Save the date for “Getting Paid” – October 2 CLE

Join me for a CLE on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 and learn how to implement best practices for getting paid.

Topics include:

  • Communicating with clients about fees
  • Maintaining client relationships to avoid disputes
  • Modernizing billing and payment practices
  • Creating fee agreements to meet the needs of today’s clients
  • Collecting accounts – practical and ethical considerations

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office administrators, and staff – anyone interested in exploring how to improve billing and collections.

How to Register

Registration will open soon. Watch this blog for the announcement. Cost: $25. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

All Rights Reserved [2019] Beverly Michaelis

Why Young Lawyers Should Go Solo

I’m a young lawyer. I started law school in 2010, which was a scary time to be entering the profession. Jobs had disappeared and a scarcity mindset had taken root. I was relieved when I managed to find work, first as an appellate clerk, and then at several mid-size Seattle firms. But relief and satisfaction are two very different things and, after three years in private practice, I still wasn’t satisfied with my firm job.

So, just last August, I quit and started a solo practice[…]

via 4 Reasons Young Lawyers Should Consider Going Solo — NWSidebar

Post author Mark Tyson found that going solo was the right choice for him.  Why?

You can (and will) master the business of law

You’ll have to learn, by necessity, how to write a business plan, develop a marketing strategy, create key performance indicators, track conversion rates, and so much more. You’ll make lots of mistakes and learn from them along the way.

Being a solo allows you to lead with your values

I value organizations devoted to social and cultural enrichment. To support these organizations, I incorporated a sliding-scale fee model into my pricing structure, which allows me to offer reduced rates to those who need services but can’t necessarily pay market rates.

You are free to be creative

Writing interesting and useful content has been the creative outlet I hoped to find as a lawyer… I enjoy writing, so it rarely feels like a chore to blog, especially when a new prospect calls after reading my latest, or when one of my posts hits the first page on Google.

I only help clients I truly care about

When I opened my firm, I got some advice that’s shaped my approach to marketing: “Tell at least one person a day who your ideal client is.” The directive is to be bold, yes, but also targeted in your marketing. You’re not just looking for anyone who’s willing to pay your fee—you want someone who’s a good fit for you.

Mark’s main takeaway: Starting your own firm means battling insecurity every day, but the satisfaction is well worth it.

 

Legal Trends – 2019 ABA TECHSHOW

Curious about legal trends? Here are some interesting statistics and takeaways discussed at the 2019 ABA TECHSHOW:

When rating lawyers, people complain more about customer service issues than the cost of legal services.

When selecting a lawyer, clients value guidance, certainty, and clarity.

When assessing the emotional state of clients, lawyers chronically underestimate feelings of confusion, disbelief, frustration, and urgency.

Lawyers and clients are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to communication:

    • The majority of lawyers expect clients to send an email or visit the office in person when asking to schedule an appointment. In reality, clients shun both approaches and prefer overwhelmingly to call.
    • 70% of clients want to meet in person when sharing all the details or facts of a situation. 18% are willing to meet by phone. Similarly, clients want to hear lawyers explain the legal aspects of their case in person (55%) or by phone (23%) not by email or other means.
    • For getting quick questions answered, 46% of clients prefer the phone, 29% prefer email.
    • Lawyers strongly prefer to call with status updates (64%), but clients are split between phone (37%) and email (35%) in their preference.
    • Signing, viewing, or delivering documents? 64% of clients prefer to do this in person. 20% are okay with email. Interestingly, 35% of lawyers prefer to review documents with clients by phone – only 5% of clients preferred this method.
    • Websites and client portals only factored significantly into client preferences in two areas: checking the hours a lawyer is spending on a case (26% of clients) and making payments (31% of clients).

Key Takeaways

  1. Solicit feedback from clients.
  2. Consider using client surveys that measure your “net promoter” or client loyalty score. Survey Monkey is one example.
  3. Focus on in-person moments with clients and minimize interruptions.
  4. When deciding whether to call, email, or meet in person, put the client first. For the most part, clients want to talk – not read messages or correspondence.

For more information and a link to the complete legal trends report, see my story on Wakelet.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

How to Treat Bad Clients

When you saw this post title, how did you react? Was your first thought: “Kick ’em to the curb” or “I wonder where this is going?” If it was the former, don’t feel bad – it’s my knee-jerk reaction too.

