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11 02, 2014

Law Firm Security: What can you learn from The Case of the Tasered Stradivarius?

By |February 11th, 2014|Practice Management|0 Comments

This 300-year old Stradivarius violin was stolen by Taser-wielding thieves

This 300-year old Stradivarius violin was stolen by Taser-wielding thieves

On January 31st the New York Times reported the brazen robbery of a 300-year old Stradivarius violin from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, Frank Almond, after a concert he had just given. What made the theft so notorious was the use of a Taser to incapacitate Mr. Almond outside in the parking lot to allow the thieves to walk off with the violin unchallenged.  Mr. Almond had walked unescorted to his car carrying the violin in its case wrapped in a blanket. It had been loaned to Mr. Almond in 2008 by a patron of the symphony and its history had been proudly and publicly discussed by Mr. Almond on many occasions. By the way, did I mention that it was worth upwards of $5 million?

This story ends happily, however. After the news of the robbery was disseminated by the local, social and national media, the Milwaukee Police and the FBI’s Art Theft Program swung into action. Unbeknownst to the thieves (and this writer), as a security measure for just this type of incident, every Taser which shoots an electrically-charged probe (as was the case here) also shoots twenty-six small confetti like tags called AFIDs (Anti Felon Identification System). AFID’s are tiny plastic sheets with a unique ID number associated with a specific Taser device. Using the AFID numbers found scattered on the ground at the scene, along with tips from local citizens (there was a $100,000 reward offered), the perps were caught and the violin returned undamaged to Mr. Almond.

How does this story relate to law firm security?

1) Protect what is valuable to the firm: They may not be an historic violin but a firm’s Client List, Proprietary Documents, Client Documents and Emails are probably more valuable. If the NSA had a difficult time keeping the government’s secrets how easy is your firm making it for someone to hack the firm’s server? Last July the ABA Law Practice magazine reported the failure to maintain and implement an enterprise security program (ESP) is a major cause of loss of data in law firms.

As quoted in the story:

“We live in a world where our national security is threatened by cyberterrorists, and where private enterprise is forced to respond to cybertheft of intellectual property on a daily basis. The ABA Cybersecurity Legal Task Force is examining risks posed by criminals, terrorists and nations that seek to steal personal and financial information, disrupt critical infrastructure and wage cyberwar. When our national security and economy are threatened, lawyers will not stand on the sidelines.”

–Laurel Bellows
2012-2013 President of the American Bar Association

2) Assume the worst can and will happen Walking alone at night in a parking lot with a $5 million violin screams “Steal me.” Yet many law firms maintain lax or inefficient password protocols, backup protocols and internet access protocols which beg for a data theft.  When was the last time your firm even reviewed the firm Password Master List. Does it even have one? Who maintains possession of it? Is access to the firm’s time, billing and accounting software secure? What about the practice management software? Who last checked if the back-up system was working? Is internet access locked down at each workstation to prevent staff from checking sports scores or shoe sales? Are the anti-virus software and Windows Security updates current?

3) Keeping quiet about a security breach is no longer an option Mr. Almond had no choice but to enlist the aid of law enforcement and the public because a) it wasn’t his violin to lose, it was only in his care and b) the violin was so famous that news of its loss could not be kept a secret. Years ago I was called in to advise a law firm about the proper use of PCLaw and to work with the firm’s accountant to determine how the former trusted bookkeeper had been able to embezzle $25,000. When I inquired about when the bookkeeper would be prosecuted for the crime the senior partner informed me that the firm would not press charges because the firm couldn’t afford the bad publicity. Instead the partners absorbed the loss. Silently. Today there are no secrets. The news of data or monetary theft would be on social media the minute any firm employee or former employee with a grudge learned of it.

Every legal software program has security features built in. Most law firms fail to utilize them to their fullest extent out of complacency that “nothing will go wrong here.” Until Mr. Almond felt the jolt of 50,000 volts from the Taser, he probably was equally confident nothing would go wrong. Fortunately, he was reunited with his historic violin.

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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29 01, 2014

Do You Know The State of Your Law Firm?

By |January 29th, 2014|Practice Management, Time & Billing|0 Comments

What is the State of Your Law Firm?

What is the State of Your Law Firm?

