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Law Practice Management

Law Practice Management

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Law Practice Management

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  1. Law Practice Management Class #3 - The Law Office and Technology 2 (Startup Costs, Staffing and Employment, Filing and Office Procedures, Library and Research)

  2. Money Needed to Start Practice Savings Working Spouse Bank Loan Loan or Gift

  3. Credit Cards? • Dodd-Frank Financial Reforms • Last Resort • Fast Trip to Bankruptcy

  4. Benefits of Credit Card Usage Reduce check-writing costs Eliminate bank service charges Cut bookkeeping time

  5. Credit Card Tips Use Multiple Cards Get Rewards Cards Never Pay Late Never Miss a Payment Regularly Ask for Credit Limit Increase Stay Well Below Limit Understand which rate(s) apply to which cards Don’t mix business and personal charged on same credit card Have Clear Plan for Repayment

  6. Debit Cards? • Debit cards don’t always have the typical $50 fraud or theft limit of credit cards – you can lose everything in the account if you delay reporting a lost or stolen card • Dodd-Frank lowered merchant fees on debit cards, but that may not benefit consumer much

  7. Getting the money Refinance home (Dodd-Frank increased qualification standards significantly) Loan from friend of relative Offer tax advantages of leasing equipment and furniture to you (Foonberg pp 92-93) Investment tax credit Depreciation Interest deduction on borrowed funds Other business expenses deductions consistent with leasing business

  8. Start-up costs Internet service (office, home, mobile) Paper/postage Stationary, announcements, business cards, postage Rent/Security Deposit First, last (or last two month’s rent) Furniture/decor Consider buying used Malpractice insurance Leave adequate time to find a policy Telephone service VoIP (standalone), Bundled with cable or DSL, POTS

  9. Budget for Student Loan Repayment Visit Tuition.io and Read Blog 10 Things You Could Do If You Didn’t Have Student Loans

  10. Basic technology items for start-up Personal Computer (notebook or desktop) Scanner Word processing software Email client or web mail PDF creation software (e-filing requirements) Laser printer Ink jet not suitable for law office use (Foonberg wrong at p 107 in recommending ink jet) Fax machine not essential Foonberg again wrong at pp 107, 118 Use Internet fax service instead, like Efax

  11. New office checklistTechnology/Communication Determine need for telephone equipment and lines Place telephone order in advance (2-6 weeks) Reserve phone and fax numbers Find right cell phone and plan Answering service or virtual assistant?

  12. New office checklistTechnology/Communication Obtain high-speed Internet service Look for fast “business-class” service Consider Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for telephone service Vonage (and Virtual Number) Skype subscription, online number, phone adapter, or phone. Ring Central Office Grasshopper 8x8

  13. New office checklistTechnology/Communication Register Internet Domain (approx. $10/yr) Check availability Look for yourname.com or yournamelaw.com Determines email address Determines URL for Web site Look for Web Site Hosting Design Your Own and Use Cheap Hosting Use a Web Designer who also handles hosting

  14. New office checklistTechnology/Communication Advertising Yellow pages (expensive, not suitable for all practice types) Community directories School athletic programs Web site or blog or both (WordPress)

  15. New office checklistFurniture – How lavish? May depend on the nature of your practice Expectations of clientele Consider skimping on personal office, putting more $$ into conference room and reception area Most important item in lawyer’s office is comfortable chair

  16. New office checklistFurniture – Where to look Look into furniture rental Buy rental returns (off-lease) Check classifieds in local legal newspapers or bar association publications

  17. New office checklistFurniture – Lawyer’s office Desk 6 ‘ wide Desk chair Comfort and appearance Floor mat if office is carpeted Table, desk, or return for computer equipment Client chairs Bookshelf

  18. New office checklistOther equipment Secretary/Assistant desk or station Chair Let assistant choose own chair if possible Dictation equipment Digital, not analog Small copier or scanner Outsource larger copy jobs Staples, Office Depot, Kinkos Postage scale/meter or Web-based postage

  19. New office checklistOffice supplies Open charge account with one or more local office supply stores or office superstores Staples Staples Rewards Card rebates (example of savings) Office Depot Worklife Rewards Card rebates On-line ordering Create a basic list that makes re-ordering simple Free delivery from some stores with $50 order Consider recycled or store-brand toner cartridges