When we hear the words “bad client,” we instinctively cringe. It conjures up past experiences we would rather not relive. Frankly, nothing could be more unpleasant. So what should we do?

Remedies for bad clients

Want to weed out or eliminate bad clients? Nothing beats:

  1. Screening at intake;
  2. Controlling expectations; and
  3. Knowing when to say no.

Trouble is, most of us know these lessons.  So …

What if a bad client squeezes by?

If there is an irremediable breakdown in the lawyer-client relationship and withdrawal is viable, do it. At this stage, it isn’t going to get better. Yet, some lawyers refuse to do so.

Why would anyone hold on to a client who belittled and berated them? Denied that telephone conversations or email exchanges occurred? Refused to produce materials requested in discovery? Insisted the lawyer use unethical or illegal tactics? (All actual events that have happened to lawyers I know.)

Money is generally the explanation. The lawyer can’t afford to forego the fee (or jeopardize her job). There are other reasons too, like fear and intimidation.

I hope you never experience any of this. If you do, I hope you are strong enough to get out. If you want to talk it over with someone, consider calling one of the confidential attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP).

Is there another approach?

I was motivated to revisit this topic by blogger Celia Elwell. In a recent post, she took on lawyers and legal staff who retaliate against ill-tempered clients by putting the client’s work at the bottom of the stack. Since I’ve witnessed this too, I wanted to share this point made by Ms. Elwell:

Most people, as a rule, do not call an attorney’s office because they are having a good day. Before they became our clients, they realized they had a problem, tried to deal with it, were unsuccessful, stressed, and lost sleep. In short, we are not seeing them at their best.

Take good notes when your clients vent, rant, or repeat themselves. Because they are upset, they may be mistaken or confused. Let the client know that you are listening to them. Interrupt only when you need them to repeat something to make sure you get it right. Document the clients’ concerns, and tell your attorney they called and why.

While her remarks are directed toward staff, they are good reminders for us all.

If you didn’t spot it, notice I suggested above that withdrawal made sense if (a) it was viable and (b) there was an irremediable breakdown in the lawyer-client relationship.

What if you aren’t there yet? This is when Ms. Elwell’s advice comes in handy.

Do not under any circumstances intentionally retaliate by putting the client’s work at the bottom of the stack. At the least, it is unprofessional. It will also likely result in a bar complaint and/or legal malpractice claim. Instead, take the high ground:

  • Try to diagnose what went wrong. Is the client mad at you or someone else? Is the client mistaken or confused? Is this about money? How stressed is the client? Consider scheduling an in-person meeting to air out client concerns.
  • Go out of your way to be courteous and considerate. Instruct staff to do the same.
  • Do high quality work in a timely manner.

It’s easy to be resentful and decide that we’re going to give what we get. But if you go out of your way to appease the upset client, you remove all rational grounds for disputes, complaints, and claims. It’s better to remain professional, even if the “bad” client never appreciates it.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Postscript

For more tips on improving client relationships, check out this CLE:
7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships.

 

7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships

Join me for a CLE on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 about how to cultivate your network, balance client expectations, proactively control social media content, meet client needs, and become more client-centric by exploring the 7 steps to building better client relationships:

  • Capturing better clients
  • Polishing communication skills
  • Advancing client service through technology and staff
  • Managing social media
  • Improving client satisfaction
  • Strengthening client retention
  • Renewing relationships

Topics include how to CYA the right way, how to say “no” gracefully, dos and don’ts when responding to negative online reviews, how to thank clients as part of your everyday, the simple six-step process to stay in touch, and why you should modernize fee arrangements and billing.

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office administrators, or staff – anyone interested in building better client relationships.

Group Discounts

Discounts available to firms who wish to register 5 or more attendees. Contact organizer to arrange a discount code before registering: beverly@oregonlawpracticemanagement.org.

Does the Program Include Written Materials?

Yes. Written materials are distributed electronically with your registration confirmation.

Ask Questions/Live Polling

Questions are welcome during the live event. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Registration Fee

$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page, click here, or choose the Register button below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

Eventbrite - 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships

MCLE Credits
1.50 practical skills pending.

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings of 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships will be available to download along with the program materials following the December 6 CLE. Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store after December 6.

All Rights Reserved [2017] Beverly Michaelis