Is Your Law Firm Missing These 5 Pieces of the A/R Puzzle?

5 pieces of the AR puzzle by Back Office Betties

Our CEO, Emily LaRusch, sat down with Brooke Lively, Founder of Cathedral Capital, to discuss the pieces that many attorneys are missing when it comes to the A/R puzzle, and exactly what you need to do to ensure your law firm stays profitable.

Brooke compares building and running a solo or small law firm to climbing a mountain: It’s fun, exciting, beautiful, but it can also be dangerous, scary, and lonely. That’s where she comes in, to be the “Financial Sherpa” for attorneys who need a guide to get them to the revenue goals they’ve set.

Financials come easy to Brooke, just as practicing law comes easy to you. What isn’t easy is running the parts of your firm that aren’t in your zone of genius, and also placing value on the things that do come easy to you. When you bring in a CFO, whether fractional or full-time, they can really take a look at where your money is going, how much is coming in, whether you’ve placed enough value on the services you offer, and also ask questions like “How can this make us more money?”

Brooke’s 5 Pieces of the A/R Puzzle: What Many Attorneys are Missing

  1. Retainer
  2. Evergreen Retainer
  3. Stop-Work Policy
  4. Automate Payment
  5. Fee Agreement

Don’t Start Work Without a Retainer

The first piece of the A/R puzzle is to put a stop to the collections chase and implement a retainer equal to the first 3 months of work at the start of your client relationship. There’s no profitability when you’re afraid to collect payment, so avoid any future conflicts by getting that payment up front.

Implement an Evergreen Retainer

What happens when that initial retainer runs out? An evergreen retainer ensures that you’re always a step ahead and collecting payment before spending any of your time on client work. Your evergreen retainer should average about 3 months of work (this may be less than your initial retainer).

Create a Stop-Work Policy

So what happens when someone doesn’t pay? You’re trying to avoid the fight of collecting on the back end, so you need a policy in place to protect you. If the retainer isn’t paid on time, you immediately stop all work on that case. Brooke mentions a “red rubber band policy” at one firm where cases with late payments are immediately wrapped in a red rubber band that tells you (and everyone else in the firm) that this case should not be opened. In a modern law firm, you can even set up document locks to prevent oversight and protect your time.

Take Payment Out of the Clients’ Hands

When you take out the middle man (in this case, your client) it’s much easier to avoid forgotten payments, human error, missed emails and notices, etc. Have your clients sign a Credit Card Authorization to ensure that your invoices don’t spend time sitting on a desk or wind up forgotten in the trash. You’ll receive prompt payment and your clients won’t wonder why you’ve stopped working on their case – a win win!

Have a Clear Fee Agreement

Fee agreements protect all parties, but what it really comes down to is protecting your firm. Have a clear fee agreement that lays out your fees, when they’re due, and what happens if they aren’t paid. Your clients will appreciate clear communication and no surprise charges and you will appreciate being paid for your time and expertise!

 

Interested to hear more from Brooke Lively about law firm financials? Listen to her full interview on the Solo de Facto podcast here.

3+ Things To Start Doing Now That Will Make Your Law Firm More Money

How to Make Lots of Money as an Attorney“How can I make lots of money as an attorney?”

Even if it was back in law school, you’ve probably googled this before.

 

And if you’re running a solo or small law firm, you know the frustration of trying to fulfill your dream of having your own thriving, profitable firm. And you know how difficult it is to watch it not happening.

If you want to make lots of money as an attorney, you need to stop seeing yourself as an attorney. Well, as just an attorney. You’re practicing the law, but you’re also shouldering all the responsibilities of a business.

 

And those responsibilities aren’t just taxes, payroll, and administrative work. A thriving, profitable business requires strategizing, evaluating, and of course, knowing:

  • The way your clients think and how to use that information to land more leads
  • How and where to spend your money to bring in the most profit
  • The most effective ways to make time for billable work and additional clients to grow your firm

 

So, here’s how you really can make lots of money as an attorney:

1. Capture All Potential Income by Capturing Every Potential Client

Make Lots of Money as an Attorney

Sounds like a no-brainer.

But so many law firms are still missing out on potential new clients – and they don’t need to be. Here are some of the ways you could be too:

  • You’re missing their calls (80% of callers won’t leave a voicemail)
  • You aren’t collecting their information in full
  • Your firm doesn’t have sales scripting in place to sell your services
  • You’re not using a Call Flow Blueprint
  • You’re wasting time on people you can’t help
  • You can’t take every potential client because you don’t have the time

 

Make Sure Your Firm Answers Every Call – The Right Way

  • That call you missed on your lunch break? Could have been your biggest client this year.
  • The caller whose phone number your receptionist forgot to take down? They’re probably not going to call back on their own.
  • That caller who declined to schedule due to your consultation fee? Maybe you could have sold it to them with the right scripting.

 

Every call has the potential to grow your law firm and make you more money. Bringing in more clients is the way your law firm will grow. So never undermine the importance of a single potential new client on the line.

 

“It’s fine, it was just one call.” – Small law firm attorney struggling to grow.

 

Impress Your Potential Clients on Their First Call to Establish Your Firm as the Best Choice

Leave your callers with a positive, professional, and capable impression of your law firm – immediately on that initial call.

Your potential clients have a list of attorneys that they’re calling through. Realistically, that first call will be their only call if your firm doesn’t stand out amongst the rest (or pick up the phone). That means your customer service doesn’t need to be adequate. Or without mistakes. It means your customer service needs to be above and beyond that of the competition.

 

Want some more help answering your phones? The Guide to 10+ Best Ways to Answer Your Law Firm’s Phones

 

Hook the People You Can Help, And Don’t Waste Time on the People You Can’t

How? By completing intakes on that first call. Every time.

Completing intakes on the first call:

  • Filters out callers you can’t help
  • Hooks the callers you can help
  • Collects the information you need to track the types of callers you get

 

Time is money. And as an attorney, your time is big money. If you’re looking to scale your law firm, you can’t waste your valuable time on (likely free) consultations for potential clients you that won’t be able to help.

When your potential clients get to your firm in their list of attorneys to call, you want to do everything in your power to make sure that the rest of that list gets scrapped. Scheduling a consultation alone won’t do that. If you aren’t the first consultation they have scheduled, you’re in a tight spot.

