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#292: The Systems for Successful Attorneys

Whether you own your own practice or work for someone else, you'll want to listen in to today's episode.

The systems for successful attorneys is more than using your case management software effectively.

It's about problem-solving the frustrations in your practice.

Most lawyers stay stuck in frustration because they don't take a time out and think through problems blocking them from creating a practice that runs smoothly.

Not you though because you found this episode of Be a Better Lawyer Podcast. Lucky you!

In this episode, you'll:

πŸ‘‰ discover hidden areas of your practice that may need a system to run more effectively

πŸ‘‰ hear case studies to inspire you to take action

πŸ‘‰ know the questions you need to askΒ to prioritize systems that need your attention now

πŸ‘‰ get a step-by-step playbook to create the systems you need now

Listen in and be sure to download your Systems Playbook to take action.

 

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The Systems of Successful Lawyers

Hello, and how are you doing today? I am prepped and ready to go to an event tonight. I am enjoying the rain here in Sacramento and I'm basically just feeling pretty chill right now. But I wanna share something with you that I don't think many lawyers think about. And it's something that's been coming up a lot in my one-on-one sessions with lawyers. So I wanted to share something with you to help you really think through systems in your own practice. And when I say systems, they're kind of the hidden systems, the systems that we don't know that we need to make because we think of systems as things we need to do with case management software or different tasks that people do. And yeah, that could be true, but there are also systems that you probably don't even know that you need so that you can get your time back in your practice so you can begin feeling less overwhelmed.

And really what we have to do is think methodically around what's happening in your practice and where you want your practice to go. Some of the objections that I hear from lawyers when we start talking about systems, as you know, I can't do that. It's not possible. They don't know how. Meaning my team doesn't know how to do that. I'm the only one who can do that. It's faster if I do that. I wanna debunk all of these today and I wanna share with you that just about anything can be delegated, just about anything can have a system to it. And when you begin systematizing these things, not only do you make your life easier, but you train your team up in a way where they become more confident, they become more competent, and they can take on more assignments from you. We lose out on really having and designing the team that we want when we don't actually put trust in them to do things.

And we have to take responsibility for creating systems and then creating some follow up. And I wanna start here by just saying this is possible for you. It is 100% possible for you to do this and I'm gonna walk you through how to do it today. So whether or not you have your own practice or whether or not you are an attorney working for someone else, you're gonna wanna listen today because I have something here for everyone. Not only that, but I wanted to create something very special for this episode because this is key in your practice. I truly believe that you need to know this and you need to be implementing this. So I created the Step-by-Step Playbook for Creating Effective and Efficient Systems. And you can download that at the show [email protected] slash 2 9 2. It is going to walk you through step by step how you will begin thinking about systems in your practice.

We're gonna talk about it here today, but I wanted you to have something tangible that you could download, that you could print out, and that you would have the questions that I'm gonna share with you all in one place. And then you can just begin implementing this quarter one next year. Okay, this is doable. I wanted to make this as simple as possible for you. So make sure you download this guide. Go to dina cataldo.com/ 2 9 2 and download your step by step playbook for creating effective and efficient systems. It's pretty beautiful if I do say so myself. Okay. Alright, let's start with some of the examples that I see that you might not even believe that you can delegate, but they are completely delegatable. You may not even believe that you can create a system for them. You can completely systematize these things. And I recently had a call with an attorney who said, you know, she really didn't want to delegate five cases that she's just been holding onto because she thinks these people are high maintenance and she doesn't really wanna give them to her associates because she felt like that just wouldn't be fair to them.

So what I asked her was, is to really clarify what she thought she did differently than her associates could do to help her clients, these five clients. And she thought about it and she said, well, I listened to them. I know the answers to these specific questions that they often ask me about finances and such and such, and I just know exactly what it is that they need. And I said, that's great. Why don't you train that to your associates? And she kind of had an epiphany where she realized that she could be writing down exactly what it was that she thought these clients needed, but not only these clients, but all of her clients. It wasn't just these five clients who had those questions. She was sure that there were other clients in her firm that are associates were already handling that might have similar questions.