Last evening the President delivered the annual State of the Union address. Whether you agree with his politics or not, the idea of reviewing the current and future prospects of any organization, large or small, is always a good idea.

Most business owners, lawyers included, are usually so busy simply running their business, that they have little or no time available to actually reflect on where their business has been or where they think it will be a year from now. From my own personal experience as a law firm productivity consultant here are some real-life examples of how my own clients have benefited from such an annual review.

How much and for how long has money been owed to the firm? And by which clients? Controlling accounts receivable – the money owed to the firm – is the key to running a successful law business. Recently a client asked me to resolve a bill printing issue and in the course of finding the solution we printed out a list of all of the outstanding invoices owed to the firm. The report indicated that the firm was owed the equivalent of 4 months’ average monthly income, which was the equivalent of an interest-free loan by the firm to the clients who owed the money. I asked the senior partner if he was happy about this discovery and he told me that he never had bothered to review this particular report. The firm was used to receiving X amount per month and as long as that remained constant he never thought that there was a problem. The amount was owed by literally hundreds of clients, not merely a few laggards. Apparently the law firm’s clients had learned that the firm didn’t hound them for the money that they owed, so they did not submit it in a timely manner. If your firm does not send Past Due notices from the firm’s time and billing program, the firm is not operating efficiently.

How often are closed matters archived? Many of the firms I visit complain that their practice management software is running very slowly. While hardware or network issues can sometimes be the cause, most often it is the enormous number of “active” matters which are clogging up the system’s database. At one firm I found 36,000 “active” matters, which, when reviewed over several months, were reduced to the actual number of less than 3,400 by archiving the other 32,600 matters. Thereafter the staff was able to work more efficiently (earning the firm more money) instead of repeatedly waiting for their computer monitors to refresh with a requested list. Archiving does not delete a matter, it merely prevents it from being displayed automatically. It can always be manually retrieved.

Is the firm using the most current versions of the software used to run the practice? Most law firms adopt the position that once they buy practice management or time, billing and accounting software they need not upgrade it, as long as they are using it to perform the same work year after year. If their computers were not connected to the Internet, this would be a correct position. However, all office computer networks are connected to the Internet and are bombarded daily by update notices or actual software updates. As a result of this connection the operating system, anti-virus and even word processing software is different from the versions the software running the firm was designed to work with. A failure to stay current with that software can result in a necessary function no longer working properly. A program installed and never updated since 2009 could not be expected to work correctly with other updated and current 2014 software.

Has the firm improved its marketing strategy to obtain new clients? If a review of the number of new clients obtained in 2013 reveals a number less than those obtained in 2012 the firm is losing ground. If no one at the firm is tracking this information the firm is in trouble. While the practice of certain areas of the law may have evolved slowly over the last 10 years, the operation of the law business has changed exponentially. If your firm is not attracting new clients through the use of social media, FaceBook, Twitter, a firm newsletter or current and relevant blog posts, your firm has little reason to expect 2014 will be any better than was 2013.

Is every firm employee playing from the same game book? [As the Super Bowl readies for kickoff here in New Jersey on Sunday a sports metaphor was necessary to close out this post.] If certain partners have their department staff work differently from the rest of the firm, fail to post time entries or approve invoices in a timely manner, or otherwise hold their department out as unique, the firm will find it more difficult to achieve it’s goals for 2014. The business of law, like every other kind of business, is a team effort. If every member of the business is not positively contributing toward the overall benefit of the firm, the future prospects of the firm will ultimately suffer.

If you cannot answer the title of this post, perhaps it is time to seek the answers from other team members in your firm or to seek the help of a law office productivity consultant.

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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22 01, 2014

5 Metrics Help Answer: “How am I doing?”

By |January 22nd, 2014|Accounting, Management Consulting, Practice Management|0 Comments

How will you measure success in 2014?

 

Ed Koch, the late mayor of New York City, was known for campaigning on street corners and at subway station entrances asking voters: “How am I doing?”

As January 2014 draws to a close, most law firms have held at least one partners’ meeting to review the results of 2013. Whether you are a partner of a large firm or you are on your own did you ask yourself: “How am I doing?”

