Affinity Consulting Blog


Cloud doesn’t mean Cheap.

And it shouldn’t.....

For some people, the idea of subscribing to a Cloud based program for Practice Management, Document Management, or Time Billing & Accounting seems like the financially sensible thing to do…because, for a small monthly fee, you can just log in and get started. Anybody can do that, right?! Hit the brakes. This is the software you are going to use to RUN YOUR BUSINESS and will contribute to AVOIDING MALPRACTICE. Let’s do this right.

To live under the assumption that Cloud based, subscription software is “plug and play” is to completely discount the sophistication of cloud programs on the market today, and, the still existent need for customization and training on the program. It also suggests that your firm isn’t unique in any way…but we know that isn’t true.

When firms look at traditional programs, there is always a cost for securing the right hardware foundation for the program. Think of practice management software like a house; the hardware, the foundation. If you have a foundation for an 800 square foot bungalow and try to build a 6,000 square foot McMansion on it, you are going to be devastatingly disappointed when your masterpiece comes crumbling down.

The same is true for software. Many traditional programs require true servers running up to date operating systems, powerful processors, and the like. So, for firms that do not HAVE the foundation, or, have the foundation but want to move away from maintaining that type of foundation, a Cloud based, subscription model could be a great option (a hosted network infrastructure is another – but that’s a different blog topic!) – helping to minimize, or at least reduce, their expenditure on hardware and servers.

So while you will likely enjoy a reduction in your hardware costs, the proper implementation of a Cloud based program is not going to be significantly less expensive, in the long term, than a traditional program.

This blog certainly isn’t designed to tell you one is better than the other – but to make sure that as a law firm, you think about what you are trying to accomplish. Are you TRYING to move your practice to the cloud because you don’t want an internal network infrastructure that you need to maintain? Are you trying to increase mobility? Do you have a 5 year plan to have a virtual office, or increase work from home opportunities? Do you prefer budgeting the monthly subscription cost as compared to the larger capital outlays for traditional software upgrades? These are all excellent reasons to consider Cloud.

Just please don’t assume you are going to spend less than if you implemented a traditional product. The same considerations need to be made. The same meetings with your consultant have to occur. The same understanding of your practice area and files types, contact groups, calendaring needs, integration needs, document automation needs, workflow needs is essential. The same amount of time will be required to customize the program to work the way you NEED it to work – and don’t discount how much these cloud based systems can be customized to support your firm’s workflow. You will save time from installing the product on your server and workstations – but that is about it. You will still have third party add-ins to install, integrations with third part products to configure, and most importantly, training to conduct.

Considering a Cloud based program? Let us help. Click HERE to schedule a call with an Affinity Consultant.

Add a Watermark to your Microsoft Word Documents

Microsoft Word 2013 makes it easy to add a watermark to any document you are working on. Microsoft even added some pre-build watermarks such as “Confidential” or you can add your own text.

  1. Go to Menu – Design
  2. Click on the “Watermark” icon
  3. Select one of the designed watermarks or create you own by clicking “Custom Watermark”

Microsoft Word Watermark Affinity Consulting group

This is a great, easy feature for documents that might be in a “DRAFT” state or “Confidential” documents. In addition, an out of the box use for a watermark is to add some sort of marketing phrase. For example if you are sending out marketing letters to recent foreclosures, use “Save your Home” as a watermark for your letter. This will help your letter or marketing peice stand out!

This step by step guide was written in conjunction with Micheal Brennan, principal consultant of SMBclix.com, a Google Partner Digital Marketing Agency that specialises in creating and managing Google adwords campaigns for businesses across the globe.

In this guide I will show you how I would go about creating a Google Adwords campaign for a fictitious general law firm “ABC Law Firm” based in Manchester, New Hampshire. But the principles can be used to create an adwords campaign, for law firms of any size based anywhere in the world.

If you have never created an adwords campaign before, then the first thing you are going to want to do is go over to adwords.google.com and sign up for an account

Once you have signed up for your account you will be greeted by the following screen prompting you to create your first campaign.

You are going to want to skip this part so that you can do your keyword research and give yourself the best possible chance of creating a great campaign. For the keyword research you will use google’s keyword planner tool. At the top of the screen click on “tools” and then click on keyword planner. This tool is really great as it allows you to find out how many people search for the keywords that you think of yourself as well as suggesting other keywords that are highly searched.

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In this profession, we see and hear a ton about the way law firms are run. The scariest part of my job? Listening to how law firms do conflict searches.

We know states may have different rules governing the Professional Conduct of Attorneys, so we will just rely on the ABA’s Model Rule on the subject, found here.

It is pretty safe to say that no matter what state you are in, no matter what practice area, no matter the size of the firm or the length of time you have practiced – you should be doing conflict searches. Just in case. And, you know, to protect your clients and yourself, your law firm, and the employees who depend on you.

