Lookback 2020:
The Biggest Takeaways for Attorneys

 

2020 was perhaps one of the most disruptive years for law firms in recent history. Unforeseen events limited the access to physical offices, closed state and federal courts for an indeterminate period, and accelerated the adoption of virtual processes in lieu of in-person interaction. And while many firms struggled to stay afloat, others adapted with ease in ways that all practices can replicate. In our live interactive Q&A session, industry experts Carolyn Elefant, Jared Correia, and Benson Varghese reflected on and provided answers around overdue foundational shifts in the legal industry and ways in which attorneys are adapting their business operations for a competitive, resilient law practice in 2021.

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7:12 – The Biggest, Sweeping Industry Change of 2020

In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of modern, more pragmatic operational practices in the legal industry. Our panel of experts revealed monumental changes — such as virtual courtrooms and e-filing — that have impacted their businesses the most this year, the silver linings thereof, and how to avoid a growing disconnect between attorneys and legal consumers.

13:17 – How Law Firms Are Coping With Change

With in-person interaction limited in many parts of the country, client and staff communication have become a major through-line in the post-pandemic legal industry landscape. In this segment, our expert panel dives into the growing demand for virtual collaboration options and implications thereof on office policy and real estate.

27:22 – Marketing MUSTS for Your Firm Post-Pandemic

Amid times of rapid change, it’s incumbent on law firms to reassess what consumers are looking for when it comes to legal representation. This segment delves into transparency, setting expectations, and positioning your law firm in a way that appeals to the modern legal consumer in the new normal.

39:31 – Personal Productivity Tips for Peak Efficiency 

In-office work may not be a bygone era but a significant number of legal professionals still find themselves operating remotely. The question then becomes how does one get a comparable amount of work done in close quarters with others — or alone with a different set of distractions. 

47:43 – What Modern Legal Consumers Expect From You

Attorneys are notoriously under communicative according to legal professionals. But in a legal climate where in-person meetings are limited if not off the table, communication is everything. In this segment, our expert panel discusses methods of client follow-up in ways that instill trust and comfort without the luxury of face-to-face interaction.

Webinar Transcript

Casey Patterson:

So, really quickly, this is sponsored by MyCase. I work for MyCase. Benson is actually a MyCase customer. We’re so happy to have him here. And MyCase is a software that allows you to work from anywhere. It’s a law practice management software so that you can really do everything from billing, to client intake, to getting payments and everything in between. Really helpful during these times. Obviously, if you’re working from home or working remotely, you need something to kind of help you out there. So, check out MyCase.

 

Casey Patterson:

My name is Casey. It’s so good to be here. I’ve worked for MyCase for about five years and I absolutely love my job, mostly because I get to help attorneys and legal professionals run a better business. I love hosting these webinars and making sure we stay on task. I’ll move through all of our panelists so that we can hear from all of them. And let’s meet them all.

 

Casey Patterson:

So, first, we have Jared. Jared is a former practicing attorney, and now he helps law firms as a consultant and helps them from end to end, running better businesses. Some more details on there. But Jared, welcome. Anything you want to throw out there before we get started?

 

Jared Correia:

Well, I’m the worst dressed member of the panel. I just got this blue polo shirt on, so that’s how you know I’m not a practicing attorney anymore. But thanks for having me. I like doing these programs with you guys.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yes. Thanks so much for coming. It’s great. Well, and you’re also a practicing dad, so we understand.

 

Jared Correia:

Emphasis on practicing. Yes.

 

Casey Patterson:

And where are you based out of?

 

Jared Correia:

I am just north of Boston, so I’m in a town called Beverly, which is next to Salem, which is very appropriate for this time of year.

 

Casey Patterson:

Love it. Very Halloween. All right. And next we have Benson. Thanks so much for joining us, Benson. And Benson is the Founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett, his firm. And his client satisfaction is off the charts, his Google five star ratings are off the charts. His company is growing super fast. It’s one of the top growing companies in Fort Worth, so we’re so happy to have him here. And he has that special perspective of knowing MyCase and knowing a cloud based product that can help law firms get through this time. So, welcome, Benson. Anything you want to say in the way of intros?

 

Benson Varghese:

Yeah. Just so happy to be here, and I’m sure we’re going to touch on this, what a year to have a cloud based platform that we could just so easily transition into what’s become the new normal, at least for now.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah. What a year, oh, my goodness, and we’ll get to all the bemoaning I’m sure. Thank you so much. And Carolyn, thank you so much for being here. Carolyn is a practicing attorney and she has a bunch of other side… Oh my gosh, I can’t even describe how many side gigs she has going on. It’s awesome. My favorite being she’s the creator of Lawyer Mom Owner Summit, which just happened I believe in, was August, September?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

Yeah. It was actually end of September, just a month ago. A month ago I was panicking about putting something online and not having it go down, so mission accomplished.

 

Casey Patterson:

But it was super successful. And Carolyn, where are you based out of?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

I’m in the DC area.

 

Casey Patterson:

Awesome. So glad to have you here. And what kind of law do you practice?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

My law firm focuses on power pipelines and property, so what that means is I represent renewable energy developers like solar, offshore, wind, marine energy, I help them with permitting, and siting, and contracts, and then I also work with landowners impacted by natural gas pipelines.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Awesome. Thank you so much for that. All right. Let’s get started. Again, we want this to be an interactive Q&A, so please chat in your questions and comments and answers to the panelists and attendees in Zoom.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. First question. What is the single biggest change the legal industry has undergone this year? And Jared, we’ll start with you. What do you think?

 

Jared Correia:

It’s been a good year. I’ve really enjoyed 2020 so far. I think the challenge for lawyers, or the legal industry, I should say, has been… So, I think this has been a continuing issue, which has kind of been pushed to the forefront with the pandemic, but there’s a massive misunderstanding between lawyers and legal consumers that’s happening on a regular basis, right? I think one of the biggest things that lawyers have struggled with is understanding what legal consumers want and providing that for them, and it stems to relatively simple things, right? If you look at some of the recent data that has come out, a lot of people actually believe that law firms are closed because the court systems have been closed, and very few lawyers know that about legal consumers. So, I think messaging is important.

