« | Main | »

Nov 13, 2001

How To Use Current E-Business Websites to Improve Law Firm Profits


How can the new technology help law firms improve profitability?


What Does Your Law Firm Need From the E-Marketplace: More Clients, More Business, More Income?
Electronic business to business web sites can now offer law firms the opportunity for quicker, cost effective and, more targeted client contacts. They basically do all the marketing and business aspects of client contacts while lawyers are able to do the legal part. They are geared to provide the following:

Shifting From The Old Legal Business Paradigm to The New Legal E-Market Paradigm
Everyday we read about or directly experience the rapid changes that occur in law firms, professional careers, and business cycles. Change is occurring more and more quickly! Today you see law firms downsizing, going out of business or merging with other law firms. You also observe professional lawyers experiencing a significant decrease in their income or sometimes leaving the profession and entering other career fields. Therefore, it becomes incumbent upon you to keep abreast of the changes that can critically effect law firm practices.
Comparing the old legal business paradigm to the new E-Market paradigm brings out the painful and positive realities facing many law firms today. Look at the differences below.

Factors of Old Legal Business Paradigm Factors of New Legal E-Market Paradigm
1. Advertise in phone book & other media 1. Web site distributes your services 24/7
2. Costs of a full time office staff 2. E-Market does much your office work
3. Have files full of papers 3. Become a more paperless firm
4. You bill your clients 4. E-Market bills your clients
5. You collect from your clients 5. E-Market collects from your clients
6. You deposit money into bank account 6. E-Market electronically transfers funds

You can quickly see that the old legal business paradigm is more labor intensive and costly to maintain. On the other hand E-Markets are more accountable, productive, reliable, and cost effective. They provide you with more time to practice law and less time managing office problems and costly office staff (not to mention rapid staff turn-over rates and required training). At the very least E-Markets should become a necessary adjunct to your practice because it can require minimal input from you with greater payoff.

Do You and Your Staff Have The Basic Computer and Internet Skills Necessary to Meet the 21st Century Business Challenge?
Below is a short assessment of both computer and Internet literacy.

  1. 1. Can you type at least 25 to 35 words a minute?
  2. Do you own or have access to a computer that is at least two years old and has current software for word processing, business charts and graphs, billing software, etc.?
  3. Do you have satisfactory access to the Internet by a phone line, T-1 line or DSL?
  4. Are you satisfied with your current online Internet carrier so you have minimal disruptions when you get online?
  5. Do you have an E-mail address where clients can reach you?
  6. Do you feel comfortable sending E-mails with document attachments to other lawyers and your clients?
  7. Can you open a PDF files using Adobe Acrobat Reader?
  8. Can you zip and unzip files?
  9. Do you have at least several years of experience searching the web for legal information you need?
  10. Are you comfortable asking basic questions about your computer or using the Internet when you are experiencing problems and do not know the solutions?
  11. Can you teach other lawyers or clients how to use a computer?
  12. Can you teach other lawyers or clients how to navigate the web?

Being computer literate is a necessity today. It is a new skill that must be attained by all professionals in order for them to be fully functional in their jobs and at work. They can be handicapped by not being computer literate and as a result be unable to meet the demands of the E-Markets and business to business relationships.

New Professional Skills and Competencies Needed By Today's Lawyer
To maximize and optimize your opportunity as a successful lawyer in a law firm you will need to add these skills to your existing skills.

What It Takes to Create a Successful Law Firm Practice
In a few words, it takes…awareness, planning and follow through to begin to expand and improve your law firm. Most human beings talk a good game about being successful, but very few ever succeed. Our society teaches us to talk about ideals, but very few live up to the expectations of our words. Human nature is such that we want and expect the best; we work for mediocrity, and settle for very little. Once we establish old antiquated habits, it becomes extremely difficult to convert to new updated habits; that is because the old habits served us well during a specific time frame, but new habits need to be adopted to serve us during current times.

