6 Ways Law Practice Has Changed In 11 Years

It’s Halloween. On Halloween in 2005, I was sworn in as a member of the Connecticut Bar. I have changed. And the practice of law has changed. Here’s 6 ways law practice has changed in 11 years.

 

Law Practice by Attorney Ryan McKeen
Law Practice by Attorney Ryan McKeen

1. Mobile

Mobile didn’t exist in 2005. Some firms had Palm Treos. Others Blackberrys. Most people had flip phones. I was like most people and had a flip phone. Then along came the iPhone. And the horse was out of the barn. Today, in the palm of my hand, I have my entire practice. I can send a fax, scan documents, review files, run payroll, and almost anything else I need to do from my phone. I can’t overstate the change mobile has brought to the practice of law.

2. Paperless

In 2005, all of my files were paper files. By 2012, none of my files were paper files. The advent of high speed scanners, tremendous processing power, and cheap cloud based digital storage has been a game changer. No more losing documents. No more having to go into the office to check a file. No heavy brief case. All my files wherever I need them.

3. Social Media

Facebook wasn’t a thing in 2005. I mean it existed. But unless you were an ivy league grad you didn’t have access to it. Now Facebook and other sites like Twitter have radically changed the way I receive information and connect with the outside world.

4. Avvo And Lawyer Rating Sites

Connecticut didn’t have Avvo in 2005. It existed in several states including MA. Now lawyers are reviewed everywhere. Avvo, google, yelp and others. It has changed the way clients find lawyers. It has shifted power in the attorney-client relationship to the client.

5. Global Teams

Mobile and paperless have opened my ability to expand my team. My reception service is in Portland, Oregon. If I need a task done, I can post a job on Upwork and someone in Asia can work while I sleep.  Legal teams are quickly assembling not just as firms – but on task or case based needs. This trend will only continue to grow.

6. Law Practice Automation

A robot does my schedule. I can go from intake to a new file with the click of a button – client agreement, authorizations, instructions, a complaint, discovery – all generated without me. The speed of practice is fast and getting even faster.

Every one of these changes has impacted my practice. But the sum of all of them is greater than the parts. The opportunities have never been greater. The demands have never been greater. There’s no waiting a few days to respond to a letter. There’s no letter to respond to. I can do more than ever before. But I work more than ever before.

2016 began with a text message at 2:30 AM from someone who needed my help. In 5 years, that same person will be messaging a bot. Change abounds.

Generating Web Content Ideas

Generating Web Content Ideas 

This episode of “Ask Ryan” addresses generating web content ideas for attorneys and law firms – topics for blog posts, linkedin articles, and youtube videos.

Hey Ryan, would you mind sharing your system for coming up with blog topics/video topics? Do you just have a couple go to sites? -Robert from the Midwest.

I started this website almost 9 years ago. I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of topics that I would like to write about. I have never used a website to for content ideas. This site would not exist if I my content ideas were generated by a website. That would feel a whole lot like work. This site is a labor of love. A hobby.

Generating web content ideas
Generating web content ideas

Approach your practice looking for content. Constantly ask yourself “how can I turn this into web content”. No we’re lawyers and there’s confidentiality so there’s a lot we can’t write about. But there’s way more we can.

How To Generate Web Content For Lawyers: Listen

What are clients asking you in general?

What issues do you see judges wrestling with?

What issues do your friends and family ask you about?

What do you hear people in court talking about?

What do other lawyers ask you about?

What is being talked about in the news?

These are just some of my sources for ideas. The idea from this post came from a message from Robert. There has to be someone else out there wrestling with this issue. So in my book, it is something worth writing about.

How To Generate Web Content For Lawyers: Do

What are you doing? Many of my posts arise from me doing something. Here are a few examples:

1. Getting Evidence on a Screen in Court: I figured out this set up for a personal injury trial. The setup worked very well.

2. Offer of Compromise: I filed an offer of compromise in a Connecticut legal malpractice case. I had to look at the statute. I figured I may as well post about it.

Those are just two examples of many on this site. As attorneys we are constantly doing things. Write about them.

Generating Web Content Ideas: Just Do It

The bar is low. The web is big. Your topic doesn’t have to change the world. The more narrow the topic the better. You know things. Write about what you know. Take topics from what you hear and do.