 

Jared Correia:

I think in terms of the pandemic, I’m sitting here thinking, “Okay, if I see another banner about COVID-19 on a law firm website, I’m going to puke,” right? But that’s information that consumers actually need to know. So, I think one of the biggest things for lawyers is how do you craft messaging during a pandemic that makes clients feel safe and secure and that shows that you’re not a traditional analog law firm, you’ve got digital processes in place, you are a virtual law firm, and that they can still access your legal services if and when they need them. So, that’s the biggest challenge I’ve seen for the lawyers that I talk to.

 

Casey Patterson:

Awesome. Thank you. That’s huge. Okay, what do you think, Benson?

 

Benson Varghese:

I want to speak first as a practitioner. 2020 is something that no one could imagine, particularly being a criminal practitioner. We typically are in the courtroom every day, trials are what we live for, and since March, there hasn’t been a single jury trial. And so although business continues, we have some virtual settings, a lot of things are getting postponed. The core of what we do as, at least criminal practitioners, has changed considerably, but as Jared said, that doesn’t mean everyone, all the participants understand. Educating clients on what settings mean now. If you’re going to court, what’s going to happen at that. Some court coordinators will confirm your client has checked in and immediately bump them off without any warning or reason as to why they were bumped off. They just checked into court and that was that.

 

Benson Varghese:

Talking to clients about what to expect, when sittings are going to be substantive, why trials are being pushed off, and how all of that enters into the dynamics of plea negotiations has certainly been the biggest change that we face on a day to day basis.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yep. And Ernest from the audience agrees. He said virtual courtrooms are the biggest change he’s seen. Audience members, what else have you seen this year? And Carolyn, what’s your thoughts here?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

Yes. So, I would say we have finally seen the implementation of things that honestly should have been in place, not even 10 years ago, but really like 15 years ago. For example, just in many of the agencies where I practice, agencies and courts, e-filing has been a routine, but you still have to follow up with like eight paper copies. So, all it did was maybe buy you an extra day, it didn’t save you the $1,500 dollars from 75 appendices you had to send in. Well, lo and behold, with COVID, paper copies are no longer required, just completely blanked out. And guess what? The courts and agencies that used to require them, still functioning. So, that’s the first thing that I noticed. And the second thing is the willingness of courts and practitioners to adopt the obvious, which is to have depositions remotely, and to have all the parties remote.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

I mean, it’s funny because this year has been a very litigation heavy year for me, more so than others, and in February, I was up in Philadelphia, maybe eight or nine times just blocking together depositions and staying with my sisters who live in southern New Jersey. And the company would just not agree to do them telephonically or to let me go in remotely, and I didn’t want to not be there and give them an advantage, especially because I was so close. It might have been different if the case were in California. But a month later, there I was doing depositions online, dozens of them, with attorneys who had previously objected to them. And that is just such a huge cost saving for clients, and it saves so much time. And I think that in 99% of the cases, things like depositions can be done just as effectively virtually. I think a lot of administrative hearings can be conducted as effectively virtually.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, I think that we have seen the courts kind of finally come into reality, because a lot of the times the reasons that lawyers were not able to innovate… I mean, sometimes the barrier was lawyers and bar associations, but sometimes, honestly, it was the courts and it was these requirements that were decades old that were no longer needed. So, I think that’s a positive change that we have seen, and hopefully, it will be a lasting change.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah. That’s great. And then to some degree, if it wasn’t during this crazy time, it would be about convenience too; what signatures aren’t necessarily required going into court, etc. Hopefully, those changes will persist so that legal just gets easier in general.

 

Casey Patterson:

There’s a little mini conversation in the chat about working from home and office functions. I’m actually going to go to the next one because it’s kind of a little bit more specific. We talked about the legal industry, now specifically for law firms, what’s the biggest change that you’ve seen? And has anyone seen anyone completely abandon their physical firm or change the way that they’re doing things in the office? Jared, what do you see here? And thanks Ernest for commenting, by the way, and Janet.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

Yeah, Ernest and Janet are killing it in the chat. Totally. I think law firms are definitely reassessing their office space, right? And some of them have already moved on from traditional office leases, or you’ve seen people fleeing cities, right? So, my wife works at a big office in Boston as a law firm, and they’ve already told people like, “We’re not even considering having people back at the office until July of next year.” So, that’s a big shift for a very traditional, very large law firm. And my suspicion is that they’re not going to keep the same space that they add previously, they’re going to reduce that space.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

But I think one of the things that’s happening in terms of office space is that folks have realized, as Carolyn alluded to, that you can still be efficient doing things virtually and you can still be efficient doing things working from home, and I think that’s going to create a sea change in the way that lawyers utilize office space. So, my whole feeling is that if people can be efficient at home with millions of little kids running around, you can be even more efficient at home when school opens up again, right? So, lawyers coming to that realization was something that honestly I thought I would never see in my lifetime, and I’m a relatively young dude, right? So, what I’m seeing is that law firms are allowing their staff, attorneys as well, to work from home more regularly, and they’re finding that they’re getting similar results and sometimes better results.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

The thing I would say, though, is in relation to this question of office space and working from home, as law firms start to move away from cities, as law firms start to reduce office space, I think it’s important to have policies and procedures in place to manage a work from home environment. So, this is not just about letting people work from home and do whatever they want, right? You want to have a work from home policy, you want to potentially have a bring your own device policy, you want to change your policies and procedures where necessary, you want to revise your data security program, if you haven’t already, to reflect the fact that people are gaining access to information from their own devices in another place, that’s not your office. So, while I think it’s the right call to make to reduce office space this time, because you’re probably not going to need it even post pandemic or as much of it, you should have rails in place in terms of security of your data and of your client’s information.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. And for those in the audience, what is the biggest change your firm has experienced, whether it be working from home or not? Definitely want to hear it in the chat so we can comment on it and get some feedback on it.

 

Casey Patterson:

Benson, you’re in the office day in and day out. What’s the biggest change you’ve experienced, whether it relates to office space or not?

