A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Developing a leadership mindset

Monday, October 29, 2018

By Ricky Nowak, CEO, Ricky Nowak & Associates

We know that the quality of leadership along with the decisions you make, can determine the success of your team or organisation – for better or for worse.  But have you given much thought to your leadership mindset and how it can affect your organisation?

What is a leadership mindset?

As you know, your mindset is your mental attitude which in turn determines your overall behaviour.  There are two kinds of mindsets – one which prevents growth while the other allows you and your organisation to succeed and prosper.  But which one are you?

Leaders with a fixed mindset:

  • tend to avoid challenges or opportunities that require innovative thinking and behaviour;
  • are more concerned with how they come across in the eyes of others than making mistakes;
  • feel threatened by the more successful colleagues or counterparts therefore often lack the ability to make final decisions out of fear.

If this sounds like you, then chances are you are inhibiting yourself and your success in some way, as well as limiting the progress and the achievements of others. Unintentional maybe, but the consequences can result in lost revenue, staff attrition and loss of morale.  Attaining less than your full potential is one of the greatest inhibitors of business growth and expansion.

Sadly, too often leaders stop learning and focus on working in the business rather than on growing the business resulting in a growth mindset that shuts down.  They stop wanting to learn how to become better leaders and perhaps feel they don’t want to be distracted by contrarian feedback. 

This is known as having a fixed mindset – one that can break the link in any business.

How to recognise a fixed mindset leadership style

Here are a few questions to ask yourself and then observe how people connect with you. Clearly the real truth about your effectiveness as a leader is about the results you get.

You should consider if you:

  1. really do have the ability to inspire others or whether people just do what you ask at a basic level and you find yourself following them up?
  2. have the ability to take ownership of your position without any apology and are ready to take the lead when difficulties arise?
  3. are afraid of being judged and constantly evaluated on your actions;
  4. have a leader’s mindset or just a mindset about leading that is based on past experiences, influences and behaviours.

How to recognise a growth mindset leadership style?

You likely have a growth mindset if you:

  • tend to love a challenge;
  • are willing to make mistakes in order to learn and grow and are not too fussed about mistakes as long as they can be addressed quickly;
  • enjoy learning from the successes of others and are stimulated by new perspectives and ideas;
  • excel in displaying and sharing the skills of others and collaborating with others to get even better results?

If this sounds like you then you have the ability to advance and achieve great victories.  Those under you will find you motivational and can learn a lot from the way in which you run your business or team. They are more likely to model this behaviour and mindset when they go up through the ranks. The added bonus about having a growth mindset is that it can often lead to being insatiably curious about things now and in the future.

If you’ve identified as having a growth mindset, give yourself a pat on the back.  If not, as they say ‘do the work’.

About our Guest Blogger

Ricky is a professional Facilitator, Keynote Speaker, and Executive Coach with over 30 years’ experience in executive and business training and development within Australasia. She has been successful in creating sustainable change and increased productivity for clients in diverse industries ranging from Engineering, Construction, Legal, Finance, Agribusiness, Urban Design, Technology, NFP, Government, Project Management, Mining, Medical and Mental Health, Transport and Logistics. Her unique style of presentation delivery and coaching has helped her diverse clients achieve outstanding commercial and professional results for themselves, their teams and their organisations.

She has trained, spoken or facilitated work over 3000 presentations to companies and individuals globally. She is a certified speaking professional, certified human resource professional, author of four business books, preferred Executive Coach for the Australian Institute of Company Directors and regular commentator on national radio and blogger for Australian Human Resource Institute.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rickynowak/     Web: www.rickynowak.com

Stress and project management: how to navigate when under a time crunch

Monday, October 22, 2018

By Dane O'Leary, Writer, Tech Journalist and Content Strategist

Ever since the Great Recession of 2008, many law firms have found themselves needing to make numerous changes in how they practice law so they can best serve their clients. Clients seeking legal counsel today want service that’s faster, easier, and cheaper. As a result, finding ways to strike a consistent balance between efficacy and efficiency is a priority for most law firms.

But even for experienced firms, that’s not an easy task. Law firms are often fast-paced environments. Like a clock, many law firms have lots of moving parts, and that’s before you account for the curveballs that can be thrown your way.