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Ryan McKeen is a Connecticut Personal Injury Attorney who writes about Connecticut Personal Injury Law and Law Practice. You can reach Ryan @ryanmckeen or ryan@cttrialfirm.com

 

 

Snapchat For Attorneys and Lawfirms

Snapchat for attorneys and lawfirms? Sounds crazy in 2016. But you need to be there. You need to be there now.

3 Reasons A Law Firm Should Use Snapchat

Now is the best time in the history of the world to tell your story. There are limitless ways to tell your story. Distribution has never been cheaper. Audiences have never been larger. Your law firm – no matter how large or small – has to tell its story. It has to get its story to market. It is necessary to survive.

ctinjurylawyer snapchat
Follow me on Snapchat

Online audiences are increasingly mobile. More than 50% of traffic on this site comes from mobile devices. In 5 years, I’ll be surprised if that number isn’t closer to 85%. My traffic is inline with all web traffic. That means that most people are finding you on their phones.

What is Snapchat

Snapchat is a mobile application that allows a user to broadcast disappearing multimedia messages (pictures, text, and video). You can turn collections of posts into “stories” that disappear within 24 hours of being posted.

Reason 1: Snapchat is Where People Are

Snapchat has more users than Twitter. Users spend an average of 30 minutes a day in Snapchat. S to the under 35 crowd what Facebook is to the over 35 crowd.

The under 30 crowd in my family rarely posts on Facebook. But they share short disappearing messages all day long. And they constantly consume disappearing messages and video.

If you want their attention the best way to get it is to go where they are.

Reason 2: Snapchat is A Great Platform To Tell A Story

When posting a picture to Instagram, I fret about getting the right filter, frame, and saturation. Most pictures that I post take 5 minutes of me playing around before they are added to the feed. Not so in Snapchat. The content is disposable. Take silly and ugly pictures and videos.

Do a video of your day as a lawyer. Do a quick video of you getting into your office. Making coffee. Going to court. Walking. Researching. Whatever it is you do. Give some insight into who you are. Authentically. Unfiltered.

It is liberating to know your content is unsearchable and gone in 24 hours.

Reason 3: Snapchat Is Growing

We don’t know what the platform is going to become. We know it is an important player in mobile story sharing. Law firms by and large aren’t on snapchat. Getting on now is a golden opportunity to acquire key usernames and build followings. Followings that can be later used to generate revenue. We also don’t know what advertising opportunities it will make available to users.

Follow my story on Snapchat. 

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Ryan McKeen is an attorney in Hartford CT. This blog has been named an ABA 100 Law Blog. Ryan regularly writes about law practice and legal technology. You can contact Ryan @ryanmckeen or via email ryan@cttrialfirm.com. Ryan is still trying to figure out how to do video. Watch his struggle below.

Ruby Receptionists Review

On this episode of “Ask Ryan” I review Ruby Receptionists.  Ruby Receptionists answers phones. That is what they do. This is my Ruby Receptionists review.

I answered my phones for the first two years of practice. It wore on me. It made it hard to get work done. All I was doing was answering my phone. Lawyers are in a client service business. Answering the phones is a key component of satisfying clients.

And equally as bad, I was missing out on clients. One day I had a potential client call me with two new cases. The cases were good cases. The client had found me online. I called him back 15 minutes later and he already had hired another lawyer. There’s the quick and the dead.

By not having not having a receptionist I was failing. I was failing myself. I was failing my clients. And I was failing my business.

Ruby Receptionists Review
Ruby Receptionists Review

Ruby Receptionists answers phones. They answer my phones. And they have answered them well for nearly the last 2 years.

I haven’t had to train anyone. No additional space is needed in my office. There’s no need to add anyone to the payroll. My assistant’s time is maximized because she can focus on pleadings, discovery, and other important matters. She does not have to answer the phone.

Ruby takes the time to set up and understand my call settings. Any changes to my settings are quickly implemented. Changing my settings is as easy as opening an app on my phone or calling Ruby.

Watch below for my Ruby Receptionist Review where I discuss the pros and cons of using Ruby. I am not paid for this review. I receive nothing in exchange for post this. My thoughts are my own.

If you’d like to ask me a question for an upcoming episode of “Ask Ryan” please shoot me an email at ryan@cttrialfirm.com

Trial Presentation: Getting Evidence On A Screen

Attorney Andrew Garza and our court tech set up.
Attorney Andrew Garza and the CT Trial FIrm, LLC court tech set up.