 

Benson Varghese:

Yeah. So, right off the bat, just our change in communication and what the clients expect of us. When you’re dealing with a legal problem, it’s probably one of the top concerns going on in your life at the time, and you’re typically going to go in and see an attorney. That’s where a lot of our consultations took place pre pandemic. People, particularly on more serious cases, would want to come in, sit across the table from us and just talk for an hour about what they were going through. With the pandemic, obviously, initially, the lockdown didn’t even give you an option of having people come in.

 

Benson Varghese:

And so transitioning from in person meetings to either building trust over the phone, and how you go about doing that, to eventually doing Zoom meetings, and opening it up to some in person consultations. And so, even now you have to make a choice of, do you want someone to come in and have that level of comfort and yet they’re wearing a mask, so you can’t see each other’s faces, or is Zoom perhaps a better option where you can see their face, they can see yours, and communication sometimes works better through adoption of some of these technologies that were somewhat forced to adopt?

 

Benson Varghese:

We in the criminal space also have to deal with clients who are in custody occasionally, particularly if they’ve just been arrested. So, how do you go about getting bureaucracies to set up ways for you to contact your client? Typically, people would get one or two phone calls that went to a family member, not an attorney. Getting government agencies to say, “Hey, look, they need to set up iPads, they need to set up ways for us to talk to our clients face to face when we’re not allowed to do jail visits.” So, communication has probably been the biggest change and something that we’re adapting to and the technology has certainly helped us with that.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. I’m going to name Ernest our fourth panelist. He says he finds most clients are okay with telephone calls and not really jazzed on Zoom meetings. I’m curious to hear this too from the audience. Are you doing in person meetings, telephone calls, Zoom, carrier pigeon? What other methods are you doing? And Carolyn, what’s your thought here on the biggest change that your firm, or firms you’ve seen, have been facing?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, for me, it’s funny because this is how I’ve always practiced my… I’ve always had a national practice, and I often didn’t meet clients until the day of a court hearing or the day of the deposition. We often could speak. I have clients who I’ve never met and I’ve successfully resolved their cases without ever meeting them. So, the not meeting clients is something that I was accustomed to. I know that, somewhat counter-intuitively, I think there are many consumer clients who do feel more comfortable meeting an attorney in person. Personally, if I didn’t have to ever show up for a meeting ever again, I’d be fine with that.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, that’s one of the changes. And then off and on throughout my career, I’ve worked from home. I mean, I one of the reasons why I organized this Lawyer Mom summit is because I had this post traumatic stress syndrome. I remembered working from home 20 years ago and my daughters were one in three, and nursing one of them while I had a phone call or setting them up in front of the TV set with tons of snacks so that I could just have a moment of quiet to talk to a new incoming client, and I was always terrified that somebody would hear them in the background or know that I was working from home and not take me seriously. So, I’m glad that this working from home has become normalized because at least that’s one less thing for a lawyer, a solo or small firm practitioner has to deal with, being taken seriously by an opposing counsel. So, I think it has maybe made people a little bit more understanding.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

And I think really, the biggest hurdle now is the schooling issue and having children at home all the time and not being able to work around the schedules. But again, this is kind of not new for me, and by the time we got to this point, I no longer have children. I mean, I have children still but they’re adults. I mean, they really aren’t children, so they’re not home. So, I just have a dog to contend with.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s such a great call out about how… There were a few people, like internally, we had one person on our team working remotely, and then everyone was working remotely. So, everyone understood the challenges, no one was alone. I love that you’re calling that out because I think that is a huge thing. And in the future, when remote becomes either more normalized or just more available, everyone will understand what’s going on a little bit better.

 

Casey Patterson:

And I wanted to mention, Sarah Gold. So, if you could switch your two on the chat from panelists to panelists and attendees, then everyone can see that would be great. But Sarah sent us a comment that said, she’s done a couple of meetings in person, going back to the Zoom versus phone call, some people have to see you face to face in order to build trust and not everyone has laptops and cameras. Great part of that. And Janet said she does miss the camaraderie of firm family and in person contact, which I’m with you there. I feel the same. And then Laura from Pleasant Hill, California. “Hi, I’m in Santa Barbara.” She says, “Our firm lacks communication. We started with two check ins for the first two months, that was it, and a few of us feel very disconnected with no direction.”

 

Casey Patterson:

Actually, before we go to the next one, I kind of want to comment on that one. Yeah, go ahead, Jared. I don’t even need to cue you. Go for it.

 

Jared Correia:

I just want to say two things about that. So, one is, law firms are terrible at communications, generally, with clients, with other lawyers. Present company excluded, of course, right? So, I would say two things that I talk to law firms about that might be helpful for that. There’s a communication platform that’s taking over the world that’s called Slack, you’ve probably heard of it. Great way to stay in contact with people, especially people that you’re working with, and keep those communications outside of your email so that your email can still be mission critical, substantive work focused. That’s really helpful for staying in touch with people. It’s a great way to ping people really easily.

 

Jared Correia:

The other thing I tell law firms to do is, if you’ve had two check ins in the first two months, that’s a problem, right? So, one easy thing that you could do, which corporations do but law firms don’t often do, is to have a stand up meeting, right? So, every day, you have like a 15 minute meeting, sometimes this is as little six minutes, where everybody gets on a call, they’re physically standing up, and they say, “Here’s the most important thing I’m going to do today, and here’s a barrier that I have that I can’t solve,” if one exists, “that I need help with.”

 

Jared Correia:

Just doing that, having a quick check in is really helpful, it gets you on your feet, gets you talking to people. You do that, you add Slack, which is a free tool, you’re probably feeling a lot more confident about your direction and feeling less alone.

 

Casey Patterson:

Awesome. Thank you. And Benson or Carolyn, any thoughts here on just commun- I mean, Benson, actually, I’ll go to you first, since you have a big staff, and you’re trying to keep them all on the same page. What do you guys do?

