How can you leverage technology automation to improve client service and productivity within your legal business?
Ron Latz, VP of Sales and Customer Success at Mockingbird, is here to share his insight.
At Mockingbird, Ron helps attorneys and law firms maximize revenue growth for digital marketing, advertising, and strategic consulting services.
In this episode, he’ll share the must-know software for attorneys and the best practices for automation workflow.
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host Steffen Horst.
The topic for today’s episode is leveraging technology automation to improve client service and productivity within your legal business. Here to speak with me is Ron Latz who is the VP of sales and customer success at Mockingbird, an agency that works exclusively with attorneys and law firms and helps them maximize revenue growth for digital marketing, advertising and strategic consulting services.
Ron has two decades of sales and marketing experience and is currently building Mockingbird sales and customer success functions. Outside of his agency life, you can find him building forts with his four-year-old twins, traveling with his wife, or trying to keep pace with college students on Strava. Ron, welcome to the show.
Ron Latz: Thanks so much, Steffen. I appreciate you having me.
Steffen: Now, Ron, before we start talking about leveraging technology automation, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career? And what led you to building out the sales and marketing team at Mockingbird?
Ron: Yeah, I started my career out of school in sales and marketing and advertising. I initially got my luck, accident in health licenses, I was going to sell life insurance and then eventually got a job with Xerox, working with public sector universities, schools, things like universities. And then I joined Thomson Reuters in 2011.
That’s where I really dive deep into the legal industry. I’ve been kind of connected to legal ever since that point. I then launched my own business consultancy, which was for outsourced or fractional CMO services for lawyers in 2016. That was called Tetrarchy Consulting. And then in 2021, I partnered with Conrad Saam over at Mockingbird Marketing.
I had a couple of clients that were leveraging his team services. We found it to be a really good fit in trying to uncover really the important data information as to how lawyers were capturing and creating awareness for their services.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, automation is something that is talked a lot about. You know, whether you are in the legal field, or E-commerce or any other industry, businesses use automations to make work processes flow better, or to take certain tasks of the table, which otherwise would be time-consuming, for example. What specific technologies do you recommend for lawyers to automate their workflows? Is there anything that is specific to the legal industry or can those solutions be used for other industries as well?
Ron: Sure. Well, that really is going to depend upon the tech stack of the law firm. So first and foremost, there’s a handful of technologies that most firms already have in place. Many of them will have some sort of intake management software. You could have legal specific or non-legal specific, we have plenty of clients that are using systems like HubSpot, and then others that use more legal-focused software like Lawmatics, Clio Grow, or Lead Docket.
Then the second portion of intake management would be then your matter management software, which or it’s also known as case management or practice management software. Some examples of that would include you know, Clio Manage, File Fine, Litify Case Peer, My Case, but a lot of firms come to us to help them integrate both intake management into their practice management software. Usually, at the front end of their intake management software, they’re using some sort of dynamic call tracking.
So a lot of lawyers are using call rail or call tracking metrics. And what’s very important about those technologies is that it is capturing the source attribution data. Where did this lead come from? And depending upon your attribution model, first or last touch, it will tell you whether or not it was your ad, it was your Google local listing, or if it was an organic or direct result. Now, that data then transfers from the call tracking system into your lead intake management software.
So when a contact record is automatically created, information like first name, last name, contact details, and then the source attribution data automatically flow right into that contact record. Now depending upon your stages of qualification at your law firm, let’s say it is a qualified lead and you want to set up a consultation. You can set up certain automations you trigger the forwarding or sending of a retainer agreement, meeting confirmations, resources, if you have a client portal, all that stuff can be working on in the background, while either intake or the attorney is servicing, and doing a consult with the client.
Other things that are kind of table stakes in this day and age, especially driven by the pandemic, scheduling tools, making it incredibly easy for potential new clients to schedule a consultation. E signature tool, so like DocuSign, or HelloSign, or even Panda Doc, you can use to expedite digital signatures. Make it very easy so that the customer doesn’t have to go back and do a wet signature, scan it, or there are still some firms out there that are faxing that information.
And then chatbots. Chatbots will be another communication channel. Sometimes individuals are at work, they don’t want to speak loudly about a very personal subject matter. So they leverage a chatbot. And there’s a bunch of those. I mean, in legal you have Gideon, In taker, Engaged, but these are just some options and technologies that a lot of firms are using automation to help them be more efficient.
Steffen: Yeah. Now a lot of people are familiar with the most common for example, CRM platforms. You know, whether it’s HubSpot, SalesForce, etc. Is there an advantage for a legal practice to use a legal specific CRM system or any system whatsoever? Like the chat system, as you said, marketing automation system. Is there an advantage to using legal-specific software compared to using a more kind of across industry software like a HubSpot?
