Benjamin Franklin famously said that “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” If he had been talking about law firms, he would have also added: “and time entry.”

We all know how tedious and frustrating time entry is, but it’s, unfortunately, a necessary evil for nearly all lawyers at firms. Your law firm must bill to be paid.

The key to minimizing the frustration and allowing the lawyers at your firm to cut back on nonbillable time so they can get to higher-value work is to implement legal tracking software that actually works. Your firm administrators and bank account will also thank you for the heightened efficiency and accuracy.

As always, we have you covered on how to start making changes for the better.

Why are attorneys hesitant to change how they’re tracking their time?

Change is hard! Many attorneys, particularly more senior attorneys, are reluctant to modify their time-tracking ways. “Why fix what isn’t broken?” they might ask as they keep handwritten time-entry diaries.

There are a number of reasons why lawyers stick with tried-and-true ways of manual time recording: simplicity, efficiency, and accuracy. We understand that convincing holdouts to stop tracking time offline isn’t an easy task, but we promise you that it’s easier than deciphering your legal professionals’ handwritten scribbles and going through call logs and calendars to manually enter their time at the end of each billing period.

Simplifying the time-tracking process and offering your attorneys a streamlined, integrated time-tracking tool may help to convert even your most adamant holdouts. At a minimum, it will make the process easier and less painful for administrators and staff who assist with time entry in your billing system.

What are some common time-tracking mistakes that attorneys make?

For lawyers, time is always of the essence. But when you have court in the morning, a filing for another client in the afternoon, and a conference call for yet another client in the evening, simultaneously tracking, keeping, and entering time understandably slips.

The real issue is the culmination of those slips and delays that results, usually, in the attorney and their admin playing detective at the end of the week (or worse, month) and trying to piece together the story of their billable time from fragments in your legal billing software. This method almost always results in underbilling and loss of productivity (not to mention stress, frustration, and other headaches too).

Other offenses include simply not tracking time accurately or efficiently, which is a problem that tends to plague junior attorneys. They might lose track of the time spent on phone calls, forget to start their timer, forget to bill for time emailing or texting with clients, or underbill for a meeting that went long. These attorneys are trying their best but need a little help on the back end with better tech.

Luckily, all of these mistakes are easily remedied with time-tracking software and integrations.

How can legal technology help my law firm track time more efficiently?

We’re so glad that you asked! Legal technology can transform the way the lawyers at your firm track their time, and a comprehensive, integrated legal tracking system is the best way to do so.

With so much on their plates, it can be difficult for lawyers to remember every time they perform billable work. In the middle of deadlines, they may lose track of the time they spent on research, emails, text messages, or phone calls. Travel time may slip through the cracks. An organized system helps prevent this chaos from occurring.

Additionally, productivity tools take the tedium out of billing, so lawyers feel more engaged. When your professionals feel better about their work, they do better work — which, in turn, affects your profitability and client satisfaction.

Not only can these tools help lawyers capture more of their billable time, but they can also help lawyers understand where they’re spending most of the time. If that time happens to be nonbillable, they may need to rethink their workflow or approach to matters.

What are some tools for improving time entry?

Consider the following tools and features courtesy of tech:

It's time to take your timekeeping to the next level

With the right tech, your legal practice will be off to greener pastures, both literally and figuratively. We know the process of getting the lawyers at your firm to bill in a timely and accurate manner can be a struggle.

By getting the right legal practice management software in place, you’ll minimize friction in workflows, help lawyers enter time more regularly, and save the administrative staff at your firm time and headaches. Plus you’ll increase your firm’s profitability. It’s a win-win-win-win.

Legal technology is great, but it can feel overwhelming for lawyers who aren’t sure how to maximize the benefit of the features of the software — especially those who are more comfortable storing their information in Excel spreadsheets or in Microsoft Outlook.

If you’re new to legal practice management software, you may have noticed that you can manage almost everything under the sun. With features to oversee everything from employee productivity to client satisfaction, you can also manage individual cases and matters as they relate to certain employees or the law office as a whole.

With all the ways to collect metrics and analyze case information, you may be left wondering what’s the difference between them all? One of the most common questions is the difference between case management and matter management solutions and the benefits your law firm can derive from them.

Are matter management and case management the same?

Matter management and case management are not the same thing, but they’re related. Many people are confused by these two terms because they’re used interchangeably. After all, sometimes lawyers refer to cases as matters and vice versa.

It’s easiest to think of these two concepts as an umbrella. A law practice’s business is made up of individual clients who have cases that form the bulk of the work. Lawyers and staff manage these clients and cases on a micro level, keeping track of the discovery, communications, and billables per case and client. But the cases exist under the security of the larger umbrella.

Matter management is the larger umbrella. It governs the practices and processes that makeup case management and the business of the law firm relating to a particular case or client (or set of cases and clients). It is more complex and higher-level than case management because it involves more moving parts.

What is matter management?

Matter management is overseeing the business processes of the law firm for individual cases. It involves managing both external and internal processes. Law firms can also use matter management to manage complex litigation with multiple clients and related cases progressing simultaneously.

For law firms with multiple practice areas, matter management may include analyzing the productivity of multiple lawyers working in particular practice areas or the billable hours spent on certain types of cases. It can also involve tracking budgetary and financial metrics by practice area or by cases with a similar feature. Matter management gives partners the opportunity to review spending and productivity-related to a matter as a whole and the impact that it has on law firm resources.

Legal matter management isn’t just about tracking internal processes but also managing external processes as well. It often involves overseeing any external providers working on a case, like expert witnesses or local counsel. This can mean assigning internal and external lawyers and administrative staff to cases and specific tasks and examining the overall operational efficiency of the case management process.

When a matter management system is used to manage complex litigation, multiple attorneys can upload their legal documents, work products, and data into the cloud-based system so that they can review and download documents from anywhere. Plus,  the system serves a useful project management function because each contributor can see the work that their colleagues have completed in real-time through task lists and collaborative features, like a comprehensive calendaring system.

What is case management?

Case management is managing everything that relates to the lifecycle of a particular legal case or client. It is internally focused and is more about the processes of managing a case than the implications that the case has for the larger business of the law firm.

Think of a case management system as a single source of truth for a digital case file. Legal case management software usually includes managing appointments and court dates for a particular case, storing and organizing documents and discovery, managing client and witness communications in a client portal, time tracking, and billing and invoices for a particular case or client.

Case management is a great way for lawyers to manage cases that involve other attorneys, administrators, and clients but that don’t quite rise to the level of complex litigation. Unlike matter management, case management collaboration is more limited to the case at hand rather than a larger matter. It is less of a tool for law firm management because it isn't designed to provide the same high-level insights into workflows related to case management.

How can legal operations professionals leverage software to streamline processes?