 

Benson Varghese:

I suppose big is a relative term for a criminal practitioner, but it’s perhaps big. We have about 15 people on our team currently. And fortunately, 15 is a number where I can still use text threads. So, we stay in touch constantly and we’re close enough group to where we know what’s going in each other’s families, and everyone knows what’s going on with… I have two kids under two, two boys are running around tearing up the world, and everyone gets the updates and pictures. And I will say, when my wife was out on maternity, she’s kind of the glue that holds the firm together. It was noticeable. And so that daily meeting of ours isn’t quite as formal as yours, but my wife is really great about meeting with everyone in the mornings and that’s so important regardless of the size of your office, just to stay in touch, say what’s going on, and things will naturally come up. “Here’s what I need help with. Here’s what I’m working on.” I think that’s a great suggestion.

 

Casey Patterson:

Awesome. And Carolyn, what are your thoughts? By the way, Janet says she has daily Zoom meetings to check in, which is great. Carolyn, what do you think in this area?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, more recently, I work with a counsel who I always communicate with them almost as I would a colleague or a co-counsel on a case, but every summer I do have summer associates and I was kind of concerned about the ability to oversee them because, actually, when I work with summer clerks I do like having them in the office, it’s actually a requirement when I hire them to have them spend at least the first three weeks working on site. So, one thing that I found works well was just engaging all three of them in weekly meetings where we went over each other’s cases and each other’s work, because prior to that, I would just meet with them individually and talk to them about their individual projects. But since we were meeting online, it just sort of made sense to talk about each other’s projects. And what it did was it caused them to start working together. They would ask each other about where a resource was or come up with an idea for dealing with something.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, I felt like we worked as a better team, because the Zoom calls, for efficiency’s sake, I didn’t want to be on Zoom all day, so just having all three of them together and going through everybody’s project, whether they were working on it or not, forced them to work together as a team. And I know that they did a lot of work together behind the scenes, I don’t know what they did, but they always made themselves kind of backup for each other’s projects or read over each other’s work. And so I think, again, this is a situation where constraint produced an outcome that we’d not have discovered otherwise.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. And I’m not a lawyer, I don’t work at a law firm, but I am part of a team, and I have one thing to add here, which is that our team does fantasy football together. Great way. We’re not in contact, but there’s a little bit of smack talk in the morning meetings, there’s a little bit of, “Hey, you beat me, oh my gosh.” It’s really fun. So, maybe some kind of outside activity along those lines to help bring people together and just have something outside of work to talk about and have fun with too.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. Thank you all so much. That’s great. And thank you to the audience. And Sarah says, she has a product called Discord for communication. Jared, do you know what that is? I don’t know what that is.

 

Jared Correia:

Yeah, some people use Discord as well. That’s a viable option also. The other thing I would mention in terms of communications tools is that a lot of people have Microsoft 365. Microsoft Teams, that’s the chat function is similar to Slack as well. And Casey, I hope Cam Newton is not your quarterback in fantasy football. I’m just going to throw that out there.

 

Casey Patterson:

No, he’s not.

 

Jared Correia:

All right.

 

Casey Patterson:

No, thank you though for the concern. Sarah, thank you so much for chatting in. Okay, let’s move on to how this has changed marketing and positioning. So, are you marketing your firm differently to the audience members? Do people understand what you do differently, or maybe they don’t understand what you do? Jared, what are your thoughts on this one? You mentioned it a little bit earlier, but…

 

Jared Correia:

I know. I feel like I jumped the gun on this one a little bit. I thought what was really interesting as we’ve talked about this is like, there’s really two components here, right? Component number one is you kind of get to tell people that you’re open and how you’re open, right? The issue with lawyers and legal consumers is that legal consumers don’t have a very good idea of what attorneys do, right? And if you look at stuff that people buy, if I buy a Disney+ subscription, I know what I’m spending for it, I know I’m going to get crazy value from it, because I get the entire Disney catalog, and I know it gets my kids out of my face for an hour here and there. But if I’m buying legal services, I have very little idea, generally speaking, about what the legal process is. I maybe have never worked with a lawyer before, so I need guidance from the attorney, I need education.

 

Jared Correia:

So, I think when you’re marketing as a lawyer, the object is to provide as much education to your clients, or potential clients, I should say, as you can. So, those two things I think are important, focusing on, are we open? Yes. How are we open? And then information about your legal case looks like this. This is how we would prosecute that in the firm, right? I think those two things are very helpful to have running simultaneously.

 

Jared Correia:

And then I think it was Benson mentioned that before is that, now you also got to have a digital version of your intake process too. So, whereas most law firms prefer to do in person intake previously, that may not be possible, that may not be something you want to do, that may not be something your potential clients want to do either. You have to set that up as well. So, having that kind of intake roadmap is really helpful, and then you draw people in by talking to them about what you do, both in terms of COVID and in terms of substantive practice.

 

Casey Patterson:

Awesome. Thank you. Janet also says… This is really interesting, because she was bringing up content marketing, which I want to talk about, but she’s saying they use Constant Contact, more newsletters and starting to use social media, so going digital in the way that they’re marketing, really interesting. Benson, what are your thoughts on the marketing and positioning side?

 

Benson Varghese:

Yeah. After Jared’s comment, I feel like I’m the only person that doesn’t have a banner on my website that says we’re still open.

 

Jared Correia:

You got to get one, man.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great website, though. If you haven’t been to Benson’s website, oh my gosh, it’s beautiful.

 

Jared Correia:

It is a sweet website.

 

Benson Varghese:

I appreciate it. I will say whatever list we’re on, if we’re fastest growing [inaudible 00:30:10] to five, whatever, thousand all of that will was due to our marketing, and it was all done in house. I wrote all the blog articles, we built the website ourselves. But that’s changed, not just because of COVID, but because of what consumers are looking for. We’re moving more to easily digestible video. So, although I don’t have a banner that says we’re open, I created a video that said, “Hey, if you have a court sitting, this is what you should expect.” So, if someone’s looking up what to expect in a court sitting in my county, they’re going to pull up my video.