Scheduling issues with a client? A pile of legal documents that need to be completed and sent out? Numerous people in reception who aren’t on the schedule? An inbox full of important emails you haven’t had the time to read? Even when you have a dedicated person or team to monitor and track all these components to your firm, there can be a considerable amount of stress.

So, when it’s crunch time and there’s immense stress on your shoulders, how do you continue juggling numerous cases, clients, and maintaining your law firm without succumbing to stress?

Alleviate crunch-time stress with project management software

In essence, project management software gives you a singular place from which to observe and track projects big and small over time. It allows you to offload a lot of the stress that comes with being under a time crunch by inputting all your various tasks and projects to a digital space, making it much easier to appropriately allocate your time and resources.

Of course, not all project management tools are created equal. Some are more feature-rich and offer time-tracking and resource-allocation tools while others are simpler and more focused on project management specifically. For law firms, there are certain options that would be more effective while others target different industries. Since sifting through the different options can be confusing or even a bit overwhelming, we’ve compiled some advice for choosing a project management platform for your firm.

How to choose project management software for your law firm

As stated above, there are numerous project management programs from which to choose. If you’re not already familiar with this type of software and, thus, aren’t loyal to one program in particular, choosing the right project management software for your law firm can feel like taking shots in the dark. Fortunately, picking the right program for your firm can be broken into a series of simple, straightforward steps.

1. Assess the needs of your law firm

Not all law firms are the same. For one thing, each caters to a specific type of clientele, whether corporate accounts or individuals filing civil suits or any number of options in-between. But beyond the scope of law practiced, there are differences when it comes to day-to-day operations and how a firm functions as a provider of legal services.

It’s worth noting, though, that a project management program that has been extremely useful for one law firm might not be the best choice for another firm. Each firm is unique and has its own needs when it comes to project management.

So the first and most important step in choosing the right project management solution for your law firm is to assess the needs of your firm. Basically, besides needing a centralised system for tracking your various ventures, you need to identify any other requirements that should be addressed by a project management program.

If your firm has already been using a project management solution, you’ll have a basis for comparison and will know specific shortcomings of the current software that you want the new software to address.

But if your firm hasn’t been using project management software, there are a number of considerations to make when assessing the needs of your firm.

       Do you often need to refer to a detailed breakdown of who has contributed to a specific project or task?

       Do people at your firm frequently collaborate on a project or task?

       Has there been frequent confusion due to the details of a project and communication about a project being relegated to two separate channels? (eg. emails versus comments on cloud-stored files)

       Do you have trouble keeping track of who has access or needs access to specific digital resources?

       Does your firm currently use multiple channels for communication?

       Have there been problems with tracking and hitting deadlines at your firm?

       Does your firm use scheduling or calendar software that’s been frustratingly disconnected from your project management protocols?

       Are there any types of software your firm currently uses that you need or would like to have integrated into your new project management platform?

In effect, you want to ask yourself these and a number of other questions so that you can get an idea of the types of features you need in a project management application.

2. Create a small list of the most viable options

Once you’ve determined what your firm needs from project management software, you’re ready to begin narrowing down the numerous options to a short list of the most viable choices.

As you begin compiling your list of potential selections, pay special attention to the features they do and don’t offer. If you need robust communication tools in a project management platform, the programs that don’t have a focus on communication are unlikely to work for your law firm. Alternately, if your firm values integration with the calendar and schedule, you’d want to consider platforms that integrate with the scheduling software you use.

3. Test, compare and contrast those options

Testing those software options is probably the hardest part of choosing a project management software.

No matter how many user reviews and in-depth breakdowns of the software exist on the internet, there’s just no comparison with your own firsthand experience. After all, none of the individuals writing reviews have used the software in the very specific circumstances of your law firm.

Fortunately, many project management platforms are either free or offer a free trial, which means it’s likely you can test most or all of your contenders without significant financial investment.

There are a number of ways to approach testing each project management platform. Of course, the best way is to implement the program across your entire firm; however, between installing the program, teaching your team members how to use the program, and repeating this entire process for each software option, this requires a lot of effort.

