My Shingle

Staying Connected on the Skinny!

by Carolyn Elefant on June 27, 2014 · 5 comments

in Guest Post, Ideas & Tips, Tech & Web

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This post is part of the MyShingle Solos summer series which will run between June 17 and July 3, 2014. 

wesbaileyThis post is written by MyShingle Guest Blogger Wes Bailey

I am a fan of low overhead. As my paralegal has stated, quite regularly, I’m a penny-pincher. Well, not exactly but I watch my overhead because i’m a solo practitioner. I pay for everything, so its important that my office runs on a tight budget. So when I get the chance to use something, I want it effective, useful and cheap (if not, free).

As a trial attorney, I am never in the office full time. In fact, if i’m in the office for more than two full days its weird to me and my staff. However, while i’m in court, I am never far from my staff or the needs of my clients. As I have found technology is my best weapon. Here are a few applications I like to use to keep connected to my clients.

First and foremost is google voice. It gives me a new cell number to give to clients so that they in turn can call me directly if they need to. I make sure that this number is never used for personal calls, friends or family. Therefore, I do not have to worry as to whether or not the person that calls has my private number. Each voice message is transcribed, emailed and sent as a text message. This is highly effective if you are sitting in court waiting during a motion day and need to call a client or you have a judge breathing down your neck and need your client to get to court asap. By the way its free.

Second, I use a virtual receptionist called Ruby Receptionist (not a paid endorsement). The plan I use is very inexpensive for a solo. They are my go to service. I can have them transfer calls to me, my paralegal or just take messages. The messages go to my email, text and they even provide you with an office number and voicemail. Its a one stop shop. With this company and a cell phone I started my solo practice. I had the appearance of a law firm without the overhead and the staff to show. When clients called they got the best possible phone service because thats all Ruby does. I win in this scenario because I don’t pay their taxes, sick days or worry about professionalism. Its a win win scenario for a solo.

Next, for those that want a cheap alternative to credit card machines, I have been using the square application for credit cards and debit cards for about three years. I understand that if you don’t have a smart phone this is quite difficult however if you do, like so many people, it is a great time saver and really gives you that wow factor. Why? Once again, your clients can pay with a card and have it swiped, pay without a card over the phone and have the receipt instantaneously sent to them via text message or email. Most often, my clients get their receipt while we are sitting in my office and are amazed at the ease of the transaction. I believe paypal has a version of this but I have never used it. To the clients, you are the full stop shop. You can bring the client in, interview them and take their payment all in one sitting and the overhead cost is relatively low.

Lastly and I know this has been around forever but email is crucial to your services. I send out scanned documents, which can be password protected if they are pdf created, to clients all over the United States. Its a great way to get clients a document fast and have them send it back should it need to be signed or notarized. Additionally, how hard is it to send an email to a client while you are out of the office. They know you are keeping up with them, you’ve touch base with them and you can loop in your staff into that email, so that they can notate the action in your case management software or to the file. For example, while in conference in Los Angeles I kept in touch with certain clients who had time sensitive matters. My secretary needed a criminal incident report I had with me. Since I took the case to review, she needed the documents which were in my possession. While I sat in a conference lecture, I used ScanPro, an app that scans and turns documents into PDFs, and emailed the document. She was able to keep working that same day on a petition we were drafting for my review. All done cross country with a computer and a smart phone. By the time I came back to the office the document had been drafted and my client was ready to review prior to filing.

Connectivity is more than just about being technologically savy. Its about keeping you and your clients connected on a day to day basis. Remember, that next call may be the one you have been waiting for. 

Wes Bailey, is the managing attorney at Wes Bailey, Attorney at Law, LLC. He holds a Masters Degree in Spanish and lives in Leesville, Louisiana located just outside of Fort Polk Military Base. His practice focuses on Criminal, Family and Immigration Law. You can contact him at www.wesbaileylaw.com.

  • Paul Spitz

    How do you handle trust accounting issues with Square? Do they take your credit card fees out of a different account?

  • Caroline Barnes

    Hi Wes, I have the same question as Paul! Please explain. I am interested in using the Square, but I am currently using LawPay.

  • Wes Bailey

    Most of my fees are up front flat fees. I would check with your bars ethics laws on what is the proper procedure on taking 1.) Credit Cards and 2.) Flat Fee versus billable hour retainer agreements. As I do not do any retainable fees which if I did they Square would probably link to my Trust Account and send the payment there. Thus you would be able to transfer the fee as it earned if it is billable. Square takes their payment directly from the credit card payment itself once it transacts the fee. Once it hits your account they have placed the fee minus their transaction fee in your account.

  • Paul Spitz

    In Ohio, the merchant processing fees can’t come out of the client payment. Also, it’s questionable whether up front fees are considered earned upon receipt, rather than as services are performed. So I have all credit card payments go directly into my trust account, and then I transfer fees as earned into my operating account. Even in cases where the fees are already earned and paid by credit card, they go into the trust account, if only for a few hours. Lawpay is one of the few companies that will deposit payments into one account (the trust account), and deduct processing fees from a separate account (the operating account). Cost is pretty comparable to Square. I would definitely look into it if I were you; services like Square and Paypal are just not ethics-compliant for lawyers in most jurisdictions.

  • Wes Bailey

    Paul you have a great plan of action. I have seen lawpay advertised in our bar journel. I am a person that believes that if it isn’t broke don’t try to fix it but I do believe that being as tight as possible on ethical issues is critical because solos are the first and last person to answer for the firm. I might look into law pay myself. Thank you.

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