Legal Industry Survey of Holiday Card Practices

CE Blog

In the United States, Thanksgiving is barely over, but the holiday card season is well under way. At ContactEase, we’ve talked to many marketers about managing the holiday card process at their firms. While some firms have moved from traditional paper cards to electronic ones, it seems that holiday cards are still very much a part of a firm’s relationships and traditions. Are we right? We’d love to get your thoughts on the subject. We’re conducting an industry-wide survey of lawyers and marketers to understand:

  • The importance of holiday cards
  • What firms are doing
  • How opinions differ between lawyers and marketers

Please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HolidayCards to take the survey. It should take about three minutes to complete. Feel free to share the link with other law firm marketers and lawyers who may have an interest. We plan to summarize these results in an upcoming white paper and will be happy to share the results with anyone who participates. 

ContactEase Holiday Traditions: P.J. Sawchuk, Director of Support & Technology 

If you’ve spent any time with our Director of Support & Technology, P.J. Sawchuk, you know how passionate he is about food. As it turns out, that extends to his family as well! One of P.J.’s favorite holiday traditions is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This Italian-American tradition is a celebration on Christmas Eve that typically includes fish and other seafood.

Of his family’s tradition, P.J. says, “We shoot for double digits. While you’ll always see things like shrimp, scallops and crab cakes [note: P.J. resides in the Baltimore area], we like to experiment, too. Some family favorites include bacalao (a salted cod dish) and an escarole with bread crumbs, olives, anchovies and capers. Big flavor!”

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Let us know in the comments!

Guest Blog: How Software Leasing Helps Law Firms Grow

In this guest blog from our friends at First American Legal Finance, Karen Leastman and Christina Floyd,  provide an overview of software leasing and five ways in which it can help law firms grow.

Software is not a one-time-use investment for law firms. From case and customer relationship management, to time and billing, law firms rely on powerful, specialized systems every day to operate efficiently and competitively.

Why then, should software be a one-time expense? The cost for software licenses can easily climb to six figures, frequently running as much or more than the cost of office rent, vehicle leases, and even the equipment on which firms run the software (which they often finance, incidentally.)

However, unlike office space, cars, and computers, software inhabits a virtual world. There is nothing physical to represent the investment. Perhaps this intangibility is why many law firms may not typically consider leasing or financing software.

But the physical and virtual domains are merging – in business and the world at large, and software assets can be just as “real” and valuable as physical ones. Firms may already be aware that when purchasing new equipment multiple finance options are available to manage the investment. What many firms do not realize is that these finance options also exist for software investments – and that financing software can yield significant benefits for the firm.

How Software Leasing Works for Law Firms

Software leases are similar to leases for equipment or property. Law firms make regular payments over a fixed term to a lessor, in exchange for the use of a software license.

Typically, software leases take one of two forms:

  • In a capital lease, the software is booked as an asset and subject to depreciation as if the lessee paid cash. Payments on a capital lease are fixed, and at the end of the lease term the lessee will have the right of use of the software with no further obligation to the lessor.
  • In a tax lease, the lease payments are booked as operating expenses, which can be written off for taxes. Because these payments do not necessarily lead to outright ownership, payments on a tax lease tend to be lower. At the end of the lease period, the firm can either pay the remaining balance to purchase the software (based on a pre-determined total cost) or continue leasing.

Reviewing and understanding the implications of each of these structures is important for a law firm to choose the best arrangement that suits their financial objectives.

How Law Firms Can Benefit from Leasing Software

Software leases can be advantageous for multiple reasons, including:

1. To Spread Payments Over Time

A firm’s employees will realize the benefits of the software system for years to come, so why should the equity partners shoulder 100 percent of the costs today? Leasing provides a fixed-rate financing arrangement where the cost of the system can be aligned with use.

2. To Preserve Cash Flow

Most law firms recognize the value of a strong cash position. Cash-on-hand is a bulwark against unpredictable markets and a resource firms can call upon to fund rapid expansion.