We’re often asked how we do it. How to get your documents on a screen in court? How to display video in court? How to show pictures to a jury? This post is about trial presentation: getting evidence on a screen.

We’re often asked about our trial presentation process. Here’s our secret sauce.

Epson EX3240 SVGA 3LCD Projector 3200  

We tried several projectors. The Epson EX3240 was the best value/quality play that we found. It’s listed on Amazon right now for $399. It has no problem displaying images, videos and documents in courtroom lighting. None.

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable – 25 Feet

I love wireless setups. I don’t trust wireless set ups for court presentations. Hardwire me, baby. One less thing to go wrong. At $10.69 on Amazon this 25 foot HDMI cable is both a bargain and a must have.

Epson Duet 80-Inch Dual Aspect Ratio Projection Screen

You need a big screen. Don’t make your fact finder squint. This screen is fantastic. It is adjustable. It is easy to carry. Fairly lightweight. And solid construction. A must have.

And get a stand for your projector. This can be a small portable table or a tripod.

If You Are Using An IPad and You Should

The ipad is a fantastic trial presentation tool. Better than my laptop. Here’s why. The Trial Pad app is outstanding. It is the best presentation software that I have used. I strongly recommend the iPad Pro. The extra screen size and RAM make it even more useful. Also the extended battery on the Pro will keep your presentation going.

Assuming you are using an iPad you’ll need these things:

Lightning Digital AV Adapter

This $49 adapter allows you to connect your iPad to the projector via HDMI. At $49 it is a ripoff. But it is necessary,

Trial Pad

This app is just the best. I’ve used others. I’m not going to waste space in this post writing about it. Click on the link above. See what it does. Buy it. Use it. Love it.

Odds and Ends

Get a long extension cord. You’ll never know where the outlets are going to be.

Get a power strip. You’ll want to make sure you can plug in and charge your devices.

Get a big solid tote bag. You’ll need it for all of your cords, power strips, and projector. Basically buy the biggest and most solid tote bag you can find.

And the backbone of all of this is having a paperless office. Click here to learn how to go paperless. 

4 Simple Steps To A Paperless Law Office

This post is on 4 Simple Steps to A Paperless Law Office.

Paperless law office
ScanSnap – Essential for Your Paperless Law Office

I am regularly asked by other lawyers to help them go paperless. Here’s my 4 step process.

  1. Start by making your new files paperless. So many lawyers get bogged down in how many paper files they have and how long it would take to scan them all. Don’t worry about this. Start by making every file going forward paperless.
  2. Invest in a scanner. I love ScanSnap.
  3. Pick a cloud based service. PC Mag has a list of services you may consider. 
  4. Use Adobe to manipulate your PDFs – add pages, move pages, redact, edit, etc. Adobe Pro comes with a ScanSnap. If you are a Mac user Adobe Pro is not included in your ScanSnap. I love Adobe DC. It is the best buy in SAAS. A steal at $14.99 a month.

That’s as simple as I can make it. What are you waiting for? Do you hate saving money? Have a thing against trees?

I have been paperless for 4 years. I have no file cabinets. No copier. And I use 2 toner cartridges a year.

 

 

 

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SaneBox Review: Great For Lawyers

A 154,000 emails. That is how many emails I have received in 3 years.

If you are like me, you struggle with email. 

On one hand email is very convenient. When I first started practicing in 2005, I didn’t have an email account. All correspondence was by mail. I would receive a letter. Think about how I wanted to respond. Then respond by letter. Now I mail a few letters a month.

On the other hand, I receive 100s of non-essential emails every day – listservs, newsletters, and ads. Sorting through this stream of emails is less efficient than my letter writing days.

Emails from clients and counsel are very important.  Listserv emails are non-essential.

Enter Sanebox.

Sanebox prioritizes emails from contacts. Those emails arrive in my inbox.

Sanebox digests all of those listserv emails and sends them to me in one email. One email with headings. One email that comes at the end of the day.

Sanebox allows me to “blackhole” emails from senders that I never want to hear from again.

Sanebox No Response allows me to see emails that I have sent and haven’t received a response from. Very useful to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks.

It learns my preferences. It is easy for me to correct any decision it makes.

In a word, Sanebox is: wonderful.