Make your potential clients feel like they are already your clients by completing their intakes on the first call. This makes them feel like they’ve begun their legal process, with you.

 

But What If…

You don’t have time to complete intakes on the spot for every potential client that calls in?

Or convince callers that your fees are well worth it?

Or catch every call?

 

We’ll get to that later.

For now, you need to bring in more leads:

2. Get More Reliable Leads by Starting a Client Referral Program

Attorney Handshake

Referrals are highly likely clients. And they’re easy sells.

Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report found that only 16% of clients seek a referral and search on their own for an attorney. That means 73% of clients who seek referrals, are choosing them.

 

How Clients Shop for a Lawyer

Source: Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report

 

That’s a crazy big percentage. But why?

Many of your potential clients have never needed an attorney before. (It’s even more likely that they’ve never experienced their particular case type.) For most people, finding an attorney is:

  • Intimidating
  • Complex
  • Stressful
  • High stakes

 

Don’t forget, while this will be a business deal for you, your potential clients could have their entire family, business, or reputation on the line. They can’t afford to make a mistake by selecting the wrong attorney. Choosing an attorney who was referred to them by their trusted friends or family is often the most comfortable choice that a nervous new client can make.

 

Set Up a Referral Program for Your Firm That Brings in Low Effort Leads

Here is a step-by-step guide for setting up a law firm referral program that actually lands more clients: Your Law Firm Is Missing Out on Easy Money (The Guide to Getting More Referrals).

But these are the basic steps you need to follow:

  • Develop an enticing offer
  • Entice your clients (Make sure the news reaches them)
  • Meticulously track your referrals
  • Follow up – The right way

 

Your firm is, in all likelihood, already relying on referrals in some capacity. And you know that referrals are an easy sell.

Your firm should be doing everything feasible to increase your referrals from current and previous clients.

 

However, no matter how good your referral program is, your clients will not refer you to their friends and family if they had a negative experience with your firm. Here’s how to avoid that:

3. Improve Your Law Firm’s Reputation by Communicating Effectively with Your Clients

Attorneys

Here’s a secret most people won’t tell you: Good communication is the secret sauce for law firm customer service and client experience that leads to positive reviews and more referrals.

 

Not only is failure to communicate a top bar complaint, it’s a top complaint everywhere.

Take a look through the reviews for some of your competition. You’ll notice communication (or lack thereof) coming up time and time again. And don’t overlook the power of reviews for attorneys.

 

View Situations From Your Client’s Perspective to Know What They Want

You’re working around the clock on cases. And sure, you might get emotionally involved in some of those cases. But you’re not sitting around by the phone waiting to hear what’s happening with one specific case that could change the course of your life.

Your clients are.

It’s easy to lose perspective, or just lose track of how long it’s been since you’ve spoken with a client. You know you’re working on their case doing everything you can for them. You know the law and you’re practicing it.

But remember, if you want to make lots of money as an attorney, you can’t forget that your law firm is a business. And you need to treat it that way.

 

Understand That Your Clients Need to Hear From You, No Matter What

Do your clients constantly call you or your office just asking for updates on their case? That’s a bad sign.

That client is anxious and on edge wondering when they’ll hear from you and wondering what’s happening with their case. Quite frankly, if you haven’t reached out to them, there probably isn’t anything going on with their case. And no news to share with them. But for your clients, “no news” is news:

  • I’m still working on paperwork
  • We haven’t heard back from the opposing party
  • Etc.

Even a simple, “No news yet” works for an update.

 

Set Communication Expectations to Reduce Your Clients’ Stress.

Make it clear when your clients will hear from you. And follow through.

There are a few ways to do this.

  • Set a regular check-in schedule. An example would be: You’ll reach out to your client every Friday to update them regardless of any activity with their case.
  • Set individual schedules for clients based on the unique dynamics of their cases.

 

Regular check-ins are easy to delegate to your receptionist. Instead of emailing or calling clients every week yourself, have your receptionist send and make emails and calls for your clients when you don’t have updates.

For many cases, you’ll want to reach out to your client when you have an update even it’s before your scheduled time. Whatever you choose to do, make sure your clients know when they will hear from you. And always follow through.

 

4. Save & Make Money by Outsourcing or Delegating Your Administrative Work

Law Firm Administrative Work

This is one of those “Spend money to make money” situations.

  • Completing intakes?
  • Answering phones?
  • Scheduling appointments?
  • Answering FAQ’s?
  • Processing payments?
  • Providing directions to your office?
  • Adding leads to your CRM?
  • Making outbound calls?

 

All of these are:

  • Not billable work
  • Time-consuming
  • Unpredictable
  • Not worth your time

 

The reality is, you should have pretty much anyone else doing this type of administrative work. Any professional, that is. (Not your well-meaning spouse.)

Any time you spend on administrative work is time you can’t spend on billable work.

And if you want to make lots of money as an attorney… you need to be doing more billable work.

 

The only question you need to ask is:

“Who do I outsource my administrative work to?”

And you have options. No one solution can claim to be the best solution for every firm.

  • You could hire an in-house receptionist
  • Delegate work to your paralegal
  • Or outsource to a virtual receptionist company

 

Virtual Receptionists

Your best bet is likely a legal specialized virtual receptionist service like Back Office Betties. This is because legal virtual receptionists can handle your administrative work for you at a fraction of the cost of your other options. Without slashing the quality of service or missing the legal expertise that you need.

Back Office Betties hires receptionists with experience in the legal industry and provides ongoing legal, sales, and customer service training for all staff.

All of Betties’ receptionists complete custom training courses for each and every firm we work with, to ensure the same level of familiarity as someone sitting at your front desk.

 

In-House Receptionist

An experienced in-house legal receptionist will be able to provide a great level of customer service and handle your administrative work flawlessly as well. The biggest difference is: value.

The average cost of an in-house receptionist is $4,123.60/month. (For reference, Back Office Betties’ plans range from $309 – $1,699/month.)

Unfortunately, in-house receptionists take lunch and bathroom breaks, step away from the phone, and call in sick. And that’s more than reasonable behavior. But remember, every missed call is a potential client lost.

If you want to make a lot of money as an attorney… Start seeing dollar signs every time the phone rings.

