There was a time when the preferred way to create documents was to use carbon paper. The sheets of carbon allowed you to create multiple copies of the same document at one time and it was considered the most advanced method of document production.
Of course, anytime a mistake happened, the papers had to be pulled apart so the mistake could be erased on all the copies.
Today, those sheets of carbon paper have been replaced with some of the most amazing technology, yet there’s still so many attorneys not taking advantage of these great advancements.
And honestly, firms without state of the art technology systems are just wasting time and money.
In fact, every firm should have four principal technology systems in place:
Networked Relational Database
This is a key component to running your law firm efficiently. A networked relational database offers several benefits:
- Tracks all client and family information
- Provides instant digital access to all estate planning documents
- Stores notes from conversations with clients, vendors and referral sources
- Generates every letter and piece of correspondence from the firm
- Executes mass direct mail campaigns
A relational database can also provide reports on every part of your business, including marketing reports such as client acquisition cost, seminar attendance, attorney closing percentages, cancellation rates, client source comparisons and marketing campaign success.
This is part of that “business person” mindset that says as a business owner, you want to know every facet of your business. You have benchmarks that help measure performance and you use these benchmarks to determine which areas (or personnel) need more attention and coaching.
It will also track client workflow management, keeping tabs on every estate plan as it travels through your firm’s workflow pipeline and showing you how much time is spent in each stage of development. This tells you if you have a breakdown in your workflow process by identifying bottlenecks before they become a serious problem.
You can also see your clients broken down by various demographics, such as estate size and zip codes and you can see which clients have which types of estate plans. Imagine being able to fire off an e-alert to certain clients when a new law passes that affects their specific type of plan… with the right database system, you can do this with just a few clicks of your mouse.
Now, there are several good relational databases out there to choose from. The Academy has built its own proprietary software, CounselPro, that is totally focused on the needs of the estate planning law firm.
Automated Document Assembly Program
Since producing documents is the core of your service, it makes sense that you would have a cutting-edge system to handle that function.
An automated document assembly program makes sure that every single estate planning document you produce is formatted and produced correctly. Some of the better ones come with all state-specific ancillary documents pre-loaded and give you the ability to modify and customize the language to suit your needs.
Many programs can be integrated with your networked relational database so that every thing you do for your clients is documented and stored in a logical manner.
Now again, the Academy’s CounselPro software meets all these specifications and then some. We don’t believe there’s any other program on the market that has this level of features and benefits.
Interactive, Content-Rich Website
Now, it’s not unusual to find attorneys with websites – quite the contrary, we see them all the time. But what we’ve found is that most law firm websites are static and uninspiring – nothing more than glorified billboards that provide little to no benefit to its readers.
What you should have instead is an attractive, professional site loaded with information that can be used by your clients.
The web sites we create for our Members for example, come with in-depth articles, surveys and free reports and offer site visitors the ability to register for upcoming seminars and events. We also enable the site to capture information from everyone who visits so that the Member owning the site can launch their own drip marketing campaigns.
Updated regularly, this type of site can go a long way in fostering that client relationship we keep mentioning and it also give the reader a reason for coming back.
Automated System for Contacting Clients and Prospects
You’ll remember we mentioned the importance of staying in touch with your clients and prospects in a previous post…
Well, now we’re going to point out the importance of having a system in place to manage this task for you.
At the Academy, we use a proprietary system called Contineo but it’s not the system itself that matters as much as what it can do for you.
An automated contact system should allow you to create multiple marketing campaigns based on a variety of criteria. Then, when someone has contact with your firm, they’re entered into your system and begin receiving the appropriate marketing sequence.
Now, in order for you to really see the benefits of such a system, your marketing campaigns should provide real value to your clients and prospects. That means you don’t bombard your mailing list with boilerplate advertisements – instead, you create strategic pieces – whitepapers, letters, postcards and the like – that help to establish your practice as THE FIRM of choice.
Of course, there’s nothing that says you can’t enjoy a certain amount of success without these systems… you certainly can.
But you’ll need a lot of carbon paper to do it.
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.