Podcast Highlights: Why You Need Automation in Your Law Firm | The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor Podcast
1 Understand your law firm as a business
You didn’t go to law school to learn how to run a business. But at the end of the day, you provide a service to customers. If you understand your firm as a business — and look for ways to improve your operations as a business — you’re setting up your firm for success. In turn, you’re putting yourself in a better position to set clients up for success.
Communication is at the center of any successful business operation. In the legal world, clients (i.e. customers) can often feel overwhelmed about a process they may not understand. Feeling out of control and out of the loop is a recipe for a dissatisfied client — and is why insufficient communication is one of the most common bar complaints against attorneys. A client intake process designed to over-communicate at each step of your client’s journey will lessen their anxieties, and make them feel more at ease in the hands of your firm.
2 Understand the client journey
Quality customer service is what separates good law firms from great law firms. To maximize opportunities to delight your clients, you have to meet them where they are. With the right tools and process, you can create a seamless personalized experience for each client.
Ask yourself critically: when does your client’s journey actually start, and when does it actually end? Does it only start when they sign an engagement agreement? Does it really end when they’ve paid their last invoice?
The reality is that the client’s journey with your firm starts before they even schedule a consultation. Your client’s experience with your firm’s intake process — how easy it is to find your firm and make an appointment — forms their first impressions of the quality of your customer service and your effectiveness as a firm.
Keep in touch with clients after their matter has concluded. Something as small as sending an email on their birthday improves their customer experience and increases referral opportunities.
3 Automations are a necessity for modern law firms
It’s become almost physically impossible for law firms to rely solely on manual processes to provide robust experiences throughout the client journey. Consumer expectations in the digital age demand immediate engagement, clear communication, and convenience. Automations are a necessity to create a seamless experience that can keep up with the demand of the client intake process.
With automations, you can engage clients immediately at the start of their intake process, even if you’re not available. Expand your capacity to delight clients with personal details, like sending a birthday card or newsletter, without additional administrative labor. With automated follow-ups, make sure nothing slips through the cracks or gets lost in the shuffle.
In any kind of consumer-driven law practice, your client’s matter is likely the most important thing going on in their life. Your client intake process should reflect that. Give clients the convenience of booking a consultation on your website. Give them peace of mind with an automated confirmation email. Use the tools at your disposal to engage your clients at every stage of their journey. Take a step back and ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated if I came to this law firm with a matter that was the most important thing in the world to me?” Let your answer be your lodestar.
Hi, everyone. It's Alison Williams here, your Law Firm mentor. Welcome to another episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. Today, I have a special guest for the podcast. His name is Matt Spiegel. Now I'm sure you know who he is even though you may not necessarily know his name because he is someone that I consider to be a big innovator in the legal space. He helps lawyers in a variety of different ways, but the ways that you guys probably know about is practice management software MyCase. He is founder and CEO of MyCase, and he is founder and CEO of Lawmatics.
Now, the beautiful thing about bringing Matt to the podcast is that we got to talk about both aspects, practice management software and legal automation. I know that these are two areas where we get a lot of requests. People that reach out to the podcast will say, "Hey, you did a show on such and such or so and so. I'm really interested in learning more." And almost universally, that deals with some form of efficiency tool for our law firms. Because we all know that with each day and each moment that passes more and more data, more and more people come into our orbit, and managing that effectively is what is going to keep us out of the realm of grievances and malpractice suits.
So we actually talk about bar grievance and we talked about Matt having had a bar grievance. I personally had one as well. And when people make complaints, it usually is not because they didn't get the result that they wanted. Most clients can intellectually understand that you can't wave a magic wand and get them to a great result, but it's how they felt in the process. And so, how do you get to a better client experience for your customer? How is it that your client can get the star treatment when there are only so many hours in a day?
The answer is automation. So Matt and I talk about that, but I want to let you know that Matt is a serial entrepreneur. He is actually a lawyer. He still has his law license. No longer has his law firm, but he was a law firm owner. And through the experience of being a law firm owner, he created the solution that he needed in practice, which was the tool of MyCase, which started off as a client portal, which you're going to hear more about when we speak.