Depending on the size of your firm, an alternative could be to assign each of your software choices to a specific team at your firm and allow those teams to use the separate programs at the same time. Then you can ask each team to compile their feedback and impressions on which to base your decision.

However, you choose to test the software, the goal is to be able to eliminate the poorest performers until you’re left with the best project management platform for your firm. With the best option in place, your firm will have a suite of tools and software features to help them stay productive and stress-free, even when it’s crunch time.

About our Guest Blogger

Dane O’Leary is a writer, tech journalist and regular contributor to TrustRadius where he shares his knowledge on the latest trends in B2B news and technologies. He has written editorials, articles, and blog posts for some of the most popular publications on the web, including Android Authority, Phone Arena, NeilPatel.com, and Millennial Magazine.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/daneoleary/   

Becoming the market leader in your industry

Sunday, October 14, 2018

By Paul Brown, Chief Financial Officer, GlobalX

If you want to experience business growth, there are some very important items to consider. We all know you need to have your brand out there in one way or another, be it by having a social media presence, advertising material or making sure you show up on Google. What people seem to forget is that the above is simply to be considered equal to the competition. You must become the market leader to get ahead. 

Becoming the market leader breeds confidence in your brand so much so that customer decision lead-time dramatically shortens. This means never missing incoming leads, and increasing the likelihood of converting said leads. More than just keeping up, it’s important to surpass and dominate the industry and take a nice large chunk of the market share with you to truly experience reliable growth.

So, what’s the secret to making sure your brand is the headline act in your industry? The short answer is, be different. Maybe your point of difference doesn’t yet exist and that’s fine. We have some key principles which are sure to get your mind ticking when it comes to producing new ideas for boosting your brand to market domination.

Before you take on the world, take note of your customer service

So, before you get ahead of yourself and start marketing your brand to the masses, it’s important to first take a step back and make sure your customer service is the best in the industry. It’s important to exceed expectations at every point when it comes to interacting with your customers, because if you don’t do it right, then no amount of marketing will set you ahead of the crowd. 

There’s two ways to ensure your customer service is on point. Firstly, arrange an internal survey or discussion to ask your staff if there’s any ways they think your service could be improved. Secondly, find an avenue to survey a wide range of your customers, making sure you include the happy, unhappy and most of all loyal customers to see if they have any suggestions on room for improvement too. Don’t forget to make a plan to action the suggestions.

Talk the talk – but make it personal

Everything you do needs to interact with your customers on a personal level. From telling your story on Facebook to personalised emails and taking the effort to go to your client’s place of business, it’s important that you are never the person behind the brand, but that you are the brand personified. If you have a large company, it’s important that every last one of your employees is aligned with the ethos of your brand – if they’re not, then you will be confusing your customers. 

Value, value, value

If you truly want to attract the attention of your customers, then you better be willing to offer them value for nothing. In this day and age knowledge is at our fingertips, and Google is the source. If you’re the expert in your industry, then you better be giving your advice away for free. If this doesn’t make sense to you, try thinking about the fact that everyone has the ability to put an advert on television, but you don’t want to be like them, you want to be at the top of your industry. So, take the opportunity to offer some high value content online, and be prepared to give it away for free. Remember, honey always attracts more flies than vinegar.

Be willing to risk it all

If you’re trying to get to the top then you should be willing to take risks. Look at any large brand, they were always ready to put their money where their mouth is and try new things wherever possible, even if it meant risking it all. This is the key to truly standing out from the crowd. Be it by incorporating some kind of new technology, innovating the way you interact with your customers or quite simply doing something that’s never been done before, businesses need to run risks in order to reap the rewards.

So now that you’re ready to stand head and shoulders above the rest of your industry, be sure to make an action plan for building your business. The sky truly is the limit when it comes to just how far you can take your brand if you’re willing to combine imaginative thinking with hard work. Don’t forget with any new initiative, to keep your branding front of mind, so that with a million new initiatives, there’s a single thread running through all of them.  

