The guidelines give website owners clear instructions on how to make their website accessible to folks of all abilities. The WCAG standards have over ten guidelines and those guidelines are organized into four major principles which lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use web content.
Let’s get into the details! When thinking about your law firm’s website and the WCAG guidelines, think about the following:
In sum, your law firm has some flexibility in how it complies with the nondiscrimination and accessibility requirements of the ADA. What’s important is ensuring that your law firm’s website offers actual accessibility.
Achieving ADA compliance for your law firm’s website means taking a step back and looking at what real accessibility looks like. Start by taking stock of your current website and reviewing the WCAG’s guidance. The WCAG guidelines seem complex at first, but when broken down into digestible bits, they are easily implemented. We recommend beginning by considering the following:
Written content. When creating written content for your law firm’s website, think about how that content can be made accessible for folks with disabilities. To help those users who use screen readers or other visual aids, focus on structure and be sure to use proper heading tags—meaning, use the H1 function in lieu of just making the font larger and follow the H1, H2, H3, etc. hierarchy. It’s also just best practice to use bulleted lists, shorter paragraphs, and summary sections for easy scanning. By enhancing readability, you enhance accessibility.
Visual and audio content. Making your legal website accessible means making your design better for everyone. If your content creation and marketing strategies involve video webinars, be sure to include subtitles, provide transcripts, and also provide audio descriptions (e.g., a speech version of a descriptive transcript). Visually impaired users oftentimes use screen readers to engage with online content.
For screen readers to work, the images on your website must have alt text, which is a short text that describes the image. By doing this, you’ll give all users the ability to fully engage with your law firm’s website (and the excellent content you’ve created). Similarly, avoid using charts or graphs that rely solely on color as the differentiator and instead opt for patterns, fills, or borders to communicate. Pay attention to color contrast and font choice on your website, too.
Website design. Website design accessibility means different things, but it all comes down to thoughtfulness and real accessibility. It’s important to evaluate your law firm’s website design and navigation functionality. Keyboard navigation is important for those folks with visual and motor disabilities. People who use screen readers or cannot use a mouse should still be able to access your website, so make sure that users can tab through all navigational elements using keyboard navigation. For example, consider using specific keyboard keys such as Shift+Tab and the Enter key for specific purposes on your website to provide ease of navigation. Be sure that your website’s navigation menu is consistent across all pages!
Form and table labels are also important. Make sure that each form field has a clear label. Additionally, consider adding an accessibility interface to your website, which will allow visitors to adjust your site’s design and user elements to fit their individual needs. You can find an example of what that looks like here by clicking the tab that appears on the right side of the website. By providing an easy option for larger text, contrast, and thoughtful use of colors, you allow everyone to engage with your law firm’s website (and get what makes your firm so unique).
Lastly, for website design, make sure that your call to action (CTA) buttons are accessible. The CTAs featured on your law firm’s website should have an accessible name, which is usually the text on the button itself. We recommend using an aria-label for each CTA to give screen readers the right information.
To ensure real accessibility (and to take some pressure off of your internal team), we highly recommend working with an expert who can help your law firm create a website that is ADA compliant and accessible for all.
This one is simple—make sure that your law firm’s website is ADA compliant. If it isn’t, you might find yourself party to a lawsuit. Since 2013, the employment law-focused law firm Seyfarth Shaw has tracked the number of lawsuits filed under the ADA each year. Their data is striking and indicates that more than 11,400 people filed an ADA Title III lawsuit in 2021—a 320 percent increase since 2013. In the year 2020, more than 2,500 lawsuits were filed in federal court claiming online websites were not designed to be accessible to folks with disabilities, in violation of Title III of the ADA. More than 11,400 people filed an ADA website-related lawsuit in 2021, a 320% increase from previous years. This year, hundreds of thousands of business owners will receive demand letters for inaccessible websites. 93% of those demand letters will be settled for $20,000 - $150,000.
What all of this data means is that people are paying attention, and rightfully so. Equal access to the internet is a major concern and is likely to remain that way. So, make sure that your law firm abides by WCAG accessibility standards. We’ll reiterate that you should start by addressing the following (which the DOJ lists as examples of common accessibility barriers):
Getting your law firm’s website in tip-top shape and ADA compliant is the only way to avoid accessibility lawsuits, negative publicity, and most importantly, provide an accessible user experience to everyone. Start by working with the right experts who can help your law firm build an accessible (and interesting) website.