Creating and Reinventing a More Successful Law Firm for the 21st Century
It will take both the understanding of the new business model, and the implementation of current computer technology to be able to use the power of the Internet to your advantage. Below is a list of action plans that you need to address:

  1. Bring in new computers with updated software that can be used by your law firm (some companies are giving their employees, as a benefit, computers for personal use to become familiar and comfortable with them).
  2. Get a provider that you can depend on when you need to get online.
  3. Provide your law firm staff with the training to use the equipment at a maximal level (this usually means 60 to 80 hours of training over a six to twelve month period, and you can also improve employee loyalty and morale).
  4. Check out current web sites for lawyers and law firms that emphasize business to business activities that will suit your law firm's business needs. (A list is provided in the next section of this article).
  5. Most importantly give yourself permission to ask "dumb" questions about computer technology and using the Internet. You will quickly find that many other people are asking the same questions as you.

A Current List of E-Marketplaces for Your Review Check out the different E-marketplaces listed below. See which ones best fit with your law firm's needs and business plan. These sites are very consumer friendly and willing to answer your questions.

iBidLaw.com -a web site that plans to go after big-ticket assignments. It is still under construction at the time of this writing.
eLawForum.com-a global business to business web site where corporations seek outside counsel by posting an RFP. Fee structures, whether fixed, contingency, or hourly, are stipulated by the corporation.
LegalPath.com-a web site that offers business to business exchange based on corporations seeking outside counsel. It currently focuses on smaller assignments in three areas: work-medical malpractice, insurance defense, and debt collection. Law firms are part of the registry and can gain visibility with prospective clients.
LegalMatch.com-The web site connects lawyers with people. Lawyers can review cases in their practice area and location and inform desired clients of their professional interest.
Lawcommerce.com-This web site is an online center for the legal profession to access. You can access forms, checklists, agreements, locate CLE training and research cases.
Niku.com-This web site helps law firms to become more competitive by exploring the full power of the Internet.
FirmSeek.com-This web site allows potential clients to submit an RFP and law firms can view these and respond to them. You can do legal research, get legal forms, and look at law firm rankings as well as see professional activities for lawyers.

Predicting The Future Labor statistics and experience tells us that professionals, including lawyers, will change jobs many times and careers several times in their lifetime. What does this mean for lawyers and law firms? Basically it means that you must constantly reinvent yourself and your law firm to stay abreast of future change.
Allow us to speculate for a minute about the future. From now till the year 2020 we are able to predict with a certain amount of confidence some of the following changes lawyers may experience in their jobs and careers.

Possible career changes where you can become a:

  1. teacher, instructor or professor,
  2. businessperson or join a business firm,
  3. legal software developer,
  4. a legal consultant for software,
  5. free lance writer, author, or columnist,
  6. politician.

Possible job changes:

  1. help others in your law firm to learn financial software,
  2. teach others in the law firm how to effectively use legal software,
  3. develop a web site for your law firm,
  4. compose articles for your web site, or publish them in the law firm newsletter or law firm journals,
  5. train lawyers in your law firm how to improve their use of current technology,
  6. work part time for a business to business web service,
  7. be the main marketing person for your law firm,
  8. develop your law firm's business plan,
  9. become a mentor and coach to others in your law firm,
  10. become an expert in global business to business relationships.

It becomes quickly evident that E-markets and E-business have a very profound effect on what lawyers will be doing in the future. Practicing law is only one option among many possibilities.

Dr. Thomas J. Venardos is an adjunct management consultant with Olmstead & Associates, Legal Management Consultants, St. Louis, MO, and President of Venardos Management Group, Organizational Performance Consultants, located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dr. Venardos may be contacted by e-mail at tvenardos@olmsteadassoc.com.

Posted at 07:49 PM in Profit Improvement, Technology
Tags: E-commerce in Law Firms, law firm profitability, Law firm technology

    Subscribe to our Blog