Hopefully, besides the financial report from the office manager/bookkeeper,  there was a review of some of these benchmarks which are equally important for evaluating the current health of your law firm business:

1. Does the firm have more active cases today than it had 12 months ago? A sure sign of the health of a law firm practice is whether the work load is increasing year-over-year. Wall Street measures the success of a business by the growth of sales. Your practice management system should be able to provide a list cases filtered by “date opened”. An annual or quarterly review of this list will give the earliest indication of the health of the business.

2. Did the number of new clients obtained during 2013 exceed the number of new clients obtained in 2012? While a growing case list is one sign of a prospering business, a growing list of new clients is just as vital. This is where the use of social media, coupled with a constant customer relationship program, can directly add to the firm’s client list. Firm newsletters and emails to existing clients should be the first step to take. The easiest source of a new client is a referral from a happy existing client.

3. Did the average number of days between client contacts decrease in 2013, compared to 2012? Among the biggest complaints from law firm clients is that they do not hear from their lawyer often enough. A simple email costs literally nothing but the one minute to draft and click send. It should be the goal of every lawyer to reach out and “touch” each client a minimum of once every 90 days. A good practice management system can automate the process and keep track of which clients need to be contacted.

4. Did the ratio of employees to total firm income increase or decrease in 2013? This is not really a money question. Rather, it points to the need to create a working environment in which every employee can be as efficient as possible. This means using the latest time and billing, practice management and document management systems available. It requires acknowledging that smart phones, tablets and cloud-based document sharing are as critical to a successful law practice as was passing the Bar exam. Fear of technology is no longer acceptable.

5. Does each area of practice represent an increasing amount of total firm business? OK. This is a money issue, but it is best reviewed in a dashboard. The ebb and flow of the economy dictates which areas of law practice (real estate, immigration, bankruptcy) are in lesser or greater demand. Quarterly reviews of the trends of each practice area should help the firm decide where to invest the firm’s assets (time and money) for the highest return.

The law firm businesses which will succeed the most in 2014 will be the ones which continuously monitor these five metrics and adjust the firm’s business model accordingly. If done properly, in January 2015 they will be able to answer: “How am I doing?” with a resounding “Very well, thank you!”

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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14 01, 2014

ABA: Technological Ignorance No Longer Acceptable

By |January 14th, 2014|Document Management, Practice Management, Time & Billing|0 Comments

Are your legal technology skills stuck in the Stone Age?

In August 2012 the American Bar Association House of Delegates approved several changes to the Model Ethics rules, including a modification to Comment 8 of the Competency Rule #1.1 (shown below bold face):

Rule 1.1 Competence

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

Maintaining Competence

[8]  To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

In my home state of New Jersey two years earlier, in January 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court updated the rules for continuing legal education mandating that each of the 69,000 lawyers in the state, admitted to practice after 1960, must “complete 24 credit hours of continuing legal education every two years. Of those 24 credits, at least four must be in ethics and/or professionalism.”

Until this mandate by the NJ Supreme Court, the annual meetings of the New Jersey Bar Association and NJ Association for Justice (trial lawyers) were sparsely attended. Once the new CLE rules went into effect attendance tripled with lawyers taking 12 hours of CLE courses in 2 days. Clearly the mandatory CLE credit rule was motivation for the Garden State lawyers to stay current within their fields of practice.

However, competency in their “fields of practice” is a far cry from legal technology literacy. I speak from personal consulting experience where I have observed law firm partners recording appointments and check receipts on large paper ledger sheets, despite having up-to-date computer software on every computer in the office. When asked about this apparent technological disconnect, the response is always the same: “I don’t trust computers.”

The result is duplicated effort, as the office manager would then have to transcribe the partner’s notes into the relevant time and billing or practice management software the firm already owned. Similarly, I remain stunned at the number of younger lawyers who, to this day, hand-write their time entries on sheets of paper with rows and columns, which are then handed over to their secretary for entry into the firm’s billing system. Law firm productivity management would demand that these lawyers make their time entries directly into the firm’s billing system and leave their staff to perform more productive tasks. More than likely, the firm’s office manager/bookkeeper set the paper-entry procedure 25 years ago, so it was handed down to each succeeding generation of new associates.