Legal operations professionals can leverage practice management software to streamline almost every business process, like billing and payments, metrics reporting, and client intake. Certain key features can also be used to organize workflows related to matter management and case management in several ways.

Increase automation

Increased automation is the number one way that legal technology streamlines legal processes, including those related to matter and case management.

The benefit of automation is that you don’t need to recreate the wheel every time you do something. Instead, you can rely on legal technology to do the legwork for you. You also don’t need to hire a dedicated employee to perform tasks that can be automated and can rely on the legal operations team to oversee the use of the technology.

Automation is handy for case and matter management. Instead of having an administrator draft, print, and send out a bill, the software can automatically create an invoice for a case or a matter. Then the technology automatically sends it to the lawyer for editing and then to the client for payment. This process reduces the time that administrative staff spends collecting payments and following up on delinquent accounts.

Legal matter management software and case management solutions are also highly intelligent. They can automate the timekeeping process by detecting billable hours from appointments on a calendar and correspondence sent to a client through the system. This eliminates the time that a lawyer needs to spend tracking billables and inputting data.

For matter management specifically, the software can automatically pull data and generate helpful reports that allow law firm management to keep an eye on the firm’s profitability and overall health. This means that stakeholders and timekeepers can spend less time digging around for the right data and metrics and more time being productive.

Standardize routine administrative tasks

Legal technology can also help legal professionals standardize administrative tasks, like invoicing, calendaring, and organizing discovery. Standardizing routine tasks gives your legal team members more time to direct their efforts elsewhere and minimizes human errors made in manual tasks.

While lawyers still need to understand, research, and apply the law, they can lighten their workloads from administrative tasks that are time-consuming when they are standardized by technology.

For example, instead of conducting an in-person client intake, case management software can automate the client intake process and send out standard templates without needing a lawyer or paralegal to set up an appointment. This cuts down on the need to have an intake appointment for every new client, which saves time. It also reduces the need for administrators to print out intake documents, schedule intake appointments, and correspond with the client.

Intuitive document management

Legal technology has revolutionized the processes related to document management, especially for case and matter management.

With legal software, lawyers can upload and organize discovery and documents as part of a case or matter management system. This feature streamlines the discovery process by giving users (including clients) 24/7 access to the documents and incorporates useful features like the ability to search for frequently accessed documents. That means no more sifting through a cluttered desktop or irrelevant discovery when you’re only looking for one particular document. It also helps facilitate a remote work system where employees need to access documents from home.

Case and matter management software also make it easier for teams to collaborate on documents. Lawyers and administrators can review changes and past versions of work products and opt into notifications when documents are accessed by certain parties. This makes follow-up more immediate and keeps the discovery process moving. It also gives clients the ability to upload emails directly into the case management or matter management system, so that they can be easily produced in the future.

Intuitive document management can increase the overall productivity of the law firm by cutting down on time spent managing documents.

Comprehensive finance management

Case management and matter management undeniably play a role in financial management since the revenue stream starts and ends with cases. Legal technology makes it easy for legal operations professionals to streamline financial management practices and implement a comprehensive financial management system.

With the right technology, lawyers can easily track their billables and nonbillables on certain cases and invoicing for a case. Management can then track billables and nonbillable hours on a larger scale as part of their matter management and employee productivity analysis. This provides insights into larger financial trends that may affect the law firm as a whole.

Technology does more than just track hours and generate invoices. It also generates financial reports and can inform management about how a particular case or set of cases is affecting the law firm’s bottom line. It helps management track financial trends, allocate resources, and get a picture of the firm’s overall financial state. This makes it easier for the firm to stay on top of key performance indicators and achieve long-term financial goals.

Look for a tool that offers the best of both worlds

If you’re looking for new ways to simplify your workload and manage all of your cases, you need a better system than Excel spreadsheets and a desk full of clutter. If you’re ready to look for a technological solution, look for a matter management and case management system that helps you keep every important detail in one place.

Check out a free demo so you can see for yourself how Centerbase is the one system to rule all of your case and matter details.

Describing a criminal defense legal practice as busy is a serious understatement. On a daily basis, these firms handle countless criminal matters, many with some pretty high stakes. When dealing with something as serious as a person’s freedom, criminal law firms need systems in place that help them provide stellar legal representation. That includes maintaining client files in an organized manner, staying ahead of critical deadlines, and invoicing with the highest level of efficiency.

This blog will take a dive into the features criminal defense practices need and why they're important.

Calendar Management

It is not uncommon for a busy criminal defense practice to simultaneously handle hundreds of criminal matters, all in varying stages of completion. This equates to a calendar full of preliminary hearings, discovery due dates, court appearances, and filing deadlines. Keeping up with a calendar this full can be virtually impossible without the right tools in place. Further complicating matters, even a single missed deadline can have detrimental consequences for the client, as well as the law firm.

Legal practice management software can ease the burden of managing multiple criminal law attorney calendars through the integration of intuitive calendaring tools. Individual attorneys can easily keep track of their own deadlines and appearances, while the criminal law firm administrator can keep an eye on the entire team’s upcoming schedule. Here are some calendaring features that particularly benefit criminal law practices:

Streamlined Intake

The urgency of a criminal law matter often requires a speedy commencement of representation. New clients typically come in feeling as though they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, and they expect immediate assistance. They may need a speedy bail motion filed or they may already have a court appearance scheduled for the following day.

These constant and urgent demands mean that criminal defense law firms need the ability to onboard new clients quickly without the delays that can come from inefficient processes. When it comes to criminal matters, clients don’t have a moment to lose and neither do their attorneys.

With legal practice management software that streamlines the intake process, law firms can quickly get clients onboarded so that the important work of representation can begin. For instance, automated conflict checks can be extremely useful within a busy criminal defense practice. This tool help firms efficiently scan all of their matters for potential conflicts of interest so attorneys quickly know whether they are able to take on a case.

Website intake integration is another useful tool for expediting the intake process. With this resource, firms can collect necessary client data directly from an intake form that was completed through the website. This saves firm members the time of recollecting information that the client has already provided.

Once the intake process is complete, representation can begin. Criminal attorneys can get their clients up to speed on the game plan by providing them with access to everything they need to know. By using a legal practice management system that includes client portal features, firms can quickly make new clients aware of upcoming court dates, discovery needs, and billing details.

Client Communication

As previously stated, criminal clients are often in the midst of extremely stressful situations and they need the assurance of knowing that their attorneys are diligently working on their behalf. The best way to accomplish that goal is through consistent client communications. Criminal defense law firms need tools that help them achieve a client-centered experience.

Client portals are useful tools for providing clients with the information they need. Firm members can quickly upload regular information and clients can independently access their account any time of day or night. This not only promotes client communications, but it also maximizes efficiency. Instead of calling into the firm with their questions, clients can simply log in to get most of the information they commonly need.