  20. New office proceduresDictation Dictation is not a universal skill Need equipment even if you do most of your own typing Short tapes (analog) or files (digital) Dictate punctuation if you expect it to be accurate, spell proper names or difficult legal terms Use outside services SpeakWrite (1.5 cents per word for legal work)

  21. New office proceduresFiling Use colored file folders for different types of cases Use different colored paper in printer or copier to distinguish different types of documents Design a new file information form (may want to match to data used by your practice management software Consider 3-ring notebooks (great for trial/litigation practice)

  22. New office proceduresMailing Use self-printed stationary for non-critical communications (court copies, etc.) Use “Address Correction and Forwarding Requested on outgoing invoices Be meticulous about complete and correct addresses Suite numbers 9-digit Zip code Open P.O. Box if post office is convenient to you Get mail on weekends, evenings Avoid USPS Express Mail for overnight deliveries Go with FedEx, UPS, DHL

  23. Technology/Equipment PurchasesThe Great Equalizer False economy to have inadequate equipment Right equipment and software makes you more efficient and profitable Do everything a large firm can do, but often faster, better, and cheaper

  24. Law office technologyWhere to start Ask around Don’t start with technology vendors Find a lawyer who has faced same problem Copy their solution Consultants Good ones are hard to find Once you find one, listen carefully

  25. StrategiesDon’t Wait - Begin Form a group of lawyers at same stage of practice Have monthly meetings to discuss common problems and solutions Contact a practice management advisor from the Bar LOMAS in Florida Work with a consultant recommended by other lawyers

  26. Used equipment?Not usually a bargain Used PC’s are poor investment Nearly new refurbished or factory outlet PC’s may be worth considering (Dell Outlet, HP Business Outlet, Lenovo ThinkPad Outllet, etc.) or discounted new at Microsoft Store Used laser printers May be OK, if price is rock bottom and printer is HP LaserJet Used photocopiers (better to outsource) Only if you can get a service contract at a fair price

  27. Fax machines If you must have one, get a plain paper laser fax Not thermal Not ink jet Consider a laser multifunction machine that can do quadruple duty as printer, scanner, and light copier too HP and Brother make several models

  28. Scanners Auto document feeder (ADF) essential Duplexing is nice extra (scan both sides in one pass) Look for bundled software to convert scans to searchable PDF Some large copiers have scanning and networking options, but few scan directly to searchable PDF format

  29. Entry-level law office scanner If it is a Fujitsu ScanSnap – Buy It. ScanSnap iX500 is new standard for solo and small firms and desktop scanning for medium and large firms ($495 list price, $410 at Amazon)

  30. Paper ShreddersProtecting confidentiality Trash can is not end of line for documents Nothing of a confidential nature should go into trash can whole Client information Firm financial information Buy own shredder or use mobile document shredding service Cross-cut or confetti shredder is best option for office

  31. Dumpster Diving & Trash Rummaging

  32. Telephones Buying own system can be prohibitively expensive for new lawyer POTS local phone company VoIP from dedicated provider Digital phone from cable company Voice mail is essential Messages are often garbled in translation Answering service with routing to your phone or to voice mail Personal touch for $50+ per month without the staff expense Despite usefulness, many clients hate voice mail

  33. Smart Phones Best Choices – Android or iPhone, with Windows Phone 8 improving (Blackberry is dying and nearly dead) Network Coverage is Key (Verizon rates best, AT&T worst in most markets) If Using Data Services for Tethering netbook, notebook, or iPad to phone, consider a 4G phone Cheaper to add tethering to smart phone than buy separate Mi-Fi device and subscription Look for employee (spouse) discounts, family plans, association discounts

  34. Tablets Can replace notebook computer for many lawyers Apple iPad clearly top choice today for lawyers due to best app selection Android tablets and others not yet truly competitive (No “iPad Killer” on market yet, but 2013 Nexus 7 is closest so far) Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is expensive ($900+), but excellent

  35. SoftwareCategories Word Processing Time/Billing/Accounting Practice/Case Management Email Client Web Browser Scanning/OCR Document Management/Search PDF Creation

  36. Word Processing MS Word is the leader Corel WordPerfect has faded to distant second due to Word dominance in corporate world Consider alternatives to Word and WordPerfect Apache OpenOffice(free) W M L LibreOffice (free) W M L Kingsoft Office (free) W L A i AbiWord (free and very basic) W M L Google Docs/Drive (free – Web based ASP) Zoho Docs (free – Web based ASP)

  37. MS Office 2013 Info Office Home & Student ($140) - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Office Home & Business ($220) - Above apps plus Outlook. Office Professional ($400) - Above apps plus Access and Publisher.

