Quantifying legal work is not easy, but there are ways to use your billable hours, your web site traffic and emails to improve your efficiency and effectiveness. You can work 100 hours a week, and barely make minimum wage, or you can work 20 hours a week and meet all your obligations. keep your clients happy and have a life. Using data can help you see where you waste time and where you can get the most out of your day. Here are 5 ways to use data to make you a better and happier lawyer:
1. Using your billables – if you bill by the hour, review your past week or month to see how long it takes you to handle a particular matter, to draft a contract, to speak to a client, or research a topic. If you do some basic math, you can average how long it takes you to do particular tasks and how much time you actually spend on them. You can use this data to:
- Bill flat rates: If you know how long it takes you to complete a task, it might be beneficial to bill a flat rate for it instead of billing hourly. Clients love transparency and predictability, so if you can bill them a flat rate, there’s no disputing the fee, and both sides know what they’re getting.
- Focus on profitable tasks: If you can see which task gets you the most money, you can focus on them instead of ones that waste your time.
- Charge less for routine tasks: If you’ve done something numerous times that you know will not take you a long time to complete, you can charge a little less or offer a discount as a way to show your client you appreciate their business, or use it as leverage to gain new clients.
- Plan ahead: if you know it takes you 2 hours to draft a contract and you have 5 of them to draft, you can sit down for 10 hours and get them all done at once, spread them out to 1 day per contract, or plan for 2 a day and not go into the office expecting to spend 8 hours working, when you know you only have 2 hours of work to do. Think of all you can do with those 6 extra hours!
2. Using your Client Relationship Management (CRM) and Legal Practice Management Tools (LPM) – A lot of technology we use today to manage our practices has built-in tools to let us figure out how we get our leads and use that data over time to see where our marketing dollars can be put to use to get the greatest return on our investment (see my review on Lexicata to see what i mean). If you know you get a lot of your clients through word of mouth, but only 5 of the last 50 are from a Facebook ad, maybe that investment isn’t worth it. But if your Facebook clients brought you the most business, and your word of mouth clients just keep you busy and never pay their fees, maybe that Facebook ad investment is worth it after all. You’ll get a bigger return on your investment. Use your data to figure out where to invest your time, money and energy. Your CRM/LPM programs can also:
- Provide summaries on a case-by-case basis
- Provide insight into your billable and most profitable cases
- Plan your budgets
- Improve your productivity
3. Using Your Website – Like a lot of successful startups, you can use your site visits to test what your prospective clients like or don’t like on your site by tracking their visits. Using tools like Google Analytics or your platform’s metrics tools to track the number of visitors to your site, each individual page and gathering demographic data on your visitors can give you insight into what works, what doesn’t, and what you should be focusing on. You can narrow down your clients based on age, gender, location, and interests to understand your audience (creepy, I know). You can test certain content, posts on your site or blog, images and information to see what kind of attention they draw to your site and to which pages. You can use this information to delete content that does not keep your visitors on your site, that does not draw any attention, or that simply does not provide value.
4. Your Blog – You’ve probably seen posts about why every lawyer should blog. If not, here’s one). Blogs, on a high level, can help you differentiate yourself from other lawyers, can provide your clients information, can draw attention to your site through SEO (click here to learn about SEO) and can help you keep track of your visitors and narrow down your visitors’ interests. If you’re a general practitioner and you post on various topics and areas of law, but your clients constantly gravitate to your family law posts, you could narrow your practice to family law or areas that your clients are interested in to keep them informed, and get new clients.
5. Reviewing Your Emails – The hundreds of emails we send out every day can be pretty insightful if you start keeping track of how many you send, to whom, on what topics, and how much time you spend on them. If you review your results you’ll see that most of your day is spent on emails instead of working on substantive tasks that are more valuable to your clients and to you. If you’re answering 20 emails per day instead of drafting documents / contracts that could take hours and get you a higher fee, you’re wasting time, and that’s assuming you even bill for all your emails. You can find ways to limit the amount of correspondence you have with your clients by limiting them to one email a week, limiting the days and hours you spend on emails so you’re more productive.
Here’s a few other ways you can use your emails:
- Insurance: By reviewing your emails and keeping a simple tally of the topics of each of your last 100 emails, you can determine what area of law you focus on the most. This can actually help your insurance rates. My malpractice insurance company determines my coverage and premium based on the area of law I focus on. If you find out you send 75 emails on IP and only 25 on family law matters, you can talk to your insurance broker and ask them if this can help your rates. Sometimes we think we know what we spend the most time on, but emails can provide accurate insight into our practices.
- Standard Responses and Templates: If you review how long it takes you to respond to an email, you can prepare a standard response to every client that says “Thank you for contacting us… we will respond to your email in the next 24 hours. If this is an emergency, please call our office.” This can assure your client that you’ve received their email, that they will hear back from you, and when to expect a response. Just make sure you honor it. If you need a reminder to get back in touch with your client, use your CRM tools like Lexicata, MerusCase or Lawcus.
Stay tuned for more ideas on how to use data and technology to improve your practice! Share your ideas here!