 

Already have an in-house receptionist that you can’t live without?

Consider a virtual receptionist service to back up your phones when they aren’t available.

 

Paralegal

The major downside of delegating administrative work to your paralegal is that they have the ability to take significantly more substantial work off of your plate. Leaving you with even more time to spend on billable work. Not to mention, your paralegal is a pretty expensive receptionist.

 

But again, anything is better than doing it yourself.

 

. . .

The biggest roadblocks small and solo attorneys face while struggling to grow their firm are landing clients and not having enough time to do billable work.

If you want to make lots of money as an attorney, you need more clients. And you can’t take on more clients if you don’t have the time to work on their cases.

 

Schedule a call with our Growth Solutions Strategist today to strategize the best steps for your firm to start landing more clients and making more money.

How Busy Attorneys Take Vacations Without Working The Whole Time

Attorney on VacationIf you’re anything like the rest of Americans, you could probably use a vacation. As more people get vaccinated and more places across the country (and world) open up, it’s looking like 2021 will be the year to get back out there and enjoy yourself.

 

“But I can’t leave my firm! I’ll have to work the whole time,” you say.

 

Not quite.

 

You’re a busy attorney and you deserve to take a break. Not only that, but it’s possible for you to get this break without working from the beach. You just might not know it yet.

 

A little work to set up some key components to running your law firm now could save you a whole lotta stress and time in the long run. I’m talking maybe even two work-free vacations this year 😉

 

Busy Attorneys Enjoy Work-Free Vacations Through:

  • Automation
  • Systems & Processes
  • Phone Coverage
  • Communication With Clients

 

How Automation Can Help You Enjoy Your Vacay

We’ve talked about it before and surely this won’t be the last time: Automation is one of the greatest tools to have in your belt.

 

Automation doesn’t have to be computerized – it can simply be a task triggered to someone (preferably someone who is not you) after another task or trigger is completed.

 

Things you can automate to help you step away from your law firm:

  • New Client Intakes
  • Client Follow-up
  • Payment Agreements
  • Accepting Payments
  • Client Scheduling

 

Replicate Yourself With Systems & Processes

You like things done a specific way so you tend to try and do most of it yourself. Or you outsource a task but find yourself frustrated that they didn’t do it the way you do. Sound about right?

 

If so, you could benefit from documenting your systems and processes so that anyone who takes on the tasks you’ve been doing will do them exactly as you like them done.

 

Not only will this help you take a vacation without sacrificing your law firm’s productivity, but it will also save you tons of time and stress in your day-to-day!

 

Some systems & processes you can document and replicate in your law firm:

  • Standard client communication practices
  • Documentation processes
  • Court filings
  • Client intake questions
  • Case research
  • Communication with the courts
  • Email organization
  • & so much more

 

Communicate With Your Clients & Return Stress-Free

Even if you’ve put all of the above steps into place, there’s still a chance that your clients will demand your attention. Especially if they have no clue as to why you are seemingly dodging their calls.

 

The best way to get ahead of this is to communicate prior to silencing your phone. Let your clients (at least, the ones most likely to notice your absence) know that you will be out of the office and give them guidance on how to get in contact with someone else that can help them in the meantime.

You can do this through email, by setting an Out Of Office reply message, and also by updating your phone’s voicemail to provide details of whom to contact for assistance in case their call goes unanswered.

 

Phone Coverage Is A Vacation-Saver

If there’s only one thing you can do to cover yourself for a vacation, it should be getting your phones covered. Nothing can cramp your vacation style quite like your phone ringing off the hook while you’re trying to relax by the pool.

 

By ensuring your phones are answered while you’re away, you can ensure your client questions are still handled, lead information is still captured, and appointments can still be booked. Things don’t have to go completely on hold just because you’re not working that week. In fact, it’s best that they don’t so that your workload stays steady once you’re back.

 

If you don’t already have a dedicated receptionist, the easiest way to do this is to hire an answering service. They can keep the status quo with your callers and ensure that all questions are answered and appointments get booked for after you come back.

 

If you’ve been searching for a way to take a much-needed vacation this year, give us a call at (800) 958-8591 and discover how Back Office Betties can help you get away, stress-free.

How to Spoil Your Law Firm’s Clients By Offering the Best Customer Service

Spoil Your Law Firm Clients | Back Office Betties

Your law firm’s clients are your livelihood. They’re the reason your law firm exists, right? For that reason, you need to do everything in your power to offer the best customer service of any law firms around so that you can keep them!

Set The Bar For Higher Expectations

Once you get a taste of the good life, there’s no going back. Stay at the Ritz Carlton for a week and it’s going to be hard to swallow staying at a Motel 6 ever again. You’ve seen what you can have and now you don’t want anything less. This is true of your clients and their experience with your law firm. If you offer them the best of the best, why would they ever go back to the skeezy lawyer their cousin’s best friend’s sister knows?

Spoil your clients to set the expectation high and keep them coming back for more!

Ways to Spoil Your Clients

The word “spoil” shouldn’t scare you off; you don’t need to be spending thousands on every client. Instead, focus on giving your clients an experience that they can’t get at other law firms to show them that they are valued at your firm.

For those who have started seeing clients in the office again, spruce up your waiting area. Create a space that feels welcoming, calming, and genuinely nice to be in when your clients may be feeling anxious or upset. We all know that visiting with your lawyer isn’t necessarily a fun thing to do, so stand apart by making it a little more comfortable. You can start with comfy seating. Then add some extras like flowers, prepackaged snacks, water bottles, hand sanitizer, and nice music. These are just a few options, but do whatever feels right to your law firm and your client base.

Remember the little things. Is your client’s birthday coming up? The anniversary of winning their case? Send them a card or small gift to let them know you are thinking about them. Trust us, they won’t forget it! Small acts of kindness like this go a long way for referrals and repeat business because you show that you really care.

Keep them updated. Your clients are anxious. You’ve been through this a million times and know every step of your proceedings like the back of your hand. Your client is likely going through this for the first time and may be unsure what to expect. Help ease their nerves by keeping them up to date on what’s happening in their case and what they can expect in the future. Pro tip: You don’t have to personally call them to do this. Have your receptionist give them a quick ring to keep them in the loop. Psssttt… Back Office Betties can do this for you too.