  38. Office 365 Subscription Office 365 Home Premium: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. For $100 per year you get a five computer “household license” Office 365 Small Business Premium: includes the same collection of apps and adds Lync and InfoPath, at $150 per user per year, with each subscriber getting the right to use the software on up to five PCs or Macs and on “select smartphones and tablets.”

  39. Office 365 Productivity Plus$12.49 per month per user - Demo • Hosted Exchange Email • 50 GB Email Storage • Syncing of Email , Calendar, Contacts Across Devices • SkyDrive Pro 25GB Cloud Storage • Lync (aka Skype Pro) Online Meetings • Office Web Apps • Office Mobile Apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone • MS Office Desktop Software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook)

  40. Doing your own word processing?Could be a false economy Some lawyers can type as fast as they can dictate long documents Short documents often easier to dictate But creating templates for common letters and documents can alter this somewhat Speech recognition software NaturallySpeaking 12 is best yet Requires quality hardware Meshes well with digital dictation Not every lawyer can adapt to it

  41. Time/billing/accounting Look for software designed for lawyers Manage trust accounts Do conflict checks Integrate all three functions Saves time Reduces errors Links to or incorporates practice/case management

  42. Practice/case managementPIM (personal information manager) on steroids Integrates calendar (docket), contacts, notes, document creation, email, time keeping, legal research, telephone calls, etc. Understands that lawyers work on cases or matters, not contacts (flaw with using Outlook for practice management) Look for link to or integration with time/billing/accounting functions Training is critical No one can use such a system without training

  43. Email Distinguish between Clients and Services Email Clients (software on your computer) MS Outlook (Win & Mac, Exchange support) Mail (built into OS X, Exchange support) Thunderbird (free, Win, Mac, Linux) Opera Mail (free, Win, Mac, Linux) Postbox ($10, Win & Mac, great for Gmail) Evolution (free, Linux only, has Exchange support)

  44. Email Email Services Exchange (self-hosted) Hosted Exchange (Cloud-based) Web Mail Services Gmail (most popular) Outlook.com (excellent user interface) Yahoo! (good security and filtering) GMX (great Facebook integration) AOL (don’t even think about it)

  45. Web browser MS Internet Explorer (free) IE11 (Win 8.1 or Win 7) Most Web pages designed to display properly in IE Mozilla Firefox (free) Huge selection of add-ons increase productivity, cross-platform sync Google Chrome (free) Fast, cross-platform sync, growing library of add-ons

  46. Scanning/OCR Need speed and accuracy Must be able to convert to searchable PDF Often bundled with scanner Adobe Acrobat (full version) is pricey, but Standard is often bundled with scanner and can upgrade to Pro Abbyy FineReader also pricey

  47. Document management/search Amazingly useful, especially as you create more documents Full-featured network-enabled software like WORLDOX Free programs Copernic Desktop Search Locate32 (searches only file/folder names, not data within a file) Windows Search (what I use)

  48. PDF Creation & EditingNecessary for efiling, doc sharing, etc. Adobe Acrobat XI Professional (full version) expensive at $450 Good Alternative – Nitro Pro ($140) Free alternatives Cute PDF Writer PDF 995 ($9.95 without ads) PrimoPDF Adobe Reader Free, but slow to load Fast alternative is Foxit Reader

  49. Personnel Issues • Hire staff (traditional employer-employee relationship) • Do it yourself (may be only choice if budget is tight • Virtual Assistant (could be located anywhere in world with VoIP and other technology) • PEO (Professional Employer Organization) and lease your staff • TriNet and ADP are large players in local market.

  50. Other start-up issues Keeping track of prospective clients Getting info from prospective clients Bookkeeping/Accounting Filing