 

Benson Varghese:

And so it’s just this idea of, what are consumers looking for? They don’t necessarily want to sit down and read, particularly if they are home and their kids are running around, but they might be able to press play on a video and listen to it. So, we’ve tried to adapt to what we believe consumers are looking for, and content creation, particularly in the video space is a big part of it right now. And just looking at the rest of the market, what I was able to do five, six years ago, when I started the firm, isn’t going to be as successful. I can’t just write blog content and expect that alone will sustain us on the first page, you’ve got to come up with new things, you’ve got to create moats, as with all businesses, doing things that other people are either too lazy or unable to do.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Oh, Margaret went to your website, Benson, she says it’s great.

 

Benson Varghese:

I very much appreciate. Thank you.

 

Casey Patterson:

And really quickly, Ernest said, basically, his partner is leaving, he’s taking over a firm and looking to expand it and he is kind of in touch with the marketing firm where he had done it. In the past year, he had been in touch with a marketing firm. So, that’s really interesting getting in touch with either legal specific marketing firms or a marketing firm in general. It might be something that firms looking to grow during this time could benefit from. And Carolyn, what are your thoughts on this, the marketing and positioning?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, again, as much as I would try to generate referrals from speaking at CLE events or things like that, most of my work comes from things I’ve done online. For a long time, I had this ebook on what to do if there’s a gas pipeline and natural gas pipeline on your property, it was like 50 pages, but it had just a short outline, like a synopsis, that you could read. And landowners would just download it and pass it around to each other from different communities, so it kind of marketed itself. I post articles. For my law firm, I do really newsletter, I’ve tried like several energy related blogs, and they didn’t really go anywhere because I was competing with professional media companies that were posting news faster than I could ever get it out. And I do some things on social media. I do some video. I have a video series. I post videos where I am fortunate enough to be tape recorded at a congressional hearing, or at a rally or something like that, so I’ve always had things online.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

I do think that these days, video is something that is very important because clients do want to see who they’re hiring, and so the video can give an idea of what the person is like. Actually, one of the things we did at the Lawyer Mom Video Conference is we did these video headshots. So, like when you go to like ABA TECHSHOW, they have a camera where they take your headshot to us on your website. But we had a company that creates these round tables where you join with eight other people and you each give a little elevator speech or introduction to your firm, and they record it, they put a little banner on it, and people could use it on their website. And then people also give each other feedback on the video. So, it’s a very cool service, and we have like 60 or 70 people who signed up to use it. So, I think that that’s something.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

Video is the kind of thing that you kind of have to get over that hump to get into it, and a lot of people think it’s very complicated, and some people think it’s so uncomplicated that you could do like The Blair Witch Project videos where the top of your head is bobbing around, but I think between that and a $7,000 video is a very large happy medium of videos that you can present that are professional, show your personality and give people information about the legal process.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah, that’s great. And I am actually curious, from Benson, since you’ve done extensive video work, how do you kind of measure the success of a video and any tips for someone who’s looking to maybe do their first video to put on their website?

 

Benson Varghese:

Yeah. Tip for anyone who wants to start a video segment, just do it. I mean, phones are capable of putting out really good video these days. If you were to invest 50 or $100, you can get a good mic to hook that up to in sound quality is very important for videos, and you really want people to listen to you. But don’t hesitate. If I go back and look at the videos I did a year ago, they’re terrible and the sound quality is terrible, but it got the information out there and that’s what’s important. You’ve got to start somewhere and don’t be afraid of, “Well, how does it compare to others?”

 

Benson Varghese:

The other tip that I can maybe share is just be yourself and let yourself be on video. I see a lot of people who will put up a static thumbnail or some sort of background, and that’s all the person’s looking at. Perhaps that’s good for someone who wants to listen to it. But again, going back to what Carolyn said, people want to connect with you, and so being who you are, and letting them hear your voice, your mannerisms, that’s going to make them comfortable with you, especially when perhaps they can’t come into the office.

 

Benson Varghese:

You had a two part question, now I forgot the first part.

 

Casey Patterson:

I said, how do you measure the success of a video?

 

Benson Varghese:

I really don’t go by views. We have some videos that might have 30,000 views on it, but perhaps they’re helpful to the viewer because it’s answering a question they have. Success to me really means did it result in a phone call. And so some of my videos that don’t have as many views, such as, What is the Expunction Process to get your Criminal Record Cleared, results in a lot more phone calls because people want their records cleared, even though it may only have 1,500 views. So, from a business standpoint, I’m looking for phone calls, from the standpoint of I want to be an attorney whose YouTube channel actually means something. Views are nice, right? They’re a compliment, and you feel good about the views, but the phone calls are what keeps the lights on.

 

Casey Patterson:

Absolutely. Speaking of kind of phone versus… well, not phone, but Ernest says, “What percentage of your clients find you on their cell phone as opposed to a laptop or a desktop? He’s finding that most of his is coming from cell phones. So, people are looking him up on the phone, calling him right away. And thoughts on that from you, Benson?

 

Benson Varghese:

Sure. Google has certainly moved to a mobile first environment and they’re really pushing, “Hey, you’ve got to be mobile friendly.” I’ve seen over the last few years, and I’m sure, like many business owners, one of the first things I do in the morning is look at Google Analytics and see how many people came in. You can certainly see the transition from what used to largely be desktop visitors to mobile. So, mobile is extremely important. You always want to be thinking about your mobile users. And it’s funny to see the browsers that people have used to get on, including browsers associated with E-readers like Silk for Amazon or things like that. But yeah, people have all kinds of mobile devices and you want to be sure that your website renders properly and making it to what they want.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah. And Jared, I saw you lean forward on that. Do you have thoughts?

 

Jared Correia:

It’s like Ernest is a plant. Did you hire Ernest to come in and ask these questions?

 

Casey Patterson:

Ernest, we’ll talk later.

 

Jared Correia:

Yeah, I think most traffic is coming in mobile these days, so if Google is taking a mobile first approach, as Benson said and is true, guess what? As a law firm, you need to be taking a mobile first approach as well.