Stop for a minute and write down the process you believe is followed for running conflict checks. Now, ask every person in your firm to write it down. Compare notes. Are they the same? Is everything happening that you THOUGHT was happening? Would you bet your Bar Number on the accuracy and integrity of your conflict searches and conflict avoidance process?

Some common processes we see include:

  • We send an email to everyone in the firm and ask them to let us know if they recognize the name or see a conflict.”
    • That’s a decent start, but if that is all you do – you might want to stop reading and go increase your malpractice coverage.
    • Do you send that email to every person who has ever worked for you?
    • How do you know when the answer is “no, I do not see a conflict?
      • Do you require that all firm members respond and indicate in writing that they don’t think there is a conflict?
      •  Does No Reply = No Conflict?
  • “We run a search in our Billing Program”
    • Not a bad ELEMENT To a bigger process. But again, if that is all you do…
    • If you represent the Plaintiff, did you send the Defendant a bill?
    • Are you certain the adverse party names are in your Billing program?
    • Are you relying on the mention of a name in a time entry to return a result?
  • We do XYZ law, so we really don’t have to deal with Conflicts.
    • I suppose there are exceptions, but I struggle to find one that should really exclude a firm 100% from running a conflict check.

Consider the last malpractice application you completed. How did you answer the question about Conflict Checks? Does the answer truly represent what is happening in your firm?

You have a professional obligation to avoid conflict, and frankly, it is just good business. Getting sued because you failed to recognize a conflict, having to forego fees in a case because you recognized a conflict too late, and compromising your client’s position in a proceeding because you failed to recognize a conflict is no laughing matter.

Need help identifying, or developing your Conflict Search process, or other internal processes? Let us help.

Why would a lawyer go virtual? Cost. Work Life Balance. Solitude. Flexibility.

When we talk about reducing costs, we often look at expenses. Law firm expenses can range from rent and salaries to file folders, legal pads and pens. We hope you are getting a great deal on pens, but the TRUTH is, saving money on office supplies is NOT going to be the reason you stay in business.

The big ticket items - rent, salaries, insurance, taxes…these are things that make your overhead seem unbearable. Your efficiency and ability to bill (and get paid for) the time you spend also play a big role in whether your firm is financially successful, but that’s a topic for a different blog.

We understand that some law firms MUST have a physical presence, and not everyone can go virtual. But just in case you can, here are some things to think about.

If you are a solo attorney with no support staff, going virtual is easier for you. However, if you have even 1 staff member, you need to be sure that your remote locations will still enable you to work together, collaborate, and communicate easily on client matters.

  • How will you save and share files?
  • Will you rely on Cell phones, or VoIP and softphones?
  • Will you provide cell phones to your staff?
  • Will you pay for your remote staff high speed internet?
  • Will you have an instant messaging system so you can quickly reach your remote staff?
  • Will you use a cloud based practice management system so you have access to case details?
  • Will you use a cloud based document management system?
  • Will you use a cloud based Time, Billing & Accounting system?
  • How will you get bills out, and where will clients mail payments?
  • Will you have a P.O. Box?
  • Where will you meet clients? If meeting clients at their home or office is not an option, are their executive office suites available in your area?

The foregoing list is not mean to dissuade you from going virtual – there are ways to accomplish everything on this list without paying rent for physical space. We just want you to think about what you will need, and how you will be organized.

Whether you are a seasoned attorney or a brand new lawyer, a virtual office could be the right fit for you. Interested? Contact Katie Kennedy. We can help you figure it all out.

By now you’re probably aware of Microsoft’s newest product offering Office 365. What you might not know is just how much of a game changer this new product really is. In the world of business size and money are king. The bigger you are and more money you generate, the better equipped you are to purchase the latest and greatest products and software. This allows you to keep pace with the always improving versions of a product like Microsoft Office. Which, if you’ve kept track, since 2003 has included Office 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 & 2016.

For the small to midsize firm upgrading the entire office to a newer version of Microsoft Office can be an extremely large expense. So much so, that most firms will make do with older, antiquated software just to avoid the costs associated with upgrading. The resistance to upgrading, means the staff is now equipped with older software that may not have all the tools that the latest release does, making their job that much harder. I cannot tell you how many firms I have visited where the staff is stuck using antiquated software just because the cost of upgrading is so significant management is holding onto their current product well past its expected life span.

What Microsoft has done with Office 365 is levelled the playing field for firms both small and large. Microsoft has done away with the traditional purchasing of large volumes of CD’s or software keys, that only provide licensing for the specific version of Office. They have instead moved to a subscription based model for their software. What the subscription based model does is give firms the flexibility to quickly expand or contract their workforce without taking on large amounts of purchased software that could potentially go unused if the firm contracts. Microsoft allows a firm to purchase their Office 365 licenses either on an annual basis or on a month to month basis.

