Stell: #ClioCloud9

A few years ago, I asked NC Bar Association staffer Joyce Brafford, “If I can attend only one conference this year, what should it be?” Joyce did not hesitate, the Clio Cloud Conference. I am so glad I took her advice.

Clio is a cloud based legal technology company and Clio hosted their first conference in 2013 with 200 attendees. I attended my first Clio Conference in Chicago in 2015, then again in 2016. This year the conference moved to New Orleans in September and I attended for the third year in a row along with 1,200 others. What keeps me going back?

There are several standout features of the conference. The conference is highly produced and includes excellent facilities and great networking. The conference extras include hangover tables and massage chairs, plenty of food and beverage, and fun add-ons such as “Clio After Dark” after-conference socials.

As everyone attending the conference is a forward thinking legal professional , many conversations start at a different level – “what can we do better, more effectively and more efficiently?”, along with, “what does the future hold and what is my role in that future?”. These are individuals who have embraced technology and are using it in every part of their practice.

One of my favorite aspects of the conference is getting to know the Clio staff. CEO Jack Newton and Lawyer in Residence, Joshua Lennon are wandering the halls and looking to join in conversations or share a table at the social events. The staff is warm and welcoming and they embrace the mission of the company.

The speakers are forward thinking. There are multiple tracks offered: Clio University (Clio users), business of law and legal technology.

Keynote Speakers

The keynote speakers are always fantastic and this year was no exception. Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, was perfectly on theme with Clio’s yearlong update to their software, which they christened Apollo. Commander Hadfield had a beautiful slide show of photos from his time on the International Space Station. He shared his experience of astronaut training including preparing for emergencies so that when something goes wrong, they are ready to troubleshoot and repair.

Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind Harvard Law graduate, and also on the cover of the ABA Journal in September, spoke about challenges she faced in life that prepared her for her work as a disability rights advocate who works to promote accessibility and inclusion.

Preet Bharara is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. His inspirational remarks encouraged lawyers to strive to be their best. Bharara is now the host of the “Stay Tuned with Preet” podcast that tops my “must listen to” list.

Conference Themes

Over 30 speakers addressed topics such as client experience, artificial intelligence, disruption, collaboration, generational communication, social engagement, and how these topics are influencing the future of law.

21st Century Skills

Many of the speakers spoke about the skills needed to be a 21st century legal professional including: cultural competency, leadership, project management, business acumen, high risk tolerance, technology, social networking, collaboration, communication and presentation, forming teams and problem solving that includes innovation.

Conference Highlights

The show opened with a New Orleans Jazz Band and dancing Clio employees in their signature Clio Conference t-shirts and jeans, an early nod that this is not your standard legal conference. Jack Newton opened the conference reporting on changes in the Clio product, continued innovations the company is making, and finally rolling out the 2017 Legal Trends Report.

If you are looking at a report that analyzes what is happening in the world of solo and small firms, this report is a must-read. Clio introduced the report in 2016 and it was a highly anticipated feature of this conference.

The report is based on anonymously aggregated data from 60,000 Clio users. The most shocking news in the report is that in an 8-hour day, lawyers spend 2.3 hours of the day working for clients, they bill their clients for 1.9 hours of their day and they collect from clients for 1.6 hours of their day.

Many bloggers, lawyers, legal consultants and marketing professionals are talking about the 2.3-hour billable day and the missing 6 hours. There may be a variety of reasons for the low numbers including the number of younger lawyers who may be Clio users but do not have a solid book of business, as well as less overall work for lawyers regardless of age and stage.

Clio users acknowledged that in the remaining 6 hours they spend time marketing and developing new business, administrative work, licensing / CLE, office administration, generating / sending bills, configuring technology, and collections.

George Psiharis, Clio’s Vice President of Business Operations, presented a session where he drilled deeper into the report. The report also provides an index of billable hour rates across the country, includes responses from 2,000 consumers of legal services about what clients are looking for in a lawyer, and offers tips on how to set targets for success in your firm that allow you to measure your practice. At a conference where there is plenty of conversation around artificial intelligence, Psiharis offers hope for lawyers, “Data driven lawyers eat robots for breakfast.”

Moving Forward

Who should attend the Clio Conference? I am not a Clio user and I still consider it the best conference I attend. If you are a solo or small firm lawyer, paralegal or other legal professional there will be conference sessions you will find of interest. If you are interested in building a 21st century law firm, this conference is for you.