Efficiency experts estimate that every interruption costs 23 minutes. That is the amount of time it takes us to focus back on the task we were working on.

With Sanebox you’ll have fewer interruptions. You’ll have more time. More time for what actually matters.

You can try Sanebox for yourself for free for 2 weeks. If you click on this link and sign up, I’ll receive $5 off. I promise you that I’m not recommending Sanebox for this reason. It’s just FCC regulations require me to disclose this.

Sanebox gets an “A Connecticut Law Blog” seal of approval. I only recommend services that I have used for a period of time and believe they make a positive difference in my life.

Click Here To Sign Up For Our Law Practice Secrets Newsletter

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A Review of Clio Cloud Conference 2016

If you are reading this you are probably considering attending Clio Cloud Conference 2017 or you work for Clio. Either way, read on.

This is my attempt at reviewing Clio Cloud Conference 2016. Which is a difficult thing to do. There is one of me. There were numerous seminars. So my experience may be vastly different than what someone else experienced.

You should also understand my background. I’m very into legal tech. I spend a lot of time studying and refining my business and tech. A lot. Doing so allows me to better serve my clients. I am constantly trying new software. And implementing what I like. 

One of the first software investments I made when I went solo was to sign on with Clio. I did so in 2012. I have been with them consistently since then. I believe I was a “beta” subscriber. I believe that Clio is the best practice management software available to small firms and I recommend the product.

I don’t work for Clio. I paid my way to the conference. Clio gave me a shirt, a bag, and some great socks as take aways. None of which has impacted my review.

The Good:

Nobody puts on a better conference than Clio. From the second I walked in, I felt like I mattered. They thought of all sorts of ways to improve the attendee experience. The food was great. The Clio After Dark was fantastic. It was easy to find and talk to vendors. The Radisson Blu was swanky. The entire conference had a “cool” vibe. I don’t think Disney puts on a better production. The Clio staff was very helpful and friendly.

Some of the presenters were very good. I particularly enjoyed a presentation about hiring trends. I thought the session was both practical and insightful.

There was lots of tech, lots about Clio, and lots about business.

Yoga between sessions. Lots to like.

The Not So Good:

For as great of a production as the conference was – it was difficult to find the right room for a seminar. The online map provided in the conference app was useless as it did not label rooms the same way they were labeled on the agenda. This sounds strange. But I wasn’t the only one who had a tough time figuring out what room was what. I even walked into the wrong room and sat down in the wrong seminar. I felt bad leaving but I wasn’t the only one.

Bigger room signs would be nice. But the 2017 Conference is in New Orleans so that will be different.

Some of the presentations weren’t good. I’m not going to name names on this site because that would be rude. But some of them I gave poor reviews to. I felt like they were wastes of time. In the sense they were too general, too ambitious, too unfocused, and sometimes behind the curve.

The descriptions of seminars were sparse or non-existent. A few paragraphs on the conference website about the topics that were going to be discussed would have been nice. They could have then been put in the app. That would have solved some of my problems with me not feeling like some of the sessions were worth my time.

The Problem:

At any conference there are speakers that you’ll enjoy and one’s you won’t. And what is not insightful to me may feel revolutionary to someone else. And vice versa. I’m sure an HR person would have found the hiring seminar too basic.

I think the basic problem with Clio Conference is existential. What is it? Is it a cutting edge legal tech conference? Who is the audience? Should only tech geeks attend?  Should every session be general or narrow? It is hard to do a business development session in an hour. Is the audience big law or small law? Is it a place to learn Clio?

There was a seminar that I was particularly excited about. Without knowing it, I found myself sitting down with one of the presenters. My eyes lit up when I found that this person was presenting one of the 2 or 3 sessions that most interested me. I decided to use the opportunity to pick his brain. As we discussed the subject matter he said “I think you may be too advanced for this session….many people here don’t even know about this topic so I have to keep it basic”.

Said another way, there’s no reason to sell lawyers who are using facebook on the benefits of using facebook.

But that same session may have been worth the price of admission to someone else.

Verdict:

I changed my flight to leave the conference early on Tuesday. About noon. I was scheduled for a red eye but hopped on an afternoon flight back east. I felt my time was better spent getting home so I could see my kids before they went to bed and be ready to tackle Wednesday. The conference wasn’t for me.

Others stayed and loved it.

