Automate Something – Anything!

Automation is the answer to improving workflows and productivity. If a given action requires entries in multiple systems – say opening a new client file – automate it. Tired of performing the same redundant task? Automate it. Want to save time? Automate! To learn how, read the story of Joe Lawyer.

Virtually anything can be automated – document production, emails, marketing, or client management. Avoid overwhelming yourself or staff by starting small. Pick one area of office operations. Diagnose what works and what doesn’t. Get staff input. Identify any steps you may be performing out of habit that no longer serve a purpose and eliminate them. That alone will improve efficiency! Now that you’ve whittled it down to the essentials consider how technology can help. Do some research, starting with a better understanding of what your existing software can do. Check out Joe’s story for ideas, then visit the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. You can also call your friendly practice management advisor for suggestions.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2019.

Streamline, Organize, and Improve Your Office

Be more productive

What if you could improve workflows? Leverage technology and automation to save time? Overcome procrastination? You can with Practical Time Management. This CLE offers over 30 ideas and strategies to help you take control of your workload, manage your busy schedule, focus on your priorities, and make your workday more productive. Accredited by the Oregon State Bar and available in audio and video format here.

Harness best practices

Not sure whether your firm is applying best practices to key office operations? Learn about automating client intake, documenting representation, modernizing the engagement process, and more in Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement & Workflow. Combine this program with Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement & File Retention to cover your bases.

Watch each CLE over lunch and earn 1.0 General/Practical Skills MCLE credits. Available now at On Demand CLE..

Get jiggy with eCourt

Understand common eCourt mistakes and master electronic service with eCourt Malpractice Traps and Oregon eService. Topics include: relation back of filings, UTCR amendments, upgrades to Odyssey eFile & Serve software, 12 common eFiling errors, key eCourt resources, using eService, service of process in the eFiling world, identifying eService exceptions, service contact issues, service by email, and courthouse dos and don’ts.

Trust Accounting – basic and advanced

From managing bank charges and avoiding impermissible cushions to reporting overdrafts and addressing client fee disputes, Trust Accounting Fundamentals covers all the basics of how to properly operate your lawyer trust account.

Want to delve deeper into the ethics of IOLTA? Advanced Trust Accounting will show you how to safely manage wire and EFT transfers, use layaway payment plans, collect “first and last month’s rent,” manage evergreen retainers and hybrid fee agreements, receive third party payments, barter legal services, pass on credit card transaction fees, handle unclaimed funds, respond to garnishments and liens, disburse settlement proceeds if your client is missing, and more – believe it or not!

Lucky 13

You’ll find 13 programs and a free eBook at on demand CLE. If it concerns law office operations, you’ll likely find it covered here.

Details for the detail minded

Q:  What does my on demand CLE purchase include?
A:  MP4 (video file), M4a (audio file), written program materials with presentation slides and resources, answers to polling questions addressed during the live CLE, MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits.

Q:  How are the video and audio files delivered?
A:  Digital files are delivered instantly at checkout with your purchase confirmation email (look for the link). Download, stream, save to your Dropbox account, or send files to your mobile device or desktop computer.

Q:  How much do CLEs cost?
A:  On demand CLE programs are $25. The eBook, Tips for Improving Client Relationships, is free.  All transactions are handled by Selz and protected with industry standard security, including encryption. The Selz platform is also PCI compliant. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

Regain Control in 2019

Is it really possible to change your work habits?

Absolutely! The new year offers each of us the chance to make changes. Not by setting lofty goals, but by committing to small adjustments that can make a big difference in attitude, health, and resilience.

Cut your work hours

Several years ago I reported on a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine that found people “who work an average of 11 or more hours per day have a 67 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or dying from heart disease than people who work a standard seven- to eight-hour day.  Those who work between 10 and 11 hours per day have a 45 percent higher risk.”

Your micro goal: Commit to a 9 hour (or less) work day. The occasional exception is fine, just don’t backslide.

Stand, move, stretch

Sitting in your chair for hours on end shouldn’t be the norm. Stand, move, stretch. Consider a treadmill or standing desk. Better yet, leave the office for a few minutes and walk around the block! Your joints and muscles will thank you.

