Welcome back to our short series on forming new habits in 2021. I hope you all were able to take the time to digest and truly think about implementing our first three habits at your law firms this year. If you missed out, go take a look at the first part of our new habits series and then come right back.
Today we’re going to talk a bit more about expanding the technical aspects of your firm in 2021, and how you can enhance what you’ve already learned throughout the trial and error of 2020.
- Reduce Tech Costs With An All-In-One Operating System
You’re likely using several platforms or tools to run your practice and paying monthly SaaS fees for all of them. At some point in 2020 you likely looked at these expenses for opportunities to reduce your internal costs. This kind of regular belt tightening audit is important, but it’s even more important to make sure that you’re using the right tech that will get you the most bang for your buck.
Conduct an analysis of all of the tools you are using and paying an associated monthly fee. Eliminate tools you haven’t used in the past 6 months. If you’re using an all-in-one system like PracticePanther, make sure you’re using all the included functionality instead of 3rd party providers. Are you paying a separate monthly fee for a CRM or payments tool? Taking advantage of all of the features offered by your all-in-one practice management system can help you cut the fat and reduce overall expenses while increasing efficiency.
- Fill Your Marketing Pipeline & Develop A Growth Plan
Next, start to think about your firm’s future over the next year, including your pipeline of new business and growth plans for your internal team. Do you know which 2020 referral sources were the most fruitful? Make sure to nurture those existing referral relationships heading into the new year. A small gift, handwritten note, or phone call to wish the contact a happy new year is a great way to thank them while staying on their radar for future referrals.
As for new business, now is the perfect time to brainstorm new marketing channels to test in 2021. If there is a specific practice area that was especially profitable in 2020 perhaps you can get more involved with that practice group within your local or state bar association. Or maybe there is an upcoming (virtual) conference where you can showcase an area of expertise as a conference speaker. Many firms have found great success by experimenting with a small online marketing budget to make their firm’s name appear higher in search results or serve ads for their firm to a targeted audience. If you need a refresher, here’s our guide on SEO for lawyers.
With a plan to fill your referral and marketing pipeline in place, you should start preparing for growth. Construct a hiring roadmap and budget to create a clear plan to execute against your goals. Do you want to bring on a new partner with an existing book of business to help fill your client pipeline, or would it be best to hire and train an associate first? Do you need to hire new support staff like a receptionist or would it be more cost effective and efficient to use a virtual receptionist service? Being strategic in how you’re thinking about what you want to accomplish a year from now, and setting a systematic plan to get there, can help you stay on track as the year continues and distractions inevitably arise.
- Level Up Your Zoom Game & Adjust To The “New Normal”
Whether you like it or not, the way we practice law has changed due to COVID-19 restrictions and it will never be exactly the same as it once was prior to 2020. Just as medical professionals have adapted to the rise in telehealth, more lawyers than ever before have moved to practicing law virtually. While some billable tasks will return to normal in a post-COVID world, the industry as a whole is realizing that we can do many things virtually for increased productivity and profitability as part of the “new normal”.
Many clients will likely prefer to meet virtually moving forward because of the convenience, while others will still need to do so depending on geographic location and local restrictions for at least part of 2021. It’s safe to assume that online video conference tools like Zoom aren’t going anywhere. If you didn’t use it before COVID restrictions began, you’ve likely used it since, and if you already used it, you probably are using it much more frequently than you did before.
You’ve also probably heard stories about some very embarrassing Zoom gafs over the past 10 months and we’d like to do our part to make sure you don’t become a cautionary tale. Remember, even though you are meeting with a client, colleague or co-defendant virtually, you still need to make a good impression and present as professionally as possible.
Make sure to dress as you would for an in-person meeting and make sure your visible work area is organized. Double check what your Zoom partner will see during the meeting when you turn on your video — do you like the background the client will see behind you on the call or do you need to adjust? Do your best to limit interruptions like loud pets or children (no judgement, I have both). Check the lighting to make sure the video quality is good and ensure your internet connection is working properly (pro tip: if you share your network with others in the household ask them to log off the WiFi to improve the signal strength for your video call). If not, you might consider purchasing an inexpensive desktop Zoom light, increasing your internet speed, or adding WiFi boosters to help improve signal strength for areas furthest from your router.
Don’t forget, most video conferencing tools have helpful built-in features that you may not be utilizing. If you’re using Zoom, try the “Touch Up My Appearance” option in your Zoom Settings – it’s like airbrushing for video calls and makes you look like you got 10 hours of sleep after a relaxing day at the spa. Lastly, if you are using Zoom for court appearances, mediations, or arbitrations, make sure you’ve got security settings like a virtual waiting room in place and learn how to properly use the break out room feature. Doing so will help you ensure client confidentiality is protected, even in a virtual setting.
Pulling It All Together
While these habits aren’t revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination, they are tried and true tactics which only require some extra time and effort to implement. By reducing your technology costs, creating your marketing and hiring roadmaps, and investing in your virtual presence, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and productive year and will thrive in the “new normal” of 2021.
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