Today we’re excited to share a presentation by Melanie Leonard from MaxLawCon 2021! Tune in to learn more about life-changing automation.
Melanie Leonard is an attorney, an entrepreneur, and one of the leading authorities on the use of legal practice management software. She graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2002 and began practicing at mid-sized firms. Disillusioned by their inefficiencies, Melanie left to start her own firm in 2006. And, over the next 12 years, she built a thriving real estate law practice.
An early adopter of Clio, Melanie became one of the first Clio Certified Consultants. She developed a passion for helping other firms achieve amazing results with their own use of practice management software. In 2018, Melanie sold her law practice to pursue her passion full time and streamlined.legal was born. In just two years, streamlined.legal has become one of the most sought-after consulting firms in the legal tech industry, having received Clio’s Partner Led Excellence Award in 2019 and 2020.
Melanie lives in the Chicagoland area but stays true to her roots as a native Texan. When not streamlining law firms, Melanie enjoys playing with her two adorable kids and riding her beloved Peloton.
2:02 robotic process automation
6:23 maybe this and maybe that
9:22 it might change it for the worst
12:04 decision fatigue
15:48 to top it off
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Transcript: Why Automation Has Not Yet Changed Your Life with Melanie Leonard
In today’s episode, we’re sharing a presentation from maxilla con 2021. Keep listening to hear Melanie Leonard as we share her talk, why automation has not yet changed your life. You can also head to the maximum lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Now to the episode,
run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast, podcast, your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson metrics. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.
So I want to talk to you today about automation. And thank you, Kelsey, for that great presentation. I’m a big fan of Kelsey and all the automation that he does. So please do automate your firm’s. But I want to take a step back. Because a lot of times when we think about automation, we think about taking the processes that we already have, and making them faster, or making them happen quicker, and making them cheaper. And those are all great goals. And we should do that. And it’s gonna save you time, and it’s gonna save you money and all those great things. But it might not change your life because I myself automated my own closing documents in my real estate practice, before I started streamline legal, and I saved a ton of time, it used to take me 45 minutes to do closing documents, after I automated those documents, it took approximately 10 minutes, that’s a huge time saver, especially in a firm where you’re charging flat fees right. Now I can handle that many more closings. So that’s great. But I gotta tell you, it didn’t change my life, it made things a little faster, it made things a little better. But it didn’t change my life. So I want to talk to you today about life changing automation, and how we’re going to make that happen. Because that I will tell you is a lot more impressive and a lot more fun than automating your emails, which is also a great thing to do. So I want to go ahead and talk a little bit about this concept that’s called robotic process automation. And basically, that’s where we look at the way we’re doing things. And we see where can we automate things. So for example, when I get a new client, I send out an email, right? Well, it’d be really nice if I didn’t have to send out that email. And I could set up Zapier or whatever tool to go ahead and send that email for me. That’s fantastic, right. But again, not life changing. So when we take the things that we’re already doing, and just make a little faster, or make them a little more automated, that’s what we call robotic process automation. It’s very helpful, not life changing. So let’s talk about the life changing part, right, because that’s what we’re all after. That’s what we want is the practice that runs itself, or the practice that runs with very little input from us. And so that’s what I want to focus on today. And I’m gonna start with some examples. Because they’re way more telling than my just sitting here and telling you that you can change your life. So I’m going to talk about a firm that I met down in New Orleans, and they’re a family law firm, and they’ve got like two attorneys and maybe about four team members, right. And so they came to us because they were wanting to automate their engagement letter. It’s a great goal, right? So they want to automate the engagement letter, they also wanted us to automate an email that they were sending sorry, they were charging hourly. And so they needed to put in an initial retainer amount, right? So they would send an email, after the consultation, the intake person would send an email to the attorney and say, How much do you want for the initial retainer amount, eventually, the attorney would email back and tell her the amount and she would put it in the letter, she’d send the letter off to the client, she’d have to wait a little while because, you know, digital signature and everything, because they’re gonna get it signed, eventually, they’re gonna send it back, it all works out, right. But it takes a little bit of time. And so we said, Great, we say happy to automate your letter, we’re happy to automate the email. But of course, we’re gonna dig a little bit deeper. And so we started talking to this firm and asking, Okay, so understand why you want to automate your engagement letter makes a lot of sense. But tell me about this email, what is the purpose of this email? And she says, Well, you know, the attorney is really busy, he’s really great at blocking his schedule. And so he’ll go ahead and block like, you know, three hours every Monday, Wednesday, Friday to do initial consults, and he’ll stack them up back to back just like he’s been taught. And then he’ll go from console to console to console, maybe put a little break in between. And then he’ll go ahead and come out of those meetings. But inevitably, he’s exhausted