Other practice management software features that help with client communications include mobile texting tools and conversation tracking resources that track communications directly into a matter for easy reference when needed. With an automated time capture feature, criminal defense law firms can also easily track time spent on communications to promote accurate billing.

Firm Collaboration

When handling complex criminal matters, law firms often distribute individual tasks among several members of the firm. This type of divide and conquer strategy needs legal practice management software that lends itself to team collaborations with such innovative tools as:

Document Management

A criminal defense attorney who shows up to court with a disorganized and messy case file is an attorney who loses the confidence of their client. Disheveled case files make it difficult to locate necessary information, especially under the pressure of a crowded courtroom. This is why it is imperative that criminal defense law firms maintain their files in an organized manner and document management tools help get that done.

Document management systems save criminal defense law firms countless hours by streamlining the competitive tasks of document creation and filing, along with searching for relevant information. They also allow firms to share documents with clients and collect documents from clients through a secure platform. Firms that already utilize a document management system like NetDocuments can benefit from a law practice management system that offers complete NetDocuments integration.

Preparing the best criminal defense for clients requires appropriate management and organization of matter files. Document management features help criminal defense law firms digitize volumes upon volumes of documentation for improved workflow, organization, and legal industry compliance.

The Takeaway

Law practice management software gives criminal defense firms the tools they need to navigate a case from intake to payment using a centralized hub. Comprehensive case management, combined with integrated billing and accounting tools, keeps law firms on top of their numerous responsibilities. By automating many of the repetitive tasks that come with running a criminal defense practice, law firms can maximize productivity and remove the roadblocks that can hinder them from delivering on their promises of top-notch representation.

Any human resource (HR), firm administrator, or back-office professional working within a law firm environment can affirm that firm culture creates its own set of distinct challenges. Regulatory guidelines and industry standards require considerations not often seen within other business industries. While most big law firms maintain an HR department to address these complexities, HR issues often wind up on a law firm administrator’s long list of duties.

This blog will take a look at eight unique HR challenges commonly experienced by law firm administrators.

Legal regulatory guidelines and industry standards require considerations not often seen within other business industries. While most big law firms maintain an HR department to address these complexities, HR issues often wind up on a law firm administrator’s long list of duties. This blog will take a look at eight unique HR challenges commonly experienced by law firm administrators.  

1. Finding the Best Legal Talent

Law firms constantly compete with one another to attract new talent. With such a high level of competition, firms need financial incentives, like aggressive compensation packages and new hire bonuses, to stand out from the crowd. While administrators typically don’t make compensation decisions, they do have significant influence to craft a workplace culture that attracts new talent. Legal professionals want to work in an environment where they feel heard and appreciated. By implementing policies that address this desire, law firm administrators can help their firms attract quality new hires.

In recent years, younger law school graduates have also voiced a preference to work with firms that have taken public stances on social issues and actively support initiatives that they find important. These candidates want to feel good about where they choose to work, and some of them are even willing to forgo larger salaries to meet this philosophical need.

Recognizing this growing trend, administrators can take steps to highlight their firm’s philanthropic efforts during the recruitment stage. Whether it's pro bono representation or direct financial contributions, charitable information should be highlighted when recruiting.

2. Workplace Diversity

Over the past year, the lack of diversity within law offices has garnered a lot of attention, with increasing criticism about the industry’s lack of racial, ethnic, and gender inclusion. Traditional recruitment efforts to find and secure new associates often create applicant pools that are far from diverse, so this is where firm administrators should start when seeking to address the issue.

For instance, administrators can suggest that firms expand their recruitment efforts to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and job fairs that focus on promoting diversity. By casting a wider net, firms can better position themselves for the consideration of a more diverse candidate pool.

Administrators can also take steps to revamp their firm’s recruiting processes and minimize bias. Tools like blind recruiting and diverse hiring committees promote diversity and help law firms meet their goals.

In addition to finding the best diverse talent, law firms also need strategies to keep them. Sustained law firm diversity requires an environment where all attorneys feel welcomed and valued. Firm administrators can promote this culture with policies such as:

3. Retain the Top Legal Talent

Getting talent into the firm only represents half of the challenge. Competition among law firms not only exists at the first-year associate level, but also drives lateral hires. Traditionally, law firms have been seen as long-term commitments, with associates working for years to reach the partner track. But increasing numbers of law firm attorneys are choosing lateral movement to a different law firm over tradition.

For law firm administrators, this means crafting strategies to keep firm attorneys happy and satisfied in their current positions. Here are some suggestions:

4. Technology Resistance

Legal tech innovations are constantly improving law office management and the practice of law. From legal practice management and document production to legal research and court document filing, advancements in technology have swept through the legal industry.

Unfortunately, many law firm administrators find it difficult to implement these new technologies due to resistance from firm members. Some senior attorneys may not want to change their current methods of getting tasks done. They may fail to recognize any value in implementing new technologies.

Addressing this resistance can be done through HR policies that require a certain number of tech training hours each month. Administrators can also consider peer training programs between more advanced and less advanced firm members. Law firms have a duty to stay abreast of standard legal industry technologies and firm administrators must stress this duty as an HR responsibility.

5. The Stress of Legal Practice

The practice of law is notoriously stressful. On a daily basis, attorneys work under tight deadlines to produce results that are free from error, beneficial to their clients and sometimes even life-changing. While attorneys stress about their outcomes, staff members stress over hovering attorneys and their long list of tasks.

Together, all of this creates an extremely stressful environment, where late hours and poor work-life balance become the norm. This leads to depression and anxiety, which are widespread problems among attorneys. Mental health issues cost law firms substantial amounts of money, so it is in the firm’s interest to address these concerns.

While administrators cannot do much about court timelines and demanding clients, they can implement policies that seek to address the amount of stress experienced by law firm members. Administrators should consider policies such as:

Praising attorneys for working early and staying late only exacerbates an already stressful situation. An unhealthy work environment can diminish productivity and leave attorneys feeling burnt out.

6. Continuing Education Requirements

Attorneys have a requirement to earn a certain number of continuing legal education credits each year. In most business environments, HR takes on the responsibility of tracking employee education efforts. However, within a law firm, CLE also comes along with reporting requirements. Particularly within a large firm, this can quickly become an all-consuming task. For this reason, many firms choose to have a dedicated staff member to track and report CLE efforts. This individual may fall under the supervision of HR or the firm administrator.

In addition to CLE requirements, continuous education may also include such things as professional development training for improved client contact, marketing techniques for improved rainmaking, and courtroom demeanor presentation skills. Law firm administrators may also implement training for legal support staff in the form of court filing rule updates and technology training.