Send a thoughtful gift at the close of their case. Did they get the settlement they hoped for? Were you able to finalize their estate plan? Did the custody battle come to a close? Whether you won or lost, send your client a gift and just change up your message to congratulate or console them. Gifting sets you apart from the rest and keeps you top of mind, as well as making you likable. We all know by now that people do business with those they know and like.

Have The Best Law Firm Customer Service Around

The first step to great customer service is hiring a face for your law firm that is friendly and helpful. That’s right, we are talking about your receptionist! Spoil your clients with great customer service, starting with their very first communication with your firm and every call thereafter. If you’re not ready to staff a full-time receptionist, Back Office Betties offers up relentlessly friendly service with teams of skilled legal virtual receptionists.

Many law firms are bad at communicating with their clients. In fact, the number one bar complaint is poor communication. Step up your law firm’s customer service by ensuring that your communication is top-notch. This is a big step to setting yourself apart and ensuring that your client feels so spoiled that they won’t want to do business with anyone else!

Now, a friendly receptionist and communication don’t mean much if your client meets with you and you’re distracted or less than friendly. Be sure that when you are meeting with your client they feel that they have your full attention and that you are on their side. Smile when you’re talking (when appropriate, of course), be knowledgeable about their case, acknowledge their concerns, and apologize if/when you make a mistake. All of these things lead to your client knowing/liking/trusting you which leads to repeat business and referrals.

How to Automate Your Law Firm While You’re Working From Home

Automate your law firm while working from home

Now that you’re working from home for the foreseeable future, whether you are more or less busy than usual, it is the perfect time to automate your law firm. If you’re more busy than usual, this is important to help you save time and money and bill more of the hours that you are working. If you are less busy than usual, this is the perfect time to dedicate time to making your transition back to the office easier! Pro tip: You can also use this downtime to really hone in on your marketing and automate that, too!

Why You Should Automate Your Law Firm

To some, automation sounds scary and gives the impression that you are taking the personal touch out of everything in your firm. However, our favorite definition of automation is the creation of a system that takes repetitive work off of your plate and allows things to happen seamlessly without you thinking about them. This can absolutely mean that another human does the task for you! Whether you automate tasks that your assistant handles or you outsource tasks completely, you don’t have to take the personal touches out of your law firm. And frankly, you shouldn’t!

Automation provides time freedom and ensures that you don’t need to be working on things that aren’t billable. Once you set up a system, it should be able to run over and over again with only your initial hours invested. Can you imagine how much time and money this saves you?! No need, because we found the facts and figures for you:

According to the Clio Legal Trends Report, attorneys spend an average of only 2.5 hours on billable work per day and only actually collect payment for 86% of those hours. In addition, there is data to suggest that you could save up to 9 work weeks each year by automating the repetitive and non-billable tasks. Imagine the number of billable hours you could fit into 9 work weeks!

Can you picture how much simpler and enriching your workday would be if you could set up processes one time and focus solely on your billable work afterward? You signed up to be an attorney. You’re good at being an attorney. You shouldn’t be wasting time each day sending invoices or answering the phone for solicitors or sending marketing emails. Heck, you really shouldn’t even be spending time intaking new clients!

How Automation Will Help You to Work From Home

Whether you are super busy or pretty slow during this pandemic, you are likely juggling work with family. Not to mention, you’re trying to do it all in the same place with no breaks. You can’t really automate your family but you can absolutely automate your work to make the juggle a little easier.

Consider this. Your phone is ringing but you’re in the middle of typing up a client agreement and your child needs help figuring out a math problem and your spouse is asking what you’d like for dinner and your clients are blowing up your inbox with questions. Wouldn’t this scenario be so much less stressful if your phone was being answered by someone else and you know that your client agreement is already typed up and sends when triggered by the previous task and your email has messages drafted and ready to go that cover most of your client FAQs, you just have to hit send? Phew! That run-on sentence was exactly how chaotic this series of events feels when you’re not automating your firm.

Now you can focus on quality time and the client questions that are only applicable to their case. You can spend more working hours on billable work and research. You can focus on helping out with math problems and cooking dinner. Your phone isn’t ringing off the hook and your clients are taken care of in the background. What a dream!

What You Can Automate in Your Law Firm

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is a great start! Keep in mind that you can automate just about anything you want to; automation can just be another human doing a task for you. Get creative! Is there anything you absolutely dread doing or that takes up a ton of your time? There is likely a way to automate it.

Client Management

Managing your leads and clients and all of their questions, matters, case notes, etc. can be really tough. There is so much to keep straight! When you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, things get a whole lot easier. If there is a certain process that happens during client intake or after their first call, CRM makes it really easy to automate it. You can set up tasks that trigger based on certain criteria. Say that you have a new client call: You enter their information which triggers an automated email thanking them for their call and informing them of next steps. Then a task triggers to your assistant to reach out and ask follow up questions. Once those answers are input, another task triggers that informs you of what you need to do for their case. The limit of possibilities does not exist! Not to mention, every step is documented so you can easily see what has been done, what emails have been sent, and what still needs to be done.

Invoicing

Make payment processing easy and painless by triggering invoices to be sent after certain tasks are closed or deadlines are met. You can easily draft common and customized invoices for different items or billable hours and link them to your client management so that they send at the proper times. Some payment processing systems will even send reminders when due dates are approaching or pass by, helping to ensure you don’t miss out on getting paid for your hard work.

Scheduling

There are two great ways to automate your scheduling and client intake. We believe that it is best to implement both!

The first is to have a scheduling link on your website that allows clients to put themselves on your calendar. You can set up a thorough intake process that asks all of the pertinent questions and delivers them to your inbox without anyone having to speak to the client to get it. Ease of access is a big selling point for busy clients so the easier you make things on them, the easier things can be on you!

The second is to have someone else schedule appointments and intake new clients for you. There is nothing billable about grabbing information from a PNC and clients are not expecting to get through to the attorney the first time they call. The smart thing to do is to pay someone else to field those calls and ask all of the pertinent questions, then schedule the caller on your calendar under the appropriate appointment type. This one leads right into our next automation.