Your micro goal: Move at least once an hour. Use a cheap timer, an app, recurring task reminders, or whatever it takes to remind yourself to get up. No one will care if you stretch during a deposition or walk to the back of the room during a CLE.

Say no

Find it hard to turn people away? You aren’t alone. I don’t really have a choice. I need the money. Family, friends, or former clients are depending on me. These are things we tell ourselves. Follow this advice to turn the tide.

Your micro goal: Say no at least once a month. As you gain confidence, don’t hesitate to say no whenever necessary.

Cull the herd

Too much to do and not enough time? Cull the herd.

  • Review your current client list for matters you regret taking.  If feasible, say goodbye to those clients.
  • Farm out work or delegate to others in your firm. If you’re a solo/small firm practitioner, reach out to colleagues for referrals to a contract lawyer who can get you over the hump.

Your micro goal: Apply your newfound client/case criteria to future matters and screen out cases that aren’t a good match for you.

Protect your priorities

What do you want to get done? What are your priorities? When is the last time you even thought about what you wanted?

It’s easy to get pushed around by interruptions: phone calls, texts, emails, pop-in clients, or colleagues.

Your micro goal: Block out time on your calendar for work you want to get done. Treat this time as if it were a client appointment. (No interruptions allowed.) Stay off the Internet unless the task at hand involves being on the Internet. Give the matter your undivided attention.

Put your calendar first

If your calendar contains your personal and business commitments, including time blocks to get work done, let it determine the scheduling for all new promises.

Your micro goal: Check your calendar before promising completion of a time-related task. If there is no “deadline” per se, determine when you can reasonably fit the new project into your schedule. Add it to your calendar and back it up with a task reminder. You gain nothing by promising a quick turnaround if you can’t keep your word.

Triage

If you’re in a pickle – a deadline is approaching and you know you can’t meet it  – the best approach is to face it head on. I know this can be hard. We assume clients or other lawyers will yell at us. The truth is, people are more understanding than we give them credit for. Everyone has been there. They get it.

Your micro goal: Renegotiate deadlines you can’t meet.

You can start over and you can make changes. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2019

 

Best Practices – eService, Workflow, Trust Accounting and Beyond

From office system best practices to eService and advanced trust accounting – CLE offerings covered a wide array of topics this year. If you missed a program, don’t despair. Video and audio recordings are available to download from my online store.  Here are the details:

Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement & Workflow
OSB Program No.: 6724*9 (1.0 PS/general MCLE credits)

Recognizing the objectives and ethical traps of client intake, implementing the 7 key elements of intake forms, automating intake with ease, documenting representation, modernizing the engagement process using forms, brochures, automation, and eSignatures, using technology and staffing to improve workflow, and more.

Best Practices for Docketing, Conflicts, Disengagement & File Retention
OSB Program No.: 6724*10 (1.0 PS/general MCLE credits)

Represent clients effectively and ethically by applying best practice recommendations for docketing, conflicts, disengagement, and file retention. Includes docketing tips for eCourt practitioners, streamlining conflict checking, limiting liability exposure through proper disengagement, simplifying disengagement, and creating file retention policies, procedures, and checklists.

Oregon eService
OSB Program No.: 6724*11 (1.25 PS/general MCLE credits)

For experts and novices alike – an opportunity to polish eService/eCourt skills and apply tips straight from the courthouse – or understand eService from the ground up. Includes how to eServe in four easy steps, six compelling reasons to use eService, identifying eService exceptions, responding to service contact issues, pursuing sanctions under UTCR 1.090(2), eService vs. service by email, courthouse dos and don’ts, and proper Certificates of Service.

Trust Accounting Fundamentals
OSB Program No.: 6724*12 (1.5 ethics MCLE credits)

From managing bank charges and avoiding impermissible cushions to reporting overdrafts and addressing client fee disputes – this program will provide a fundamental understanding of how to operate your lawyer trust account.

Advanced Trust Accounting
OSB Program No.: 6724*13 – 1.25 ethics MCLE credits

Delve deeper into the more advanced issues of trust accounting, including how to safely manage wire and EFT transfers, using layaway payment plans, collecting “first and last month’s rent,” managing evergreen retainers and hybrid fee agreements, receiving third party payments, bartering legal services, passing on credit card transaction fees, what to do with unclaimed funds, responding to garnishments and liens, how to disburse settlement proceeds if your client is missing, and more.

