I was recently talking to my wife who is an attorney and asked her this question. Why are attorneys one of the hardest people to market to?

She said, “Because we are always right!”

Then she went on to explain that as an attorney you always have to be right. No matter what. If you’re representing your client then you have to be right. That’s what the client is paying you for.

So if an attorney is always right then there is no reason to try to tell you that there is a better way to do something, because, your documents are always delivered on time and error free.

So today I’m going to tell you some more about my experience.

My first job out of college was at a company called Ameritech Library services. I was responsible for putting quotes of software and servers together for libraries. When I first started at the company it had only been a month since laying off a group of people because they were not doing their job right. I was part of a new breed of people that they hired to fix the problem.

Then at the end of my first summer there I got to witness another layoff of over 100 people, which included the boss that hired me. This was in a company of about 500 at the time. That was a bad day. I got to see from the windows wives come and pick up their husbands from work. I was new to the whole corporate environment and the idea of layoffs was really hard.

Over the years I also got to witness a company that at its peak made about $110 million go down to about $65 million with a couple of buyouts along the way. The company continued to spiral downwards. Morale was down and you never knew if you were going to be a part of the next round of layoffs.

Went I first started there were 10 people in my group. When I left 7 years later there were 3 people in the group that I started in. I had moved to a different role by then. Now the group I was a part of doesn’t exist and last I heard the company was still far below 100 million despite of a couple of mergers with other companies.

So what changed? What caused a company that was worth $110 million at its peak to be far below that now? Was it the people, the management strategy, or outside forces that caused this to happen?

I’ve thought a lot about this company’s downturn.  I would attribute it to lack of respect for employees and not making the adjustments that were needed to change with the technology.

First, the lack of respect for employees. Being just out of college I was on the bottom of the pool when I started. Our group was considered the problem child of the organization. The group would get moved around about once every two years because they needed to fix the group.  The funny thing was that the team for the most part wanted to deliver on time and be error free.

We were never able to get to the root of the problem. We would have meetings and make suggestions. For example, we needed sales reps to provide quality information about what was needed and we were told that the sales reps needed some creativity and that following a set form would hinder that ability.

Other things were suggested along the way, but the team saw little success along the way. Ultimately, the team was just a symptoms of the larger problems. In reality most teams in the company were in the same position.

Having learned what I have since that time I learned that if management would have given the ability for the team to determine the problems and then implement and test some of the ideas, we would have flourished.

Second, the company didn’t see the changes that were coming in the market soon enough to make the adjustments that they needed to. They were able to grow through a time where libraries where going from a card catalog to implementing a software system. When that boom ended and more competition came into the market they were not able to adjust.

They didn’t see the changes that were coming to the market and make the necessary adjustments.

I tell you this story so you understand the background that I come from.

I have worked with law firms for the past 12 years and I’ve seen changes happening all around the legal market place. The website went from a should have to a must have.  People now want access to their information 24 hours a day. New startups are changing the legal field. Legal Zoom sold for an estimated  $350 million.

All of these changes are going to affect the way that law firms work, bill and behave in the future. The question in my mind is will they make the changes now or will they follow the path that my former company did and not listen to those that work for them and make changes because of the market dynamics are changing all around them.

My commitment to law firms

I don’t want to see the same thing happen to law firms that happened to my company. You provide a valuable service to your clients, and I want you to be successful so that you can continue to help your clients solve the problems that they need solved.

How can I help

My experience with working with law firms and my experience with working with Ameritech Library Services makes me uniquely qualified to help you transition to a new way of practicing law. Specifically, my goal is for you to deliver on time and error free.

Delivering on time and error free is the foundation that you have to have in place moving forward as the market changes around you. Especially in the DIY world we live in.

So if you are ready to deliver on time and error free.  I know how to help you.  By working together in partnership, we can make the transition to the next phase of your practice.

This past fall I had a chance to hear Kim Cameron, a former Associate Dean at the Ross Schoold of Business at the University of Michigan. He talked about the power of gratitude and gave a number of examples about how gratitude can change an organization.

One of the examples he gave was about a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company that he consulted with. This CEO started writing thank you notes each week to someone in his company. He reported that it was one of the best things that he’s done to help the company grow. He also gave some other examples of different studies that were done in the area of gratitude.