Phone Calls

Answering your own phone calls is for the birds. How many times does someone call you over and over again when you can’t (or just don’t want to) answer? What is the number of calls you miss when you’re in a meeting or having a Zoom appointment with a client? What happens when someone calls while you’re eating lunch and just took a huge bite of your sandwich? How often are your kids screaming or your dog barking in the background while you’re trying to be professional on the phone?

Even if you don’t automate anything else while working from home, this one is a must. Having someone to screen your calls and speak to your clients while relaying the important stuff to you is invaluable and saves more time than you could imagine. Whether this person is an answering service (psst, we’d love to help!) or a full-time receptionist, this automation is the number one thing you can do to make more money while also increasing your productivity. Remember – you’re not getting paid to answer the phone for a telemarketer. At the same time, not answering every time is the quickest way to lose a client.

Email

You may be wondering how you can automate your emails when your inbox is overflowing daily. The answer is easy: Set up templates that answer FAQs. You can use a template as an easy jumping off point if more information needs to be added. However, this is a speedy way to quickly answer those frequently asked questions with the click of a button.

Another option would be to hire a Virtual Assistant to monitor your inbox and reply to those FAQs or to screen your messages. This is really helpful when you get an array of emails and need help keeping them straight. We offer this to our clients who are on our Platinum plan and have heard nothing but raving reviews as to how helpful it is.

Social Media Posting

Social media can be frustrating and time-consuming. One thing that really helps to make social media less difficult is to plan ahead. Schedule your posts ahead of time for the month with different tools like Facebook’s Publishing Tools or Hootsuite. This not only saves you daily frustration, but it saves you the time of switching tasks. When you’re on the spot each day, it can take twice as long to actually make a post. Then you have to consider the time spent refocusing on your important tasks at hand.

Marketing

Automating your marketing is a huge time saver and one of the top things you need to automate first. Since marketing is what brings you clients in the first place, it just makes sense to spend the time setting it up to run automatically. Make money when you sleep, baby!

The first step is to ask yourself a few questions. What’s already working in your marketing? Do you have a fantastic lead magnet? Are there marketing emails that have gotten great response in the past? Take all of that and create systems so that everything runs seamlessly without your touch. This takes some time but it is hands down so worth it! And if you’re less busy than usual right now, what better to do than set up some money-making systems?

Set up workflows through your CRM to send email sequences to leads, target your traffic through pixels on your website, and never stop using ads that are working. You can also create a monthly campaign calendar that you recycle each year. This helps to keep your marketing fresh without spending too much time on it every month. Simply create your monthly offers and gimmicks for the year once, then reuse what works.

Relish in Your Newfound Time

We hope this helps offer some insight into how you can automate your law firm and make your day-to-day life so much easier! Use that freed up time to hang out with your family or use it to bill more hours, but whatever you do, quit doing the repetitive tasks yourself. Automation is truly the best thing you can do for your law firm in terms of growth (and keeping your sanity).

If you’d like to chat about how we can help with your phones, please give us a call at (800)958-8591.

Transitioning Your Law Firm to Work From Home

Back Office Betties Law Firms Working From HomeWorking from home sounds like a dream – and it is! But when you’re used to going to the office every day, transitioning your law firm to work from home is not as easy as just bringing home your computer. Who’s answering the phone? Will you be able to transfer calls to your colleagues? How will you communicate with the team you’re used to seeing every day? Will you be able to eliminate distractions? What part of your house will you work in? How will you keep the kids at bay?

You’ve probably already noticed the importance of these questions if you’ve recently shifted your office to working from home. In the case that you haven’t quite figured it all out yet, we’re here to help! Back Office Betties employees all work from home, and we’ve been doing so from the start – 6 years now! We’ve got the experience and the know-how and we’re going to fill you in on some of our tips and tricks on being successful while working from home.

The Basics of Working From Home

Before we get into the meat of actually transitioning your law firm to work from home, there are some basics you should know. Implementing the following will not only set you up for success, but it will also make your workdays feel a whole lot more normal during this period of everything being not normal.

  • Have a Dedicated Workspace

    Set yourself up for success by setting up an area of your home that is only for working. This helps to eliminate the distractions of the rest of your house and also helps to let you stop working when your workday is done. Home Office Warrior has a comprehensive guide to help you set up your perfect workspace.

  • Decorate Your Workspace

    We feel better and work better when we enjoy the space we’re in. Working on a dirty card table in the garage is going to be a whole lot less motivating than a home office with pictures on the walls. If you don’t have a home office, do your best to set up a makeshift office with a desk in another room. Add some flowers or your favorite notebooks to really make it feel like a place you want to spend your days.

  • Get Ready Every Morning

    You may be tempted to roll out of bed late and get straight to work in your pajamas. It’s very very tempting – but trust us! Your productivity and your mood will thank you for making the effort to feel good. Take a shower, make your bed, and brush your teeth. You’ll thank us later.

  • Set Boundaries With Your Family

    Make it clear that your work time is important and interruptions should be very few and far between. Some of our receptionists have makeshift signs on their home office doors that outline reasons you may interrupt and reasons you may not. This especially helps with kiddos who are seeking attention or want to tattle on their sibling and promotes resourcefulness. Obviously this doesn’t work for toddlers but is a great option for setting boundaries with older kids and spouses.

  • Schedule Breaks

    Nothing will burn you out more than staring at your screen for 10 hours. Schedule breaks for snacks and lunch. If you have kids, schedule quick playtime breaks as well. This helps you to fight the parental guilt of saying no to them and also helps you stay connected to your family throughout the day.

  • Dabble in Time Blocking

    If you haven’t tried this method already, it’s a great way to boost your productivity and keep yourself on a schedule. Time blocking is basically a way of scheduling yourself to focus on one task (batching your tasks) for a certain period of time. The thought behind this is that you waste less time by switching tasks and eliminate distractions because you are only focusing on that one thing. This productivity hack also works perfectly with scheduling small breaks as mentioned above!

  • Create a Work Playlist

    Listen to music that helps you focus on a low volume. Make this a part of your routine – sit at your workspace and turn your music on a low volume right away. This will help you get in the zone and subconsciously send triggers to your body that it is time to work.

  • Turn Your Cell Phone Upside Down

    This one may sound really silly but eliminating distractions is truly key to staying focused while working at home. Turning your phone screen face down eliminates those catchy notifications that grab your eye. Checking one message can send you down a Facebook or LinkedIn rabbit hole and nobody needs that! Turn your notification alerts off and only keep the ringer on for phone calls so that you can stay focused without being out of the loop.