It’s important because everyone is important. First and foremost is the issue of equal access and human integrity. By designing, maintaining, and updating your law firm’s website to be accessible, you put your money where your mouth is as a lawyer dedicated to justice. You also show prospective and current clients that you pay attention and care.
Second is that, as discussed throughout this article, it’s required by law and enforced by the DOJ. Without an ADA compliant website, your law firm may be subject to a lawsuit and hefty fines (and the accompanying bad publicity).
Last is that it’s just good for business. By having an ADA compliant website, you’ll have more traffic. It’s estimated that nearly a quarter of the U.S. population has a disability. By providing a website and user experience that supports all abilities, your law firm will be seen by more people and have greater odds of landing leads. This is especially true if your law firm specializes in a practice area that supports those with disabilities. Good business sense dictates that you have an accessible website; and human decency does the same.
Your law firm’s website should and must be ADA compliant. Getting there is a journey, but we promise you that it’s worth it—both to avoid lawsuits and help as many people as possible.
Before you begin designing or re-vamping your law firm’s website, consider the basics outlined in this article. And, if you have any questions or decide that you’re in over your head, website design experts are ready to assist you.
Do you want to promote greater team synergy and harmony? What about higher productivity and a friendlier workplace? Then you need to retain your employees.
Employee turnover is almost always negative. Losing employees requires you to invest significant amounts of time and resources in advertising, recruiting, onboarding, and training, all of which are nonbillable. Employee turnover also means disruption to caseloads and more work for other lawyers and staff while your law firm tries to hire a replacement, which can hurt morale and — you guessed it — lead to more turnover.
In short, you want to avoid turnover like the plague.
To keep your law firm humming, it’s essential that your firm retain your lawyers and staff. The best way to retain your employees is to support them. Sometimes that means paying them more. But there are also a lot of other important components to ensuring your employees feel valued.
In this article, we’ll discuss law firm employee retention trends and what your law firm can do to make sure it stays on the right side of them.
Employee retention is a hot topic because of the current market. Economic forces have led to a buyer’s market. The tides have shifted, and employees are left holding the cards. A 2021 McKinsey study found that more than half of employers are experiencing lower-than-normal employee retention rates. In November 2021 alone, roughly 4.5 million U.S. workers voluntarily left their places of employment. Recruiting firm Major, Lindsey and Africa and Above the Law found that a third of junior lawyers do not plan to stay with their law firms beyond five years. Many younger lawyers don’t see careers in law firms, much less aspire to make partner.
All of this adds up to a lot of buzz, and the buzz is important. You need to pay attention to the hiring and retention trends in the market. To keep your law firm intact and thriving, you need to prioritize employee retention and minimize turnover. Let’s get into some ways to do that.
A variety of factors create an environment that damages employee morale and encourages them to leave law firms. Here’s a look at some of the most common.
The practice of law hews closely to tradition. That means many things, including coming into the office and slogging away for hours on end.
That tradition doesn’t sit well with younger generations. And forcing employees to come into the office today for a nine-to-five when they have technology at their fingertips that allows them to work anywhere and anytime isn’t going to build goodwill with staff or associates.
Firms need to rethink the meaning of “advancement.” The traditional law firm follows an up-or-out model. Either you stay and make partner, or you move on.
That type of career ladder isn’t what many younger employees are looking for. They don’t have the same career aspirations as the partners in your firm did. They may be interested in other leadership or business opportunities with your firm, such as operations or marketing roles. Or they may be happy to serve as counsel rather than as a partner. A better approach to employee advancement is to think of it as a lattice, which offers more routes to advancement than just a single way up.
The highest levels of law firm leadership tend to be white and male. Women and people of color are increasing in the associate and partner ranks, but they still lag behind. Women were 26% of all partners in 2021, but only slightly more than 4% were women of color. Black and Latinx women are less than 1% of all partners. The statistics for equity partnership are even bleaker: 22% of equity partners were women, while only 9% were people of color.
