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The Better, Smarter Way

Robert Schwartz

Civil laws have changed nationwide in the last decade, and some of those changes were dramatic. On the surface, those changes appeared primarily only to effect consumer’s rights of redress and access to the courts. The secondary, trickle down effect has been on the legal system itself. From the trial courts to the lawyers trying cases, to the firms financing of those trials, the landscape has changed. Only those lawyers and law firms that can change will survive, and that change is, simply put, finding the better, smarter way to do what they have been doing.

A law firm’s expenses and overhead is supported by its revenue. Its revenue is generated by generation of attorneys’ fees on an hourly billing or contingency fees basis. The changes in civil laws have negatively affected the number of lawsuits filed, and in many cases, the value of or expected recovery from those lawsuits. As the lawyer’s and law firm’s fees decrease, the expenses must too decrease. Many lawyers have been laid off. The very lucky lawyers have made lateral moves in the legal community, and many lawyers have simply quit the practice by retiring or changing occupations.

For those lawyers and law firms who want to maintain the course, they must find the better, smarter way. Once identified, they must universally embrace it, implement it, and support it. Those who can not do this must be terminated.

So, what is the better, smarter way? It is upgrading technology and minimizing expenses. Some examples are found in the table below.

Upgrading Technology

Copy/scanning equipment

Fax equipment

Replace cell phones with BlackBerry/PDA

Centralize travel by having one person do all travel on-line

Install Video Conferencing equipment

Install the case/firm management software that best suits all of your law firm’s needs

Upgrade all computer equipment, memory, and exchange server

Install a multi-level back-up system for all electronic data

Utilize telephone answering technology that directs incoming calls, alleviating the need for two or three people answering incoming calls

Install software to simplify information access making it easy and on-demand from wherever users are, using any device and network

Utilize website services such as The Attorney Store that provides the most comprehensive source of legal information, products, and services for the public and legal community. Conduct legal research, market your law firm, and buy discounted office supplies on the web.

Minimizing Expenses

Send and receive pleadings and legal documents electronically

Save pleadings and legal documents electronically

Make your firm “paperless”

Discourage the printing of documents for any purpose, and especially for review or editing

Satisfy due diligence requirements while capping expenditures on potential new case investigations

Order time and matter specific medical records

Revisit the charges of the law firm’s providers; re-negotiate all charges

Never order a printed copy of a deposition or medical records. Only order electronic copies

Outsource services that have been done in your law firm (such as medical records review) so the same are now recoverable as a case expense

Publish an electronic Newsletter on your law firm’s website to update your clients on the general status of the litigation your law firm is involved in

Communicate with clients via email instead of by a hard copy letter sent in the US Mail

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