By leasing expensive software, firms can hold on to more of their cash, investing it in higher-value projects or maximizing their partner distributions.

3. To Minimize Bank Credit Exposure

A healthy line of credit is almost as valuable to law firms as cash-on-hand. Leasing allows firms to preserve their lines of credit while paying low fixed rates for their software.

4. To Pay for Entire Projects

Complex software implementation projects can involve multiple vendors and asset types and substantial upfront costs. As a result, firms often delay these projects until they can afford them – missing opportunities to profit from the new software in the meantime.

Bundling all the costs of a software project into a lease – including hardware upgrades, implementation services, installation and training – allows firms to do more and grow faster.

5. To Keep Software Up to Date

The speed of software development is lightning fast; this year’s software may be obsolete next year. But while the latest software can give firms powerful new capabilities, they may also loathe the idea of spending thousands for a new version of software they already own.

By leasing, firms can be sure they have the latest software without the staggering up-front costs. They can make predictable low payments on the software, and when it is time to renew, they can easily update to the latest and greatest version.

Software Is a Strategic Asset

Some law firms make the mistake of thinking of their software as just another expense. But software is a critical investment that can increase a firm’s profitability by boosting its efficiency and extending the capabilities of its legal professionals. By financing this cost, law firms can make the most of their strategic investment.

While many banks have yet to embrace financing intangible assets, equipment leasing firms like First American Legal Finance are active in this space. They offer software leasing arrangements to fit the needs of their legal customers. To learn more about software leasing for law firms, please visit First American Equipment Finance at https://www.falegalfinance.com/Solutions/Software-Financing.

About the Authors

Christina Floyd (christina.floyd@faef.com) is a Certified Lease and Finance Professional (CLFP), and has almost a decade of equipment leasing knowledge and dedicated experience working with the legal industry. Christina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from St. John Fisher College and an MBA from St. John Fisher College. Additionally, Christina has successfully completed the Legal Management Finance Specialist Certificate Program through the ALA. In her tenure, Christina has been instrumental in growing First American’s Legal Business to over 200 firms. In her free time, Christina participates in her community as a volunteer for the Al Sigl Center, and a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester. Taking advantage of New York winters, Christina enjoys snowmobiling and skiing. She resides in Rochester with her husband and two children.

Karen Leastman (karen.leastman@faef.com) has over a decade of equipment leasing knowledge and dedicated experience working with the law firm industry. Karen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration & Finance and a minor in Violin Performance from Roberts Wesleyan College. Since joining First American in 2003, Karen has been a key contributor in building First American’s law firm division which now serves over 200 law firms across the United States, including AMLAW 100 and 200 firms. As a Certified Lease and Finance Professional (CLFP), Karen is a leader in the equipment leasing industry. Outside the office, Karen is an active participant in both her church and local community where she plays the violin for local community groups and coaches community sports teams for her children.  Karen also spends time volunteering and raising funds for local charities including Women Build Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester. She resides in a suburb of Rochester, New York with her husband and three children.

 

Yes, You Can Successfully Integrate Your Website with CRM

With integrations all the rage, you might be wondering if they can benefit to your firm. The answer is most likely yes. ContactEase’s Director of Client Services, Amber Elliott, and ORBA’s Director of Marketing, Joy Long, discussed their experiences integrating ORBA’s website with CRM and its content delivery system, Constant Contact, at the Legal Marketing Association’s Tech Midwest Conference in Chicago earlier this month.

Ask Joy what she thinks of technology and she’ll tell you, “I appreciate and understand the benefits of what technology can bring to a firm. But, I also know that it’s a team effort and I need to have a right hand tech professional who understands the specifications.” So, when she began looking into integrating her website with other marketing technology tools, finding that right hand took priority. And a right hand is just what she found in Amber at ContactEase.