Transitioning Your Law Firm to Work From Home

Now that you’ve got some of the basics down and have found some ways that help you stay on task and productive, it’s time to determine the logistics of it all! How will you actually move your law firm into your home office?

First Steps

  • Update your office phone’s main voicemail. You do not want your voicemail to say that you are closed – clients will hang up and find someone else! Instead, let people know that you and working from home and how to get ahold of you. Set each staff member’s voicemail to provide their current contact information.
  • Forward your office phone line to your cell phone. This is usually a pretty simple process and your phone provider can give you guidance on the exact steps to take.
  • Update your website to include new working hours and appointment types. Consider adding an online calendar that allows them to schedule video appointments to your website. This will save everyone time and energy!
  • Alert your clients that office appointments will take place through video conference calls. Set up an account with your favorite video conferencing site and be sure to let clients know how to access your meetings when they have scheduled appointments.
  • Get automated!! Make things easier on yourself by setting up processes that don’t need you to touch them. Automate client emails and follow-ups, automate legal agreements and payment requests… everything that you can. This will save you so much time and headaches while working from home.
  • Set up a chat platform to stay in contact with your team. Slack is perfect for this and has a reasonable price tag.
  • Set up a backdrop for your video meetings. Professionalism doesn’t have to go out the window because you are working from home! Whether it be hanging a plain sheet behind you, setting up in front of your best-decorated wall, or simply adjusting your backdrop with settings on Zoom. Whatever you do, do not take video calls with a huge mess behind you.

Get to Work

  • Create a daily and weekly to-do list. Look at your calendar each week and create a list of vital tasks to complete and/or meeting you have, then segment that list into a daily list. This helps you to stay on track with your goals and not accidentally forget vital tasks. Update and review this every morning!
  • Ensure that your computer is password protected and that you lock it every time you step away. Your client data is private and you want to be sure nobody can mess with your work.
  • Avoid writing anything down on paper. If you must take notes, do so by typing them out on a virtual sticky note or in a Word document. With kids at home, your notes can be strewn about or colored on and that is not a mistake we want to see you make. Trust us on this one ;)
  • Consider hiring an answering service, even if temporarily. If your family is home with you and you don’t feel confident in the ability to answer every phone call without interruptions, consider outsourcing your phones to an answering service. They can screen your calls and schedule your appointments so that all you have to do is show up for appointments.

We hope this article was helpful and makes the transition to working from home easier on you! If you have any questions or are interested in trying out a legal-specialized answering service while you get through this time, give us a call at (800) 958-8591. Stay home and stay healthy!

Managing Your Law Firm in a Pandemic

Managing Your Law Firm Through PandemicManaging your law firm in a pandemic is not going to be anything like managing your law firm when the world isn’t in crisis mode. You have to stand firm in some areas and be much more lenient in others. You have to keep a much closer eye on your financials and be a little more flexible with your employees. This isn’t the same rodeo that you’re used to.

But the one thing that stays true is that you cannot give up! Your clients and our economy need you. Even if courts being closed has put a damper on your incoming cases, you will be highly desired as soon as they open again. It’s important to immediately shift your firm’s management practices so that you can still be afloat when that time arises.

4 Areas Where Your Law Firm’s Management Should Shift in a Pandemic

The key to keeping your firm running through the current worldly events that have shut down so much of the country is to keep your clients, staff, and bank accounts happy.

Support Your Clients Through This Difficult Period

Your clients are your livelihood – without them you are nothing. Now is not the time to be hard on them or force contracts down their throats. Everyone is in a similar boat; we are all struggling in some way through this current period of trauma. It may not look the same for you as it does for your clients, but it is important to understand where they are coming from when they make requests or cop an attitude.

  • Consider being lenient when upholding contract terms. If continuing to pay you will be detrimental to your client, you cannot expect that their experience will be good. You cannot expect that your working relationship will continue without a hitch. It may be in your law firm’s best long-term interest to let the clients go who are pushing back on their contracts. And honestly, do you want to be partially responsible for someone going hungry because you continued to charge them after they shared their situation with you? Save your sanity and your morals, and possibly elicit some rave reviews over your customer service, by letting them go.
  • Offer payment deferments or discounts. If you need to keep cash flowing in, one of the best ways to do so is to offer discounts that keep you working and retain your clients through their financial hardships.
  • Communicate with your clients. If things are changing in your law firm because of the pandemic, let your clients know! Whether that be a change of business hours, revision of policies, change in appointment types – keep your clients in the loop.
  • Encourage your clients to communicate with you. Let them know you are here for them and that they are free to discuss any current concerns with you.

Support Your Employees – Don’t Leave Them in the Dark

If you are realizing that you need to let some or all of your employees go to financially survive the pandemic, let them know as soon as you know. Dragging your feet and waiting until the last minute is just delaying them from getting the government support they can qualify for. Communication is key and relaying the complete truth to your staff is going to earn far more respect than leading them on and providing a false sense of hope.

If you do need to make some lay-offs, provide support to your staff through information. Inform them of the programs available to them in your state and assist them in filling out the forms they need. They are likely feeling a lot of the same stress that you are, so making this transition as easy as possible is going to help tremendously and prove your worth as an employer. You will need to staff up again when this is all said and done – don’t burn your bridges with the people who already know how you like to run your law firm.

However, if you are able to keep your employees on at their typical pay rate, please do so! Set your staff members up to work from home; show them that you prioritize their safety and stability. Not only will you be helping the people that you work closely with every day, but you will also be encouraging their loyalty to you.

Get Ahold of Your Financials

Right now is the perfect time to really take a look at your firm’s banking.

  • What do you spend vs bring in?
  • Is your income being affected by the Coronavirus pandemic?
  • What services are completely unnecessary for your law firm right now?
  • What services could you hire that would actually cut other costs?
  • Do you need to apply for some loans to float you through the pandemic?

Support Your Vendors and Services

If you have planned ahead and have cash reserves, now is the time to use them to help you while also helping the vendors and services that your company uses! Many companies are offering discounts and major deals when you pay in advance for the services you’ll receive in the future. This is a win-win; not only are you getting a great deal but you are helping to support the vendors that your law firm depends on and ensuring they still stand when the current crisis is over.