And she would be empowering her associates to take on all of these cases and feel really confident answering these kinds of questions by creating a training specifically around these questions. So we can, we're gonna break this down and how you can discover where there are these hidden areas in your practice where they're taking up time. But I wanna share with you with this particular instance, I asked her, how long are you spending each week with these five cases with these five clients? And she said, about five hours per week. That's five hours per week, that's 20 hours per month. And of course, she has big plans for her practice. She wants to spend more time working on her business than working in her business. And spending those valuable 20 hours every single month on these cases that could otherwise be delegated was costing her not only monetarily, but also just in the, the building of her team in the long term.

‘Cause She's in this for the long term. Know that you two have these things in your practice where you can really be strengthening your team or strengthening yourself and the value of your own your own value proposition within whatever firm, whatever organization you're working in. And let me share this with you. So I am working one-on-one with client. She works for a large corporation. She does phone calls and gives advice on the phone all day long. And she has certain requirements from her employer to be on the call about 30 minutes while one of the things she has noticed is that she spent longer on the, on the phone than she would like. Okay? So what we've been looking at is finding out, okay, what's going on? Why do you think this is happening? And of course, we've done a lot of mindset work on it, but what it came down to is once we went through the mindset work and we understood, okay, why is she spending time with them, right?

Because that is something that you might wanna look at no matter what system you're doing. She could then say, oh, wait a minute, what do I, I think could help me get down to the 30 minutes? So we got some, some hypotheses around how she could get down to 30 minutes on a regular basis. And so she said, well, I've noticed that when I respond to a client and say, you know, I can speak with you for 30 minutes between this time and this time, that they're very conscious that I can only be with them for 30 minutes. I'm very clear about how much time I can spend with them. And then when I am listening to them at the beginning of the call and I let them express everything that they need to about the situation, then it's almost like I allow them to speak so much that it, it allows me to, to then spend less time giving my advice because I have fewer questions to ask them.

I just let them speak and then at the end I give my advice. So she had some hypotheses around how she could shorten these calls and she noticed that this was effective. So she's beginning to implement this, she's beginning to see how she can make this work on a regular basis. Another part of the system is at the end of the call, maybe being a little uncomfortable and saying, I'm so sorry I can't spend any more time on this right now, but I can schedule another call with you if you would like. So just knowing that it might be uncomfortable at the end, but then just saying, well, that's part of the system, that's part of the system I've devised and that is going to help me achieve my goals. So notice you can really systematize any frustration, any problem that you're having in your practice, no matter your practice area.

Wanna give you a couple more examples? I think I've given this example on the podcast before. I'm not sure, maybe it was in a masterclass, but one of my clients we were talking and he said that he didn't really bill contemporaneously. And instead what he was doing is he was waiting until the end of the month and spending a ton of time. It was 20 hours we calculated. And he was spending all of that time putting his, piecing his time together and sending out bills. Well, he has employees. And so I asked him, I said, well, can you delegate any of this? And he said, no, I can't do any of it. They don't know how to do it. And I said, okay, well, what do you think they need to know? And so once we got there, he said, well, I mean, I guess they really just need to know the code entries.

They need to know the price differences for the codes. They need to know when to send out the bills and just print 'em out. I mean, it's really, it's gonna take me maybe 15 minutes to train them to do that. And once he realized that, he said, wait a minute. I've been doing this for so long, it's gonna take me maybe 15 minutes to train them. Why have I been holding onto this? And so that was just one part of delegating that. The other part of that was the fear that something was gonna fall through the cracks, right? That somebody wasn't gonna get billed, that a bill wasn't gonna get sent out, something like that. And so in order to address that, what we did is we created another system, which was just to say, okay, on my calendar, once a month I'm gonna go in and I'm gonna check maybe 12 random files.

I'm gonna see how she did to make sure that she's doing it the way that I want her to. And then I can address those problems. I'll make a, a weekly meeting with her just to check in. It could be like five minutes just to check in, see how she's doing. Notice that every problem that your brain comes up with has a solution. When you calmly, methodically think about it, where we run into trouble is when we listen to the voice in our head that says, we can't do it. It's impossible. There's no way they're gonna learn how. I can't give that up. It's, it's, IM, it's just not something I want to give up because fill in the blank, if we just listen to our brain and we believe everything that it says, we will never move ahead. We will never create systems, we will never delegate anything.