Last year, during the George Zimmerman trial, an example of being technologically-challenged was displayed on the national stage when the prosecutor in the case demonstrated an almost zero understanding of how Twitter followers and Facebook friending works. The prosecutor’s attempt to connect a witness to a Zimmerman relative merely because the relative’s name appeared as a Twitter follower of the witness apparently fell flat. I’m certain that if the prosecutor had any children older than 10 years of age, they could have explained it to him in a way that even he could understand.

The risk today’s technologically-challenged lawyer faces is that a younger opponent in a case, who grew up with a laptop in junior high school and has an iPad on their desk today, will be able to mount a more vigorous case using their instinctual knowledge of legal-based software, social media and documents stored in the cloud. A loss due to such a lopsided match-up could quite easily devolve into a malpractice claim against the losing attorney for failing to meet the standards of competency set by the ABA for maintaining technical understanding.  It is simply in the economic interest of every lawyer to embrace the use of technology to run their law office business more efficiently and to use technology to practice law more efficiently.

To paraphrase the old GEICO ads: “Law practice today, aided by practice management, time and billing and document management software should be so easy, even a caveman could do it.”

Unfortunately, the very lawyers who most need to follow this advice probably do not read legal blogs like this one. Maybe their children and grandchildren could share it with them via email.

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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7 01, 2014

It’s 2014: Do You Know the R.U.L.E.S. of the Game?

By |January 7th, 2014|Accounting|0 Comments

Do you know the R.U.L.E.S.?

[In 1988 Robert J. Arndt wrote a 31-page pamphlet for the ABA Section of Economics of Law Practice entitled “Identifying profits (or losses) in the law firm”.  In it he described his system called R.U.L.E.S. to help law firms evaluate profitability. Twenty years later James S. Schnieders, Controller at Stone Pigman in New Orleans revisited the R.U.L.E.S. system for the ABA Law Practice Management Section. As 2014 begins it is appropriate to review how current law firm accounting systems can help your firm play by the R.U.L.E.S. to maximize profits.]

While you wouldn’t consider using your 25-year old TV or cellphone any longer, many law firms still use the 1980′s metric of annual billable hours as the sole measure of firm business success. More hours = more success, right? Not any more.

Today, even the smallest of law firms have access to the same powerful statistical dashboards that were once only available to Big Law firms. The basic analysis of which client type and matter type generates the most income should only be the first step. Further basic analysis would include a review of write-downs, prompt/late payments and funds advanced for client expenses.

A complete analysis of your firm’s business health includes a thorough review of the R.U.L.E.S.:

  • Realization of the amounts actually received;
  • Utilization of attorneys and legal staff;
  • Leverage of partners (i.e., owners) to legal staff;
  • Expense control; and
  • Speed of sending bills and receiving 100% payment.

1. Realization: “It’s not how much you bill, it’s how much you collect per hour of effort.”

Many Personal Injury lawyers and other “contingency-paid” lawyers who have retained me for consulting, had never tracked the number of hours required to obtain the settlement check for their client. They felt they “knew” how much they were earning per hour. Once they began recording their hours (at $0.00/hr) the firm’s time and billing software could divide the firm’s share of the settlement by the total hours to determine how much they were actually earning per hour. Many were surprised by the results.

“Discount” rates, bill write-downs and un-paid disputed amounts can each have a negative effect on Realization.

Effective law firm productivity management requires quarterly reviews of income Realization compared to hours billed to determine if the firm is tracking the income projections for the year.

2. Utilization: “If a client is not billed for your time, were you really working?”

Many firms allow for a certain number of non-client-billable hours. This number should be set at the beginning of each year, just like vacation or sick days, so everyone at the firm knows what is expected of them.

Some non-billable events include:

  • The status of large non-recurring matters
  • The ratio of contingency fee matters where most work is non-contingency
  • Non-standard billing rates for special clients
  • Other factors (i.e. bad weather, the flu) affecting attendance and performance
  • Newly-hired associates where collections will take several months to arrive
  • Non-billable activities: bar association, CLE and professional conferences; office management meetings

Well-maintained Realization and Utilization reports can help law firms collect on business interruption insurance claims as a result of natural disasters. In 2012 when Hurricane Sandy slammed the New Jersey coast, many firms had no electrical service for days and thus were not able to work. Those firms which could demonstrate the likely Realization of income from the lost billable hours had a much greater chance of collecting from their insurance carrier than those who did not maintain such records.