Finally, if you want to participate in conversations that center around the changing and challenging legal marketplace, make plans to attend. The conference is scheduled for October 4-5, 2018 in New Orleans at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Early Bird Registration is now open. I’ll see you in New Orleans.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843.

Attorney Jeremy Foltz Receives Pro Bono Award

(L-R) President Sarah Roane, Jeremy Foltz and wife Marcelle Foltz

(L-R) President Sarah Roane, Jeremy Foltz and wife Marcelle Foltz

The Greensboro Bar Association’s 2017 Pro Bono Award was presented to Jeremy B. Foltz at the November 16 member meeting.  Jeremy first practiced law in Texas. As soon as he became licensed in North Carolina, he joined the Greensboro Bar Association and contacted the Greensboro Legal Aid Office and asked if he could volunteer. Initially, he helped out with some routine housing cases. As time passed, he undertook some more complex housing matters, where his litigation and insurance law experience proved to be a major benefit for his clients. Since 2015, our award recipient has handled a total of ten (10) Legal Aid referrals with outstanding results. The Greensboro Bar Association is pleased to recognize Jeremy for his service.

Brooks Pierce Receives Top Ranking in 2018 Edition of Benchmark Litigation

Brooks Pierce has been named a “Highly Recommended” law firm in North Carolina in the 2018 edition of Benchmark Litigation, the only publication to focus exclusively on litigation firms and attorneys. In addition to the firm-wide ranking, 11 Brooks Pierce attorneys were named as either a “Local Litigation Star” or a “Future Star,” including eight in the Greensboro office. Partner Jennifer Van Zant was also recognized as one of the nation’s “Top 250 Women in Litigation.”

“Brooks Pierce aims to grow and challenge itself through complex and precedent-setting cases. As a leading firm in our region, we hold tremendous pride in our work with complex litigation,” said Reid Phillips, the firm’s managing partner. “Brooks Pierce is home to many of the state’s top litigators. We are thrilled to have our hard work and dedication recognized by Benchmark Litigation.”

The Brooks Pierce attorneys in Greensboro recognized as “Local Litigation Stars” were:

  • Jimmy Adams for General Commercial
  • Kearns Davis for White Collar Crime
  • Dan McGinn for Labor and Employment
  • Reid Phillips for Antitrust, General Commercial, Intellectual Property, Product Liability and Securities
  • Jim Phillips for General Commercial and Intellectual Property
  • Jennifer Van Zant for Antitrust
  • Jim Williams for Antitrust, General Commercial and Securities

In addition, attorney Bob King was recognized as a “Future Star.”

Benchmark Litigation serves as the definitive guide to America’s leading litigation firms and attorneys. Rankings are based on a six-month period where Benchmark researchers conduct extensive interviews with litigators and their clients to identify the leaders in litigation. More information on the guide’s methodology can be found at https://www.benchmarklitigation.com/general/research.

Volunteers Wanted for the Annual Jones Elementary Book Project

If you have already given the “gift of reading” by donating to the Elementary School Project, thank you! If not, there is still time to help the Greensboro Bar Association continue the wonderful holiday tradition of buying and presenting a book to each student in the Neighborhood Leadership program at Jones Elementary School.

You may donate online at Jones Elementary Project Donations or mail your check, payable to the “Greensboro Bar Foundation” with “Elementary School Project” in the memo line to:

GBA Foundation
P.O. Box 1825
Greensboro, NC 27402

Please join us for book wrapping at the GBA Holiday Party on Wednesday, December 13th at Elon University School of Law. Wrapping supplies will be provided.

We also need volunteers to help deliver the books to the children on Tuesday, December 19th at 8:30 a.m. If you would like to volunteer, or if you have any other questions regarding the book drive, please contact Adam Kerr at adam@kerrlawnc.com or (336) 500-7599.

Donate Today! Thank You!

Jones Elementary students love books

Jones Elementary students love books

Ward Black Law’s Toys for Tots Kick-off Event

The public is invited to stop by 208 West Wendover Avenue anytime from
7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, December 8, 2017
and donate new, unwrapped gifts for children ages from infant to 12-years-old.

Ward Black Law is pleased to partner with the United States Marine Corps Reserves for this event.

There will be food, music, crafts, prizes… and Santa!

Donations will be accepted through December 15, 2017. For more information go to www.wardblacklaw.com.

Annual Jones Elementary Book Project Donations Now Being Accepted

Please help the Greensboro Bar Association continue the wonderful holiday tradition of buying and presenting a book to each student in the traditional program at Jones Elementary School.