 

Jared Correia:

And the one thing I would add is, I think Benson makes a great point here, which is it’s not about views, right? That’s a vanity metric. It’s about how many people are coming in, how many people are actually accessing your stuff, how many people are calling, how many people can convert? So, one thing that’s important that I bet Benson does really well is create calls to action on your videos. So, you don’t want people to be guessing about what to do next, right? You want to give them a clear pathway to hiring you, having a conversation with you, whatever next step you want them to take. And that’s true whether people are accessing your stuff by mobile, or a laptop, or desktop, but most of them are accessing it by mobile, for sure.

 

Casey Patterson:

Right. And the call to action doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be a button or anything, it could just be, “Call me at phone number,” right?

 

Jared Correia:

Less complicated, the better. And if you’re on mobile, and they’re on their phone, and they’re watching a video, it’s very easy for them to do click to call anyway.

 

Casey Patterson:

Right. Awesome. Great. Okay, this is a super helpful section. I loved this one.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. Let’s move on to the next topic, which is personal productivity. I love talking about this. But what are-

 

Jared Correia:

Do you really?

 

Casey Patterson:

I really do. You know those people who have that new productivity tool and they’re telling you about it, and you’re like, “Please stop talking to me about this.”

 

Jared Correia:

That’s you.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s me. Yeah. I’m that person. So, for those in the chat, what have you found in terms of personal productivity? I know that there are a myriad of types of people on here, moms, dads, folks with dogs, loud dogs, folks in noisy areas, folks who have so much going on, they can’t keep their thoughts straight. So, what do you do to stay productive during this year, and also to kind of eliminate distractions, maybe, like news cycles, etc? So, Jared, we’ll start with you.

 

Jared Correia:

News cycles, yes. I try to ignore the political news. That’s what I do. Now, what I’ve done this year in terms of personal productivity is I’ve kind of changed my schedule around, and I’ll speak as someone who’s got little kids in the house right now. I’ll trade you for your dog, Carolyn.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

I don’t know about that. [inaudible 00:40:38] on my lap now.

 

Jared Correia:

She’s been very well behaved. The thing I would say is, if you have kids in the house and stuff, for me to get through a day, I have to be at peak personal efficiency at all times. If I sleep in for an hour, it’s like craziness, and my old days shot. So, what I did was I decided, I could probably spend like four or five hours focusing during the course of a day without being harassed by my children or needing to do something around the house, right? So, I said, “All right, I need to recover like three hours of good focus time,” right? And so what I did was I started waking up really early, right?

 

Jared Correia:

So, I think most people, and I used to do this too, was I work late to finish what I needed to finish for that day, and then I’d be exhausted for the next day. So, I had to make that mental check down that said, “Okay, I maybe not going to be able to get as much done as I used to, but I’ll probably be able to get 90% of it done.” Right? “So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to wake up at 4:00 AM every day, every day, I’m going to work for three hours straight, uninterrupted, I’m going to work out, then I’m going to do stuff with my kids and then I’m going to get back into work.” So, doing it that way takes the pressure off in terms of me having to get a set number of hours in a day. I’ve already got a head start at the time, before I begin the day, and also I found that I’m fairly productive from that time, because literally no one else is up to bother me.

 

Jared Correia:

So, in terms of personal productivity, that’s one big change that I’ve made.

 

Casey Patterson:

Wow. So, to sum it up, you’re waking up at 4:00 AM?

 

Jared Correia:

It’s ugly. Yeah. I’m up at 4:00.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s awesome. Wow.

 

Jared Correia:

People are like, “Do you ever sleep?” Yeah, the workout is in every day. It may not look like it, but the workout happens every day.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s awesome. And that goes into just keeping sane and getting your blood pumping, and not just going kind of from the bed to the desk to the bed, you’re doing something, you’re getting out of your house.

 

Jared Correia:

Right. And I’m not on a Zoom meeting when I’m working out. I just want to make that clear.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah, that would be weird for the person on the other end. Benson, what about you? And maybe speak to your staff as well, what helps you personally and then what is helping your staff members stay productive?

 

Benson Varghese:

Sure. I’ll start with myself. It’s interesting that Jared has changed his schedule, because that’s been one of the primary changes that I’ve made. I always say the silver lining to kind of the pandemic and the shutdown has been, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my boys, and at the age that they’re at, they’re getting to so many milestones. My day now revolves around kind of their schedule. So, I don’t get to work quite as early anymore.

 

Benson Varghese:

They go to school, parents stay out type thing, from 9:00 to about 2:30. So, from 9:00 to 2:30 I can work uninterrupted at the office as I normally would, but from 2:30 to… not every day, 2:30, but sometime in the early afternoon, whether it’s 2:30 or 4:30, from that point on until they go down, which is around 7:00 PM, I’m dad, and I don’t do any work, and generally, unless it’s an emergency, my staff knows, “Text me, but I’m probably not going to be returning phone calls.” Once they go down, I start to work again, depending on how much work needs to be done.

 

Benson Varghese:

My work expectations are a little bit different now too because I don’t have trials to prepare for every two weeks or every month, so there’s a limitation on the amount of work that I’m expected to do because of the lack of trials. In terms of our staff, we’ve always put family first, and so to the extent that they need to be flexible for their kids, because as everyone knows, some schools have reopened, some have not. We had the summer where even flexible for pets and even had a pet adoption policy. So, anything that’s going to come up in your life that’s important, we’re going to make time for. And so my associates know what’s expected of them, they get the work done. If we have clients who are in custody, they go see those clients, but we’re as flexible as can be. And I think that helps with the productivity.

 

Benson Varghese:

I know my productivity has gone up because I’m only here consistently from 9:00 to 2:30. So, in the amount of time I have, it’s hustle, hustle, hustle. I’m not taking a break to go watch a video or just go walk around, perhaps, as much as I used to. So, I feel like I’m more productive with less time. Obviously, post pandemic, when trials pick back up, we’ll make more adjustments. But for now, it’s working out great.