3. Leverage: “The more associates or non-equity partners per equity partner means easier annual equity partner income.”

As the ratio of partner to non-partner billing staff (Leverage) goes down, a greater percentage of net income must go to partners to maintain or increase their income. A firm with 20 associates and 20 partners has a leverage of 1:1. If the firm has a ratio of less than one, it has more partners than associates. If a firm is “highly leveraged,” it means that there are many non-equity workers working for the smaller number of equity partners.

Annual income for the equity partners grows by adding more productive associates who produce annual billable hours in multiples of their annual hourly pay.

4. Expense Control: “A dollar not spent is a dollar earned.”

Expenses should be allocated down to the smallest firm component: department, matter, type, attorney. Only by reviewing these detailed expense reports will the firm maintain a thorough understanding of where the money is going. Accounting software programs specifically designed for law firm businesses can create such reports.

Expenses do not have as much impact on profitability as Realization, Utilization and Leverage. Many expenses are fixed from year to year and cannot be reduced. Other expenses, while variable, can have adverse effects on productivity and should be carefully reviewed at all levels of the firm before implementation.

5. Speed: “Show me the Money.”

Until an invoice is approved by the responsible partner for submission to the client, the dollar value of the billable time and firm funds advanced on behalf of the client become an interest-free loan to the client. If all billable time is not entered by the time-keepers on the matter or if all of the expenses for the matter have not been entered by the bookkeeping department the invoice cannot be sent.

A time entry software program integrated with the firm’s accounting system makes adding billable entries and expenses in real time a seamless event which allows every time keeper to be current within one day.

Time (work-in-progress or billed) is the inventory of the firm. A Speedy process for converting that inventory into money is the most important factor of the firm’s profitability.

Finally, many clients today will agree to receive their bills via email. Electronic billing is the fastest method for bill submission and saves the firm the cost of envelopes, paper, toner, postage and staff time to print, stuff and seal each envelope. Accepting payment by credit card is yet another feature available in some accounting systems which brings the payments in faster.

As 2014 gets started in earnest this week, take some time to review the R.U.L.E.S. so you can maximize your firm’s productivity and profit.

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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3 01, 2014

Happy New Year: Now snap out of it!

By |January 3rd, 2014|Cloud Services, Document Management, Management Consulting, Practice Management, Time & Billing, Training|0 Comments

Snap out of it!

Snap out of it!

Is 2014 the year you improve the productivity of your law firm?

While I hope that happens, it is more likely that you and your staff will continue to follow the same procedures you used last year and the year before that. When was the last time you and your partners took a day to review each step performed by each employee from the front desk to the back room and analyzed how their tasks could be performed more efficiently?

Have you recently called into the office to see how long it takes for someone to answer an incoming call? How long were you kept on “Hold” after a curt “Law Office, one moment please?”

When was the last time someone reviewed all of the intermediate steps it required at your firm from initial telephone contact until obtaining a signed Retainer Agreement and initial payment receipt from a new client?

Has your firm adopted a policy to use an approved collection of Firm Documents so that your practice management or document assembly program auto-fills most of the text for those documents used repeatedly?

When was the last time you reviewed with the firm’s IT vendor the workstation lock-down policy so staff cannot use  firm time for shopping for shoes or checking sports scores? Can the staff use firm internet band-width to stream their favorite online music station or video?

Besides the bookkeeper, who else is reviewing who is not promptly posting billable time entries? What is the firm policy for penalizing perpetual late posts?

Is the firm utilizing all of the features of the practice management program? When was the last time the staff had a refresher course to review all of the productivity functions the software provides?

Who is developing the firm’s “paperless” office policy? Has someone performed a review of what incoming and outgoing documents should not be on paper?

What is the firm’s short-term goal for moving to a “cloud-based” working environment? Who last checked to confirm that the firm’s back-up system is really making current backups? Is every single document created or received by the firm located on a central server accessible by all and with multiple redundant copies?

How mobile is the firm? Can each lawyer access their appointments, matter list and documents on their smartphone and tablet? How about creating time and expense entries in the field in real time?