And we will always feel the same way. You can't go to the next level by staying at the thinking of the level that you're at right now. So we've gotta switch it up. We've gotta really switch gears here and we've gotta start looking at the different changes you can make in your practice, the things that you can give up, the things that you can streamline. Another example I wanna give you is of an estate planning attorney that I work with, and she was saying that she felt overwhelmed. She felt like her calendar was completely unpredictable, even though she had make made huge strides in managing her time, she recognized that she still felt overwhelmed. She has a really bustling estate planning practice and she just felt like her calendar was just up in the air. Like she didn't have any control over it. And so we went through what it was she was specifically concerned about, and she said, well, I don't feel like I have hard and fast deadlines for my estate plans when they're due.

I don't feel like I'm giving myself enough time to get the estate plans done and I'm having a hard time getting people in to sign so I can move the case along. So we just took these problems one by one. The first problem was, is that she had no hard and fast rule for when the estate plan was gonna be done. So I just asked her, when do you want it to be done? And she said, well, I've been telling everybody two weeks. And I said, are you saying two weeks because you think that's when you're gonna get it done or because that's when you think you should be getting it done. There's a difference, right? Is that what you're saying? Because you think that's what your clients expect? Or are you doing it because it makes sense for your practice? So we actually talked about that and she started doing four weeks, I think she's actually up to six weeks now.

She's telling her clients during the consult, I'll have this for you in six weeks. Okay? The next step we wanna make sure that she does, she is, she started telling her clients upfront, Hey, let's set a signing date now and have it in the books, right? So you're giving your client expectations about where and when you're gonna have the signing so that it's not up in the air so that you can keep it moving. Yeah, they might reschedule, but more likely than not, now that it's in the books, it's become solid because once it's in your calendar, it's real. So then she handled, she had a couple problems handled right now, she had a hard and fast rule for herself of when she was gonna have the estate plan done then, and she could tell her clients that in the consult then she could also plan the signing so she could start moving it along and make sure that her clients had that expectation too.

And then three, what she did is she just made a notation in her calendar a few weeks before the estate plan was due to remind her to start the plan. That's it. And that made her life so much smoother. So when you start creating these kinds of systems, these hidden systems, the ones we're not even looking for, it starts to make everything easier. So I wanna just walk you through some questions to start asking yourself so that you can begin finding these hidden areas that can have a system that will give you so much time back. And in a lot of cases, a lot of money. In my client's case where he was spending 20 hours a month on billing, you gotta keep in mind his hourly billing rate was 3 25. So when you do the math on that, that's a huge amount of money every single year that he's flushing down the toilet by not delegating something like that.

So the very first thing that you wanna do is you wanna ask yourself, where are your frustrations in your practice? It's such a great fodder to find these little hidden areas of your practice. What's frustrating you? What really annoys you? <Laugh> what's happening in your practice that just seems impossible. I want you to write it all down. And then what you wanna do is you wanna look at your, your frustrations and you want to do some math. And I know that so many lawyers tell me like, you know, I didn't get into law to do math, but you kind of were. Because if you don't have math, you can't make improvements. You've gotta be able to do the math. The math will also allow you to prioritize what frustrations you want to address first with systems. So for example, let's say you have the frustration of you're saying maybe your intake staff isn't closing as many consults as you would like them to close.

So how, like, or, or let me, let me actually give you a different problem. So let's go back to my client who's spending like 20 hours on billing. That would be his big frustration, right? How many hours per month does this take? It takes 20 hours. We'll, multiply that number by 12. That's how much time you're spending on the problem. And then you're gonna multiply that number right by your billable rate or estimate about how much money you are losing by not addressing this problem. 'cause When you see these solid numbers, your brain is gonna get on board with the fact that this needs to be addressed. So often we think we can do it later, that it's not really that big of a deal. But once you start seeing how big of a deal it is and how impactful having a system can be, then you are more likely to take charge of your practice and do it.

So you wanna do that for every single one of the frustrations you have in your practice. Now, if I were working with you one-on-one, I'd be able to like help you sift through this. I would just assume that everything can have a system, maybe not. But for purposes of this exercise, just assume it, because sometimes our brain can play tricks on us and tell us, you know, that's just not possible. You know, that, that we can't systematize that. So don't listen to your brain, just play along here and do this exercise so that you can really sift out for yourself what you want to address and what can be addressed. So the next question you wanna ask yourself for each one of the the problems that you saw, right? I have in the, in the booklet in your play-by-Play Systems book, I have entries for nine problems.