 

Casey Patterson:

Love it. That’s awesome. And my question is kind of falling flat in the chat about what everyone’s doing to stay productive, so I’m going to switch it and say, what productivity problems are you having? And maybe our panel can help address. So, either your staff or your personal productivity, what’s going on there? And Carolyn, what are your thoughts on personal productivity during this time?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

So, I was much more efficient. I had this schedule 20 years ago. I remember I got up at 5:00 in the morning, before my daughter was up, I would work until 7:00, I could sit down at the machine, I could get like a whole memo done. I remember just pounding at the keyboard, that stuff just came out. Then she’d wake up, I’d feed her, she’d go back down. I did that. When my husband came home, we would have dinner, and then I would work sometimes from 8:00 until 2:00. And people would always say, “Don’t you ever sleep?” Because I’d be returning emails at 5:00 in the morning or 2:00 at night, but I was so efficient then because you know that there’s a limit to what you can do.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

And it was worse back then because one meeting downtown could derail my whole three hour chunk of time because I actually had to go there. I mean, now there’s nowhere to go either. Having unlimited time is not necessarily the blessing it seems like. It’s not like you sit down and you work for these luxurious 14 hour days, you waste time, that’s what you do, is you waste time. So, I struggle with figuring out ways to not be lazy. I don’t know what else to say, because I know I did it once, I did this stuff that Jared and… Oh my gosh, Benson are doing now, but I think it’s harder when you have more time. It is more stressful. I mean, you do feel the adrenaline flowing, you feel the blood pumping when you’re working like that, but at the same time it does improve the productivity. I found that really my focus was much better back then.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. And Margaret says, she has a dog, her children are adults, but she’s more productive than she was before. And protect her coworkers time, she doesn’t email on the weekends. I think that’s actually a great thing to bring up, is like, if everyone’s kind of available always, then how do you have time to yourself and make sure that you’re not bugging coworkers that don’t want to be bugged? Ernest says he comes into the office every day, and three times a week, he parks a couple miles away from the office and walks in and out. So, that’s great too, maybe listen to a podcast while you’re walking around. Okay, awesome. Thank you all.

 

Casey Patterson:

And lastly, we’re going to quickly touch on the client experience. So, this is kind of more about how are clients’ expectations changing this year. I know that I have a lot of thoughts on it, but I’m going to let our panelists go. Jared, what are your thoughts on this one?

 

Jared Correia:

I think you should kick us off with your first thought. Are you willing to do that, Casey? Join the group.

 

Casey Patterson:

Sure. My first thought is that if I was a client of a law firm today, I would not be able to go in. I would say, “I’m not going in anywhere, I’m not leaving my house.” That would be my expectation as a client, and I would know that the law firm could adapt to me, right? Because it’s like, “I’m sure that you’ve come up with some way to figure out my problem and let me stay at home, so show me what you got.” That would be my thing, and I wonder if other people are experiencing that same thing and if clients are doing that across the board.

 

Jared Correia:

I would say, as a legal consumer, I probably wouldn’t want to go into a law firm either. I don’t really want to go anywhere now. I hassle to do anything, right? I don’t want to go get the sticker for my car because I have to mask up, I have to take care of the kids. Everything I do now has another layer on top of it, and I think legal consumers are experiencing that too.

 

Jared Correia:

One thing I would say as well… I think that speaks to the point I made earlier, and I don’t want to run it down again, but communicating with clients about, you don’t want to come into the office, what options do we have? Or you do want to come into the office, here’s what that’s going to look like. If I had a law firm, I might just do a video about like, here’s what happens when you come into the office, here’s how we do it. I think that’d be really interesting.

 

Jared Correia:

But in terms of client experience, one of the issues that lawyers have traditionally had is that they’re not very communicative with their clients. Lawyers generally work very hard to get the client engagement agreement signed, and then it’s crickets, right? And so lawyers have this reputation where it’s like, “I got my money, now you’re never going to hear from me again until I have a case update.” But if you look at other industries and other services that people buy, there’s far more communication, even if it’s not personal communication, right? If I buy something from Amazon, I get an email, I got a text. If I make a grocery order, somebody is texting me, “The chickpeas are not available. What do you want instead?” There’s no equivalency to that in law.

 

Jared Correia:

So, what I would say is, as a law firm, you want to make sure that you’re in a position where you’ve got nurture cycles in place for your leads and clients. How do you stay in touch with people that’s not you personally calling somebody or you personally emailing somebody, because that’s not going to happen? Right? So, I think in terms of the client experience, you got to make people feel comfortable, you got to make them feel cared for, especially now when you don’t have as many opportunities to get face time with them. So, institute nurture sequences within your firm to make sure that that happens.

 

Casey Patterson:

Love that. And reminders, and text messages, if you can.

 

Jared Correia:

Yeah, automations. That’s all done with technology now.

 

Casey Patterson:

Right. Okay, Benson, what are your thoughts on this part?

 

Benson Varghese:

Okay. Well, I promise this is not a canned answer to sell MyCase, but one of the first things that I did was, it’s an unpublished video, so we only send this link to people who are actually clients, but I did a walkthrough of MyCase, because MyCase has helped me tremendously in client contact, but I realized there were a lot of people that either weren’t quite comfortable or didn’t spend the time to figure it out, and I just wanted them to know, “Hey, I’m literally a click away. Yes, I can contact you and I’m always going to respond to your messages, but here’s how easy it is to contact me, particularly after hours.” And that video really helps. It just makes people comfortable with saying, “Hey, here’s another way to reach my attorney. Quite frankly, I know it’s going directly to him. If I call the office, I’m going to get a receptionist first, and you may or may not be there.” So, it just makes their experience better.

 

Benson Varghese:

There are things that we can control and things we can’t control. I can control everything that happens at my office and make myself accessible, but I also have to deal with… The court system is not flexible. When you have a client who’s asking you, “Well, why did I have to go to jail in the middle of the pandemic? Why are they saying I have to go back to jail or prison in the middle of the pandemic? I’ve got all these health concerns.” Or even now, where the courts really have tried to adapt and say, “Hey, we’re going to do a lot of things virtually,” if I have a client who’s entering a plea to a charge, they still have to go to the courthouse for fingerprints.