Ron: I mean, that’s really going to depend on your personal preferences. I have clients that use only legal specific software. Others, it’s more of a hybrid approach, where we still have firms out there that are managing intake through a highly sophisticated Google Sheet or Excel document. That’s okay, you can make that work. The challenge that you’ll run into with any sort of sheet or Excel doc is going to be the fact that most of your fields are going to be free text fields. And that makes data hygiene incredibly challenging.
So when you want to sort and filter all of that data, you might run into some obstacles. Now, a lot of clients that we work with will leverage something like a HubSpot, because of its additional capabilities around sales, marketing, and CRM. So there is this trend right now in legal where you do see a lot of disparate technologies. But then newer players coming into the market attempting to consolidate them.
You look at something like Litify, which is built directly on Salesforce, and has both intake marketing, matter management baked into it. Although it is geared not only specifically for legal but personal injury firms, at least right now. In addition, I would say that you have Nexel, who is also coming to market, trying to not only take sales and marketing and business development into one centralized platform, but they’re also trying to tie in revenue operations.
Now that’s going to be for significantly larger law firms. Most of Mockingbird’s client base, or at least the experience that I have working with attorneys, these are usually firms of no more than 50 to 75 lawyers. And many of them have some in-house support to be able to keep up with that data hygiene. But it’s still something that you have to keep top of mind.
Steffen: Yeah. And actually just talked about my next question, which is all-in-one solution. So you know, when we’re thinking about CRM, marketing, automation, call tracking, you name it, all of these individual solutions that are out there that you cobbled together in order to build your technology stack? Or are you more a proponent, are you more saying you know what, is it actually better to have just one solution that can do all of that?
Ron: Right now, I think that the outfits that are out there that are consolidating aren’t necessarily attractive to all law firms out there. There’s still pricing concerns with those types of solutions. There’s implementation concerns, because they can take months upon months because they are so massive. I would say that for most law firms, you’re going to use a handful of technologies to help deliver the data, the reporting and information that you need at your fingertips.
You can keep it pretty limited. You can have your call tracking. You can use something like HubSpot for an intake management, marketing and CRM, and then your matter management software. Obviously, you’re also going to have your research your financials. So it’s really hard to get every single component into one piece of tech. So in most cases, our recommendation is to try to limit the tech so that we’re not building tech on tech that’s unnecessary. That’s really the biggest thing. You don’t want to have redundant technology.
A, you’re paying for licenses that you don’t need to. B, then you have half of the people using one system, other half using the other system. Now you have a source of truth problem, like where do you go as the system that is the end all be all? And you know, we see firms kind of run into that time and time again, when they have multiple intakes or multiple SMS text messaging platforms, it can get pretty messy really quickly.
Steffen: Yeah, that makes sense. How can automation help lawyers improve their firm’s overall productivity and efficiency?
Ron: I mean, the biggest thing there is going to be you want to streamline as many repetitive tasks to reduce the need for a manual input. Right. So I talked about how call rail will capture source attribution data, and automatically input contact details, name details, address details into that contact record without you doing anything, right. Intake is now focusing on getting the case details and understanding if we can help the client versus manually inputting that information.
You can automate tasks that are around document generation or even billing, right. Once someone schedules a consultation, they come in and they say they’re going to retain you, you can automate some of these being sent, send notifications on your forms for payments and billings. If payments are late, you can say, if a payment hasn’t been received in X amount of days, send a reminder.
These are all things that you don’t then have to keep top of mind if the automation is working in the background, keeps you super productive and efficient. Another example would be additional access to share documents more efficiently. So a lot of lawyers will have client portals on their website so that the client can access that information and not necessarily have to make the phone call to talk to the paralegal or the lawyer. Document storage as well.
And then finally, a lot of these things like the scheduling tools, or meeting reminders, and all these notifications really do improve the customer experience. So for the client, I know that I’ve been heard, I’ve gone to the lawyer’s website, I’ve scheduled a consultation, I’ve received the confirmation that my meeting is tomorrow at 3pm Eastern. I’ve stopped my shopping experience now because I know I have a meeting scheduled with the law firm.
I’m not going back to Google to look for another law firm in my area. Because what I was trying to do, schedule an appointment, wasn’t accomplished. My goal was achieved. So both the client and the firm benefit. Client confirms their meeting, they don’t have to do any more shopping, law firm stops the shopping experience and doesn’t potentially lose that potential new client to a competitor.