He also then founded Lawmatics. After a break from MyCase, he shifted over into the world of legal tech automation, and it's really interesting how he got there. He is somebody who actually is scaling Lawmatics. The way we talk about scaling law firms, he's scaling Lawmatics, it is a venture-backed company, and their approach to automation may be a little bit different than you realize. Something you may or may not have heard before. So you're going to hear it here on the podcast. Check out my talk with Matt Spiegel of Lawmatics. Here you go.
All right, Matt Spiegel, welcome to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast.
Thank you, Allison. I'm very, very excited.
So it's great to have you here. I'm really excited that we have the chance to connect. Because I think what you do is somewhat similar to what I do in the sense that you started a law firm, you had experience from that, and then ultimately you grew into serving lawyers from your experience with something very specific. And in this instance, you did both practice management software and automation, and you refer to yourself as a serial entrepreneur. So talk to us a little bit about what that journey was like for you.
I appreciate you saying that we're similar, although I would think that your story and journey is a bit more impressive and you're juggling more than I'm juggling probably at once. So I appreciate you putting me in the same light, but I'm really impressed with things that you do and you are doing, and there's other people in the same situation as you, which just continues to impress me and also fuel the industry a bit. It's been really cool to see the growth of podcasts in the legal space. It's not just non-lawyers out there preaching for their products. It's actual people like you helping, which is awesome.
For me, it was a bit of luck, maybe opportunity at the right time, which I think always is part of it, but it was a fun journey for me. I was like everybody, like most listeners, I am a lawyer. I obviously don't practice anymore, but I still maintain my license. I was a criminal defense lawyer, as cookie cutter as it gets. I started my own practice and it was very quickly in starting my own practice that I had an itch that I needed to scratch, which I think is the way that this happens for a lot of entrepreneurs. It's kind of a tale as old as time. You start doing something and you're like, "Man, this is difficult. I wish that there was the way to do this better." Then if there isn't, you decide to build it yourself.
And so, that's kind of what happened, and it's how I ended up starting the company MyCase. It just started out of a need that I had at my own law firm. I think I've always been a little bit more business-centric when I started. I went into criminal defense, quite frankly Alison, because I thought it would be a good business to run. I thought that consumer-driven law, especially criminal defense, was something that you could sort model a franchise off of. You could create a process that was going to be repeatable for each client. You could have a fee structure that was repeatable. So I liked it from a business standpoint. That's one of the reasons why I went into that area of law, and transitioning into building software companies felt somewhat natural for me.
So I love that you actually own the fact that you had a business mind when you were approaching your law practice. Because I think, first of all, it's very unique. I think a lot of us, we start practicing and then we figure out that we happen to be in a business. But you really had a very different perspective on that, and it informed both the practice area that you chose and the way that you approached business. So talk to me about what was missing in your business that you saw that was a hole in your law practice that you filled by virtue of creating MyCase.
At the time, and so to piggyback off that point, because you make a very good point and I think we'll probably talk about it a lot more today, but that's one of the problems, is that lawyers don't think about their law firm like a business as much as they need to. They just think about it as being a lawyer. But for me, that moment, it was actually client communication. I think very few people know this at this point. But when we first started MyCase, it was not a practice management software. It was simply a client portal. It was the first ever client portal, but that's all it was and we tried to launch it like that. It was met with awful response. Lawyers were like, "Okay, this is cool, but this should be part-"
I got dropouts for that. We go for that.
Or, "This is great. This is useful, but it needs to be part of a bigger system." And so, that's ultimately how we ended up building the full practice management system around client communication. But the catalyst was, it was actually, to be honest with you, Allison, it was a bar complaint. I got a bar complaint and it was stupid. It wasn't like that I was a bad lawyer. It wasn't that I got a bad outcome or that it was malpractice or ineffective assistance accounts or anything. It was quite literally, "I didn't call you back quick enough." It was attorney-client communication. And so then I went down-
Number one complaint, by the way that we'd get.
It was the number one complaint in 2009, and it's still the number one complaint. It's ridiculous and actually embarrassing that that is still the number one issue that we have as lawyers. But that's what caused this, that's what kicked off this whole journey for me was a bar complaint.