This lack of inclusion creates a gap in leadership pipelines. When employees don’t see an opportunity in a firm to advance, they’re more likely to leave. And if that inability to advance is rooted in metrics that discriminate against marginalized groups or unconscious biases, that firm is likely to get a bad reputation. No one wants to work for a firm where they can’t see themselves reflected in the leadership ranks.
The best way to retain your employees is to pay them competitively and to support their growth. We understand it’s a delicate balance between considering your own bottom line and paying lawyers and staff, but compensating your firm’s employees adequately is money well spent. Creating a healthy and collegial law firm culture is another way to get employees to stick around. People want to be where they are valued and supported.
In law firms, retention is often all about the Benjamins. The foundation for employee satisfaction is competitive salaries and benefits packages. By paying your legal team and staff market rates, your law firm directly shows them their value and worth. A higher salary means higher retention rates and thus less training of new associates and less turnover of client contacts. It also means your people won’t be lured as easily to the law firm across the street.
Importantly, valuing your attorneys and staff also includes promoting internal pay equity. The gender pay gap is real, and that gap is even larger for women of color. Your firm can both promote internal and external equity and look out for its own bottom line by offering all employees fair and competitive packages.
By paying your employees fairly and re-evaluating their compensation regularly and objectively, your firm will show in the numbers that it values its workforce. If you aren’t willing to pay what your team is worth in the market, your firm is likely to lose employees and staff. You’re also likely to struggle if you need to hire replacements.
Of course, if you get into a salary tug-of-war with your competition, you’ll eventually run out of cash. Increases are only sustainable to a point. That’s why you’ll need to focus on improving your law firm’s culture and support for employees as well.
The McKinsey study that we mentioned above also asked employees why they quit their jobs. The top three factors cited were that the employees didn’t feel valued by their organizations (54 percent) or their managers (52 percent) or because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51 percent).
Understanding the term “valued” goes beyond compensation and benefits and into something more humanistic. All employees, regardless of their level, want to feel that their contributions are noted and appreciated. They want to be understood and treated like human beings. For employers, and especially law firms, this means both giving credit where it’s due and allowing employees flexibility based on their individual circumstances.
When it comes to giving credit, recognition goes a long way! If an associate ran point on a multimillion-dollar acquisition, give them a shoutout at the next team meeting or in the firm newsletter. If a paralegal recently helped on a big case, it’s appropriate to do the same. Letting your lawyers and staff know that you notice their hard work is important to employee satisfaction. It shows that you’re paying attention and that you see their dedication.
Another tangible way to show employees that they are valued is to offer them individual flexibility. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us many things about office life, including that brick and mortar isn’t for everyone. We also learned that many people can be just as productive (possibly even more productive) working from home.
By offering flexible work arrangements, including work-from-home options, your firm can easily support its lawyers and staff and make them feel valued. This also includes flexible arrangements for new parents or employees who might need to work remotely to care for an aging family member. Valuing your lawyers means supporting them when they need it. You’ll reap the benefits of increased productivity and higher-quality work.
The term work-life balance gets thrown around a lot in the legal world. It means different things to different people and varies based on a host of factors, like seniority. For example, younger lawyers in particular are dissatisfied with their work-life balance, and this dissatisfaction is the top reason that millennial attorneys might start looking for another job.
What remains constant for all lawyers is the desire to not burn out. While burnout depends on a host of individual factors, your firm can implement systems to ensure that your lawyers and staff aren’t being overworked. We recommend monitoring the hours of your individual attorneys and apportioning their workloads accordingly. So, if you note that one associate has been billing 12 hours a day for a week straight, especially over the weekend, she probably could use some additional support. You may need to assign another associate to a matter or reallocate some of her workload. The same goes for your paralegal who has worked three weekends in a row. It’s probably time to assign another paralegal to the matter. By monitoring workloads, you take some of the burden off of your attorneys and staff to establish hard boundaries, which can be difficult to do. It also shows that you care, which employees notice.
Helping your attorneys and staff grow professionally is another component of employee retention. Constructive feedback and positive encouragement are important. This proves especially true for junior lawyers and new staff members. By providing personalized feedback and having one-on-one meetings (and not just waiting for the dreaded end-of-year performance reviews), your lawyers and staff will feel supported in their learning. They’ll also believe that there’s a path forward for them in the firm. You may also want to build a greater sense of community by offering structured mentorships between senior and junior lawyers.