When Joy joined ORBA, a Chicago-based accounting firm, one of her first projects was to phase out the old paper client newsletter and implement regular, timely electronic communications. She was also tasked with purchasing a CRM. At the time, the firm had a fledgling blog, one paper newsletter and one mailing list. The process for publishing the blog was cumbersome and time consuming. Joy knew there was a better way. As anyone who has tried to effect change in a professional services firm knows, change doesn’t come fast or easy, and this is especially true when it comes to integrations. Some firms attempt to do this too early. When it comes to integrations, go, but go slow.  Amber recommends thinking about the integration as the second phase of an implementation. Implement the individual systems and allow your professionals to become comfortable with the workflow in order to identify areas for improvement.

Since implementing a CRM system about five years ago, the firm has grown from one blog to a content platform that includes nine industry and service blogs, eight quarterly newsletters and approximately two dozen client alerts. In addition, the firm sends an annual holiday card, firm announcements and is looking to add another new blog by the end of this year. Needless to say, integrating ORBA’s website with ContactEase and Constant Contact has greatly simplified the process to get each piece of content out the door and has saved the marketing department several hours each month, which they are redirecting toward other marketing initiatives.

Some things to remember when making the case for an integration:

  • Go, but go slow. Think of the integration as the second phase of implementation.
  • Show the value. When you can demonstrate how much time your department spends completing manual tasks that can be automated (e., show how much time you’re wasting), it’s easier to show the value an integration between two systems would bring (in other words, you can do even more).
  • Involve your technology partners from the start. Understand their capabilities and how they integrate with your existing systems.
  • Use your team to outline existing processes and test new ones to work out the kinks. They can identify redundancies and areas for potential automation.

Joy knew what she wanted to accomplish with her integration, but she also reaped some unexpected benefits. She knew that her content manager would save a good deal of time using the new process, but it ended up being more than she expected. As a result, she’s been able to refocus this time on driving the SEO process and has seen a marked improvement in the firm’s SEO scores and other analytics. Joy has some advice for those considering an integration:

  • Work backwards. Identify your goals, your end game and then figure out how to get there.
  • Know your budget, but build in some flexibility for the unexpected.
  • It’s a team effort. Find and identify your internal and external team (IT, marketing, technology partners, etc.) and include them from the beginning of the project so they understand what role each must play.
  • Understand your technical capabilities and make sure you have a good working relationship with your IT department.
  • Get it all in writing. Ask for a Statement of Work. Develop steps and best practices to help you identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as gaps in your existing processes.
  • Be patient. Sometimes it takes time to work out the kinks.

As a result of working on hundreds of successful CRM implementations, Amber stresses the two things all successful implementations share: a scope of work and clearly defined team responsibilities.  In addition to the considerations listed above, Amber recommends that anyone considering an integration should:

  • Ensure that the expectations (for the integration, your firm and your technology partners) are documented for clarity and agreed on by all parties involved. It is important that the objectives and desired outcomes are accounted for by everyone.
  • It must be a team effort. Programmers won’t understand your business processes and you shouldn’t expect them to. Integrations are still systems development.
  • Look for vendors who understand your workflow. When you’re selecting products, consider your team – you’ll be working closely with them for the duration.
  • Identify an internal project manager. Ideally this should be someone who has the time and ability to shepherd the process and oversee each step.

Following these best practices paid off for Joy and her firm. Joy’s experience shows us that, with a little effort, integrations can improve a firm’s internal processes and deliver a return on investment as well. Now the real question is what does she do with all that free time?

 

 

 

 

New from ContactEase: CE Mobile 2.0 Now Available!

CE Mobile Available for iOS and Android

ContactEase is excited to announce the release of CE Mobile 2.0! With the latest version of our popular mobile application, your firm’s road warriors will find it’s easier than ever to stay up to date on their business development activity no matter where they roam! Read on to learn more about these changes and how to update to the current version.

About CE Mobile 2.0

CE Mobile 2.0 introduces new features, including enhancements to the login and authentication, search functionality and results, adding and editing activities (and access to all existing activities for a contact) as well as greater consistency between the iOS and Android user interface.