Well, bar complaints, we don't talk about them a whole heck of a lot. In fact, we ought to do a whole series here on Law Firm Mentor, on the podcast, about bar complaints because they're embarrassing when you experience them, but they cause a lot of terror in the hearts of lawyers. It's usually because of some inefficiency in the business that cause either a breakdown in communication or a disconnect in expectations or a lack of client service. That pisses off a client so that they find something to point at whether it's right or it's wrong. Then ultimately, the lawyer is raked over the coals while the bar is trying to find the justification of whatever the person said.
So you actually were not just ahead of your time in terms of proactively dealing with that for your own business, but very much on what I would refer to as the cutting edge in terms of pulling together the client journey and the client-centric approach with the necessities that we have of sending out our bills and getting our calendar organized and making sure that our client documents are all cataloged together.
So now, I want to shift and talk about how that really fits with your second venture. And I just have to acknowledge this. I just recently hired a lawyer for what is now going to be my third business. That lawyer told me you're going to get your bill through Lawmatics. So it's kind of ironic that you and I are talking today, but those two pieces fit very well together. So let's talk about Lawmatics. Talk about the evolution of all that you learned as the innovator behind MyCase and what you created as a foundation that grew, and then transitioning over into the automation kind of toolkit that is Lawmatics.
It's a good question. I don't know if the story is all that exciting, but I'm happy to share it. The truth is that Lawmatics ultimately was born out of what I experienced. And so, I left MyCase in 2015 and I went and did some other things for a few years. When I look back it feels like I was gone from the legal industry for six years, but apparently I was only gone for two years. So in 2017, ultimately I wanted to start my own business again because I was running a company that had nothing to do with legal, and I was reporting to a chairman and I was like, "I just wanted to do my own thing again." Quite honestly I wanted to go back into legal.
What I understood was that back in 2014 at MyCase, we started to see lawyers, they were showing signs of thinking about things a little differently. They were showing signs of starting to prioritize the business side, especially on the solo and small firm side of the market. They were starting to show signs of thinking about their business. As tech companies, we've always had these tools that are 100% business driven. They are designed to give us KPIs on how our business is performing. Things like Salesforce or HubSpot or Infusionsoft or whatever CRM we were using to give us insight into our business.
I started to think that, "Man, if lawyers start thinking about things from a ... " Well, actually it really came from my own law firm too, because I was thinking about things very economically. When it came to my law firm, I was looking at things like acquisition cost, cost per lead. To me, it was formulaic. If I could go and spend this much money for a DUI case and a DUI case brought in this much money, it's a formula. And so, I thought to myself, I'm like, "Man, these business metrics, that kind of dashboard KPIs that I'm used to getting as a tech company, why wouldn't lawyers want that? They're a business just like anyone else."
And so, we started to see that shift in 2014. We started to hear it come up like, this idea of a CRM or business kind of insight tools. So fast forward to 2017, and looking back at something I knew was a kernel of an idea three years prior was now starting to become a little bit pick up some steam. And so, we decided that there's a massive gap in the market for this, for a true business intelligence CRM backed up with the foundation of which would be automation because that's what drives a lot of these products that we were used to. And so, that's ultimately what led to us going down this path, and it has been a winding journey for the last five years now, and we're really just getting started.
So as you talk about how you got here, because you have this mind that goes to the KPI, you asked the question that I think was very poignant which is: Why would a lawyer not want all of that data available to them so that they could be more effective in delivering a metrics-driven process and service to their client? And I'll tell you why. Because lawyers have some really fucked up thinking.
You said it. You said it.
Let's just own it. I said it all right. We're not going to put that on you. But there are a whole lot of us that have the fear that, we get taught we're a professional, and that somehow is antithetical to being good in business.
And so, if you're focused on how do I deliver this service as economically and efficiently as possible so that I can generate the most profit off of each person I'm serving, we think that that is somehow not in the client's best interest. So therefore, we're prioritizing ourself over the client which, of course, is nonsense because I always say the worst thing for the public is a broke lawyer. As soon as we have to figure out if we're eating this week and we have to decide whether your deposition is something we should spend money on because we have a family to feed, that is where we start getting into trouble with ethics and with choice over client. But when a client is actually being served well, and the lawyers being served well, it's a win-win. Everybody's happy or as happy as can be with their legal problem in that scenario.