What you get with Office 365 depends on the plan or package that you purchase. Take for example Office 365 Business Premium. This package costs $12.50 per user annually or $15.00 per user monthly. This plan includes the following products. Business class email hosting (your own company exchange server) which includes a 50GB mailbox for each licensed user. The ability for the firm to use their own purchased domain name, for their email address. The desktop version of Microsoft Office which includes the following Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher & One Note. Also included is the web version of these same products. One Office 365 license will also give you the ability to install these products on 5 phones, 5 tablets & 5 PC’s or MAC’s per licensed user. There also is included 1TB of online storage and sharing via OneDrive per user and HD video conferencing with Skype for Business. This all comes with 24\7 phone and web support directly from Microsoft.

With all that is offered with Office 365, it’s hard to justify purchasing software the “old fashioned way” any longer. Why pay for software that will without a doubt be obsolete in just a few years’ time.

This year, we’re showing our gratitude by making September Client Appreciation Month. Our clients are the life lines to our company, and the same is true for your firm. Often times, customer appreciation takes a back seat to the day to day operations of a company. Dedicating an entire month to you, our clients, enables us to re-engage and show you how seriously we take our relationship: like Facebook Official, seriously.

Customer appreciation must be part of the entire company’s culture, a core value in which everyone commits to honor and uphold. We are constantly interacting with our clients, that’s our business. We advise, support, train, speak, analyze and recommend all day long. I think the difference between having clients and having relationships with clients, is meaningful conversations and engagements. We avoid generic communication at all costs. Tailored communication is simple when we are actively consulting. But outside of that, we do a number of other reaches. We provide three newsletters packed with recommendations that you can implement immediately. Surveys are used to gather information like business goals and technology pain points. We review survey results prior to consultations, respecting your time and enabling us to provide tailored solutions and action plans to reach those goals. We keep up to speed on ever changing software industry and are committed to communicating those to you, and more importantly, explaining how those changes will affect you.

Every year, our Client Appreciation Month evolves and we get a bit more creative. Last year we celebrated in February and played off of the love that only Hallmark, I mean Valentine’s Day, delivers. We sent cards to our clients, delivered donuts to local businesses, and gifted some of our favorite tech-gear like Fujitsu ScanSnaps, iPads and Kindles. We sent coffee gift cards so people could enjoy a Cup O’ Joe on us. This year promises to be even more engaging with client happy hours, more prizes, improved surveys and webinars hosted by our very favorite industry leaders.

So what does this September look like for you? Survey results from last year indicated an overwhelming need for training. So we have made Affinity University free to our clients! And if you aren’t our client, let's change that together! Reach out to me and I will set you up. Isn't it time you had access to expert training and advice? Plus, you just read what good care we show to our clients, it’s about time you got in on the action.

Based on our newsletter clicks, Word Tips are the greatest thing since double stuffed Oreos (sliced bread is great, but come on). So we are hosting a Word Webinar called, Ask The Expert- Barron Henley Edition! Register here!

I am personally challenging myself to do something extra for at least one client each day in September to show my gratitude. Simple things matter: a hand written note, a gift card, a bundle of flowers to a firm administrator you could tell was having one of those weeks- those are meaningful interactions that people remember.

If you want to chat about how you might initiate a client appreciation system at your firm, or if you'd like to share new ideas with me please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you are one of our clients, THANK YOU! We don’t say it enough. If you are not a client, I would love to meet you.

Connect with Katie:
Phone: 727-483-5101
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @KMK_Affinity - https://twitter.com/KMK_Affinity

Outlook Calendar List View

Typically, everyone views their calendar in one of the traditional views - Day, Week, Work Week, etc. These views work perfectly when you want to view your calendar in terms of where you have to be at any given time. These views also work fine when you need to edit or move a single appointment via drag and drop. However, they don't work so well when you don't want to view things in a traditional way or when you need to manipulate larger amounts data on your calendar.

The Calendar List View allows you to do these things. The List View is accessible via the View tab and the Change View selector.

Affinity Outlook

Now that your calendar is displayed in a list you can sort it by any column of your choosing. You can also use use the group by feature to group appointments by a specific field or fields.

Outlook Tips

Here is a short list of some of the things you can do once you know your way around the List View:

  1. Copy many appointments from one calendar to another. (Think traditional Exchange to Outlook 365 migration or transferring everything from the calendar of a departing employee to your own).
  2. Delete an entire series of recurring appointments that have become un-linked.
  3. Sort your appointments by category or subject.
  4. Modify the same field across many appointments. This one can be a bit tricky. First set the field the way you desire in one appointment (e.g. Category). Next, group by that field. Finally, drag appointments to the group containing the correct appointment. It will change all of the dragged appointments to include the same value. I have used this to mark a large mass of appointments private (Hint: The field is called Sensitivity) or change the category.
 

There are so many powerful little-known features in the software we use every day. Take a look at this one. It will definitely save you time when you need to manipulate your Outlook calendar.

Many lawyers do podcasts. But the number of knowledgeable lawyers who could do a podcast to boost their niche marketing is much higher than those currently taking the plunge. That is largely because producing a professional-sounding podcast requires considerable hardware, software, and time. As with other tasks lawyers engage in, much of that work can be reduced and more effectively managed by turning to the Cloud for help.

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