7. Firm Hierarchy

The reporting structure of a law firm can be extremely convoluted and tricky to maneuver. The lines of supervision often overlap, creating an environment ripe for potential conflicts. For example, attorneys supervise the work of their support staff. However, those staff members report to HR for personnel needs. With this dynamic in place, a simple vacation request can become a big problem. While HR may approve the request, the supervising attorney may reject it due to a pressing case deadline.

Another unique characteristic of law firm hierarchy is the status system that commonly exists. Founding partners, shareholders, and top rainmakers often make up the leadership level of the firm. Non-equity partners fall a little below them, followed by attorneys, then legal support staff, and administrative support staff – in that respective order.

Under circumstances like these, it can be hard to identify where the HR department fits in and what power they have to effectively carry out their duties free from interruption. This creates a situation where law firm administrators routinely walk a fine line between HR and firm management.

8. Outsourcing Law Firm Tasks

Outsourcing has become a common practice within the legal community as law firms look for ways to offer a high quality of service while cutting costs. For instance, when a big case walks through the door, law firm leaders and administrators may find it more efficient to bring on contract attorneys and paralegals rather than pulling their existing staff from other client matters.

While outsourcing can promote profitability for the firm, it can present some challenges on the HR side. Firm administrators must ensure that contract workers remain in compliance with confidentiality and qualification. Even as temporary staff, these legal professionals must meet all professional requirements.

The Takeaway

Law firm HR duties often spill over into management and administration. As such, law firm administrators need to consider HR challenges and be prepared to address them as needed.

As law firms prepare to turn the corner and head back to normalcy, flexibility is playing a major role in the execution of their plans. Return-to-office announcements from the nation’s largest law firms range from a 100% workforce return to continued remote working arrangements, but they all include a higher level of flexibility than traditionally seen within the legal community.

Over the last decade, remote working arrangements became quite commonplace within corporate America. A growing number of companies began offering their workers the opportunity to work from home, recognizing the financial savings and employee satisfaction that resulted from these arrangements. Even federal and state government agencies made significant strides towards remote work in recent years. Yet, even as these changes took hold, many members of the legal community routinely resisted the widespread move to remote work preferring a more traditional view of the legal practice.

While recent changes are partially driven by the pandemic, they also stem from evolving attitudes about what law firm offices should look like. An increasing number of law firm leaders and administrators have recognized the value in accommodating at least some level of flexibility within the workplace. They found that productivity actually increased instead of the decline that they anticipated. For years, law firm leaders centered their objections to remote work on declined productivity assumptions, but for some, seeing it in practice debunked that theory.

In addition, a growing number of law firm employees feel more comfortable voicing their preferences for flexible working conditions. With negative views that clouded remote working arrangements, many firm members felt it best not to make these requests, even though they wanted these options. Now that real-world experiences have changed leadership attitudes, attorneys and support staff feel empowered to request and advocate for greater flexibility.

Lastly, many law firms have enjoyed the overhead savings that resulted from reduced in-office use. Leaders are increasingly questioning whether, and to what extent, physical office space will be necessary for their firms to sustain going forward.

In a recently published email sent to employees by one of the Am Law 100 ranking law firms, a co-managing partner stated, “A key takeaway from the survey we conducted last year is that you want flexibility in where you work. We are working on the parameters and protocols for our return, including developing a flexible work policy that will address the expected number of days in the office per week and many other details. We are planning for our attorneys to be able to work some days in the office and some days remotely on average each week. Where roles and responsibilities permit for our staff, we are also developing flexibility arrangements.”

This sentiment echoes across the legal industry, indicating a major shift from traditional law firm standards. The following are direct quotes from return-to-office policies being put forth by some of the largest law firms in the country:

From the minimization of in-person interaction to the continuation of 100% remote work, these variations exemplify the different perspectives and interests of law firm leaders. The traditional law office environment will continue to look very different over the coming months.

Law Firm Administrators Need Practice Management Tools in A Flexible Work Environment

Law firm administrators will most certainly bear the lion’s share of responsibility as firms implement these flexible work arrangements. To do this in an effective manner, they need technologies that support firm members, promote consistency in the face of transformation, and ensure the uninterrupted continuance of client services.

Practice management software offers law firms the resources and capabilities they need to continue operating at a high level in spite of various phases of office returns. As many firms moved to remote work arrangements in 2020, cloud computing and storage were integral tools for the continuation of business through these transitions. These same technologies will also drive firms into their new normal in the months and years to come.

Here are some ways that legal practice management will help law firm administrators meet the needs of a flexible work environment:

Many of these cloud-based technologies include document storage, which minimizes the need to transport physical files back and forth between work locations. It also makes remote collaboration seamless, which is especially useful with firm members working staggered in-office schedules.

With custom, real-time dashboards, firm administrators and members can quickly view a variety of case details. From matter ledgers with complete billing histories to matter budgets with customizable budget alerts, these tools help law firms stay on top of client matter details even in the midst of transitioning back to the office.

With court rule and deadline management tools, firm members no longer have to rely on the manual calculation of court rules and deadlines. Court date calendaring systems calculate litigation, transaction, or administrative deadlines and automatically add them to the firm calendar. This promotes greater organization, planning, and accountability throughout the entire firm.

The Takeaway

As law firms announce their respective return-to-office strategies, flexibility appears to be a common theme. To best handle these transitions, law firm administrators and members need a comprehensive practice management system that promotes consistency while minimizing potential roadblocks.

The Importance of Strategic Planning

We’ve all heard it before – “fail to plan, and you plan to fail.” And we have all heard it because it is true. Without a plan for where you are headed, you will never arrive at the desired destination.

Where to Start

It is important to make time to plan. With the many demands of your practice, it can be very difficult to tear yourself away from your firm to work on your business in addition to working in your business. It is important to recognize that despite the fact that those hours spent on working the business are not billable, they will pay big dividends in the long run. Firm leadership should set aside at least one day per year to work on your business plan and define how you plan to get there. These meetings should be held off-site, away from the demands and distractions of the office.


Goals should be broken down into timelines: you should identify ten-year, five-year, three-year, and one-year goals. Goals should be quantifiable and SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Examples of goals can be team size, gross revenue, profit, number of new clients, addition of new practice areas, etc.

Without a plan for where you're headed, you will never arrive at the desired destination. Growing your law firm is no easy feat, but there are simple planning steps you can take to ensure you set yourself up for success. The common saying goes, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Don't let that be you!

Start at your end goals – those that are farthest out. By working backward from your ten-year point, you can break your goals down into chunks so that you can identify how you will get there. Breaking those larger goals down in this way makes them seem more attainable and will keep you from just giving up.