If you or one of your partners are not addressing these issues today, then how do you expect your firm to work at maximum productivity and gain maximum profits in 2014?

Make today The Day: Snap Out of it!

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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26 12, 2013

5 Practice Management lessons from the local Christmas Tree Lot

By |December 26th, 2013|Management Consulting, Practice Management|0 Comments

Christmas Trees for sale on re-purposed Italian Ices parking lot

There are five Practice Management lessons for law firms I have learned from the local Christmas Tree lot. Every year for the last 5 years, right after Thanksgiving,  the local Italian ices stand transforms itself into a Christmas Tree lot. The first time I witnessed the change I realized that in its simplicity it was a brilliant idea. It operates from the 1st day of Spring (Opening Day) through early-September. When school reopens in the Fall and the temperatures drop here outside of Philadelphia PA (Go Eagles!), customers are far and few between. By October 1st the business is closed for the season. Instead of no source of income for a half year, the owner turns the parking lot into a Christmas Tree lot for 5 weeks, thus retaining a portion of his customer base in the off season. And don’t be fooled: the sales of Christmas Trees is Big Business, as described in a recent NY Times story.

This year I happened to be passing the lot on the day the trees were delivered. It required a crew of 8 to unload the 53 foot 18-wheeler of the 800 trees (I asked) that had been ordered for this season. The site had been already prepared with a portable 6-foot chain link fence around the lot perimeter, the delivery and electrical connection of a portable heated hut for the workers, the delivery and electrical connection of a portable 8-foot marquee highway sign and the delivery of the tree wrapping machine and various other incidental signs, supplies and tools.

As can be seen in the photo above, taken on 12/25/13, they did very well this year. I counted less than 40 trees left and I don’t know if there had been additional tree deliveries after the one I had witnessed. The moral of this story: once you understand your business model and develop a successful system for that model stick with it.

So, how does this apply to operating a successful law firm business? Here are 5 lessons that I came up with:

1) Maximize the productivity process of your law firm. The Christmas Tree lot was operated with a carefully designed system. Even though it appears to be a simple business, there are many moving parts which all must work in tandem to produce a profitable outcome. Too many law firms run by rote: they continue to operate today as they had five or ten years ago. Utilizing the latest law firm productivity software, hardware innovations (tablets and cloud) and sophisticated social networking policies would improve productivity and profitability.

2) Diversify your income stream. If you can’t sell ices in the winter, sell Christmas Trees instead. If your law firm only practices certain types of law, which for economic or social reasons fall out of favor, partner up with another practice so you can cross-refer clients.

3) Location. Location. Location. The Christmas Tree lot needs to be located on a heavily traveled road. It has only a 5-week tree selling season and needs to be exposed to many eyeballs. A law firm can find a good “location” by optimizing the firm website for maximum traffic, networking at local and state bar association meetings and sponsoring local charity and sports events. If your marketing campaign is to wait for the telephone to ring you need to up your game.

4) Offer Special Services The obvious purpose of the highway sign was to promote the Christmas Tree lot. The sign announced: “Tree Coupons Here” with an email address. The real “cross-marketing” purpose, I imagine, was to obtain the email addresses of the tree customers to send them coupons and announcements for the Italian ices business in the Spring. What could your law firm offer to existing clients to sell them additional services? A free wills and estate consultation? Title insurance for real estate clients? Health Insurance review for accident clients?

5) Learn from your mistakes  There is not much similarity between selling Christmas Trees and selling Italian ices other than the seasonality of each business. After the first year of operation I’m certain that the tree lot owner had a list of mistakes he had made and improvements he envisioned for the next selling season. (For example, there was no heated hut until this past year.) Operating a law firm business requires annual reviews not only of the performance of the staff (dollars earned per hours worked) but the performance of the business itself. Which areas of the practice are not producing a profit after all costs are included? Which departments are overworked? Underutilized? Retaining the services of a law firm management consultant, not the firm’s accountant, could provide valuable insight into how the firm’s productivity could be maximized.

The takeaway for every law firm should be to operate like a Christmas Tree lot: squeeze the maximum profit from the assets already owned.

Steve Miller, JD  has provided law office productivity consulting services since 1998. He is certified in LexisNexis PCLaw®, LexisNexis Time Matters® and Amicus Attorney®.

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