Tip of the Month: What You Should Know About the Equifax Breach*

There are many, many lessons being learned from the recent Equifax breach – reputational, legal and technological.  Much has been written and much will be written about the effects of this massive exposure of personal information that, once exposed, could lead to identify theft, tax fraud and more. Let’s break it down. Following is an annotated guide.

Who is Equifax?

Did my data get exposed?

What should Equifax have done (versus what they have done)?

How did this happen?

What should I do?

What does this mean for lawyers?

What happens to Equifax?

Why do we persist in using DL numbers and social security numbers as unique identifiers?

 

*Thanks to Dan Cotter for his review and help with this Tip!

Use Business Intelligence for Law Firm Stability and Growth

Post sponsored by Smokeball and written by Josh Taylor, Esq, Account Manager

A question that inevitably arises whenever there is discussion regarding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other “health measurements” within small law firms is “what should I be numerically tracking?”  While the billable hour will likely still rule in litigation-heavy practices, there are other factors that can be considered.  The following financial metrics are terrific health indicators for transactional and corporate firms, but lend superb data tracking ideas to almost every type of law practice:

  • Dormant Client Percentage: the ratio of the number of clients that the firm has not had a new project from in a certain period of time (TBD by the firm) to the entire client base
  • Growth in Top Clients: ratio of fees billed to top X clients (number can be adjusted to size of firm) in the past year to the fees billed to the top X clients in the year before that (are my best clients coming to me more and more as time goes on)
  • Basic Profitability per Matter/Transaction: Flat fee for transaction minus (Hours spent x staff cost per hour)
  • Client Retention: ratio of number of clients billed in the last year to the same clients that had been billed in the year before (can really start the conversation of why people are or aren’t coming back to the firm for more transactional work time after time)
  • Number of Matters Opened: compare year to year or month to month
  • *Client-facing KPI* Value Added for Client: Increase in client profits minus cost of legal services provided by your firm (why would a client come back if what you do doesn’t ever help them do better??)

Besides financial health indicators, KPIs should certainly revolve around ensuring staff is happy and healthy as well.  Workload is important to consider, but “how do I know my staff can or cannot handle more?”  Certainly, you will need something that tracks all activities and all worked hours.  Some case management software and billing technologies are terrific at this.  The resulting reports should indicate, for individual employees, things like hours worked per week and number of files being handled, and this should prompt a conversation about these things with staff members.  The ultimate goal must be to come up with KPIs together that make sense and to ensure the employee feels what they take on is noticed and appreciated.

Another good metric is seeing how quickly clients are responded to by staff in a meaningful way.  If staff is unable to do this well and clients wait long periods of time for responses, there may be an issue of having too much on a particular staff member’s plate (i.e., when the product the client gets suffers, you may be asking a good employee to try handling too much).

Finally, other concrete metrics could revolve around billing clients.  Realization Rate and what causes this rate to drop is important.  Are you writing off time because the wrong person is doing it?  Are you billing inconsistently with client guidelines? Are multiple people billing for the same task?  A KPI here could be to strive for a certain average realization rate, such as bumping a 65% rate to 75% in the next fiscal year.

Interested in learning more? Hear Josh talk about KPIs and business intelligence in the How To… program from 9/12/2017

SMOKEBALL

Innovating? Let Us Know!

The Chicago Legal Tech Innovator Showcase will promote the law firms, legal service providers, and companies that are using technology to improve legal services in the Chicago area and highlight those whose innovations are exceptional. Whether the end result is better legal knowledge management, more affordable legal services, or improved metrics for decision making and analysis—and regardless of how the services are delivered—we want to hear what you are doing, and so does Chicago’s legal community!

Five “Best in Show” awards will be given in each of the 2 awards categories: Law Firm/Legal Services and Company/Product/Service. Each award winner will present a 5 minute pitch at the Chicago Kent Auditorium on October 24 and have an opportunity to exhibit during the event. There will be a kick off discussion on “How to Innovate” with an all star panel.

Legal technology companies, law firms and legal service providers are encouraged to submit innovative products and services here:

Submissions are due no later than September 29th, 2017.