Your one-year goals are considered short-term goals. Reaching these goals should help you to attain your three-year goals. For example, if you want to increase your attorney size from 5 attorneys to 10 attorneys within three years, you know you need to add 1-2 attorneys per year over the next three years in order to get there. This feels manageable, and by working toward that goal gradually over three years, it won’t feel unachievable. Your three-year goals should lead you to your five-year goals, etc. By setting shorter-term goals as mile markers along the way, you will have a road map to guide you to your final destination.

To go one step further, one-year goals should be broken down into 90-day chunks. Otherwise, you will find yourself at the end of a year wondering how the time passed so quickly and nothing accomplished as you had hoped. By setting 90-day timelines for specific tasks to be completed that lead to your one-year goals, you will stay on task. Your leadership team should meet at least quarterly to review the progress of these goals. Without this accountability measure, the goals will likely fall prey to the other demands your team has to meet.

The Process

Leadership may want to consider involving multiple levels of team members in your process as you work on your plan. While they do not have the final say in your decisions, by providing them the opportunity to have input, you will increase the chances of buy-in and success. Different teams in your firm may have different goals created for them that lead to the bigger picture goals, and it will be important that they meet regularly to review progress just as your leadership team will.

You will also want to identify your firm’s particular strengths and potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them. This is referred to as a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. By bringing these areas to light and focusing on playing to your strengths and addressing how you will overcome your weaknesses, you will be better for it.

Without a plan for where you're headed, you will never arrive at the desired destination. Growing your law firm is no easy feat, but there are simple planning steps you can take to ensure you set yourself up for success. The common saying goes, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Don't let that be you!

The Takeaway

Business planning does not come naturally to all attorneys. If this planning and follow-up feels foreign to you and you are not confident you have the bandwidth to navigate the process among all your other responsibilities, there are many consultants available who specialize in law firms. These specialists are familiar with your challenges and can help guide you through the maze and help you stay on task. By taking the time to plan for your future in a very intentional way, you will be surprised to find that what once felt like unattainable pipe dreams can truly be a reality.

There is a common aphorism that often gets applied to life that goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. And it’s true in many cases. In good times, many businesses can see great returns, and the economy and emotional spirit of both large and small groups or populations of people can be elevated. But these past few years have been different. We are coming out of a really trying time, but something we have heard reiterated time and time again is that through challenging times, a firm's branding and marketing efforts become critical.

More importantly, when the going gets tough, the need to heavily rely on data to gain insights and direction becomes even more important as well. To be able to gauge trends and monitor consumer patterns is how firms will thrive through the chaos. For example, law firms that were marketing in 2020 saw a big drop in revenue in Q2, similar to firms who did not market, but, their leads and overall numbers were higher than they were in 2019 prior to the pandemic. And then into Q3 and Q4, they remained ahead of their previous years' numbers. The idea here is that although there were fewer people searching for legal services during the height of the pandemic, the jobs won went to firms that were consistently marketing.

Visibility and Searchability

The way people are finding law firms, especially via their websites, is significantly more fragmented than it has been. This fragmentation is primarily the result of the omnichannel environment we live in today. On any given day, you have people surfing Facebook, Google, local newspaper listings, online newsletters, podcasts, radio, the list goes on and on. The bottom line here is your potential clients are finding your firm in a lot of different ways.

Create and Highlight Content

Traffic from social media almost doubled in that second quarter during the pinnacle of quarantine, and surprisingly enough, it stayed almost 4% higher throughout the rest of the year than it did in 2019. We are seeing more traffic come from people on social media than ever before. And not only are these people spending more time on social media, but they are also actually taking the next step and going to law firm websites. The strategy here indicates that you need to be in more places online and the easiest way to achieve this is by producing content. Some of you may have read that and felt a wave of panic but don’t worry! When you begin thinking about this content, think about the content your firm would be best at producing; the areas of expertise your attorneys, firm administrators, paralegals and the like possess and capitalize on that! And utilize your ability to repurpose that same content in other areas as well. For example, if you have a blog, consider using that material and making it a video.

Another thing to think about in terms of your content is highlighting and marketing all the technological advancements you have at your firm. If you utilize practice management software, publicize your ability to take online payments, publicize your client portal, automation capabilities, easy intake process, etc. All of those things are advancements that potential clients will look at and cross-compare against other firms, so use it to your advantage! Being able to highlight your customer experience improvements will only serve to benefit you.

Utilize the Internet

Search engine optimization is not going anywhere, in fact, it is driving more and more traffic to law firms. If you think about all the effort you put into gaining referral partners, whether it’s getting on the phone with potential businesses, sending thank you gifts, those couple rounds of golf, all the things you do to establish those relationships. Now think about how much time you're putting in the largest referral partner you have, which is Google? The benefit of Google is that most users are searching for something already. They are looking for an answer or help so not only will they be more reliable, but they will be more willing to work with you to get their problem solved.

Let’s walk through a hypothetical example. Take an estate planning firm, typically, they do a lot of in-person events to drive potential new clients and they really emphasize the need and highly encourage clients to come in for consultations. Well, in almost the blink of an eye, the world shifted to operating online. And now, the first consultation is a Zoom meeting, and those in-person events have transformed or disappeared entirely. So what happens now? In this case, the firm would need to change their website to support online intake and then direct the potential new client to a calendar scheduling tool to seamlessly book the meeting. With this shift, you can now market the efficiencies of this new online process and emphasize the benefits of putting time back in your client's day by reducing commutes and streamlining the intake process.

Ultimately, all the things you are doing to help your law firm be more efficient and effective are also the way your clients want to work. So remind them of the pain of doing things the “old” way and market your services as ones that meet their new needs.

The Intake Process

Now that we have gone through some marketing strategies, let’s think about the ways that you can connect and hopefully get those new clients to contact and hire you. The next challenge that many firms face is how to manage the intake process. How do you manage the volume of calls and digital messages coming in? The issue that arises here is that there is a finite number of hours in the day, but clients don’t care about that, they want a response as soon as possible. And the sad reality is, people are impatient, if they don’t hear back on their time frame, they will find another firm who will.

The pandemic has obviously caused a lot of disruptions. But what has that meant for attorneys and firms? What solutions have been implemented to improve the client intake experience and ensure that responses are efficient and uniform?

System Dependency

Overall, the best way to maintain an elevated client experience is to be system-dependent and not owner or operator-dependent. Think about the lack of availability you may have on a day-to-day basis, between your personal and professional life, handling operations, HR, administrative tasks, everything that you have on your to-do list leaves very little time to handle those inbound inquiries that come to you. You still want to be responsive to both your existing and current clients, but also to your potential new clients and referrals. It is really critical that you set up systems that can be responsive for you, and bring in the technology and the talent that is on your front line. What we saw last year was a lot of people quickly added new technologies that acted like a bandaid or patch. And now what we’re seeing today is as people begin to recover, they notice the holes that they patched and they want to make it look better. They want to make it look great because after all, it is the reputation of their firm that is at stake.