So automation really does help that. And it really is something that I think you're right. There is a movement in our profession to get people on board with that. So how does Lawmatics really take the lawyer who has that messed up thinking and they don't quite understand how to get into the numbers of their business? They know that they should, but they don't know how, it's overwhelming. It feels very outside of what they learned as a lawyer. How do they take a tool like Lawmatics and really automate their entire law firm?
It's a good question. Here's one of the ways I look at it is I don't think that lawyers, I think the catalyst for going into automation, is not necessarily like, "Oh, I want to automate." It's more, "I want to provide a better service to my clients," or "I want to be able to have insights into my business." You're asking yourself those questions. It just happens to be that in order to answer those questions, I think you have to have automation. So to me, as a business owner, law firm or any business owner, it's asking the right questions first, which is what leads you down the path of how to automate and what to automate.
But I'll give you an example, lawyers that are doing a lot of advertising. Let's say you're advertising on Google or you're advertising on Facebook or wherever it is that you're advertising, but you're spending some money on digital advertising, which my guess is most of our listeners today are doing that. If they're not, they probably should. But that's a different topic altogether. But the point is, and I work with a lot of law firms not just in the capacity of Lawmatics. I will constantly I'll help friends or random people that reach out that just want a little bit advice on whether it's marketing or how to maybe drive more leads and things like that.
One of the things I will tell them is, "Look, you can go and spend money on marketing, that's great. But if you cannot measure that marketing, then you shouldn't do it." I don't care if it's going to be the best marketing source, if it's going to bring in a ton of leads and you're sure of it, if you can't measure it, don't do it. The reason is because when you start throwing money at a bunch of different things, you're not going to know what's working unless you have analytics to drive that. You end up spending a ton of money. You're just putting money into a bucket that has holes in it. It's just blind. You have no idea which hole the water's coming out of. There's a bunch of water getting stuck at the bottom, but there's also water going out these holes, and you have no idea which one to plug unless you have reporting and analytics.
And guess what? The only way to get analytics and good reporting on where your leads are coming from is to have some automation that is driving that. Something that says, "Okay, this person came from here so I'm going to automatically associate it with this campaign. I'm going to do whatever it is that you want to do to identify that it came from a certain source." And that can happen at any part point in the process, whether it's the moment that that lead comes into your website and fills out a form, the moment that they call your receptionist or call you, or during the intake process, after they've come in. There's different parts of the process You're going to identify where somebody came from. It's important to have automation designed to handle that. Then you can report on it, and then you can get the metrics that you need to make very sound business decisions.
So when a lawyer says, "I want to dive into this, but I think it's going to be overwhelming for me to even understand things like cost per lead and cost for client acquisition," aren't those the same thing? How are they different? How do I learn it all? How does using an automation tool help facilitate that knowledge and where does the rubber meet the road? Is this something that you only do once you have a certain amount of volume of lead flow? Once you have a certain revenue stream? Where is the entry point for somebody who wants to give their clients a better service, who wants to know their business better, but just doesn't know where to start?
That's actually a really awesome question because there's no rule. There's no, oh, when you reach this amount of clients, then you're ready for an automation or a CRM or business intelligence. If you are interested in providing a better service to your clients, which you absolutely should be, then you absolutely need a tool. The reason is because, and I look at it in terms of the full client journey. So, what does it look like at your law firm when a client from the moment a client comes in and finds you all the way through until after their case is over with you? That entire process is the client journey.
There's three phases. Phase one, intake phase. They're trying to determine if they want to hire you, and you're trying to determine if you want them as a client. Phase two is there's an active case. You're handling a matter for them. Most of the time there's a start and end date to that. In family law, there certainly is a start and end date. That end date may be a little ambiguous, but there's sort of an end date. Criminal offense, there's obviously very much a start and end. Phase three, which is the most neglected, I think Allison, is after the case is over. They are a former client. If you are not doing things to engage that former client, you are losing out on business categorically.