All submissions that meet the criteria will be listed in a Chicago Legal Tech Showcase Guide 2017

The Showcase will be held at Chicago-Kent College of Law on October 24, 2017 from 1pm-4pm

Learn more about the Showcase, criteria, panelists and judges and spread the word! 

Brought to you by The Chicago Bar Association’s Future of the Profession Committee and Chicago-Kent College of Law,

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Two Phone Lines, One Smart Phone with the Ruby App

Post sponsored by Ruby Receptionists and written by Diana Stepleton, VP, Partner Engagement

Today’s lawyers are more mobile than ever. They are being pulled in a dozen directions: taking client calls, appearing in court, and working on the go. Are you prepared with everything you need to get work done, anytime and anywhere? Before you’re ready to take on the (mobile) world, you’ll need to make a few decisions.

One Phone or Two?

Are you carrying two phones or taking client calls on your personal mobile number? Carrying a single phone that handles all of your calls, personal and professional, can blur the lines between work life and home life. It’s much easier to convince yourself to handle client calls outside of business hours when your phone is already in your hand. There’s the challenge of having your personal cell number listed, resulting in business solicitation calls to your private number. Add the question of professionalism and it’s clear that running your business with a single number isn’t for everyone.

On the other side of the coin, having two phones also comes with its own set of problems. The most obvious of which is the simple—and probably familiar—struggle of keeping track of both devices. Silencing, answering, forwarding calls, taking messages – plus keeping them both charged! It can be a lot to handle.

So, what’s the solution?

Two lines, one phone! A two-in-one deal gives you everything you need to run your personal life and your business. It empowers you to better route and manage your calls. Many small business owners turn to a call-forwarding service , forwarding their published business number to a personal cell phone.

One other simple solution for a two-line plan for your cell phone is Ruby Receptionists’ Choose Your Caller ID feature.

Choose Your Caller ID with Ruby Receptionists

If you don’t know Ruby Receptionists, Ruby is a virtual receptionist service—a team of customer service experts devoted to building trust with every caller—making current and potential clients feel special while making you look good.   The friendly, professional live receptionists can answer with your custom greeting, transfer callers to you wherever you are, take messages, collect intake, make follow up calls, and more.

The Ruby mobile app is part of every Ruby plan. The app acts as your telephone command center, allowing you to change when/where you are taking calls, see your calls and messages at a glance, and select which number you want to dial out from.

With Choose Your Caller ID, you can dial out from your personal cell phone as if you were calling from your business phone. The number appearing on the caller ID matches the number you’ve published for your business—callers never know the difference! And what if you are making a personal call and want your cell number to appear? Not a problem! You’re given a choice of numbers every time you call out from the Ruby mobile app.

The benefits of Choose Your Caller ID include:

  • Having two lines on a single phone—allowing you to keep your personal number to yourself, while still managing your business from the same device.
  • More freedom, flexibility, and savings—Choose Your Caller ID eliminates the need for an office phone. Ruby can provide you with a local number or host your current number, empowering you to leave your landline (and its bills) in the past.
  • Superior call quality—The Ruby app routes calls through the cellular network rather than over WiFi, giving you a more reliable calling experience, with fewer dropped calls and better sound quality.

 
Further, Ruby can host your business number for you free, eliminating the need for a carrier. Don’t have a business number yet? Even simpler—Ruby can provide you with one. The price? Also free! You’ll have the flexibility and freedom of two phones without the hassle or worry of juggling devices.

With the Choose Your Caller ID feature, you’ll bring all of your business-related phone bills down to one service and one device: Ruby and a cell phone!  Members of the Chicago Bar Association receive exclusive pricing –to learn more visit www.callruby.com/chicagobar, or contact the Ruby team at hello@callruby.com or 866-611-7829.

Ruby Receptionists

Ruby Receptionists

How Technology is Creating a Better Law Firm

Sponsored by PracticePanther. Written by Eddy Bermudez, Content Marketer & Chief Imaginist at PracticePanther

Speaking in Davos in 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “…technology empowers humans to do great things. You have to be optimistic about what technology can do in the hands of humans.” It is easy to see the impact technology has had on us and our society in such a short time. Apart from the conveniences we enjoy, technology is revolutionizing our economy and the way we do business. Yet, law firms have been slow to adopt new technology.