Easy Automation

Making it easy for PNCs to select an available time for a consult without disrupting your day-to-day is the easiest first step to enhance your client experience with minimal effort. Not only will this calendaring automation speed up that first initial contact with the client, but it frees up your staff and it is easy to manage with minimal training in the case that you do need your receptionist or team to step in and intervene. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone faced disruption this past year. So while you’re working hard throughout the day, your clients are too. Sometimes, it isn’t until 10 PM at night when a PNC will come home and have the brain space to think about those divorce papers, mergers, settlements, etc. So giving people the silent comfort of choosing availability on their time is priceless. And we are not saying that you have to answer your cell phone and email at all times of the day, but you do have to be responsive.

The next piece of this intake process revolves around legal workflow automation. The reason why legal workflow automation exists is that law firms needed to find a way to reduce the administrative tasks their attorneys take on and give them more time to focus on creating billable hours. Let's walk through some examples... when a PNC gets created, you can use a workflow to automatically alert your team that work needs to be done. You can automatically schedule a conflict check, confirm that the PNC's data is entered correctly, and verify that your attorneys can take on the workload. Not only is this eliminating inefficiencies, but it is increasing team communication, and enhancing your client services. You can also eliminate the monotonous task of creating letters of engagement or other documents with document merge. This allows you to automatically generate a document based on fields within Centerbase instead of manually typing each document and filling in the respective detail. You can create the initial template and set which information fields you want to be pulled to populate the document.

Legal workflow automation is meant to help create efficiencies and reduce human error. If you're not adopting these technologies or working with software that enables your firm, you're doing yourself and your clients a disservice. If you’re curious to learn more about this, check out this video.

The ways we are consuming and interacting with each other as consumers and businesses have changed a lot in response to the disruption of the pandemic.

Communication Expectations

A lot of what has changed in the last two years has been expectations. Today, clients are fully expecting that you guide and steer the process. So you must ask yourself, how do you make sure that you’re delivering on what the client needs? How are you producing content and answers on all the channels that you operate and are publicly available online? Every platform your brand is listed on needs to uphold the same level of responsiveness. And it’s not just about the speed, it’s about the quality of content. One of the main reasons clients won’t move forward with a firm is because they don’t get the answers they’re expecting. Easily combat this by proactively anticipating the commonly asked questions. Time is thin right now, and if you think about the importance of lead screening and qualification, not everyone is going to be a good fit for your firm. So it is one thing to get out in front and be responsive but you also don’t want to be taking consultations with just anyone on the internet who finds your firm and books your time.

The 2 Keys to Success

So after all of this, what are some of the most successful law firms doing when it comes to their intake process? Well, two things come to mind… the first is when you’re system dependent, you have to be constantly checking and monitoring those systems. That is simply a good habit that is just a matter of professional responsibility. It may not say it very specifically in the bar rules, but triple-check that when someone calls your firm the phone is answered and to your liking. Make sure that when someone sends an email and you have generated automated responses that the email is being triggered how you want it to, that it is being received, and that it also reflects the brand and voice of your firm. There are a lot of systems that are only being set up once and then forgotten and never checked again. Because of this, a lot of business is lost because no one has been assigned to that voice mailbox or that email account. If you don’t check them, that is a blindspot that is aiding a loss on investment for all your marketing efforts and all the other energy you’re putting into promoting and advertising your firm.

The second thing that successful firms are doing is following up with those individuals who reach out. This step can often distinguish the haves and have nots. What happens is the more you follow up (to a certain limit), the higher the payoff. Six points of contact are about the threshold here. Statistically, if you’re following up only once, we know that about 50% or slightly less of your inbound calls are being answered. There is so much distraction and noise these days that if you’re not following up multiple times, your message won’t be heard. It’s as simple as that. Depending on the practice area that you operate in, that will also really set the cadence. So when you ask, “How often should I follow up?” You have to take note of who your clientele is. If you are in personal injury, high-end estate, or intellectual property, you should be following up a lot sooner. Don’t give up and throw in the towel until the person has told you they have made the decision one way or another. That type of chase is incredibly beneficial to the bottom line.

Bottlenecks commonly occur within the law firm environment, but certain pain points are specific to attorneys as they provide legal services to firm clients. A single client matter can encompass numerous steps, from developing a strategy and managing client expectations to implementing the plan and bringing the matter to a close. At every stage of that process lies an opportunity for obstacles, especially when lawyers lack the technology they need to handle their cases efficiently and effectively. Add in the unique challenges of remote work arrangements, and the potential for bottlenecks looms even larger.

The following bottlenecks represent some of the challenges that attorneys face in the regular course of serving law firm clients:

A single client matter can encompass numerous steps, from developing a strategy and managing client expectations to implementing the plan and bringing the matter to a close. At every stage of that process lies an opportunity for obstacles, especially when lawyers lack the technology they need to handle their cases efficiently and effectively.

Document Access Delays

Paperwork and the practice of law go hand in hand, so attorneys need immediate access to necessary case documents. Bottlenecks in this aspect of legal practice can occur for a number of reasons. For example, editing delays can leave an entire team of lawyers waiting for one party to make changes to a contract or other document. This can be especially problematic if the editing is being completed by more than one person.

Fortunately, several legal software options streamline the editing process, making it easier and far less time-consuming. With these technologies, all credentialed parties can work within one file instead of repeatedly emailing the latest edited versions of documents back and forth between one another. Some of these tech options also allow for comments and controls on who can edit documents and when.

Remote working arrangements also affect document accessibility. Let’s say a group of four lawyers are working on a client matter, but each of these lawyers works from a different location. Creating multiple paper copies of the client file is not an efficient and effective option. In addition, what happens if one of the attorneys forgets to bring an important document when they come together and work in person?

With a cloud-based document management system, every member of that team has access to all of the case file documents from any place they choose to work, and at any time of the day or night.

These convenient options allow lawyers to store files and documents in a secure cloud-based environment. They also have easy-to-use search options, so time isn’t wasted combing through pages and pages of documents. Some also offer version management, so that attorneys can easily see what changes have been made since they last accessed the file.

Document management is an essential part of collaboration. Attorneys need the ability to access, edit, and store files without the bottlenecks that can get in the way and impede the progress of a client matter.

Internal Communication Strains

When working within an office setting, it’s easy for attorneys to simply walk into a colleague’s office and confer about a case. Whether asking a simple question, soliciting advice, or collaborating on a project, the camaraderie that an in-person work environment provides can prove extremely beneficial to attorney productivity.

But for firms that operate among different locations, whether by choice or in response to the pandemic, the benefits of regular communication can become lost without the right strategies and systems in place.