I always ask the question to people whenever I'm talking a big group is, "How many people here have more than 500 old clients?" Everybody raises their hand. "Well, how many of you are sending them notes on their birthday?" Then every hand goes down. Because they're like, "Well, I can't send everybody an email on their birthday." Well, you can. You just need automations. You just need automation for it.
So I think when you look at it in terms of that, think about delivering, at what point of the relationship, the whole journey, can you deliver an amazing experience that delights your customer? Because I will share a bit of insight that I believe very strongly in. I believe that you could be the best lawyer in the world and provide bad customer service and fail. But I also believe the flip side to be true. Maybe not the worst lawyer in the world, but you could be an average lawyer or maybe even a little bit below average, but provide the best customer service in the business and you can be successful. I think that that's something really important that lawyers lose sight of. I think if you think of businesses outside of law that have really good customer service scores, their products are not necessarily better than anyone else. Sometimes maybe their products are inferior, but the customer service, the experience you get brings you back. It's the same with law.
It is 100% the same with law. Since you mentioned customer service, ironically, I was just with my family at an engagement party over the weekend. A story that I told on social media came up again and it was about the infamous coffee. I won't out the hotel chain, but there is a hotel chain, very well known, that had a conference, and I was staying at a companion property of theirs because the primary property was sold out. At the companion property, they had golf carts that would take you over to the main property at the time of the meeting. And so, on checkout day, I wanted to leave my property. I wanted to leave my bags at the front of the hotel, take the golf cart over to the meeting, and then have my bags delivered so I could go to the airport.
As I'm about to leave, I ask for a cup of coffee as I'm in the waiting area. I was told that coffee was not available, but I could buy a K-cup for, I don't know, $5, $3, whatever it was. I was just stunned. I sat there and I looked, I was like, "Let me get this straight I'm spending ..." I'd actually look it up, "$504 a night for the hotel room, and you're going to try to sell me a K-cup." You realize how stupid a business model this is. You could literally charge me an extra dollar. If I'm spending 504, I would have spent 505. You could have made a dollar on every human being in here and made more money by just including the lesser included offense of the coffee in the lobby. But it was the lack of foresight at some level, I'm sure very far, far up the food chain in corporate that led to that result. The offense to the client or to the customer because of just doing things in the way that we're doing things and kind of tacking something on.
Automation very much lends itself to taking out that residual. Because when you start to understand numbers as a result of understanding things like how much it costs to acquire a client, how much it takes to deliver a service, you can start to find ways to not just make more money, but to deliver a better service and a better experience so that the person who is being served by you actually perceives it better.
It's a 100%. I think it's funny, right, because your example is very similar, and I know this is what got you thinking about it, but the thing that you off had actually nothing to do with the real product. They're a hotel. It didn't have to do with your stay there. It was something ancillary that could have very easily been addressed. That's often what happens. It's the same thing with law. It's not necessarily the outcome of the representation. It can be something that's unrelated, that's customer service generated. And so, my point is that you're going to start to look at your law firm and think, "All right, what are all the different areas, the steps of the journey that I can delight my customer? Oh, you know what? I can just engage them immediately as they come in even if I'm not available. I can send everybody an email on their birthday. I can have newsletters going out to my current clients, keeping them up to date with things that I'm researching to stay on top of trending issues for their case that I'm representing them on."
And guess what? You might be hearing me say that and thinking to yourself like, "Oh my God, that's impossible. How am I going to do all that?" You can't. I'm saying you should do this. You should think about all these different ways that you should delight your customer. But I'm telling you that you can't just do it yourself. You have to have automation to take these things off of your plate because no lawyer is going to be expected to go have a calendar that has all their clients' birthdays on it, and then they're going to go and send an email every day to the four or five clients that have a birthday. Automation is there to help you with this.
Well, the beauty of it, I mean, since you mentioned that, I know someone who actually does do quite a bit of automation of not just the phase two as you described it, the delivery of the service, but it is in delivering the essentials. Because you talk about delighting your client, and we know, especially I deal in family law, so of course I have a lot of very unhappy humans that were otherwise nice people before they decided that their spouse was the spawn of Satan and they had to escape. But most law clients are not happy. Most of them are dealing with some type of troubling, traumatic, challenging issue in their life. So you are a very easy target for them because you are the thing, the buffer between the resolution. The resolution may be positive or negative, but at least it's over. That trauma that they're going through from problem to solution, you're on that pathway.