I have previously written about the brave new world legal technology is opening up for solo and small law firms. Law technology has changed every part of the legal field. The paperless, virtual office is becoming the new normal. Lawyers, paralegals, and legal secretaries are starting to realize how much of their work is simplified and automated with technology. Solo and small firms need to adopt new legal technology to keep up with larger firms.

At one time, the impulse is to say “I don’t really need it” to legal technology might have been correct. Those days are behind us. Once you realize the benefits technology can have on your practice you will wonder why you waited so long. Here are some actionable steps you can take to improve your firm’s efficiency.

Time + Efficiency = Money

A lawyer’s job is to practice the law. Yet, many lawyers are spending too many billable hours on administrative/clerical duties. Outsourcing these tasks to paralegals creates extra work for them and keeps them from focusing on the client and their legal duties. A secretary could handle these responsibilities. However, not all solo and small firms can afford to hire an extra staff member just for clerical work.

So, the problem becomes how to complete these menial tasks faster and get back to practicing the law. The answer is to start using case management software, like PracticePanther, to easily automate many of the menial tasks that take away time from billable work. First, automate the repetitive tasks you do every day. In the software, use document automation to create prefilled document information for frequently used documents.

Document Automation

In a Microsoft Word document, you would typically need to manually fill in all the information for an engagement letter. However, the software will show you the different fields that you can add into a template, like a contact’s name and case number, and you can copy these fields into your Word document. Next, save the document as a .docx file and go back into the software.

Click the New Document Template button, name your document, and select the file you just created from your computer and save it to the software. So, now whenever you want to apply this template to any of your matters, simply go to that matter and click the “New” button. Click “Apply Template” at the bottom, and apply the template. A document will be automatically generated for you with all the client information filled in for you. You never have to waste time manually writing these documents again.

Time Tracking

Time tracking is another task that can be automated so every billable hour is recorded and charged to the client. You can set an hourly rate for yourself as well as all other users, create convenient time entries, track time from any device, generate invoices, and compare time entries across users and matters.

Lawyers should use the timer in the software to easily track every second spent on a billable task. Stop the timer once the task is done, then convert those hours into an invoice so you can accurately bill your client for the work you have done. You should not guess how much to charge a client.

First, set your default hourly rate in your settings menu. Find the hourly rate box and simply enter your going rate.

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Each user can set their own default rate. Alternatively, the owner of the account can go to the ‘More’ tab on the left-hand side, select ‘Users’, and select the user for whom you want to set the default rate.

Next, create a time entry by clicking the ‘+New’ button on top and select ‘Time Entry’. Select the Contact and Matter for which you want to create a Time Entry. You can then use our built-in timer to track time with your client, or manually input the amount of time spent with your client. You can even pause the timer and resume.

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Once the task is complete, stop the timer and generate an invoice for that billable time. Go to ‘Matters’ and select the ‘Invoice’ option on the Matter for which you want to generate an invoice. After you’ve selected ‘Invoice’, simply click the ‘Generate Invoice’ button. This way, you will never lose a billable second or have to spend a lot of time creating spreadsheets and calculating amounts.

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Greater Communication

Technology has made legal work vastly more cooperative. Attorneys can now reach out to other attorneys and clients from anywhere and in any part of the world through a client portal. The client portal offered by PracticePanther’s software improves transparency and trust, leading to happier and more profitable clients.

Additionally, you can continue to run your firm efficiently by assigning tasks to your clients, invite them to meetings or court dates, send them invoices, share files, and send secure messages. This way you eliminate the hassle of spending hours playing email tag with clients and hoping your staff is on track with their work.

To start with, create events or tasks for employees and clients from PracticePanther. Under the ‘+New’ tab, select ‘Event’ or ‘Task’.

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From there, fill out the form with all information relevant to the Event or Task, and click ‘Save’. You can invite a Contact or another User to an Event you have created. On the Event or Task page, type any User or Contact you wish to be included as an attendee under the ‘Attendees’ tab. Assign multiple users and contacts to the event and send them an email reminder.