Steffen: For people out there that are listening that might not be so familiar with what work is required to set up all those tasks, right? I mean, at the end of the day, someone has to sit there and has to program, the automations. Right. First of all, you have to write them down. It’s like what do I want to automate? What can I automate? And then someone has to sit down and program those automations. Is that a task that lawyers can do themselves? If they have dedicated marketing people, would you recommend that they always, on most cases, seek outside help?
Ron: There’s a lot of different challenges that you could face if you attempt to take this on your own, especially if you don’t have at least at a minimum, some sort of technical background. But it’s not all super complex, right. You can, I am not a developer, right. I’m also not a lawyer. But I know technology well enough to understand its limitations, what its feature sets and capabilities can be.
But that can be a challenge for many firms, just because they don’t have the knowledge base as to how do I even connect these systems or integrate them or what happens when it breaks? That’s kind of the tip of the iceberg. If you don’t know how to do it, then I would highly recommend that you seek out, you know, a professional. Additional challenges after that technology has been chosen, right. Now you have this great new piece of technology, right?
Many firms struggle with adoption, right? You have this great piece of software, it was built out, customized to your internal workflows, and now nobody at the firm uses it. So when you’re implementing these things, especially if there’s automation in place, you need the employees to embrace that new tech and just use it effectively. If you’re not leading by example and championing this product internally, you’re likely going to be losing a lot of hard-earned dollars because you’re going to be spending money on a piece of software that nobody’s using.
Steffen: You just talked about a few examples. You mentioned about Callwell and how Cora can help you to track, you know, where people are coming from. So the origin of the call whether it’s paid search ad, display ad, even down to a keyword level, right? What keyword initiated a call? Do you have some other examples that you can share how lawyers that you work with, have kind of made it easier on themselves by implementing, you know, certain systems and certain automations?
Ron: For sure, I mean, call tracking is great. Automating the collection of data is going to be helpful, especially while you’re intake or receptionist to speaking with a client. But even if we back out before that, a lot of law firms will use things like Calendly, or HubSpot or Chili Piper for appointment scheduling. I mean, that type of automation makes it incredibly convenient for clients to schedule the appointment, and then reduce the need for any back and forth type of communication. Automated case updates.
So again, making sure that clients are constantly being informed about the progress of their case, and then reducing the need for them to constantly follow up with your intake or paralegal staff allows you to continue doing what they love best, and that’s practicing law. Same thing with document delivery, whether it’s retainer agreements, some of the more sophisticated firms will automate some level of client feedback, right. Making it very convenient for the potential client to offer insight around their experience.
And then that would allow the firm to address you know, any concerns pretty quickly. Whether that’s through an NPS survey, customer satisfaction survey, there’s a lot of things that a law firm can do to really improve the service in which they are providing. Even if they are not retaining that potential new client. Billing and invoicing is a real big one, right? No one wants to be chasing down the accounts receivables.
So when you have automation, or notifications sent to clients to remind them about a bill or let them know that it is overdue, as long as it is, it’s not impersonal or comes off brash, right, there’s a delicate balance there. But you can leverage automation to be more efficient and productive with your time. And then tying all that kind of together. When we talked about call rail and CRM, I mean intake management and CRM, that helps improve intake, it helps your sales and business development efforts.
One of the more advanced ways that you could leverage automation in a CRM is by properly labeling prospects, so that you can nurture those relationships and send timely resources based off of their preferences and likes. And I’m not just talking about you know, putting a reminder on your calendar for when their birthday is, but the sports that they enjoy, the resources that they’ve downloaded.
So the next time someone comes to your law firm website, and they maybe they downloaded a, you know, the top 10 considerations you need to take into account from a financial perspective, when going through a divorce. The next time that divorce lawyer is on a webinar with a financial planner or financial professional, you should send an email and based off of your CRM contact labels, identify every single client or prospect that came to your website, or asked about the financial implications of divorce and invite them to that webinar, right.
It’s all within the system to ensure that you’re touching clients in a way that is valuable, and relates to what they originally came to seek your advice on. And those are some of the things that, you know, the more sophisticated and successful firms really do separate themselves by that level of service.
Steffen: Yeah, I think the automation part obviously, helps both parties. It helps the lawyer or the legal practice to be more efficient in an internal processes and client communication. All those things as you tried earlier, that are repetitive, but then also helps the client, right. Because, you know, if we are updated frequently, if it’s made easy for us to engage and kept up to date, we feel much more comfortable with the solution that we picked, or the, in this case, the lawyer we picked.
Compared to, you know, not hearing anything and having to constantly chase the individuals from which we need information on how far in this case, a case is. What are some of the challenges lawyers face when implementing technology and leveraging automation, and how can they overcome them?