I came away from his presentation intrigued. Could simple acts of gratitude really change a person, a law firm, and a business?

I decided to try a personal non-scientific experiment to see what effect gratitude could have on my life.  One of his suggestions was to write in a gratitude journal every day. So I decided to write three things in my gratitude journal every day. Since October, I’ve only missed 2 days.  In addition I got my family involved in this experiment.

Here are the effects it has had on me personally.  Over the past several months I can say that I’ve been happier than I have ever been. I go to sleep so much faster than I used to.  I’ve found my interactions with my staff and my children has improved.

One family story for you. After a few weeks of writing in our gratitude journals as a family we decided to go to the movie together.  I have 5 children so usually a 15 minute car ride ends up with some sort of bickering.  We had a great time at the movie.  Later on that night I was reflecting about how great of a time we had and realized that we didn’t have any bickering in the car. Maybe the gratitude journal was really working.

I’d love to have everyone that reads this post take the opportunity to do two things:

  • First, write in a gratitude journal every day. My goal is to have a gratitude journal on every night stand.
  • Second, take the time each week to write a quick thank you note to someone in your office.

If you will do these two things I’m sure you will have a similar experience as I have had with the power of gratitude.

Have you ever noticed how you expect to find answers to everything within minutes now?

I recently rented a convertible Camaro and I wanted to get the top to come down.  I thought it would be easy to do. Usually you just pull the lever on the roof of the car and you can put the top down. Well, this wasn’t the case with the Camaro.

I fiddled around with it for about 5 minutes, then I thought that I should look at the owner’s manual.  Then the thought occurred to me, maybe I can find a YouTube video about it and that would be faster than thumbing through the owner’s manual.  I did a quick search on my phone, pulled up a YouTube video and watched the video.

I found out during the video that I had to move a lever in the trunk before I could release the lever on the top of the car to get the top to come down. I realized in this moment that we really do live in a DIY world where everything that you’d want to know is at our fingertips.

This experience got me thinking about the attorneys that we work with. Do they realize that we now live in a DIY legal world too?  A world where every client can find out a wealth of information, maybe even misinformation, about the services the attorney is offering.

Does this mean that going to an attorney is going to be a thing of the past?  I don’t think so. But if you aren’t meeting and exceeding your clients’ needs then you are going to struggle.

So what does it take to compete in the DIY world that we live in?  It comes down to three essentials.  You need to beat your client’s expectations in delivering your services, you need to be delivering error free services, and you need to have your client’s best interest at heart.

How are you going to accomplish this?

By having a document production system in place. With a system you can know exactly when you are going to deliver your documents because it happens every time. With a system you can get rid of errors in your documents. With a system you can focus on your clients’ needs and not on how the documents are going to be created.

I’d love to hear your comments about the DIY of the legal world.  Please comment below!

A while ago I was talking to an attorney who mentioned how his assistant kept getting the name of a key client wrong. He resorted to joking with her, putting notes on her computer, and a couple more things. And yet it continued to happen.

It wasn’t that she wanted to get the name wrong. She probably felt embarrassed. It’s just that the right process was not in place to help her get the name right.

You are probably thinking, “Of course the right process was in place! There was the name of the client right in front of her.”

Yet when you really start to dig into what happens during the day at your firm you’ll actually start to see why the best attorneys and staff members still get errors.

But in order to figure out how to solve the problem of getting errors you need to understand when errors happen.

In the video below we are going to teach you the 1st step to reducing your errors.

If you are tired of getting errors in your documents and want more in-depth training that is going to help your firm create a Document System, please join our webinar on February 25 at 3:00 EST. You’ll learn the steps to creating a Document System.

[button link=”http://www.hotdocsresources.com/3-steps-reducing-errors-documents/” size=”xl”]Creating a Document System Webinar[/button]

 

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Get Error Tracking Worksheet

I recently had a conversation with a firm administrator who was looking at changing the way they created documents.  During our talk, I said, “One of the reasons that you need a document system is because of the errors you’re getting.”

The phone got a little quiet, and he said sheepishly, “Yes, I know we are getting errors we just don’t want to admit it.”

Errors happen in every law firm but it’s funny that we don’t want to admit it.

So how many errors are getting into your documents?  The reality is no one really knows because you probably don’t want to know.

Then I was having another conversation with another attorney and he was really frustrated that his paralegal couldn’t get the name spelled right for one of their key clients. It was happening all the time! Because the name of the client was similar to another name. The paralegal really did want to get it right.

We have attorneys and paralegals really wanting to not have errors in their documents but are still getting them. Where does that leave us?  Are we going to continue to get errors or is there a better way to not get errors in our documents?

During this 3 minute video I will explain why errors happen in your documents. Of course, I’m not going to completely change your firm in 3 minutes so you don’t get errors.  But you are going to learn why errors are happening in the first place.

If you want more in-depth training that is going to help your firm, I would suggest that you join our webinar on February 25 at 3:00 EST. You’ll learn the steps to creating a Document System.

[button link=”http://www.hotdocsresources.com/3-steps-reducing-errors-documents/” size=”xl”]Creating a Document System Webinar[/button]

Most firms want to do a want to get the right documents to their clients on time and error free. In spite of wanting this to happen, however, many are still struggling in this area.

If you’re one of those firms, I have the next step for you to take!

I’ve already talked about some of the reasons you are struggling with delivery and errors. You learned about how you need to start understanding the reason why errors happen. This is done by collecting information about when errors happen.

The next step is to understand what your current process is. You may be thinking, “I don’t have a process,” or “I already know what my process is.”

In either of these cases you will be surprised at what you find out during this step. What we have found is that even though the firm thinks it knows what the process is, they don’t truly know what is really happening until they go through this exercise.

Go ahead and watch this video about some basics on how to map out your process:

Now that you’ve watched the video, take the next step by meeting with your team and mapping out the process!

I’d also like to invite you to attend our Document Systems webinar on February 25 at 3:00 EST, where we are going to teach you the steps you need to create your Document System. This will lead to delivering on time and error free documents.

As we have worked with various law firms and banks over the years, we’ve discovered a key area that firms universally have trouble with. This problem area involves getting information from the clients and then transferring that information to the person who is creating their documents.  I like to call this process Gather – Transfer – Do.

We find that the most errors happen during the handoffs from one individual to the next. When you gather information from your client, for example, do you receive everything you need from your client in the first meeting?  Or do you end up needing to go back to your clients multiple times for more information?

If you have to go back again and again, your client is usually thinking, “I don’t have time for this! They should have told me what they need in the first place and not keep asking more questions!” It may also be that your staff doesn’t want to call the client back to ask these questions because they are embarrassed to ask them.

So what happens then? They make assumptions about the information and you just got more potential errors in your documents.

Solution

The solution in these problems is understanding who is going to get the information, what information needs to be transferred to the next person, and how the information is going to be transferred. This seems pretty simple when broken down in this way. And frankly it is. Unfortunately, we still see firms where it is not clear how this is going to occur.

It is critical that you understand the WHO, WHAT, and HOW the information is going move through your process if you are going to eliminate the errors in your documents. To learn the basics about how to map out your process I recommend you read our blog post on mapping processes.

Once you have mapped out your processes and determined who is going to pass and receive the information, then it is time to figure out the WHAT and HOW.

What information needs to pass from each person is determined by the output of the document. For example if a document requires the name, address, and phone number then this information needs to be passed to the next person.  It usually isn’t this simple.  For example, in estate planning you would need to know information about the executors, guardians, type of distribution structure, documents to be produce etc.  This is where the details become critical.

For this we like to use a paper or electronic decision tree that has a set of questions that can be answered by the attorney. This decision tree is passed to the person creating the plan. The decision tree should include all of the questions that are needed to create a document.

How you transfer the information is also critical. Does the person who is transferring the information know how to pass it along?  What form will this information be transferred in via email, paper, website, etc.? If your staff are unsure of this process then errors or missed deadlines will be one of the results.

It is critical for delivering on time and error free that you understand Gather – Transfer – Do. If you would like to learn more about how to create a document production system please join us for our Webinar on February 25 at 3:00 EST. We will teach you all of the steps that are required to create a Document Production System that delivers on time and error free.

[button link=”http://www.hotdocsresources.com/3-steps-reducing-errors-documents/” size=”xl”]Creating a Document System Webinar[/button]

Middleton, ID December, 2012, REAL Automation Solutions, a leading Website development company, announced today that it has entered into an agreement with the Practical Planning System, LLC. in Salt Lake City, UT to provide an online questionnaire for attorneys.

This questionnaire will be an industry first for Practical Planning System and will provide a way for attorneys’ clients to fill out there information online and import it into the HotDocs Practical Planning System.

For more information, visit www.realautomators.com.

About REAL Automation Solutions

REAL Automation Solutions is your source for HotDocs© document automation and website development. Since 1998 we have been helping law firms and companies get the most out of.

About the Practical Planning System. LLC.

Practical Planning Software provides HotDocs® automated will and trust documents, instructional videos, articles, webinars on fundamental and advanced topics.

Contact

Kim Mayberry

REAL Automation Solutions

801-766-3183


Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac

Do you want to run HotDocs on a MAC? If so you now have the option to do so. With Parallels Desktop you can run HotDocs on a MAC. We have a number of clients who are using HotDocs on a MAC.

Here are some screen shots of what it looks like.

HotDocs on a MAC task bar

HotDocs on a MAC Full Screen

What is HotDocs?

A document assembly product developed to help attorneys, banks, and corporations create automated document systems. Automated document systems are used to simplify the repetitive aspect of preparing legal documents and forms

Versions Available:

Introduction to Document Assembly

There are three kinds of HotDocs templates: document templates, form templates, and interview templates. Document templates create word processor document files (like wills or trusts). Assembled document templates are sent in your word processor. You can edit any section of the text. Form templates are created from static text and filled in using HotDocs Automator. Users cannot modify the underlying text, but can fill in and modify answers. Interview templates gather common information and save the answers for use in other documents but do not assemble a document themselves.

In your library, the template is type is represented by the icon next to the template name. The document template has a “piece of paper” icon with blue lines; the form template has a “piece of paper” icon with yellow rectangles; the third type of template, the Interview Template, uses an icon that looks like a card, with a blue line across the top.

How Templates Are Created

Document Template – A Word or WordPerfect file, which is turned into a template, and then automated to with HotDocs variables and Script to allow customized user entry. (The extensions will be .rtf, .wpt, or .dot.)

Form Template – A Word, WordPerfect, PDF, or other file format, that can be automated in HotDocs Automator. Non-pdf forms must first be printed with the HotDocs driver to create Envoy-based static content before they can be automated. (The extensions will be .hft, hpt.)

Interview Template – A component file designed to gather common and store the answers for future document assembly. Special instructions are given to control the order that questions are asked. There is no resulting document – they can only generate an answer file. (The extension is .cmp.)

Variable Types

There are 7 main types of variables:

  • Text
  • Number
  • Date
  • True/False
  • Multiple-choice
  • Computation
  • Dialog

Text Variable – You can enter any text string in this type of variable, including letters, numbers and symbols. Text variables include items such as names and address. Telephone numbers, SSNs, or other “numbers” which should not be used to add, subtract, multiply, etc. are created as text variables

Number Variable – Numbers can be formatted to restrict maximum or a minimum values, as currencies, or set to show a certain number of decimal places. Typically numbers are used to represent text that will be used in a calculation. Because social security and telephone numbers are never used in calculations and typically require a specific format, they are considered Text variables not numbers.

Date Variable – You can use the popup calendar to enter a date, or enter in as 14 Nov 2003, 11 14 2003, or November 14, 2003. Unless you change your options, it will require a 4-digit year.

True/False Variable – You can select from either check boxes or radio buttons. They can be grouped together, so they resemble a multiple choice, or can require a “Yes” or “No” answer.

Multiple Choice Variable – This type of variable allows you to select from a list of options, and often included an “Other” choice where you can enter in additional information. Depending on the variable, you can choose one, or multiple selections. This type of variable can appear as a drop down list [CLIENT STATE] or as a list, with [SALUTATION] or without [MARITAL STATUS] columns.

HINT: Single selection multiple-choice variables are radio (circle) buttons and multiple choice variables have square buttons.

Computation – You can use a Computation variable to calculate number, date, true/false, and text values based on answers a user enters. The computed value can then be merged into the assembled document. Computation variables can also be used to group several instructions or expressions for insertion into a template, which results in quicker assembly.

Dialog – By default, when HotDocs displays variables in a HotDocs interview, each variable is shown in a dialog by itself. While this approach may be sufficient for some, you may want to group related variables and present them in a custom dialog.