I hear Gary Vee was awesome.

I think the conference was very well done, very cool, just not for me.

What I’d like to see Clio do for 2017 is:

  1. Put the agenda and speakers out as soon as they come onboard. I think when I booked my ticket, I did so blindly. I went based on reputation and the strength of the 2015 speakers.
  2. Do seminar summaries. Keep them short. Even a few paragraphs. Even a blurb about “target audience”.
  3. Distribute slides from seminars online in the app.
  4. Think about the big picture. Who should go? What should they get from this? What is Clio Cloud Conference? And perhaps limit your focus areas. It’s really hard to do a broad “how to grow your business” talk in 30 minutes. What would have been preferable is a day of 30 minute speakers each exploring an idea or 2 that has worked for them. Then I could get actionable take aways.
  5. Bigger room signs.
  6. More vendors. One of the coolest things about the show was talking to vendors. I found the vendors to be very useful. At least the ones that were useful to my practice or that I wasn’t already using.
  7. Keep the keepers. You have a great vibe, great staff, great after hours party – there’s lots to like here.

I’m going to keep my eyes on the agenda for 2017. I hope to see blurbs about the seminars.

You are going to read a lot online about how much fun this conference is. Believe it. It’s a lot of fun. And if you want fun – sign up now for 2017. Get your early discount. You won’t regret it.

But my expectations were a little higher than “fun”. Ultimately, I place a very high premium on time away from my clients, business, and family. If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped the conference and spent a few days in Chicago with my wife. Again, your mileage may vary.

And if you are an associate at a large firm, and they’ll pay for it, by all means go.

I do think many of the problems that I encountered – including the decision to attend – could have been solved with more information about the substance and target audience of each session.

Who knows, maybe I’ll try and become the solution and pitch a session to Clio Conference 2017. I mean the conference was cool. I’m sure there are sessions that I’ll like. And I’m positive Clio will put on a great show. And New Orleans. I mean New Orleans.

And if you are reading this far, I’d like to thank the Clio staff. You couldn’t have been better hosts. I hope this post doesn’t come off as ripping anything about the Clio team or the conference. That’s not the intent. I guess I liked it enough to care about writing it and I want to see it improve and grow.

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Pro Tip On Bringing Your Cell Phone To Court

Can I take my cell phone to court?

The answer is yes. Yes with a slight caveat. You can’t use your phone while court is in session. Nor can your phone make any noise.

You don’t want to have a marshal take your phone. Or fine you. Or disrupt court proceedings. You really don’t. I know from experience.

These magic devices that make our lives easier are hard to mute. Even when we hit mute – notifications have a way of popping up and making noise.

Here’s a pro tip on bringing your cell phone to court.

Tip: Use airplane mode.

Using Amazon Dash Buttons In Your Law Firm

If you are running a small law firm there are all sorts of things – taxes, insurance audits, payroll, vendors and the list goes on. The work never stops in a day. You just stop working that day. Using Amazon Dash Buttons in your law firm makes life 250% more awesome. Guaranteed.

You need to spend your time focusing on the important things like clients. But there is mundane creep that tries to sabotage your best intentions. By mundane creep I mean running out of supplies. You go to print the fee agreement only to find out you are out of toner. A trip to staples ensues.

Fortunately it is easier than ever to buy anything. But there’s a better way. That better was is Amazon Dash buttons.

Dash buttons are little wifi enable buttons that are easily placed where you keep your supplies. You buy the button, easily connect it to the internet with your phone, and select the item you want ordered when someone presses the button. And bam! Two days later that item appears.

There are dash buttons for all sorts of products. In my office I use them for paper, toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, dishwashing detergent, and trash bags.

My assistant sees the paper is running low. She hits the button. The paper that I want comes directly to the office. Neither my time or hers is wasted buying or ordering supplies.

With dash buttons you don’t have to worry about multiple people hitting the button and winding up with 20 boxes of paper. The button won’t process another order until after an order arrives.

This is especially useful for me. In addition to running a law firm, I also lease office space through a separate business to colleagues. I handle common supplies. With dash buttons there are no more emergency runs for supplies. It is less for me to do.

Dash buttons are a cheap and simple hack to make your office more efficient and productive.

If only there was a Starbucks dash button. Make it happen, Amazon.

Here’s my hokey video featuring paper and a dash button.