As an example, Back Office Betties is currently offering our clients a huge savings if they pre-pay for future months on their current plan. This helps us to continue helping them!

If you don’t have the cash reserves, just do your best to keep on as normal. The vendors that serve you rely on their clients’ payments to keep their wheels spinning and many are hurting right now as their clients cut costs.

 

We hope this post proves useful to you and provides you with some much-needed optimism. Have questions or want to chat about how we can help? Give us a call at (800) 958-8591 or reach out on Facebook.

Things To Do Other Than Panic About The Coronavirus

There is no doubt that many business owners are struggling right now in the face of a pandemic that is shutting everyone and everything down. Luckily, the Betties business model is set up to weather these types of storms. Our employees work from home every day so only minor schedule changes are needing to be made for team members with sudden loss of childcare. While we are able to keep on business as usual, we understand that many attorneys and business owners may not know what to do at this time.

Kids are home from school, your offices may be shut down, trials are being postponed, and clients still need your help.

Rather than panic, this is the time to take a look at your processes and start creating a new plan.

We’ve outlined some helpful ways to spend your time working on your business and ensuring that your law firm survives through this pandemic.

Go Virtual

  • Alert your client base that you will be taking virtual meetings over the phone or through a video meeting platform like Zoom. This keeps you and your clients safe while also allowing you to continue to prepare for their current legal matters.
  • Take advantage of our friends over at CLE Companion who are offering a discount with code “Betties” for your required online training.
  • If you typically operate with an in-house receptionist, set them up virtually to take your calls. Froward their phones and consider restricting your office hours.
  • If you typically take your own calls, set up virtual receptionist services so that you can focus on other aspects of the business while your kids are home and you’re juggling your family life. We are offering a 40% discount for one month to help attorneys get back on their feet during this time.

Work On Your Business, Not In Your Business

If business is slowing and active cases are falling off, it can be easy to feel defeat. But this is the prime time to really work on being efficient and productive. Don’t lose momentum because you can get through this.

  • As mentioned above, use this downtime to work on your required CLE trainings.
  • Draft up templates of common letters and documents you send out to clients and set up a workflow that automates them.
  • Create a campaign calendar for your marketing. Be sure to include options that you can run right now as well as when the pandemic madness is behind us.
  • Take a look at everything you do in the office that can be done virtually and start documenting processes for them. Our friends at Trainual are the perfect hosts for your documented processes and make it easy to share them with your team.
  • Create an emergency plan. Late is better than never! Use your downtime to create the plan for a business emergency that you wish you would have already had in place. Ideally, this plan will cover every possible scenario that could affect your business and outline how to proceed in each event.
  • Take business courses from the Small Business Association. They offer free online classes for every stage in your business, from startup to growth.

Ask For Help

  • Apply for a loan through the SBA. Rates are incredible and funds will be available in every state once they sign a declaration. Not every state has signed yet but every state will be added after their governor shows that their counties are being affected. Anyone who can show that sales and revenue are being affected and is a private business or private non-profit is eligible. Loans up to $25k will be available without providing collateral.
  • Facebook for business is offering $100 million in grants to 30,000 small businesses. More information will become available but grants mean you do not pay it back.

Other Resources

Above all else, stay positive, focused, and continue to work hard. The waters are rough right now and we are all in uncharted territory, but the best way to make it out alive is to keep on going.

If the Betties can help you with anything at this time, please feel free to give us a call at (800) 958-8591.

How to Choose the Best Virtual Receptionist for Your Law Firm

How to choose the best virtual receptionist service for law firmsSo you’re ready to hire a virtual receptionist for your law firm? Or, you’re ready to at least think about hiring a virtual receptionist. Congratulations! This is a huge step in the right direction for growth in your law firm. We’ve designated 2021 to be a year of growth here at Back Office Betties and we hope to help all of our attorney friends do the same.

There’s a lot to know before you choose the best virtual receptionist service for your law firm. There are countless services that all claim to be the best (we are shamelessly one of them!), so research is key. What are your priorities when it comes to hiring a virtual receptionist? Is it 24/7 call answering? Or can you make do with normal business hours? Do you prioritize high-quality calls or is quantity over quality your motto? Regardless, we’ve compiled all you need to know right here in this handy dandy article!

Why should law firms hire an answering service?

It’s no secret that a phone that never stops ringing is a giant pain in the rear. What is a little surprising, though, is just how much those phone calls interrupt your daily work! Did you know that attorneys spend an average of only 2.5 hours on billable work each day? That makes up only approximately 30% of a typical workday. In addition, according to the 2019 Clio Legal Trends report, only 86% of those billed hours actually get paid.

Do you want to work for free? Certainly not!

The right virtual receptionist or answering service not only frees up your time and reduces your interruptions, but they also help to follow up and collect those missing payments.

Now, you may ask, why shouldn’t I just hire an in-house receptionist to handle all of that?

One of the most obvious answers to that question is: Cost. To hire a full-time legal receptionist, you’re looking at a cost of approximately $4,123.60 per month after factoring in employer taxes and benefits. Add to that the lost income from time spent recruiting, hiring, and training someone, plus the time lost for managing 1 employee (6 hours/week, by the way).

Now spin around and look at pricing for an answering service. With services offering a range of approximately $70 per month up to $1599 per month, even the top plans are going to give you major bang for your buck! The fact that you don’t lose any time managing or recruiting staff is just a bonus. Check out the following graphic we created for more stats on this:

Cost of hiring in-house receptionist for law firms

Is your law firm ready to hire a virtual receptionist?

The first step to hiring a virtual receptionist is deciding whether or not you are ready. If you spend your days frustrated and chronically ignoring calls that come through, the answer is that you probably are! But there are some other key points to consider:

  • Are you ready to hand over the reins when it comes to being the first client contact?
  • Do you want to land more business than ever before?
  • Will you be organized enough to follow up with messages you didn’t take yourself?

If you said no to any of the above, you might not be ready yet! That’s totally okay, but keep in mind that doing the same thing gives you the same results. Bookmark this article and keep researching, but come back here when you feel like you might be ready.

What does your law firm need in an answering service?