 

Benson Varghese:

So, this idea of, “Hey, let’s make it as virtual as possible,” has limitations, especially from the government side of things, right? So, again, being able to communicate that and talk to them about, “Hey, here’s the things that we can adapt to. You don’t want to come into the office. Great, I can talk to you by video or by phone. But here are the things that we can’t change,” and just communicating that part of it is so important.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah. And for those who don’t know, what are you making available to your clients through MyCase? What are those things that they can go in and find or do?

 

Benson Varghese:

Oh, absolutely. So, right off the bat, the engagement letter that Jared talked about, certainly, that’s one of the first things that go out. From the criminal side of things, state law prohibits us from giving clients evidence, so we put in very detailed summaries so that our clients have something they can look at even before they come to the office to say, okay, or now virtually, or call me on the phone, here’s what my case is about from the state’s perspective. So, that gets uploaded. Having a calendar of events that says, “Hey, you’ve got a sitting coming up in a month, it’s going to be a virtual sitting.”

 

Benson Varghese:

There’s a messaging panel there where we send them all kinds of messages. The YouTube video is one of the first things we send them. We say, “Hey, welcome to the firm’s portal. Here’s a video that tells you how to use this.” Their invoice is on there, there’s a way for them to pay. Before they become clients, we use it to track our leads and follow up with our leads. We have different columns for, “Hey, has there been a second contact? Has contact not been successful?” That type of thing. So, we try to incorporate as much as possible into one place, both for the client’s ease and because it helps us be productive.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Okay. Thank you for that clarification. And Carolyn, what are your thoughts here? And then we’ll go to the audience again.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

Right. I mean, again, because I often represent people from around the country who have a case in Washington DC, everything is usually communicated remotely. I try to meet clients where they are, so some of them like using Dropbox, they can upload files to that, to box, whatever works for them, because these are usually cases. I have one case where a client uploaded 3,000 photos, so it’s something where I have to kind of give them control and let them put up whatever they want to, but that’s typically how I’ve been communicating with them. Sometimes we’ll have Zoom calls or Team calls. If I have an expert in the case, it’ll be me, and the client, and the expert talking about some of the issues. So, that’s generally how we do it.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. And I think the common thread through all of these is making things as virtual as possible or as Internet based as possible so that the trips to the office are not as frequent, and for you as an attorney, your life is easier and you don’t have to think about those things so much, automating things and etc. So, that’s great.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. We had a few other ones. We only have a couple minutes left, but if everyone could say one quick silver lining from 2020, go. Jared.

 

Jared Correia:

Wow, that’s a tough one. The dumpster fire that is 2020. Positive outcomes. I would track back to something I said before, which is it’s forcing law firms to innovate. And I often tell law firms like, “Okay, if you’re not innovating now, what are you waiting for? An actual asteroid to strike the Yucatan Peninsula again? What more do you need to get to the point where you need to do something different?” So, my silver lining is like, lawyers, legal institutions, the legal industry in general is starting to move towards solutions that, as Carolyn said, they probably should have adopted 15 years ago.

 

Casey Patterson:

Love it. Okay. [Sheree 00:56:12], I’m sorry if I’m pronouncing your name wrong, says, “Finally got e-filing and Wyoming state courts.”

 

Jared Correia:

That’s a plus.

 

Casey Patterson:

Congratulations. That’s great. Benson, what’s your silver lining?

 

Benson Varghese:

Absolutely, being able to spend time with my kids, unexpected and probably wouldn’t have realized what I was missing, so I’m very thankful for the extra time. But yeah, I know I’m echoing what’s already been said, but getting changes with government entities to start adopting technology is huge, and yet it probably would have taken another 10 years but for the pandemic, so silver lining.

 

Casey Patterson:

It’s just a shove off the cliff. Janet says, “Spending time with family and enjoying no commute.” Oh, I’m so with you on the no commute.

 

Jared Correia:

Now, I feel terrible. I like my family, too. Sorry. Go ahead.

 

Casey Patterson:

And Carolyn, what are your thoughts?

 

Carolyn Elefant:

Yeah. Like I said, my daughters, one is in graduate school, and one is in college, but my younger one was sent home from a semester abroad in March, and my older daughter was sent home, and just having them home for five or six months, or however long it was, and seeing them, it’s usually a stage in their life that you don’t get to see. I mean, once they’re out of sight, out of mind, for me, I don’t care what they’re doing, I don’t want to know what their grades are, I just pay the bills and just let them deal with it. But just seeing them and doing their work, and seeing how hard they work, it was kind of gratifying, and it was very nice. So, I had the time with them when they were little and now I had it when they were older.

 

Carolyn Elefant:

And then also, the other thing that is a silver lining or that’s gratifying is, I get to say that I was right, that these changes should have happened because I was talking about them for such a long time. So, my work is done. I can leave.

 

Casey Patterson:

Oh, I love it. Finally, your point has been proven on a grand scale. Okay. For everyone on the line, there’s going to be an exit poll. What are you doing to anticipate 2020? What’s going to be the biggest challenge? So, please fill that out on your way as you exit the webinar.

 

Casey Patterson:

Again, MyCase sponsored the webinar, and 96% of MyCase customers would recommend to a friend or colleague, which is a stat we’re very proud of. Regarding the customer and client experience, 83% says that MyCase helps provide a better client experience for their clients. And if you want to join our next webinar, there’s going to be a link in the chat. Benson.

 

Jared Correia:

Hey, who’s that guy?

 

Casey Patterson:

Our very own Benson-

 

Jared Correia:

Oh, Benson.

 

Casey Patterson:

… is going to be demoing five game changing features that MyCase has released in 2020. This is a great way to help look into what you need for 2021 and get more events and spend time with us at MyCase. Check the link in the chat and in the follow up email.

 

Casey Patterson:

Thank you so much to our panelists. You guys are amazing. This was so fun. And any parting words? I mean, other than Benson and Carolyn have hearts and their silver lining to their family, and Jared’s was something businessey.

 

Jared Correia:

I’m a tool. My final parting words are come back for more Benson in the next webinar.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yep. Got to love Benson.

 

Benson Varghese:

No, we had a lot of fun.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Thank you so much, Carolyn, thank you so much Benson and Jared. Thanks to everyone. See you all next time. Have a great day.

 





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