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Moreover, you can remind your staff and clients about important deadlines with SMS & email reminders. After you select ‘Event’ or ‘Task’ under the ‘+New’ tab and have filled out all the information for the given event/task, click the ‘+Add a reminder’ button and select the method (Email, Popup, or Text Message) and time of the reminder. Then just click save and the reminder will be sent when you requested.

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The client portal also saves time by allowing clients to electronically sign documents. You can eliminate the time it takes to coordinate your schedule with the client’s by uploading their documents to the client portal and sending them an encrypted email. The client can sign the document and send it back to you without ever having to take time off work to visit your office. You save time and can dedicate your efforts to advancing the client’s case.

These are just a few of the automation features you can adopt to make your firm more efficient. Whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen Xer or Millennial attorney technology makes your job easier. Law practices can only benefit from the changes the tech revolution offers.

PracticePanther is a member discount of the Chicago Bar. Sign up with PracticePanther and use the code 10off4cba to get 10% off the monthly plan.

Article sponsored and written by Practice Panther

practice panther

Improve Your Website with Google’s Test My Site

Having a modern website doesn’t just mean good design. Today it means being mobile friendly and quick to load. If your website doesn’t look good on a smartphone, Google pushes it down in page ranks. If your website is slow, a potential client may take their eyeballs elsewhere out of impatience. Make sure that your website is up to snuff by going to Think with Google’s tool, “Test My Site” testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com.  Type in your website’s URL in the bar and you’ll get statistics on mobile friendliness and loading speed on both a phone and a desktop.

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If you click “Get My Report,” you’ll receive a more detailed analysis of your website in your inbox that will tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Common problems such as needing to optimize images or leverage browser caching can be a little complicated to tackle on your own, but the report does give you even more detailed guides on how to fix the problem yourself. You can give the report to a webmaster to fix any troubled spots you might have.

Think With Google, Google’s trends and marketing insights arm, says that people are five times more likely to leave a website if it isn’t mobile-friendly, and almost half of all users will leave if your site takes longer than three seconds to load. Don’t lose potential clients and referrals because of short attention spans. Find out your website’s potential weaknesses at testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com

 

Want more information on SEO? Check out our video, Make SEO Work For Your Law Firm on our BRAND NEW HOW TO LIBRARY hosted by Vimeo. You can even watch your phone or tablet! https://vimeo.com/213885271/ec347df759

 

What Lawyers Need To Know About Accepting Credit Card Payments

You should be accepting credit card payments. Clio’s 2015 Legal Trends Report observed a 35% reduction in the time it took to receive payment compared to waiting for a check. You may think that the way you process payments now is just fine so why fix it? Because the way we pay for things have changed. A little over 10 years ago, checks were the biggest form of noncash payments in the US, but in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve, the combination of debit cards, credit cards, and ACH payments overtook checks. Many of your clients are already paying online in other places. Four out of five households with internet access opt to online bank, and this isn’t only millennials– more than 70% of online or mobile bill payers are 35 years of age or older. By not collecting on invoices immediately, you’re effectively extending your client’s credit.

Every credit card processor will provide you with a “payment gateway.” A “payment gateway” is what clients use to submit their credit/debit information. It can be a physical swiper or an electronic form. Which type of account you have then determines where that information from that gateway goes. A merchant account is a one-to-one relationship. It will briefly hold the client’s money and then transfer it to your firm’s bank account. Processors made specifically for attorneys are usually merchant accounts. In fact, some legal-specific credit card processors handle trust accounting, depositing the transaction the correct account right away and only deducting fees from your operating account. Examples of these types of processors include LawPay, LawCharge, and MyCase Payments (only available with the MyCase practice management software).

credit card chart

In 2011, a new type of account came on the market – the aggregator account, making way for all sorts of new processors you may have heard of: PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Aggregator accounts merge the money from your transaction with the money from transactions of other businesses and then move it to their own merchant account. This process reduces their fees from the credit card companies that they then theoretically pass on to you with lower transaction fees. In my comparison chart, however, you can see that merchant accounts have lower fees per transaction, with LawPay having the lowest published transaction fee (see column M for a test of running a $1K transaction). Double click the image to see all the data in Google Sheets.