It is not uncommon for attorneys in different physical locations to work on firm matters collaboratively as part of a team. When the communication between team members becomes strained, various problems can result, including miscommunications and missed deadlines.

For attorneys working remotely, feelings of isolation may result from their inability to have those valuable impromptu conversations with their fellow attorneys as the need arises. In addition, they may find it challenging to reach support staff when needed, which can also lead to incomplete tasks and process inefficiencies.

In today’s remote working environment, lawyers need communication plans that include useful tech innovations. Regularly scheduled team meetings and check-ins help firm members ask questions, solicit help, and feel connected to the firm as a whole. Additionally, having the ability to chat directly within a matter and track your conversations and directed references will not only keep you organized, but it will also reduce the number of emails flooding your inbox. Bring you internal conversations to chat from wherever you are regarding whatever matter you may be working on.

Tools like Zoom and Cisco WebEx can also help facilitate these regular meetings, while resources like Slack make quick interactions easier to manage and document.

Client Management Challenges

The practice of law is largely about the management of client relationships. After all, attorneys work to further their clients’ interests when taking on a matter, so it follows that managing the client relationships must be an integral part of the process.

As attorneys establish and maintain their positive reputations, they need to build positive relationships with their clients. They can achieve this goal by doing the following:

Legal technology, like CRM, also helps attorneys establish and maintain client relationships. With CRM, lawyers can securely store client contact information and document previous interactions. It offers a quick and easy reference when specific client information is needed. Some CRM software options can also be programmed to provide reminders for client follow-ups and important deadlines.

Client portals also promote positive client relationships. With these tools, attorneys can quickly provide clients with updates on their matters, as well as timely invoices. Clients can independently log into their secure accounts to view notes and review their firm bills. With a client portal, attorneys can efficiently keep clients informed.

Happy clients become repeat clients who refer new clients. By placing the focus on client relations, attorneys can avoid the bottlenecks that arise from unrealistic expectations and poor client relationships.

Legal Case Management Software is the Best Solution to Alleviate Attorney Bottlenecks

Legal case management software offers viable solutions to many of the bottlenecks that attorneys contend with on a daily basis. These platforms often include tools that promote internal communications among members of the firm while also keeping clients adequately informed and up to date.

Case management software may also offer some document management features so that attorneys can quickly and easily edit, access, and store client files in a secure environment. For attorneys that find themselves interrupted by the pain points of practicing law, the right case management software can be the solution to their bottleneck problem.

Law firm administrators wear all types of hats on any given day of the week. Their work impacts the financial health of the firm, while also promoting the efficient provision of legal services. As the link between the legal and business sides of a firm, these professionals need a strong grasp on a variety of organizational concepts. From human resources to accounting responsibilities, administrators handle a wide range of duties as they seek to maintain and grow their law firms.

Some of the most common responsibilities of a law firm administrator include:

Decisions made by law firm administrators greatly impact the financial and operational wellbeing of a law firm. Firm leaders count on administrators to identify existing and potential problems, then implement strategies to properly address them. When the administrator’s efforts result in greater profitability and enhanced productivity, the law firm benefits overall.

5 Administrative Bottlenecks

With so many processes taking place under the umbrella of law firm administration, numerous opportunities for bottlenecks exist. Bottlenecks occur when procedural inefficiencies prevent firm processes from progressing effectively. These inefficiencies may arise for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to staffing issues or procedural deficiencies. Inadequate technology is another common cause for law firm administrative bottlenecks, but with so many tech advances happening within the legal community, these problems should be easily addressed.

Decisions made by law firm administrators greatly impact the financial and operational wellbeing of a law firm. Firm leaders count on administrators to identify existing and potential problems, then implement strategies to properly address them. When the administrator’s efforts result in greater profitability and enhanced productivity, the law firm benefits overall.

Let’s look at some of the bottlenecks that law firm administrators commonly deal with when working to maximize firm productivity:

1. Calendaring

About one quarter of legal malpractice claims directly relate to calendaring failures. Issues such as forgotten deadlines, late filings, and missed appearances can lead to serious consequences for law firms. Judges don’t have much compassion for firms that miss important case events, and many won’t hesitate to dismiss cases when lawyers fail to meet deadlines.

Particularly within larger firms, maintaining an adequate calendaring system can prove challenging. They have significantly more dates and matters to coordinate between a larger number of lawyers. They may also handle a wider variety of practice areas across multiple jurisdictions.

Paper calendaring simply does not offer a sufficient solution, so legal calendaring technology needs to play a central role in any law firm administration strategy. These systems offer numerous alternatives for law practices, including:

2. Document Management

Unfortunately, most law firms have experienced the obstructive delays that accompany missing files and data. Firm administrators recognize that the lack of document management hurts client relationships, damages cases, and leads to potential malpractice claims. Firm attorneys and paralegals need access to necessary case files, but the manual access of physical documents is inconvenient and inefficient.

With cloud-based document storage, firm members have the ability to access necessary documents from anywhere. These platforms use the cloud to offer law firms a secure, orderly, and highly available tool for data storage. Platforms, like NetDocuments, offer a cloud-based document management system that keeps law firms organized and productive.

3. Client Communications

Inadequate client communications also commonly lead to legal malpractice claims. Whether it’s miscommunication, negligible communication, or a lack of any communication at all, law firm administrators must understand the potential consequences of failing to make communication a priority.

Law firm communication problems can cause external and internal issues, and they stem from various sources. Externally, an overwhelming number of incoming calls may result in overflowing voicemail boxes and unanswered messages. Internally, the challenges of remote work may cause barriers to communication between firm members.

Technology provides a solution for both internal and external law firm communication challenges. Law firm administrators should choose software systems that include such coordinated communication tools as:

4. Timely Invoicing

Many law firm administrators identify billing processes as an area ripe for bottlenecks within a law firm. This is partly due to the numerous steps that go into crafting and sending client bills for legal services. For example, the billing process actually begins with time tracking completed tasks. When timekeepers fail to keep accurate records, they risk overbilling clients or shorting the firm of billed hours.

Delayed timekeeping negatively impacts the invoicing process, and delayed invoices mean that clients can’t pay their bills on time, decreasing the firm’s cash flow. Billing inaccuracies also result in delayed payments and strained relationships as clients question the integrity of the firm.

Law firm administrators need to invest in legal billing software options that promote improved invoicing practices. These systems speed up the legal billing process so that law firms get paid faster. With the right platform, law firm administrators can streamline the markups, billing edits, and the approval process. The firm also benefits from e-billing and billing portals that allow clients to quickly view and pay their invoices with ease.

5. Information Systems

The lack of effective technologies causes major bottlenecks in various areas of law firm administration. For this reason, the administrator needs to consistently evaluate and manage all of the firm’s operating and information systems. Administrators need to understand the hardware and software commonly used within law firm environments.

