Ernest Svenson, or as you may know him from his popular blawg, Ernie the Attorney, has built his law firm on using technology to make his practice flexible and gain leverage on behalf of his clients. In addition to his solo law practice, he also frequently speaks at CLE seminars sharing his tech expertise and will be on the faculty at the ABA Tech Show in March. We’ve enjoyed getting to know him over the past three years and are excited to share some of his wisdom in our Client Spotlight series!
Lawyers are notorious for working long hours. How can attorneys use technology to improve their work/life balance?
Easy: use tech intelligently so you get the most out of it without getting bogged down with trouble-shooting or configuring. Then, shut it down and experience the real world. You know, the one devoid of technology (or at least as devoid of it as possible).
How can solo and small law firms set themselves apart from the big kahunas in the legal field?
The short answer is: leverage technology to do more at a lower cost. One thing about technology is that usually it leads to something “useful, but impersonal.” Your virtual reception service is an example of how technology has enabled something highly personal and “white glove.” Yet the cost is completely affordable. These days people are used to getting a recording. They don’t like it, but they’re used to it. Use low cost technology to surprise people and give them great phone service.
Did you answer your own phone before you started using Ruby?
Actually, I used a robo-answering service. And I sometimes answered my own phone. I didn’t realize that some folks (especially new clients) were put off by my prior system.
Our virtual receptionists answer calls for a few of your businesses, including your solo practice, the Svenson Law Firm, and your continuing education provider, Digital Workflow CLE. What advice do you have for those thinking about using Ruby for one or more of their businesses?
I think this is one of the unknown features you all offer. I didn’t realize that for a small additional monthly fee I could add another line and share my minutes. So, my advice would be “try this” if you have two businesses. In fact, I’d even consider using it if I had a law firm with two distinct practice areas that I had separate marketing campaigns for (e.g. Trusts & Estates, and Domestic law).
You have CLE seminars coming up on December 28th and 29th on how to maintain a paperless, digital law practice. What’s something that attorneys can implement now that could help them be more productive?
Becoming paperless is about two things: (1) keeping digital information (e.g. email) in digital form, and (2) converting the non-digital (e.g. paper) to digital. The harder part is #2. This involves getting the right scanner (I recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap 5100; there’s a PC version and a Mac version). Then you have to get used to using it regularly.
The next big thing is to create a digital signature so you’re not always printing just to sign a document that you have to send out. Remember principle #1: keep it digital (if you print it you have to scan it back in). The trick is to stamp it with an electronic signature, and then “print to PDF,” and then email the PDF to the recipient.