Now that you have determined that you are in fact ready to hire, it’s time to figure out your priorities. No two answering services or virtual receptionist services are the same! Some offer extended hours, some offer higher quality calls, some are cheaper, and some are legal experts. Let’s narrow down your priorities to determine what you need to ask your prospects!

  • What are your business hours? When do people typically call you? If you get calls at all hours, you might consider a 24/7 service. If you only get the occasional after-hours call, a business hours only service will be perfectly fine!
  • Do you want help with client intake? Will you entrust your virtual receptionists to intake new clients? Or do you prefer they simply take a message so that you can do the intake at a later date?
  • What is your budget? If you are strapped for cash, you may not have much choice in the matter. You don’t want to overstretch the budget if you aren’t sure you’ll get a return. However, it’s important to keep in mind how many billable hours your answering service will free up (if they take intakes and follow-up off your plate!). Oftentimes the pricier service that offers higher quality call-handling is worth the return!
  • What is the size of your firm? Different services offer different plans and some may be more conducive to smaller or larger firms than your own. Do your research and determine how many people will be receiving messages and/or transfers, then choose your service and plan accordingly.
  • Is your client intake complicated? If you have a lengthy and complicated legal client intake, it is in your best interest to research plans specifically for lawyers. Legal-trained receptionists will help your potential and current clients to feel more comfortable through the intake process. Not to mention, they will be more efficient and understanding of your law firm’s terminology and processes.

Choose the company that best meets your needs.

After considering all variables and deciding what your firm really needs from a virtual receptionist or answering service, and the things you can live without, you can choose the best company for your needs. No single company is the right fit for every law firm, and you might even find that it takes you a few trial runs before you find the company that works best for you! However, once you find that perfect fit, you won’t be sorry. The stress-reduction of trusting someone else with the calls you can no longer handle is worth every penny!

 

Curious how Back Office Betties can benefit your law firm? Schedule a call with our Growth Solutions Specialist here, or give us a call at (800) 958-8591.

How to Understand (and Market to) Your Law Firm’s Ideal Clients

Marketing to your law firm's ideal clients

Marketing is one of those tricky parts of business that nobody really understands unless you’ve previously worked in the field. There are so many tips out there and everyone thinks that their way is the only way. The thing is, there are a few key principles that every marketing tactic or campaign needs to be successful. Determining who your law firm’s ideal clients are is one of those keys.

Today, we want to show you how to nail down your ideal client. Working under the impression that everyone is your ideal client and needs your services quickly leads to serving no one. Quit throwing everything at the wall and hoping it sticks! Once you know who you’re talking to, it’s a whole lot easier to know what to say.

At Betties, we started out offering our services to any small business that wanted us! We quickly realized that many people and businesses didn’t value what we offered. We also realized that it was impossible to offer the level of service we wanted to while juggling calls for multiple business types. Our team took a step back and asked: Who do we like working with the most? The answer was unanimous: Attorneys. At that point, we were able to nail down the specific problems our attorney clients needed help with. This has helped guide our messaging as well as the services we provide.

If you’re currently marketing to everyone, or not marketing to anyone at all, you need to keep reading! Let’s get your ideal client nailed down so you can start truly helping them.

Steps to identifying your law firm’s ideal clients

1) Brainstorm the problems your law firm solves

Remember those handy dandy bubble maps we made in school before starting a paper or project? Take us back because that’s the perfect start to finding your firm’s clients. You need to know what problems you solve before you can know who needs help with said problems! Start with the types of law you practice and branch out with various case types underneath those branches. Get as detailed as possible so that you can really understand the problems your clients are facing.

2) Make a list of your favorite clients

This step is definitely more so for established firms and businesses. Once you’ve discovered certain people that you love working with, make a list of them. Start to process some of their characteristics and find similarities. Do they live in similar areas? Do they share careers? What about familial status? What are their personality types? Male or female? How old are they? Political affiliations? Answering as many of these questions as possible and finding similarities can make it surprisingly simple to understand who your law firm’s ideal clients are. You may already be working with them!

3) Determine how many client profiles you serve

Your clients may not all be in exactly the same circumstances. Especially if you offer multiple services or practice more than one area of law. If you notice that your favorite clients don’t necessarily overlap, or perhaps you solve different problems, consider creating multiple profiles. Start with the problem you are solving and work backward as to who that solution serves. This will help when advertising different services or marketing on different platforms. If one set of clients hangs out on Facebook, target them there with messaging directed at them. If another set of clients hangs out on LinkedIn, market to them there!

Keep in mind – you don’t want to go overboard. Slight differences do not necessarily require an all-new profile if your messaging can work for both ideal clients.

4) Who are your competitors serving?

If you don’t yet have a robust favorite client list, look at your competitors. Who are they serving and who do they market to? Follow them on social media and check out their lead magnets. Who are they speaking to? What are they offering? This might help you to determine if your ideal client is similar or if you have a unique audience that they can’t help.

If you don’t want to make it known that you are “spying”, Kim Garst offers some valuable tips on software to follow your competitors’ email blasts without actually subscribing.

 

Okay, I know who I want to serve. Now what?

Speaking to your ideal clients

Now that you know who you are talking to, it will be easier to determine your messaging and how you market to them. The most important part of marketing your firm is to ensure that your potential clients want to hear what you are saying. Nothing turns you off of a company faster than a message you don’t align with, right?

1) Create content that speaks to solving their problems

You identified the problems your law firm solves and you determined the problems of your ideal client profiles. Put those together and market directly to each problem that your ideal clients face. You can do this through informative and helpful blog posts and other free content, as well as speak to how you help solve those problems in your advertising and landing pages. For instance, if your ideal client is having trouble planning his estate and wants to be sure his family doesn’t have to worry about anything, you might create messaging around your uncomplicated, done-for-you estate planning services that will set his family up to thrive after he is gone.

2) Show up where your clients hang out

If your ideal clients hang out on Facebook, you want to advertise to them there and have an active Facebook Business Page. If your ideal clients ride the bus, you might want to utilize bus stop advertising opportunities or have your ads inside the bus. Do your clients attend conferences? What kind? Show up as an authoritative figure there!

When you know where your clients are and what problems they are having, it’s easy to attract them to you with marketing that surrounds them.

 

Did you find this post helpful? We’d love for you to share your ideal client profile in the comments or over on Facebook!