You may donate online at Jones Elementary Project Donations or mail your check made payable to the “Greensboro Bar Foundation” to:

Greensboro Bar Association Foundation
P.O. Box 1825
Greensboro, NC 27402

Although donations will be accepted at any time, we encourage members to act before November 30, 2017 in order to allow time for the books to be ordered through Scholastic.

Please join us for book wrapping at the Holiday Party on Wednesday, December 13th at Elon University School of Law. Wrapping supplies will be provided.

If you have any questions regarding the book drive,
please contact Adam Kerr at adam@kerrlawnc.com
or (336) 500-7599.  Donate Today! Thank you!

Jones Elementary Book Project

Stell: Can Data Save Law Firms?

We live in a world where everything is tracked. A device on my wrist tells me how many steps I’ve taken and my current heart rate. I use apps on my phone to track how much money I have, what bills have been paid and how my investments are growing. Data is everywhere. The question is “can data save law firms.”

Can Data Save Law Firms?

By many measures, today’s law firm model is struggling. By some measures, today’s law firm model is irrevocably broken. I’d suggest, though I’m not the first nor will I be the last, that you can correct course by using data.

While there are many challenges for solo and small firm lawyers today, here are three problems often identified:

  1. Reaching new clients;
  2. Being attuned to the needs of clients (client service, types of services provided, fee arrangements); and
  3. Spending too much time on administrative tasks and running the business.

The good news is we can address these concerns by mining a few of our systems and recording some numbers.

At the Clio Conference in late September, Clio released the 2017 Legal Trends Report, which you can find at clio.com.

Clio 2017 Legal Trends Report

Out of an average workday, here’s how lawyers are spending their time:

  • Utilization rate: 2.3 hours
  • Realization rate: 1.9 hours
  • Collection rate: 1.6 hours

This means lawyers are spending 2.3 hours of their day doing client work and getting paid for 1.6 hours of work a day. This is not a sustainable business model.

Let’s talk about data around the challenges we discussed earlier, finding more work, providing excellent client service and administrative efficiencies.

Reaching New Clients

There is an old adage, “I know that half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” Without data, how do we know where to spend our time or our money?

Lawyers are advertising by using their websites, google ad words, print advertising and referrals from clients, friends, family and other lawyers.

Today, there is an array of marketing automation tools and customer relationship management tools. Solos and small firms are using products such as Salesforce to manage client interactions such as scheduling events with clients, maintaining potential client contact information, and providing clients, potential clients and referral sources with newsletters, alerts or evites.

Using the data collected in these tools can help you determine how to allocate resources, which clients come from which advertising campaigns and which clients are most profitable.

A low-tech solution is to ask your client how they heard about your service. Add this step to your client intake process. Once you collect the data, analyze it.

If you find clients come to you based on referrals, then keep up the coffees and networking lunches. If you find your clients are coming to you from ads, you can increase your ad spend. Digital advertising can be much less expensive than traditional advertising campaigns and can be targeted directly to your likely client.

The October issue of the ABA Journal features an article titled “Statistical Significance” featuring Drew Vaughn, founder of NuVorce. Vaughn was a speaker at the national bar-related insurance company conference this summer. He shared his results (and costs of) doing traditional networking compared with digital advertising where he can pinpoint his potential client by age, income and geographical location. Vaughn did some “back of the envelope” numbers showing his competitors profit was 16% compared to his 37.9% profit.

Vaughn has developed algorithms that help him in pricing matters for clients. His use of algorithms has garnered interest in his law firm from venture capitalists interested in investing in his firm, as well as other law firms interested in buying his law firm to have access to his algorithms.

An Easy Kick Start to Better Client Service

When consumers are surveyed, the vast majority say lawyers do not return phone calls. This is no different from the complaints that the State Bar gets, the vast number involve clients complaining about lawyers failing to return phone calls.

Many of the calls you fail to return may be because you do not believe you can assist the client. However, responding to a potential client to say “I’m not the lawyer for you, but let me make a referral” allows you to provide a service to a consumer in need and if handled well, could leave the consumer with a positive experience. A positive experience is good for the profession and may result in a referral to you later for a matter that is a better fit.

These calls are a great opportunity to refer clients to other lawyers thereby strengthening your network of referral sources, or to provide a referral to your bar association’s Lawyer Referral Service. If you are concerned about how long this process will take, look for ways to automate this process or delegate the calls to your paralegal, your receptionist or to your virtual assistant.

Where Can I Find the Data?