If you decide to accept credit card payments, it’s important that you remain PCI compliant by following the PCI guidelines for protecting credit card data: 1. Build and maintain a secure network; 2. Protect cardholder data; 3. Maintain a vulnerability management program; 4. Implement strong access control measures; 5. Regularly monitor and test networks; 6. Maintain an information security policy. Every year you should submit a self-assessment of your compliance to your acquirer bank. To make the process easier on yourself, select a processor that is PCI Compliant on their end as well as yours. LawPay actually includes a free guide and support through the assessment. Other processors are PCI compliant but do not offer the same level of support LawPay does. PayPal Payments Pro actually puts the onus on the merchant in order to take on higher risk merchants. Consider if the benefits of using PayPal Payments Pro outweigh the headache of maintaining PCI Compliance. You can learn more about PCI and take a look at sample self-assessments, check out PCI Security Standards Council’s Document Library: https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/document_library?document=pci_dss

For more information, see our CLE “Accepting Online Payments Ethically and Securely” at http://bit.ly/2mpiCcB

 

*Bankruptcy attorneys and debt collectors: be diligent in reading the fine print when selecting a credit card processor. Stripe considers your practice too high risk, but there are plenty that don’t.

Does your Windows computer take forever to start up? Disable unnecessary programs at startup.

Do you avoid shutting down your machine because of how long it will take to get running again? You could have too many programs launching at startup. We often have these programs running in the background all day, slowing us down, even though we only use them for five minutes.

 

You can determine which programs really must begin at startup and disable those that don’t by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Esc to open the TaskManager, and going to the Startup tab in Windows 10. Right click on the program you want to disable and select “Disable.”

windows 10
If you’re still running Windows 7, open the Start menu, type msconfig, and press enter. The System Configuration window will appear. Select the Start Up tab.

windows 7

After you have unchecked the programs you want to disable, click Apply and then OK.

Saving little bits of time may not seem like much but it can add up to something big, and it’s something you can do right now.

 

Tip of the Month: What You Should Know About the Equifax Breach*

There are many, many lessons being learned from the recent Equifax breach - reputational, legal and technological.  Much has been written and much will be written about the effects of this massive exposure of personal information that, once exposed, … [Read more]

Use Business Intelligence for Law Firm Stability and Growth

Post sponsored by Smokeball and written by Josh Taylor, Esq, Account Manager A question that inevitably arises whenever there is discussion regarding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other “health measurements” within small law firms is “what … [Read more]

Innovating? Let Us Know!

The Chicago Legal Tech Innovator Showcase will promote the law firms, legal service providers, and companies that are using technology to improve legal services in the Chicago area and highlight those whose innovations are exceptional. Whether the … [Read more]

Two Phone Lines, One Smart Phone with the Ruby App

Post sponsored by Ruby Receptionists and written by Diana Stepleton, VP, Partner Engagement Today’s lawyers are more mobile than ever. They are being pulled in a dozen directions: taking client calls, appearing in court, and working on the go. Are … [Read more]

How Technology is Creating a Better Law Firm

Sponsored by PracticePanther. Written by Eddy Bermudez, Content Marketer & Chief Imaginist at PracticePanther Speaking in Davos in 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “…technology empowers humans to do great things. You have to be optimistic … [Read more]

Improve Your Website with Google’s Test My Site

Having a modern website doesn’t just mean good design. Today it means being mobile friendly and quick to load. If your website doesn’t look good on a smartphone, Google pushes it down in page ranks. If your website is slow, a potential client may … [Read more]

What Lawyers Need To Know About Accepting Credit Card Payments

You should be accepting credit card payments. Clio’s 2015 Legal Trends Report observed a 35% reduction in the time it took to receive payment compared to waiting for a check. You may think that the way you process payments now is just fine so why fix … [Read more]

Does your Windows computer take forever to start up? Disable unnecessary programs at startup.

Do you avoid shutting down your machine because of how long it will take to get running again? You could have too many programs launching at startup. We often have these programs running in the background all day, slowing us down, even though we only … [Read more]