When managing computer systems, law firm administrators should do the following to avoid bottlenecks:

The most valuable computer system that a law firm can implement is practice management software. With it, law firms have a tool that efficiently maintains, organizes, and tracks case information related to client matters. By building case files directly into practice management software, firms can more efficiently update and complete tasks. These tools also help prevent other bottlenecks through document management, calendaring systems, contact management, and billing capabilities.

Successful Law Firm Administration Requires Legal Technology

The law firm administrator keeps the entire firm running with productivity and efficiency. A huge part of that responsibility involves identifying bottlenecks and implementing solutions to address them. The latest technology offers the features that law firm administrators need to address the many inefficiencies that hamper law firm processes.

Why are referrals so important? You already know that referred clients tend to be your highest quality clients, but they are also the most affordable to obtain. These clients typically walk through your door pre-sold on your services and expertise and off the bat they come in with a much higher level of trust and respect. Additionally, referred clients are much more likely to pay on time and refer others to your firm in the future.

There is no question that referrals are marketing gold for law firms and because of this, it makes sense to invest time and money into generating a process that not only encourages these referrals but fosters them as well. If you can create a referral-based firm, you can worry less down the road about how to market and sell your services.

Why Do Most Lawyers Have a Hard Time Generating Referrals?

Building a steady stream of referrals takes consistency and it takes persistence. Attorneys are busy and dedicating their time to these efforts is not always at the top of their priority list. For most firms, referrals are incredibly important, however, there are no systems in place to ensure successful word of mouth.

Steps to Generating Referrals

Providing outstanding service to your clients is certainly the first step in creating a referral-based firm. But you must also regularly and consistently cultivate these referral relationships. There are methods that can be put in place to encourage this referral process and it begins with identifying professionals who are interested in passing along referrals before you invest the time in relationship-building.

Step 1

Setting Appointments

Begin this process by generating a list of around 50 local professionals. This should include roughly 75% attorneys in complementary specialties and 25% non-attorneys with clients whose needs may overlap services. It’s important to remember that other attorneys and firms are also looking to build referral-based practices, so use that to your advantage!

Consider professionals in these industries:

This list is a great place to start, but you know your clients and your firm best. No one is more equipped than you are to identify the fields of professionals that you believe are best suited to leverage a referral relationship with.

When you begin to build out this list, the easiest way to start is to create an excel sheet that details as much information as you can find on each of your 50 contacts. Start by pinpointing the geographic location you want to target, the practice area or clients they serve, and then do a little digging about what their website looks like. How do they market themselves, are they running a lot of ads? Do they have any associated publicity? What do their Google reviews look like? These indicators will give you a better sense of how they are marketing their firm.

These businesses are who you want to reach out to first because if they’re putting a significant amount of marketing dollars into their firm, they are likely bringing in a steady stream of leads. This means they have more potential referrals to send your way. It is important to take the time to vet these contacts to ensure you’re reaching out to the appropriate firms. Your time is valuable so don’t waste it!

Delegate Initial Outreach

As an attorney, it is best practice for you to handle or be involved with the first potential referral source call. As much personalized follow-up, you can provide is ideal, but the most long-lasting referral relationships are forged by attorneys who make that initial effort and cultivate trust. But with that being said, the other aspects that come before and after the initial call can be delegated. The creation of your contact list, for example, can be delegated to another member of your team. Setting up the initial appointment call can be handled by someone else on your team, and so on so forth. Having access to a shared calendar where you can seamlessly view your team's schedule will be critical to set these appointments in the most efficient way possible.

Phone, Not Mail

Contrary to some recommendations, picking up the phone and calling potential partners is far more effective for setting an initial appointment than postal letters. With postal letters, you’re not only waiting a few days for the recipient to receive the letter, but you also have to set up a game plan for once the letter is received. We are not saying to avoid snail mail entirely, but the return on investment for phone calls far outweighs that of physical mail. Not to mention it is significantly faster.

Once you start calling your list of prospective referral sources, ask to speak directly with the attorney or professional. If you do not get through or are stopped by a gatekeeper, ask for an email address and leave a voicemail.

You should be spending about 2 hours of work for each appointment you set. So what does this mean? This means you will spend a decent amount of time on the phone trying to connect and learn more about the professionals and their businesses in your surrounding area. Some specialties and practice areas will naturally be tougher than others, so don’t get discouraged if the outcomes aren’t materializing how you thought they would. Two referral appointments, or 4 hours of work, is a good target to aim for each month. At this rate, you will build a very robust network. Check out the attached referral partner appointment request script if you need some help getting started!

Step 2

The Initial Conversation

Once you book that first appointment, you may be asking yourself, “Well now what? What do I say?”

Remember this quote by Epictetus: We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

During your initial referral partner call, stick to the general 80/20 rule. You should be listening 80% of the time and speaking the remaining 20%. Start by asking about the attorney/professional and show curiosity about their practice. Ask how it started, that they focus on, who their ideal client is, and keep the first half of the call focused on them. Additionally, take this opportunity to learn as many personal things as you can so that you may build a connection and foster a relationship!

Once you compile all this information, concisely give some details about your firm, but don’t go overboard! This conversation should be about them.

Step 3


Engaging your new partners is crucial. These new budding referral relationships need to be cultivated, they need to be nurtured. To engage these partners, start with a give. Add value right away, and then stay in regular contact.

You should certainly be engaging them before your first conversation and after as well. Consider sharing resources like a blog, white paper, or even current events articles. This will not only demonstrate your willingness to help that firm or practice but also to show your engagement and genuine interest in their business. Newsletters are also a great way to stay top of mind for your referral sources. Not to mention they can also double as content you send your current clients as well. Maintain a nice mix of content that is both legal-focused, general industry topics, and lifestyle content.

The bottom line is that you need to be consistently providing value so that you’re thought of when these businesses have potential clients to send your way.

Occasionally, attorneys won’t seek referral partners because they feel like they don’t have enough cross-referrals to provide. There are other ways to provide reciprocal value than exchanging one-for-one referrals. If you can’t always return a referral with one of your own, think of other ways your firm can provide value to them. Maybe it’s collaborating on publicity or marketing campaigns, co-promotions, or spotlights in your content and newsletters.

Additionally, if you are sent a client, consider sending that referral partner a note every other week to let them know their referral is in good hands and that you’re taking care of them. It is very important that the businesses you work with trust that you’re providing good services, otherwise they will not send you prospects.

The Takeaway

Building referral relationships are crucial for your business. They are also no-brainers. If you can leverage your community to help grow your book of business that is absolutely what you should dedicate some of your time to doing. Utilize these steps and take the leap!