There are many sources for locating data about your firm. Depending on the tools you are using, analytics from Google, Facebook, Sales Force, or Avvo are a few. You can build Excel reports to track and analyze the data or if that is not in your skill set, hire someone to help you with this. The best treasure trove of data can be found in your own billing records. There, you should be able to determine how much it costs you to take a deposition or try a criminal traffic case. A lawyer told me about a real estate closing several years ago. The client complained about the price of the closing. When the lawyer went back to her billing records, she found that she or her paralegal had taken 50 phone calls from the client during the course of the closing. If these calls were billed at her lowest billing rate at a minimum time increment, the closing would have cost 10 times more than the flat fee. It is no accident that this lawyer is no longer practicing real estate law.

What questions are you trying to answer with this data? How are prospective clients finding me? What is my rate of turning prospects into clients? Is online marketing bringing in paying clients? Are my fees reasonable?

Move from “I think” to “I know”

It’s easy to say, “This won’t work for me”. “I don’t have time to track data.” “I’m not a numbers guy.”

Once you incorporate data analysis into your practice, you are no longer guessing about the effectiveness of your marketing, the accuracy of your pricing or the continued inefficiencies in your practice. Welcome to a data-driven law practice!

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Continue this conversation with Camille at camille@lawyersmutualnc.com or 800.662.8843.

Free 2.5-Hour CLE: Expunction of North Carolina Criminal Records

On November 30, 2017, the Greensboro Bar Association’s Second Chance Project, in partnership with Legal Aid of NC—Greensboro Office, will be presenting a FREE CLE for Greensboro Bar Association Members on Expunction of North Carolina Criminal Records.  This CLE will be an overview of recent significant changes to North Carolina statutes relating to expunction and will provide training on how to assist a client through the process of getting an eligible criminal charge or conviction expunged.  The presenter will be Daniel Bowes, a Staff Attorney at the NC Justice Center who focuses his work on behalf of individuals, families, and communities isolated from opportunities to prosper by the collateral consequences of criminal records.  The CLE will be held at the offices of Smith Moore Leatherwood, 300 N. Greene St., Suite 1400, Greensboro, NC 27401.  Registration will begin at 8:30 AM and the program will run from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM.

Register online for Second Chance CLE here

Message from the President, November 2017

It is time for the Greensboro Bar Association to heed the call of our state’s legal leaders. According to the Greensboro Police Department, more than 20 people have died from opioid overdoses in Greensboro this year. In 2015, both Guilford County and North Carolina as a whole saw approximately 73% increases in opioid deaths as compared to 2005, with Guilford County ranking fourth in the state for total opioid-related deaths in 2015.

“There is an opioid epidemic that we ignore at our peril.”

-Mark W. Merritt, President, North Carolina State Bar
  The North Carolina State Bar Journal, Fall 2017

“Many of you have witnessed the tragic consequences of this epidemic in your local communities.  Now, the legal community must do its part to address this crisis.   . . . Our communities have too much at stake to remain passive in the face of this growing threat.  Let’s do all we can to protect all North Carolinians from drug overdoses and prescription drug abuse.”

-Chief Justice Mark Martin
  2017 State of the North Carolina Judiciary

Please join us at our next lunch meeting on Thursday, November 16th at 12:30 p.m. in the Empire Room for an important discussion regarding the impact of the opioid crisis on Greensboro, and what we, as citizens and lawyers, can do to help.  The meeting will feature two speakers from the Greensboro Police Department, Lieutenant T.D. Moore, Vice Narcotics, and Jenny Caviness, Community Engagement Manager. Our very own President-Elect, the Honorable Teresa Vincent, will give her perspective as a presiding judge in Guilford County’s Drug Treatment Court. Bring your experiences, your ideas, and your questions!

On a lighter note, I hope you will all plan to attend our Membership Committee’s first Mix-n-Mingle of the year!  The event will take place at Joymongers Brewing Company, 576 North Eugene Street in downtown Greensboro, on Thursday, November 9th at 5:00 p.m., and will feature a visit from the Urban Street Grill food truck.  I am sure we can all think of a colleague who is not a current member of the GBA, but should be! The Membership Committee is offering a prize for the member who brings the most prospective members to the event!

I wish all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Volunteer at Potter’s House

Volunteers are needed to serve food to the less fortunate at the Urban Ministry’s Potter’s House. Shifts are from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM. This is a great opportunity to give back to the community in the company of fellow members of the bar. We need help on the following Sundays:

Nov. 19

Dec. 17

Please email Melissa Duncan at mduncan6@elon.edu  if you are able to help and write POTTER’S HOUSE in the subject line.