by the time he’s met with three or four potential clients, right? And he’s off to check his email, make sure nothing blew up and make sure there’s no fires to put out. He just walks right by sometimes she’s busy, you know, in the copy room, or whatever, doing what she needs to do. And she doesn’t see me she can’t grab them and say, Hey, wait, what were those initial retainer amounts? Okay. So I said, Okay, great. So I talked to the attorney. So attorney, why can’t you just like stop at the desk and be like, here’s the initial retainer amounts. And he says, Oh, my God, by the time I’m done meeting with three or four clients in a row, it’s exhausting. Like, I need to drink a water, I need to go to the bathroom. I got stuff to do, right. And I don’t have time to stop and sometimes she’s not there and I can’t, you know, I don’t have time to just stop and wait for finder. So he moves on, right. And this causes quite a delay. So when we talked to him, what we really found out was this was decision fatigue, right? This is where he’s having to listen to three or four stories in a row. He’s having to figure out how much he wants to charge for initial consult. And so I talked to him about, well, why don’t we just charge everyone the same initial consult? Well, I can’t do that. Because some cases are more complicated than others. This is family law, legitimately. Some cases are a little more out of control than others. And so I say, Okay, well, then, if we’re not going to charge the same fee, how do you decide when you’re sitting in that meeting? How do you decide how much you want to charge him? And he says, Well, I mean, it’s complicated, and I have to use some judgment. And I say, Okay, well walk me through, like, pretend like you’re training me, and I’m going to be doing the consults, how much do we charge? And he says, Okay, well, first, we have to look at what county are they in? Because some counties are closer and travel time and all that. Okay, great. Then we also have to look at has the case already been filed? Like, is it a continuation of a current case? Or is this a newly filed dissolution or something that we’re doing? Okay, great. So we look at that, then there was a third factor. And so once we got through all of these factors, now, we had a list of what was the criteria? And I said, Okay, so 90% of the time, these cases are going to fall on this criteria, right? And he’s like, Yeah, I said, Great. So then why don’t we teach your assistant what the criteria is that you just told me? And now you don’t have to sit in there remembering and thinking and maybe this and maybe that? Now, she already knows what the criteria is? Better yet? Why don’t we have her call the client before they come in for the consultation, to get some initial information, right, to make you more prepared for this consultation to make it go a lot faster and be a lot more productive. And some of the information that she can get is the information that you’re going to use as criteria to set your initial retainer. So she can ask them? Oh, is this a case that you’ve already been involved in? Oh, no, we haven’t filed anything yet. I’m just needing to find an attorney. Okay. Well, that’s a new case. Right? Okay. Well, what county are you in? Easy enough, right. And so she can go down the list of criteria and get all of that in advance, she can look at her chart that he just gave back to me to tell me what the criteria is, she can put that into the software that we’re going to use to automate the documents. And she can create that retainer letter before the client even comes into the office, right, or meets with us on Zoom. Now, when the client, the attorney gets through hearing this person’s story, and wants to move, assuming they want to move forward, then they can say to that person, you know what, I’ve got this retainer agreement here, we can start working tomorrow, if you agree to hire us, here are the terms, this is what you’re agreeing to and walk them through it. Right? We don’t have to wait another couple of days to get the response from the attorney on the initial retainer amount, we don’t have to wait to send it to the client, we don’t have to wait for them to send it back. Obviously, it’s faster with digital signatures. But it’s still a bit of a wait. Right. So now, I can have that letter prepared. Before I even walk into that consult. I have some notes from the person that talked to the client before me. So I’m altra prepared for this consults, right. And now I can close that deal that much faster. And that with a higher rate of closing, because now I have the information I need. And I can present that to the client. How better does it look, when you are telling the client, I’m ready to go, I’ve got the letter, here’s what you’re agreeing to. There may be clients that don’t sign on the line that day. And that’s okay. But we don’t have to wait for that delay. And so when we instituted that, within this firm, they’re closing rate did go up from about from what we could calculate 50 to 60%, to closer to 80%. And it was all because of that one change, because they were getting the information upfront, they were getting it all prepared, and they were ready to have someone sign, right. And that can be life changing, because that can bring your firm up to the next level of whatever you’re trying to reach. And so that’s the kind of thing that I want you guys to look at before you start with your automation. Before you decide, You know what I want to automate this email, because I’ll tell you, if we had automated an email to go out to that attorney, after every consult that he had to respond to and send back the initial retainer amount more emails is not going to change your life. I take it back, it might change it for the worse. Okay, but that’s not what we’re going for. Right? So how do we automate that email, he would not arguably not been in a better position than making the change that we made. And so I want to make sure that before we go ahead and just start that robotic, which is kind of exactly what it sounds like, right? That robotic process automation. Take a step back and look at how you’re doing things and how we can improve that first, before you bring in the automation, because that’s what’s going to be life changing.