About our Guest Blogger

Paul is the CFO of GlobalX, with experience in all areas and facets of accounting and finance operations. Exhibiting a high level of commercial acumen, Paul’s range of expertise includes change management facilitation and implementation, training and development of staff, business performance planning and project management.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-brown-714291122/

How to generate and qualify new leads for your law firm

Monday, October 08, 2018

By Quentin Aisbett, Director, OnQ Marketing

Law firms are bombarded with advice about transitioning from paper to digital. Much of the reasoning sits around cost savings. But have you considered revenue generation opportunities with your move to digital?

Specialist technology solutions for going paperless are launched seemingly every month, while regulatory changes (such as electronic conveyancing) place even more pressure on today’s firms.

Of course, going paperless can provide many benefits.

Firms can expect to:

       save time on data entry;

       remove transcription errors;

       make it easier to re-use data; and

       ultimately provide a better client experience.

But what’s often left out of the ‘benefits of going paperless’ discussion is the lead generation and lead qualification opportunities that digital provides.

One of the key digital assets law firms can implement is a client questionnaire. I see two types of questionnaires and each comes with varying benefits.

1. The existing client questionnaire

As an example, let’s take a family law firm providing divorce services. Those firms that haven’t yet gone digital are likely to be asking their clients to fill in a hard-copy form to provide information on themselves and their spouse.

We know there’s problems with that traditional approach:

       The questionnaire is huge and clients dread filling it all out.

       When it’s completed, the law firm is faced with the issue of how to get it back efficiently. A dozen pages scanned and emailed is painful. Do they drop it in? Or perhaps mail it back. None of those options are a great experience.

       The office admin then must transcribe the completed form, risking potential errors in the process.

2. The prospect questionnaire

This is when a legal client is online researching about their situation and trying to identify which firm is the right fit for them. They’ll find several legal resources online from Legal Aid to individual law firms. Often the information is presented to them is thin content lacking the depth they need. Or sometimes it will be presented in a way that's hard to follow and it doesn’t provide any real value to them.

A digital questionnaire is a terrific way to improve the user experience.

The potential client goes through the questionnaire and at the end is presented with a summary of their position.

This type of questionnaire presents your law firm with two key opportunities:

a)       You separate your firm from the rest

That’s because you’re likely to be one of only a handful of websites that provides them with a positive experience and clarity about their situation. This puts you in a better position than your competitors to secure the client or provide them with a quote. With an online questionnaire, the information a potential client submits can also be saved, so they don’t need to re-submit it if they decide to continue.

b)       It qualifies potential clients without you wasting time on a call or an appointment with them if you’re unable to assist them

The questionnaire can also be structured to identify good and bad clients, helping you to qualify them and to refer them elsewhere if necessary.

For example, the call to action the user sees at the completion of the questionnaire can be conditional depending on their answers to specific questions. If they’re not the right fit, you can suggest they seek out Legal Aid or another firm so that they aren’t wasting their time or yours.  Or if they are the right fit, you can encourage them to book an appointment with your firm or let them know you’ll have a member of your team contact them.

You can also use different types of prospect questionnaires to generate leads.

For example, if you’re practicing property law, you might want to develop a ‘Do I need a conveyancer or a solicitor?’ questionnaire. There are a ton of articles online addressing this very topic, so it will be difficult to rank another article prominently. But if you use a questionnaire instead, other websites addressing the topic will be likely to link to your questionnaire and this will provide additional traffic and search authority.

For example, many of the articles that cover that topic are from the real estate industry. The questionnaire can therefore become a lead-generating asset from that industry.

Some other questionnaires that could help the researching prospective client include:

        Do I need a lawyer?

        Should I be paying child support?

        Is it worth challenging a Will?

        Should I file for bankruptcy?

How to get questionnaires published on your website

There are third-party software solutions that will help you publish questionnaires on your site. There are many solutions in the market that are easy to use and allow you to embed questionnaires into your website.

However, I encourage you to contact your web developer to build your questionnaires for you. Ultimately, you’ll then have more control over their functionality and styling. 

About our Guest Blogger

Quentin Aisbett is a digital strategist and founder of Melbourne-based agency OnQ Marketing. He works with law firms and other professional services to drive their organic growth online.

He is a regular contributor to Inside Small Business and is an active participant in the Quora community.

Web:  https://www.onqmarketing.com.au   |   LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/quentinaisbett/

Audacious leadership – what’s holding your firm back?