Formal learning opportunities are also essential. Incorporate opportunities for continuing legal education (CLE) sessions and conferences in your learning and development budget. Additionally, to encourage development, ask what your lawyers are most interested in learning about. This gives junior lawyers and other new employees the ability to shape their careers. If your lawyers and staff feel like they have a say in what they’re learning, they’ll feel more excited to invest in their growth. More investment in learning means better work for your clients — and more satisfied clients mean more income for your firm.
We’ve discussed them throughout this article, but we want to double down on the fact that you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a positive law firm culture. Your firm’s culture is a manifestation of its core values. Respect, collegiality, and equity should be at the heart of your firm. A supportive law firm culture will foster high-level thinking, which means better solutions for your clients. Prospective clients can also tell when a law firm is working well together and when working conditions are suboptimal. This is good for your people, good for your firm, and good for your bottom line.
We’ll also note the importance of communication for retaining employees. Openness is key! Your law firm should prioritize transparency such that lawyers and staff feel empowered to communicate with firm management on all topics. This includes more serious topics like compensation, discrimination, workloads, and balance. A culture of open communication also enables your team to share creative ideas for business development or innovative CLEs and conferences.
Be sure that your law firm follows through. Open communication without results is just lip service. So, if you know that an employee is struggling, help them. If an associate has a great idea, listen and then help them achieve it. Similarly, if you want to know how employees are doing and what you can do to better support them — just ask! Communication is a two-way street.
Retain your employees and grow your law firm.
As the war for talent rages on, your firm needs a strategy to retain your lawyers and staff. By ensuring that you have the processes and structures that enable your firm to value your employees in meaningful ways, not just through compensation, your law firm can hold on to your most valuable resource: your people.
New year, new you, same audit.
Every law firm should start 2023 with balanced accounts and a solid paper trail. But getting there can be tough. Closing the books on 2022 takes time and methodical thought. Your law firm can minimize the friction by streamlining its accounting process with the right tech. Getting started early doesn’t hurt, either.
Your law firm’s year-end closing process comes together through reconciling bank accounts, adjusting entries, and preparing financial statements for analysis. This article will guide you through the steps necessary for a sound end-of-year bookkeeping process. With this guidance, your law firm will welcome 2023 with open arms. Let’s get started.
Start by getting your ducks in a row (and do it early). 2023 is right around the corner, and completing a comprehensive financial review of your firm’s 2022 successes is important to ensuring that 2023 is more of the same. Take the time now to review your records, get into contact with clients with outstanding balances, and budget properly. If you get started now, we bet you can still squeeze in some holiday cheer.
The following three steps can help you get your law firm’s finances in order for the end of the year.
Billing and collections are critical to the continuation of your law firm, so we recommend that you do indeed pass go and collect $200 (we also understand that this is easier said than done).
As you know, it’s best practice to collect accounts receivable as soon as possible. You also know that this isn’t always possible with clients and that sometimes creative thinking is necessary to get paid. When it comes to end-of-year accounting and collections, you might have to get extra creative.
Start by double-checking that your law firm’s time entries and billings are up to date. We recommend ensuring that all lawyers and other billing staff have tracked their billable hours through the end of November, with subsequent hours to be monitored at the beginning of December. Run all of your end-of-year reports, including accounts receivable, to get an idea of what’s outstanding and which clients you’ll need to nudge. Use these reporting tools to identify what is worth chasing and what your law firm can write off. As you know, the odds of collection decrease with time and only decrease only further once the year has come to a close.
When it comes to the actual collections, start reaching out now (and certainly before Thanksgiving) to those clients that have been historically slow to pay outstanding balances. Remember to make your end-of-year bills clear and concise, and make it known that you expect to be paid before the conclusion of the year. If needed, try billing every two weeks in the month of December. We also recommend sending reminders to clients regarding their outstanding balance — clients are likely also wrapping up end-of-the-year financials and might even thank you for the reminder. The end of the year might also be the time to begin accepting credit card payments (or other alternatives) or setting up a payment plan for clients who might need another quarter or two to pay your law firm back in full.