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But again, don’t take my word for it. We have another firm that came to us with a similar issue. This was a firm out of Pennsylvania, and they did a state planning and their concern there was documents right? You know, they had to prepare the wills, the trusts, all those documents, advanced directives, all that kind of stuff. And so they came to us and said, How much is it gonna cost to automate these documents? So we looked at the documents, and we gave him a quote, but of course, maybe it’s because I’m a talker, but we had to have further conversation about it, right? And so I’m looking at these documents, and I’m asking them, you know, how do you use them? When do you prepare them all that great stuff? Oh, I totally forgot if slides. Okay, guys, this is the guy that has decision fatigue. Okay, don’t be that guy. Right. Now. This is the woman who’s got her practice all under control. Okay, so let’s move on. We know estate planning, though that actually drafting the documents. Yeah, it’s helpful to have templates, and it goes a lot faster. But that’s no, it takes a lot of time. You see all those papers, flying pastor, right? She knows. And you know, if you do estate planning, the hardest part is getting the information and the documentation from your clients, right? You tell them, hey, this is the stuff I need. They send you some stuff, it’s not everything, they send you some more stuff, you got to follow up with them. A lot of times, you know, people don’t always do estate planning, when they’re in a really good spot, right? Sometimes they leave it to the last minute someone’s sick, they’re in a tough situation. It’s not easy to get this stuff. And so that can be the real challenge. And so a lot of time, I’ll try and encourage my estate planning clients, you know, if we could get this done, like 30 or 60 days, that would be awesome. And they’re like, Oh, that would be awesome. But it never happens. Our clients are so slow, all these kinds of things. And so that’s the real challenge, right? So then when we looked at this firm, we said, Great, we’re gonna automate those documents, you can prepare them in no time, right? But let’s go a step further. Again, let’s change your life. Let’s not just make your documents faster. And now let’s go ahead and take a page out of the personal personal injury attorneys playbook. When we have a new client sign up, send someone to their house, introduce themselves, say, Hey, I’m so excited to be working with you on behalf of the firm, train this person to know What documents do we need, we’re going to need some bank statements, we’re going to need, you know, account statements from their financial investments, we’re going to need any prior estate planning documents, all that kind of stuff, right? So we train someone from our team, here’s the good looking guy that we hired, we’re going to train him, don’t worry that he’s a doctor, I didn’t notice that when I put that slide together. Okay, so we’re gonna train him to go to our new clients house, sit with them at their kitchen table, go through their filing cabinets, where they have the old stuff, go log on to the bank website, help them navigate, where to find the statements, help them gather all of that stuff that takes them so long, right? If I’m in the house, and I’m able to help them with that stuff, better yet, if it’s an elderly client, invite their, their children to come over and be a part of that meeting, right, and be able to have their assistance as well, to get into the bank account website to get into the investment portfolio website. gather the information you need right then and there. Sure, we may not get 100% of it, right. But we’re gonna get a lot more than if we left them to their own devices. And so in doing that, now look at how the game changes, right? I’m this guy I’m sitting in the kitchen I’ve got Got my iPhone or my whatever. And I’m going to go ahead and scan that document right there, I’m going to upload it to Dropbox or wherever we store our documents. And now I’ve got pretty much everything we need, right. And now when I walk out of there, oh, by the way, that’s a tablet if you didn’t notice, and he’s filling out information into their practice management software, their document, you know, preparation software, whatever he’s got. And he’s putting that in there while he’s sitting there at their kitchen table, right. And so when he walks out of that meeting, and gets back to the office, now, all the information, virtually all the information we need to prepare documents isn’t there, all the documentation that we needed is uploaded to the cloud for us to review. And to top it off my attorney when they hired us. And we set up this meeting for the guy to go in there from our team, we also set a time block on the attorneys calendar for two hours. Because we know that most of the time, it takes them two hours to prepare these documents. So between me leave, or this guy, let’s let’s name him, Roger, between Roger leaving the house. And getting back to the office, we have all the information we need, we go ahead and somebody is in the office to prepare those first draft of documents using the Document automation software that we have. And now we’ve got documents ready to go, we have a two hour chunk within the next couple of days for the attorney to review the documents. And the documents we prepared and the documents the client gave us get it all done. And now we’re ready for assigning. And so we went ahead and fast forward, what used to be a 4565 day process is now a week, right? And if you’re an estate planning attorney, and you’re charging a flat fee, let me tell you how many more estate plans you can prepare in that month with a week timeframe as opposed to 65 days. Right? So this is just another example of how I want you guys to take a look at how you’re doing things now and analyze that and look at you know, what, is this the best way? Not just for us, but for our clients as well? Is this changing our lives? Is this changing our clients lives? Chances are, it may not be in which case, that’s what I want you to look for, I want you to look for how could we change this to make it that much better for ourselves and for our clients. That’s where you find life changing automation, because now you can take those revised processes, automate those. And that’s what’s going to jump your firm to the next level, as opposed to tiny increment at a time. So the focus is on the optimization of the process coming first, right? Not the tool that will deliver it because as Kelsey just told you, there’s lots of awesome tools out there, right? You will have no problem finding a tool, you’ll might have a problem narrowing it down, but you won’t have a problem finding a tool. The question though, is, do we want to automate that process. And so first, we standardize it, then we improve it, then we automate it. So for those of you that are thinking of jumping into the automation, go ahead, it will save you some time and money. But don’t forget to go back and relook at those processes, and automate that new process that you come up with that can be life changing. Thanks, everybody for your time. I appreciate it.