As I write this the curve of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the Unites States is still rising sharply. As the nation grapples with fear and uncertainty, and in Washington DC politicians play politics, most lawyers are stuck at home. For most, business has slowed, and for some, business is temporarily paused, and for a few very well prepared firms, business is accelerating.
If, like most attorneys, you suddenly find yourself with more time on your hands than usual, here are some highly productive things that you can do right now, from home, that will help make you better as a law firm owner, as an attorney, and as a human being. These things are all easy to do, and can produce a ripple effect of benefits that will last well beyond the current crisis.
1. Work on your law firm’s website. One of the most productive things that you can do with your extra time is to work on your firm’s website by creating engaging, informative and deep content that resonates with clients, potential clients and referral sources. If you’re a LawLytics member, it’s easy because you already have access to all of the tools, training and support you’ll need. If you’re not yet a member, now would be a great time to do a 20-minute demo to see what you’re missing.
2. Work on your firm’s technology infrastructure so you can practice law from anywhere at any time, no physical office required. If a sudden shift from working in the office to working at home has revealed weaknesses in your firm’s ability to work remotely, now is a great opportunity to take the time to fix those weaknesses. You’ll benefit immediately upon implementation of each new system, and the peace of mind that it will bring you and your team about future situations that necessitate staying away from the office will be invaluable. Check out the systems that we use to work remotely effectively, and my thoughts on law firm phone systems.
3. Check in with former clients. Now is a great time to reach out to former clients of your practice to see how they are doing. You don’t need an agenda to give them a call. Just let them know that you’re at home, had some spare time, and was thinking about them and wondering how they are doing. At that point, no need to ask for referrals. If they have new business they can send your way, the personal outreach, sans overt agenda, will have an effect that lasts for years.
4. Reach out to colleagues in other practice areas. Pick up the phone and call attorneys in your area that practice different types of law. See how their business is doing. Commiserate. See if there’s anything you can do to help them. Alternatively, use LinkedIn or your state bar directory to locate and reach out to attorneys that you don’t know and introduce yourself. These connections that you make or nurture during the COVID-19 crisis can easily become valuable referral sources in the near future.
5. Start a virtual networking and referral group. This works the same way as number 4 above, except it gives you a great excuse to call colleagues. When you reach out, just let them know that you’re putting together a networking group of like-minded attorneys across a spectrum of practice types to meet online once or twice a month to talk about growing their firms and to support each other. Once the group is in motion, watch as the cross-referrals fly. You can meet using a free Zoom account, and even establish a free group Slack channel for communications between meetings. By organizing it, you’ll instantly become the leader of the group, and it will take very little time or energy.
6. Get ahead on your online CLEs. Depending on the rules of your jurisdiction, you may be able to get a year or more worth of CLEs done online in your downtime. It’s time you’ll have to spend anyways, eventually, so why not bank as many hours as you can if you have time now? That extra time will translate into money when business ramps back up, and you’ll be making money while your colleagues are “stuck in class.”
7. Learn a new area of practice or refresh your knowledge about a former area of practice. Do you have a new practice area you’ve been meaning to learn, or that you think you might benefit from knowing? Now is a great time to dive in. And, combined with #6 above, you could do so while simultaneously getting credit. How about an old practice area that you think might provide a good flow of business either now or when the crisis passes? Maybe it’s a good time to get back up to date. Perhaps dust off your knowledge of foreclosure law, bankruptcy or brush up on your civil litigation knowledge if you’ve been doing transactions?
8. Become a thought-leader. Now is a great time to share what you know with the world. When you write about things that you know about, and that you’re passionate about (and that are relevant to your target audience), you are providing a much-needed and appreciated service. Even though your clients and potential clients may not be directly contacting your office today, as they read your thought-leadership pieces, you are building up name recall, trust and recognition as an expert. Your readers are more likely to become your future clients and referral sources. And, when you practice thought leadership directly on your firm’s website (usually through the built-in blog, which is as easy as using a word processor when you use LawLytics), you’re also telling the world that you are not only open for their business, but that you care. And, the ancillary benefit of using your law firm’s website as a thought-leadership platform is that the more you write, the more attention you get from search engines, which means that you won’t be dependent on buying ads or paying a marketing agency for the rest of your career.
9. Exercise and take care of yourself. The last item on this list may be the most important of all. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll be less able to take care of your business and your clients. This is a time of great stress and worry for many lawyers. Combat that stress by getting regular exercise and eating well. I know attorneys who are using this time at home (and away from unhealthy lunches with colleagues and courthouse vending machine food) to lose weight and develop healthy body habits.
These 9 ideas for productively utilizing your time at home are just the tip of the iceberg. What else can you think of that you can do, right now and right where you are, to make your practice and your future better?