How to Transform your Downtime into Billable Hours
For most law firms, the competition for clients is as fierce as ever. The attorneys who thrive in this market—and who generate referrals from satisfied clients—are those out on the road meeting with clients in person, listening to their concerns, and explaining their options. These face-to-face encounters translate into many hours spent in cars, hotels and airports.
Traveling used to require attorneys to carry a laptop, a handheld tape recorder, a cellphone, and other tools to help them stay productive and efficient. Now, the only tool mobile lawyers need to complete work and stay connected to the office is a smartphone with the right apps. Yet sometimes this trend toward self-sufficiency can have a downside.
Attorneys who are able to accomplish so much on their own often fail to leverage support staff such as transcription services to complete documentation tasks. This mindset results in high-dollar time spent on administrative duties rather than on capturing new clients or billable hours. Creating letters, memos, contracts and other documents are just the kinds of tasks for which smartphone technology and support staff can be combined to help attorneys work more productively and efficiently, with only small changes to existing workflows.
Merging proven efficiencies with modern convenience
The average law school graduate today was born in the mid-to-late 1980s and has likely never known a world without the ubiquity of personal computers. Likewise, younger generations of attorneys have been quick to adapt to using mobile technology in their personal and professional lives, and the available apps present an array of productivity tools for the mobile lawyer.
By leveraging a smartphone recorder app, attorneys can speak the text or notes for a document into their phones as soon as they leave a client meeting. Powerful apps offer functionality and security identical to a digital recorder, including editing functions such as insert, overwrite and append. When the recording is completed, the attorney can securely upload the file to the firm’s network or cloud dictation solution with transcription and speech recognition options. By the time the attorney returns to the office, the document could be waiting for final review before client delivery.
Solo attorneys, or small firms that have little administrative support, should consider voice technology that integrates with speech recognition software, which becomes more accurate over time as it learns the speaker’s voice characteristics. A quick turnaround of voice to text in hours rather than days translates into greater detail and specificity in each document, improved client satisfaction, faster cash flow, and reduced administrative costs for the firm. Rather than typing a document on their own, attorneys can be out meeting with clients and producing additional income.
Firms need to use caution, however, because the hundreds of voice technology apps available are not all the same. The security of audio files needs to be a top concern. Look for apps that use 128-bit file encryption or create files in Digital Speech Standard (DSS) format, which provides built-in encryption and other security features to help protect client confidentiality.
Small learning curve, large ROI
Attorneys accustomed to dictating with a handheld recorder find very little workflow disruption when using a smartphone app. Most prefer it because it means one less device to carry. Moreover, workflow is more streamlined when they can also view documents, schedules and correspondence on the same device.
Research shows that most professionals speak seven times faster than they can type. Although it may take an attorney a little time to learn how to compose documents by speaking, once proficiency is reached the time savings and financial benefits start to accumulate.
Attorneys today need to get out and visit clients to provide that extra level of service that ensures satisfaction. Fortunately, travel time does not necessarily mean wasted time. Voice technology and smartphone applications allow attorneys to compose documents quickly and efficiently from the road. By leveraging both technology and support staff, firms can recoup attorney hours and invest the extra time in capturing new clients.
Have a question about how to transform your downtime into billable hours? Leave a comment and let us know!