Business of Law

6 Online Tools to Streamline Your Solo Practice

By Maddy Martin
July 24, 2019

As a solo practitioner you know the meaning of the word “stretch” -- whether it’s your time or your money. Fortunately there’s a universe of online tools to help you do more with less staff. The trouble is picking the right service amid a dizzying array of startups, mid-level growth companies, and even larger more established ones. You may use Outlook for your calendar, but how easy is it to find a time to meet with clients? How are you handling your billing? And since you’re handling the marketing, how are you nurturing new leads and converting them? It can be overwhelming for sure, but here are some powerful tools to help you manage key aspects of your law practice.

Online Scheduling

One of the biggest time-wasters is the courting dance that involves setting a client meeting time. Traditionally this meant flinging emails back and forth, or scheduling a call to check calendars and squeezing things in manually. Calendly simplifies this into a direct “here’s when I’m available” link that allows a client or potential client to simply survey your availability and slot in a time. If the thought of batting around yet another email chain gives you a headache, be sure to try it out (it’s free for one calendar type) and remove the pain of scheduling. Better yet, hand it off to a...

Virtual Receptionists

First impressions mean a lot to both client and attorney. You don’t want to waste time with a client that isn’t a right fit, but you don’t have time to answer every call you get. This classic problem of managing the front desk is made far simpler today with technology. In particular, smart AI-backed, human-powered services like Smith.ai use machine intelligence to help remote and outsourced receptionists accurately manage leads, book new clients, and handle client intake without your constant involvement. Knowing that speed is a factor in retaining new clients, a virtual receptionist service could be one of the most valuable investments you make in your small business. And if you’re really willing to be on the bleeding edge, test using them to staff your website chat, business text messages, and more (think: multilingual What’s App replies, immigration attorneys!).

Referrals & Extra Help 

If you’re looking for work, referrals are the best way to go. If you’re needing additional team members on a case-by-case basis, you’re also looking for referrals. Both ends of this equation are brilliantly handled by LAWCLERK. Not only can you find quality work when the caseload is light, but if you need to hire legal help for a case that’s got you underwater there’s never been a better time to tap into the power of online sources for highly rated freelance lawyers. And the more work you hire for and help with on the platform, the stronger your personal brand and reputation becomes, generating more top-of-mind awareness that leads to referrals.

Case Management

When you are working on cases, you’ve got to deal with all the open loops and client communications, plus worry about billing later and countless other loose threads. This was one of the first areas for online solutions to step into, so there are several great options here. From Clio to Rocket Matter, CosmoLex to PracticePanther, there’s no shortage of services. Most of them offer integrations with other software suites (like Microsoft Office), and most now offer some sort of invoicing system. These tools help you manage your client happiness and your cases by keeping track of everything in software so you don’t have to keep it in your head or scribbled down on paper. The key differentiators when evaluating these services really comes down to preference: What specific features do you need, and how easy is the tool to use? We recommend dedicating a little time to evaluating their interfaces and feature sets to find just the right fit. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time using them because they will save you time in the end.

Credit Card Payments

Online businesses have more choices than ever when it comes to online payment systems. Square, Stripe, PayPal and others typically dominate this space but lawyers have a different set of concerns. There are ABA guidelines, state-specific rules, and of course your own practice management software to consider. That’s why LawPay makes things easy. It’s available through all 50 state bars, plus many local and specialty bars. It’s recommended by the ABA and has custom invoicing that allows your clients to easily pay online. LawPay works with Sage, Zola, and other management tools to simplify your workflow. This one tool can help streamline a major impact on your bottom line: Getting paid.

Marketing, Intake & CRM

Finally, your business is an engine that needs fuel, and that fuel means clients. Cases come and go, so finding and keeping new clients becomes a natural part of the job. Software for nurturing leads has been around for a long time, but the legal niche has some standouts that can help you maximize your marketing ROI. Take a look at Lawmatics, Clio Grow, LeadDocket, or ClientRock.

What you’re looking for in a CRM tool is one that will address specific pain points lawyers encounter when bringing in new clients. The more you can automate, the better -- this process isn’t exactly a novel one, and no one is “innovating” when it comes to things like file requests and signing documents. Managing the onboarding process can be tedious, and tedium is why we have automation. So here you’re looking for what works best in your workflow and existing toolset, which could include generating leads via billboard to land on your website, to determining a time to chat on the phone, to signing contracts, to signing up for a newsletter, and then to checking in later down the road. You want a system that will report how well your leads are converting into clients, and if you’re not spinning your wheels in a specific area.

Did you know the number one complaint clients have is that their lawyer didn’t return their call promptly? CRM suites like ClientRock integrate with receptionist services like Smith.ai, ensuring that critical time isn’t wasted but clients feel nurtured. From setting the appointment to reminding them of critical paperwork, combining tools means you have more time to actually practice law and quit stressing minutiae. Imagine that: Technology helping you get things done!

Get started with a 10-call free trial of Smith.ai virtual receptionists

If you’d like to sign up for Smith.ai, you may do so online at https://smith.ai. Use code LAWCLERK50 to get $50 off your first month. This code can be combined with Smith.ai’s 30-day/10-call free trial for $120 total savings!

Want live web chat, too? 

Smith.ai also offers web chat services staffed by our live, U.S.-based agents and backed by our after-hours chatbot for 24/7 responsiveness. To learn more and sign up, visit https://smith.ai/chat. (The $50 discount above can be applied to your first month of live web chat, if you prefer. And if you ask us about it, we can even answer your business texts, too!)

About the author, Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is the head of growth and education at Smith.ai, which provides integrated phone and web chat services for solo and small-firm attorneys, including their virtual receptionist & intake service, live website chat, and Keypad cloud phone system. She has spent the last decade growing tech startups from New York to California, and has expertise in digital marketing, small business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, SEO, and event marketing. Maddy can be reached at maddy@smith.ai, and you can also connect with her on LinkedIn.

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