Ron: Well, we touched on this a little bit earlier. Adoption. You don’t want to spend a bunch of money, get a great technology system in place and then have nobody use it. So the challenge there is just what do we do? It’s a lack of training, right? So whenever a new technology is put into your firm, you need to train and provide resources, right. Lawyers have to invest, to support their employees and their staff so that they understand how to use the technology, how it’s going to benefit their work, and that can be time-consuming, right.
You have to make sure that you have standard operating procedures in place not only so that your current staff can be able to use it. But what about as you scale and you grow? There’s going to be new employees that come on that have to understand your processes and how your workflows work. Most attorneys are going to be risk-averse. And they want to ensure that all that data and information is kept confidential, right.
So data security, and privacy is something that is always at the top of mind of the law firm. So I mean, with automation, some of that sensitive data can be stored in software, or cloud based systems, which for unfortunate reasons, right can get broken into, right. So you got to make sure that those systems and tools are going to comply with any data security or privacy laws and regulations.
The challenge of growing also comes with the cost associated with these tools to maintain them. The integrations right, keeping everything tethered correctly and working properly, especially if you’re relying on any sort of third-party plugins. If those are no longer supported, you might run into some trouble. Customization, right. Your system might be a little bit different. Or it might not be customizable to your specific needs.
So you have to find tools that will fit what your goals and objectives are. And then we did talk about this with the Excel sheet, but just the data quality. Data hygiene is super important. And then finally, maintenance and support. The tools are not going to run themselves. Even with automation. It’s a human that has to build those workflows, make sure that they work and if they break, go in and address and fix.
Steffen: Now, for those out there that are risk averse, and they’re like, you know what, going from an Excel sheet to a full-blown technology set up that is just that scares them. Is there kind of a let’s start with A, and then work our way through to Z kind of approach? Or would you say once you embrace it, you got to set it up properly once, otherwise, the risk of the individual pieces working together and falling apart is too great?
Ron: No, I mean, my recommendations are to start small, right? Because automation, it can be a very significant undertaking. So if you start small, you could scale up gradually. So identify one or two key workflows that can be automated, focus on automating those first, and then continue to build upon it. You need to make sure that you’re prioritizing specific tasks, right.
So think about the administrative tasks. Focus on automating those first. Once you see that immediate benefit from automation, you’ve got a win. So you cascade that message across the team. They understand the benefit, why they’re doing it, how this impacts the business. Again, now you’re getting buy-in, it’s only going to help your adoption. Before you even go into these massive automation projects, like you got to test and evaluate. Don’t commit to specific automation tool or system.
Like test and evaluate, make sure it meets your needs and that it’s easy to use. And then I would say after you get, after you start small and prioritize some of those repetitive tasks, monitor and optimize it. Like continuously look at it, see how those automated workflows are working, make sure they’re working as intended. And if they are, they’re gonna continue to provide you know, the exceptional benefits.
Steffen: Is there something like too many automations?
Ron: Oh for sure. You can over-engineer technology very easily, right? Making tasks and then sub-tasks. Sub-tasks require that another task underneath that be complete before the next task. Listen, I always try to remind any firm that is looking to develop a more automated type of firm or digital first firm, it’s people over the tech and people over the process. These are still humans that are working on this. They are building it, they are still talking to your customers. New technology will help facilitate a better experience and improved efficiency and productivity, but it does not run by itself. And that’s sometimes you know, forgotten.
Steffen: Now, what are some of the best practices for lawyers regarding automation workflows?
Ron: I think you know, what we kind of just talked through around starting small, not taking too much. Not taking too big of a bite or trying to you know, boil the ocean at the start is one of the best pieces of advice that I can offer. Because those that tried to do all underneath the sun in one sort of implementation are usually left with a very, very sour taste in their mouths because it’s a timely process. It’s difficult to get done in one project engagement.
So temper your expectations. This is an instance where if you move slow, it’ll help you become faster. Take your time, you need to take a thoughtful and strategic approach about it and not just try to let’s get this in place because we need the automation. You’ve got the system and the tools and the people in place already. If you’re adding on to it, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Steffen: Now, Ron, unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of today’s podcast episode. Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on leveraging technology automation to improve client service and productivity within your legal practice or within a legal practice. Now if people want to find out more about you, and/or Mockingbird, how can they get in touch?
Ron: The best way to get in touch with me would just be go to LinkedIn. Ron Latz. I try to share and post every single day around legal marketing, ops, technology sales, business development, and how to have a more efficient and productive law firm. Or you can go to mockingbird.marketing, which is our website.
Steffen: Perfect. As always, we’ll leave that in show notes. Thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
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