By using the right resources and technology advancements, your law firm can streamline its billing and collections process so that your end of year can be jolly and bright and not filled with paperwork.
The past is the best indicator of what’s to come in the future. By taking stock of your most recent fiscal year, your law firm will be able to best prepare for the coming one. Once all revenue, expenses, and data are finalized and entered, your law firm should run the following financial statements:
The end of the year also presents a good opportunity for your law firm to review its practices related to legal billing and firm accounting. Your firm can run helpful reports related to time tracking and billing to ensure that all firm members have been recording tasks in a timely and comprehensive manner. This data can also reveal any delays in the process of converting tracked time into client invoices (and then into income).
By reviewing and auditing your law firm’s yearly finances, you’ll be able to set intelligent goals for the year to come. You’ll also know when to be conservative and when to reach. Your 2023 bottom line will thank you.
After your law firm records all revenue and expenses, it should perform bank reconciliations to ensure that all financial records line up with bank statements. Any discrepancies need to be reviewed and investigated thoroughly. Best practices here are to reconcile monthly and as soon as bank statements arrive. Otherwise, your law firm will need to contend with 12 months of bank statements in a short period, making it more challenging to identify errors.
Additionally, many jurisdictions require law firms to reconcile client trust accounts on a monthly (or at least quarterly) basis. This does not, however, negate your law firm’s duty to complete year-end trust account and retainer reviews. An annual review is useful for double-checking reconciliations done throughout the year to ensure that no mistakes or miscalculations were missed. The ledger sheet for each client’s trust account should line up completely with the corresponding bank statements. Get on top of this now, and it’ll make a difference in your end-of-year audit and day-to-day operations.
We get it — you’re trying to minimize the pain of your end-of-year audit. The best way to go about doing so is to track regularly and prepare all year long. That means your law firm should be checking its receipts monthly.
Regular expense tracking must be a part of your law firm’s year-end closing process. By following accounting standards and making sure your law firm’s balances actually balance, and by tidying up any issues along the way, your law firm won’t come into the audit with a buildup of problems. Be sure to account for money going out of the firm and to track revenue coming in. Without this vital information, your law firm will lack an accurate picture of its financial well-being. Don’t go into 2023 believing that your law firm is on more financially solid ground than it actually is. Accurate and regular review will help your law firm avoid common problems like inadequate cash flow and the inability to cover firm overhead.
Tech can make being proactive easier. The most successful law firms integrate their accounting processes with a cloud-based practice management software platform that helps them improve their firm’s efficiency, leading to easier end-of-year audits. When your firm chooses the right technology, you help your lawyers reduce the time that they’d otherwise spend on administrative tasks (think timekeeping, invoicing, and collecting overdue invoices). You’ll also be able to more accurately (and quickly) project your firm’s finances and study your historical and projected cash flow so you can plan more accurately and set realistic goals for 2023.
Save yourself headaches by going into your end of year armed with receipts.
Auditing is key to success. It will provide you with a bird’s-eye view of your law firm, giving your firm’s management and administrators the tools they need to either shake things up or maintain the status quo. By conducting a proper audit, you’ll have important data to move through the new year.
An audit will help your law firm compare 2022 revenue to 2021 revenue. Is your firm swimming in dough? Was Q3 tougher this year than last? Are you overspending on legal subscriptions? By comparing yearly revenue, your law firm will be able to make intelligent, data-driven decisions for 2023. You’ll also be able to determine and make adjustments on spending more broadly. Maybe your law firm is tight on cash at the beginning of the year but flush by the end. By reviewing smaller yearly trends, your firm can better account for when it can afford to spend and when it needs to be pennywise.
Your yearly audit can also inform billing and collection practices. Maybe your clients need more regular reminders. Maybe your clients are all paying on time. Maybe it’s even time to fire a client for regularly missing payments. By taking stock of these trends, your firm will be able to focus its efforts on paying clients.
By getting your law firm’s end-of-year finances in order, your firm will be primed for growth and ready for change. Data collected in connection with your end-of-year audit will help guide your firm through 2023. With the right practice management software, your firm will be able to do it all. This includes enjoying the holidays and decking the halls with bounds of billables.