Okay? You might have more, you might have less. I hope you have less, but I put space in there for nine, you're not gonna address all nine. You just wanna pick maybe two or three that you really wanna address. Those are the ones you're gonna ask these following questions about, because then you're going to prioritize out of those three. So one of your priorities, one of the frustrations that you have that you're prioritizing, you're gonna ask yourself what's already working, right? So for instance, with the estate plan example, you know, what was really working is she's already bringing people in. Her clients seem to really appreciate her. They're very responsive. But what wasn't working, which is the next question, is what's not working is well, you know, they're just not setting up the the signings as quickly as I would like. They're not reaching out to me.

Maybe they're not responsive to her in that moment. She's having a difficult time getting the signings on the days that she wants. So then the third question that you're gonna ask yourself is, what will you do differently? And this is where you hypothesize. So for her, she asked herself, okay, what do I think can can change this? Can turn this around? Well, I will in my consults, let them know that we just book the signing right now and we put it in the calendar right now. So that way you're solving for that problem ahead of time. That's the system. So then you are just gonna like play, okay? You're gonna take each of these two or three priorities, right? The ones that maybe either the most frustrating and you just wish they would go away, or the ones that are the most time consuming and are costing you the most money, you're gonna take those and you're gonna play with creating some systems.

Okay? So for instance, for the estate plan example, again, right now I'm having a consult. I'm telling my clients I'll have the project done in two weeks and then I complete the projects in two weeks, but then I can't get a hold of them to do the signing. I feel overwhelmed and I have a lot of other projects going on and I need to move these projects. Okay? What I want is, and this is where you fill in the blank, I want a smooth practice where estate plans are moving and I am not chasing down clients to book signings. I will help. And this is the next part, I will help myself and my staff achieve this by. So in this particular example, she's gonna achieve this by telling her client in the consult when the signing is, she's also going to tell them further out that it's not just gonna be two weeks, it's gonna be maybe five or six weeks when it will be done.

And then she's also going to communicate with her assistant. This is important. This is a step that so many lawyers skip up. So if you kind of tuned out, tune back in when you implement any new system, inform your staff, okay? Your assistant especially needs to know because people are gonna call her or him and they're gonna have questions and she's not gonna be able to answer them accurately if she doesn't have updated information. So make sure you're communicating with them and making sure that they can do what they need to do to help your practice run smoothly. Okay? The next thing that I wanna offer to you is to really consider for those systems that you make that are gonna be a little more involved, right? Like, so for example I have a client who, the the client who had some high maintenance she thought they were high maintenance clients, they might be a little bit more involved.

There's different topics she wants to make sure that her staff are informed on. So she's gonna need to spend some time thinking about it, brainstorming on it. And so in the, in the step-by-step playbook, I've given you space to do this math, but I want you to think about how long it's gonna take you to brainstorm the training. Do the checklist or the video or the in-person training, whatever it is that you decide you wanna do, and then estimate how long it's gonna take you to deliver that system. Because when you look at that number, you're really gonna know right away if it's worth it for you. Most of the time it is, but just check in. Is it worth it to me to take on this project right now? Or should I be taking on a different problem? And I want you to really commit to when you're gonna do this by.

So commit to a date of when this is going to be completed, when the training is going to be given, and a note on these trainings. So while in-person is great and I am all for that, I also believe that for the longevity of any business, you've gotta have your systems in a book or in a video format, whatever checklist you're gonna do. And you can listen back to my client Alison Carr's episode. She really talks about the systems that she's created and like how she went about, you know, really creating some amazing teams. And it includes doing something in addition to the one-on-one training because your staff, I hate to say it, they're gonna leave, okay? They're gonna leave and new people are gonna come in. And you don't wanna have to be reinventing the wheel for yourself, it's gonna take up more time, more energy.

So pay attention to this guide, download the playbook, and then take what you get from that and then make your system into something that's a hard copy, a checklist, a video a, a book, right? Whatever it is that you need, some kind of online folder with the information that they need. You can always do the in-person part two, but have something that's a hard copy. So they're not always coming to you asking questions. You can refer them to the source document that has the answers to all of their questions. Alright my friend, so remember, go to dina cataldo.com/ 2 9 2 and download your step-by-step playbook for creating effective and efficient systems. And if you want to continue this work with me, one-on-one book a strategy session with me at dina cataldo.com/strategy session. I hope you have a wonderful week. I'll talk to you soon, my friend. Bye-Bye.

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