Your on demand CLE purchase includes

  • MP4 download (combined audio and video file)
  • M4a download (audio only)
  • Written program materials, including presentation slides and resources
  • Answers to polling questions asked during the live CLE
  • MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits

Instant digital delivery with options to save to the cloud or your mobile device

Links to digital files are delivered instantly at checkout with your purchase confirmation email.  Download, stream, save to your Dropbox account, or send files to your mobile device or desktop computer.

Free eBook!

If you visit my online store, be sure to download your free copy of Tips for Improving Client Relationships.

Secure payment processing

All transactions are handled by Selz and protected with industry standard security, including encryption and SSL secure. The Selz platform is also PCI compliant. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Obstacles to Improving Workflow


I asked this question during the recent CLE, Best Practices for Client Intake, Engagement, and Workflow.  You may be interested in the results:

For those who don’t have the time

This is a hard one, and I get it. But nothing will change unless you make the time.

I don’t have a magic solution for adding a 25th hour to the day. I do know that if something is important enough, we make room for it. So if you’re motivated, start by looking for time on your schedule. Find two one-hour blocks, whether they are close in time or a month apart. Schedule appointments with yourself. Mark the subjects “Workflow:brainstorm” and “Workflow:prioritize.” Commit to making the first time block outside the office. Leave your smartphone and other devices behind. Grab a legal pad, a pen or pencil, and go. Visit your favorite coffee shop or sit in the park.

Brainstorm

During the first time block, make a list of all the functions in your office that you’d like to improve. Dream small: “I wish saving email to the client’s file was easier,” or dream big: “We need a better conflict system.” Don’t rule anything out. Just let the ideas come and go until the hour is up.

prioritize

Your goal during the second time block is to prioritize. This can happen in your office IF you commit to working distraction-free. This means no phones, no checking email, no interruptions by others. You are in an appointment, albeit with yourself. If the temptations are too great, leave. As before, don’t bring devices.

Pull out the list of ideas from your brainstorming session and start marking what is most important: first, second, third, and so on. If you’re in your office, type up the list. If you’re out and about, take a moment when you get back to do so.

Investigate

Schedule another one hour appointment on your calendar. This third time block will be devoted to investigating options for the number one priority on your list. Google is your friend. Look for online reviews from neutral, authoritative sources. The ABA Legal Technology Resource Center is a good starting point. Check out blog posts that come up in search results. Ask colleagues by posting to a listserv. If you have an IT person, get their input. Ask staff. Depending on how complicated your first priority is, you make have to block out more time for this step. However, there are definitely some small-scale functions that you can reasonably investigate in an hour’s time.

Keep going: implement and master

Sticking with your number one priority, make a decision on which option you want to pursue. Schedule out more appointments on your calendar to implement the option. Then wait. Live with your new technology or process a while. Be prepared to make adjustments. When you are comfortable and feel you have mastered the new workflow, move on to priority number two and repeat the steps above. My point: you can find the time and you can make the time. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.

Procrastination

We sometimes procrastinate about improvements we know we should make because we feel overwhelmed or have trouble accepting change. Hopefully the approach outlined above will help you overcome these concerns. If after the brainstorming session you are worried that your priority list has nothing but large-scale items, consider reaching out for expertise. Ask colleagues for referrals to IT or other consultants. Consider using the practice management team at the OSB Professional Liability Fund. You don’t need to do it all, and you don’t need to do it alone. There is help. It may be that you would benefit by blocking out time for a second brainstorming session. Use this appointment to identify three things that are important to you that you can realistically accomplish in the next twelve months. Save your original list, but table it for now.

The Payoff

You can do this. Remember, if you are overwhelmed pick the top three things you know can be accomplished in the next twelve months. Save your other ideas, but table them for now.

Stay motivated! Improving workflows will make your life easier by eliminating unnecessary, repetitive steps. This will reduce your stress and free up more time. Who doesn’t want that? And with three or more successes under your belt, I know you’ll want to keep going.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis