If you been reading my blog for very long you might have noticed that I’m passionate about having documents that are free of errors. The question that you may be asking is, “How do I get my documents so that they are ‘error proof?’”

The answer lies in your ability to create systems in your office that ensure 100% accuracy and don’t rely on human intervention to do this.

So how to you create a process that ensures accuracy?

The first step is to do a full review of the document templates that you send to your clients. Go through and review them to ensure that the right language is there and that the template itself is error proof.

The next step is to ensure that you have your document templates automated. With automation you are able to take 80 to 90 percent of the errors out of the document creation process because the templates are error proof to begin with.  If you happen to be a firm that is still using find and replace you are going to have an extremely hard time getting to the 80% to 90% error free capability.

Next develop a set of decision trees that your attorneys use every time that they create a document.  This is a set of questions that the attorney can fill out and pass to the person doing the document preparation. This ensures that the right selections make it into the document in the first place.

Next develop a set of standards that are used when preparing the documents. Think of it as a checklist.  With this checklist in place and followed every time you will be well on your way to developing an error proof system.

The last step is to track your errors so that you know when they are happening. This is so you can continue to improve your processes to ensure that your documents are error free.

You might be caught in the same thinking that I used to have. That you can multitask and get things done faster. If an email popped up in Outlook I would check it out and then go right back to the task I was working on.

The problem was I wouldn’t get right back to working on the task that needed to be done. I would divert my time to that email and my mind would think about it. Then when it came time to get back to the task that I should be working on, I had to remember where I was.

There have been a number of research studies done in the past few years on the effects of multitasking. Each of them have come to the conclusion that multitasking may be causing a loss of productivity of as much as 40%. That’s almost half of your day.

So how do you stop the productivity loss of multitasking?  First, you have to stay focused on the task you are currently working on and not get distracted by emails, phone calls and other things that are happening in your office.

Second, I like to group like tasks together. For example, if you are working on preparing documents for a client, then make sure you complete them all at once. Third, realize that everyone else in your office is dealing with the same issue. If you disrupt their flow then you have just helped them become less productive.

Document automation will really help with this. Automation ensures all documents for a client are completed all at once. It also keeps each staff member on task.

Learn how document automation can help you improve your firm’s processes by scheduling a free 1 hour process evaluation.

If so you are not alone. Many firms struggle with this very issue. They are constantly working to put out fires.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. To go from having fire drills all the time to having consistent work is not always an easy transition. It takes some planning and some hard work.

The transition is possible and doable. Here are the high level steps that you need to take in order for your firm to have a manageable workflow:

  1. The first step is to begin understanding what your processes currently are. This can be done by mapping out your current processes using what is called a Value Stream Map.
  2. Look for areas that you can put standards in place. This is a critical step, because without a standard procedure for doing tasks you will not get out of the fire drill.  You may be thinking that your practice doesn’t do the same thing over and over again. But you will be surprised at how many tasks follow a similar pattern. I have yet to see a practice that is unable to put standards in place.
  3. Once you have a standard in place you can start looking at what improvements can be made and how to make them.
  4. Come up with ideas for improvement and test them to ensure that they work.  You need to measure if they did work and improve your processes.
  5. Don’t just stop once you have made one improvement. Continually look at your processes to see what can be improved.

By following these steps you will no longer have to put out fires all the time. We have helped other law firms like your implement these very steps. The results have been phenomenal!

Click here to schedule your 1 hour process evaluation and take the first step to eliminating the fire drills in your office.


Times have changed for client expectations. It used to be that they would be willing to wait to receive their documents. It was OK to have documents ready in a couple of months. In the past several years there has been a trend towards getting the documents done within a couple of weeks. Why is […]

We’ve worked with a number of law firms over the years. By creating a standard within the law firm of how they create documents has helped the firms we work with. The document automation gives them the ability to easily train their staff on how to create new documents. The system walks the person through the entire process.

Having a standard on how you do tasks in your firm helps you in the following ways:

  • Training staff becomes much easier because the process is documented and easy to follow. You get the same output no matter who does the work.
  • Having a set process in place creates an environment where you know exactly how much time it takes to perform a particular task.
  • You are able to make improvements to a process because you have a benchmark that you can compare your results to. Without a baseline you have no way of knowing if you actually improved your process.

For those firms who want to improve their processes it is time to put standards in place. Here is a link to a case study on a standard that we put in place for our client Yosemite Farm Credit.

I recently read this article by Micah Buchdahl called Managing Client Expectations. I liked what he wrote, except the idea of “Under Promise and Over Deliver.” If this is your idea for meeting client expectations than let me tell you why this doesn’t work in transactional services. If you are always trying to under promise and over deliver it means that you have no idea when your document is going to be done. You likely have taken the approach that delivering on time means that you deliver when you think is best, not when the client needs or wants the document delivered.

Let me introduce you to a new way of looking at delivering on time. You deliver when you say you are going to deliver and when you say you’re going to deliver is 80% faster than your competitor is going to deliver. Many of you may know what a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP is. But for those that don’t it is a factor that differentiates you from your competitors. For example, if you say something like, “All clients receive individual attention to the details of their unique circumstances.” That is not a USP. You can find that statement on almost any other estate planning attorney’s website.

But if you said something like, “We will have your document ready for you within 48 hours of coming to our office,” that is a USP for people who need their documents done quickly. Or if you said, “Our documents will be error free or you will get your money back,” that is a USP for people who are concerned about having error free documents.

These are just examples and may not apply to your firm. The idea is that you need to do much more than just under promise and over deliver. If that is all that you have for your goal, you will not be unique to other firms in your area.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you create and deliver on your USP, sign up for our Document System Evaluation.

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!