Monday, October 01, 2018

By Ricky Nowak, CEO, Ricky Nowak & Associates

Australian leaders spend many millions of dollars and hours every year developing their own leadership capability and that of their teams, yet as a nation we are undecided about what leadership style really works.

Why do we struggle with audacious leadership?

Part of the reason is that more traditional businesses resist standing up and standing out than those willing to lead with the positive audacity of learning new ways and be willing to get it wrong. Yes, making mistakes is hard when we are scrutinised for it. Yes, being a student and not being a master is even harder – especially when we are used to being known as an expert. And most of all, being committed to learning and exploring options takes time and as the clock ticks over 6 minutes it’s easy to default and use money as an excuse for not extending themselves ‘right now’.

The word on the street is that the legal industry feels this where it hurts most – the financial side of business. Largely traditional, risk averse and conservative, many firms seem stuck between the legacy of the past and breaking through to the future way of working. The additional problem is young talent is already thinking as futurists and wants to bring in new advances in communication and engagement. So perhaps it’s time for the traditionalists to shift slightly off the dance floor and onto the balcony and mentor future audacious leaders to ensure their firms remain in business and keep their staff before they become someone else’s.

However, easier said than done and my belief is that many people find it difficult to let go of things like hierarchy in favour of a more inclusive style of leadership - perhaps the fear of losing their foothold Perhaps people are largely unwilling to stretch their thinking and behaviour outside

the traditional or they don’t feel the industry or clients will support them and resist doing business with them.

As such they go with what has worked in the past and hope things will be OK. But hope is not a strategy. It is a four-letter word that often ends badly.

Herein lies a deeper problem.

Is new talent the answer?

Young talent coming in to legal firms today do not want to simply hope they will have a career trajectory but rather strive to make their mark. No different from any one else who aspired to grow their career, right? Even us back in the day… right?

One could say the traditional pecking order now is like a precarious deck of cards – one that may look strong to your clients or outside world but the foundations may not be so firm, as young talent take to their keyboards rather than the key boardrooms!

But before we shift off our seats a little in favour or upcoming talent, we need to ask if they have the capability to lead with an unwavering sense of purpose and as experienced leaders, how can we equip them with the competence to lead as audacious lawyers not just confident lawyers. That’s our role – irrespective of whatever our jobs are: we as audacious leaders must give them more than knowledge on the job and provide them with exceptional experiences not just explanations.

What’s the key to building audacious leaders?

The key to this is around mindset where no ambiguity exists in thought or behaviour, and we show our commitment to them and our clients. This mindset is around total focus and is resilient enough to withstand and work through criticism, complacency or external or internal influences that may try and sabotage our vision.

Audacious leaders must demonstrate through stronger negotiation, communication and influence techniques that their passion is not hot air, and their intent is purposeful not fanciful. We either get good or get going.

We are saying we need to stretch our capacity and capability outside the typical transactions we do every day.  We are saying we need to give voice to our passions, convictions and do it with courage even when we feel our most vulnerable.

We are saying that we constantly evolve, become more nimble, responsive and adaptive. And yes, we are also saying it’s not easy. Perhaps it never was. But one thing for sure, things have changed.

So have we, so have our clients and so have our staff.

Today and tomorrow’s leaders will lead best by being audacious. In the positive sense. In a timely sense, and in a way that is uniquely yours.

About our Guest Blogger

Ricky is a professional Facilitator, Keynote Speaker, and Executive Coach with over 30 years’ experience in executive and business training and development within Australasia. She has been successful in creating sustainable change and increased productivity for clients in diverse industries ranging from Engineering, Construction, Legal, Finance, Agribusiness, Urban Design, Technology, NFP, Government, Project Management, Mining, Medical and Mental Health, Transport and Logistics. Her unique style of presentation delivery and coaching has helped her diverse clients achieve outstanding commercial and professional results for themselves, their teams and their organisations.

She has trained, spoken or facilitated work over 3000 presentations to companies and individuals globally. She is a certified speaking professional, certified human resource professional, author of four business books, preferred Executive Coach for the Australian Institute of Company Directors and regular commentator on national radio and blogger for Australian Human Resource Institute.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rickynowak/     Web: www.rickynowak.com

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