I know a law firm in Minnesota, I won't name them because I don't have permission to, but very exceptional law firm. They actually automate all of the communications from the start of the case to the end of the case. So all of the education about this is what the next conference is about, and this is what the next, every time we get a letter from the adversary here is how we are going to approach this. They get so much in the automation pipeline that clients are getting an inundation of data and information so that there's never a time that a client actually has to wait to ask a question. It's almost like their FAQs are on redux and they're constantly being given to them.
When I learned about that, I thought, "Wow, that's really brilliant if you think about it because so much of clients calls to the office are about the anxiety they feel of not knowing." If you start giving them education every day of their case, they don't really have a time for that anxiety to build. It's still going to build by virtue of life, but it's not going to build by virtue of silence. That oftentimes can ward off things like bar complaints.
So, it sounds like you help clients with that process, not just by having the tool, but by the way that your company actually facilitates their understanding of and utilization of the tool.
It's true. So one of the things that we think is important with any tool, it doesn't matter whether it's Lawmatics, whether it's MyCase, or anything, it's important to understand how to get the most out of it. I can't say this about all companies in legal, but I can say this about a lot of them, that they know best practices. They know how to help you with certain things. Kind of tying this back to what we talked about in the beginning about client communication. It's like, there should never be an issue with client communication. You should be over communicating every step of the way and that's one way to delight your customer. You can't do that without automation.
The reason why this is important is something that you just mentioned, which I love to talk about as well, which is lawyers lose sight of the fact that with almost every type of law out there, all consumer-driven law, especially family law, criminal defense, this is the most important thing happening in your client's life. No matter what, bankruptcy, family law, estate planning, criminal defense, personal injury, it is the most important thing that they have going on right now. To you, it's just another client. You don't think about it the same way.
We need to put ourselves in our client's shoes, and we need to think about like, if this is the most important thing happening in your life, how would you want to be treated? What type of experience would you want? Forget about the outcome. Forget about the letter of the law. Forget about that for a moment. Just think about the way that you would want to be treated. How would you want to be handled? And when you think about it that way, it really, I think unlocks this idea of delighting your client, and you really figure out ways to just create a better experience.
And so, I think that is such a profound way for us to wrap up today's conversation because it really is about the experience and the fact that automation can help not only the client, but the lawyer to be a better version of themselves. Because the time that you are not expending, thinking through all those communications that you have to have in order to get to the minimum compliance, let alone the delighting stage, you are now going to be able to have an automation tool help you with that. I am platform-agnostic on this podcast. I'm very clear about that. But I know a lot of people that use Lawmatics and I get a lot of positive feedback about how it has transformed the industry. And so, thank you for being a voice and an innovator in this space, and for bringing this level of service and assistance to the lawyers that are out there trying to make their day-to-day experience of being a business owner that much better.
Allison, thank you so much for having me. When we have good chats, I tend to get very passionate and this was an awesome chat, so I appreciate it today.
Yeah, absolutely. So, one last question. If someone wants to learn more about Lawmatics, if they want to reach you directly, how would they go about doing that?
You can always check us out on our website, www.lawmatics.com. Very easy. You can call, you can explore, you can get a demo of the product. We can just talk in that demo about how you want to automate your firm, what parts maybe are missing for you. So it's not just like, "Hey, this is what Lawmatics does," but we also want to try to give you some assistance and help understand where you're struggling and how we might be able to help or how something else might be able to help. Every customer that comes to us, Lawmatics is not necessarily a good fit. Maybe there's a better fit out there.
You can also always reach me personally. I love chatting with lawyers. It's very helpful to me. It's insightful to me, so I really love doing it. Matt@lawmatics.com is my email address. Very easy to get in touch with me there. So I would encourage anybody, if you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to reach out.
All right. You heard it here. Matt, thank you so much for being here. As I said before, you've been a great resource to the legal community, and of course, by virtue of sharing your thoughts and your experiences here on the podcast. Everyone, thank you again for tuning in to another episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. I am Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day.