Mobile Capabilities

With CE Mobile, there’s no need to wait until your professionals return to the office to provide an update on client meetings or other business development and marketing activities. CE Mobile users have access to contact data updated in real-time. CE Mobile allows users to:

  • Connect to your firm’s ContactEase database
  • Search contact and company names
  • View contact details
  • Receive driving directions
  • Send text messages and make phone calls from the app
  • Send email
  • Review activities
  • Easily create or edit activities

How to Upgrade

For this release only, existing users will need to uninstall and then install the application. Users must be licensed and have web services installed. For questions, or to confirm your licensing status, please contact support@contactease.com.

Available for iOS and Android

Android users, click here to download from the Google Play Store (or search for ContactEase from within the store). iPhone and iPad users, click here to download from the App Store (or search for ContactEase from within the store).

 

 

Jennifer Whittier and Amber Elliott to Present at LMA Tech Midwest 2018

LMA Tech Midwest Speaking

Join us at LMA Tech Midwest in Chicago! Integrations are all the rage, but are they always the best answer? In this case study presentation, Joy Long, Director of Marketing at Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams (ORBA), Jennifer Whittier and Amber Elliott, from ContactEase, will share their experiences integrating CRM with ORBA’s new website and Constant Contact. Tying these three systems together has automated the marketing team’s workflow, eliminating duplicate entry and the risk for human error and saving the team countless hours on mailings each month. Attendees will learn what to look for when considering an integration and more importantly, the questions they need to ask of both their technology providers and others in their firm as well as who to involve (hint: don’t forget IT).

Participants will leave this session with the information they need to lead technology adoption in their firms and how to ensure the project keeps moving forward. To learn more about LMA Tech Midwest or to register, visit: https://www.legalmarketing.org/page/lmatech/midwest/2018/Home.

#LMATECH

LMA Recognizes Bradley CRM Implementation with 2018 Your Honor Awards

NEW ORLEANS — The Legal Marketing Association (LMA) has selected Bradley as the First Place winner in the Technology Management: Software and Applications category of the 2018 Your Honor Awards. The award was presented to Bradley and technology partners, ContactEase and CLIENTSFirst Consulting for its CRM implementation, Bradley Connect, at the 2018 LMA Annual Conference in New Orleans. The project was also recognized with an honorable mention in the Technology Management: Applications and Innovative Use of Technology category.

“It is such an honor for our work to be recognized by the Legal Marketing Association. The success of this project would not have been possible without the leadership and support of the firm’s Marketing Committee, Bradley’s Director of Business Development and Marketing, Kelly Schrupp, our IT Project Manager, Jason Bentley and the rest of the marketing and business development and IT teams,” said Jacqueline Madarang, Senior Marketing Technology Manager at Bradley. “Attorneys are actually using the CRM to uncover and identify relationships and the firm’s clients and contacts are receiving timely industry alerts and news. It’s very exciting for us to see the hard work pay off.”

Kelly Schrupp, Director of Business Development and Marketing, said, “I’m proud of what the team has accomplished in a short period of time and am so glad they have been recognized for their commitment and the hard work they put in every day to make the CRM rollout successful.”

The LMA Your Honor Awards program recognizes excellence in legal marketing by promoting projects and programs that showcase innovation and return on marketing dollar investment. A panel of expert judges awarded first-, second-, third-place and/or honorable mention in 16 categories, encompassing work related to business development, business of law, client services, communications, marketing management and leadership, and technology.

“The Your Honor Awards winners showcase the best in the legal marketing industry, from creativity and execution to achievement and overall excellence,” said Betsi Roach, LMA Executive Director. “LMA is proud to celebrate member achievements and highlight the brilliant work our community is doing, further affirming our position as a thought leader in the legal industry.”

About Bradley Connect
The implementation was a tremendous effort on behalf of the firm’s teams. Attorneys and staff had little faith in prior systems because contacts could not be globally updated and relationships couldn’t be identified or segmented, resulting in redundant emails asking “who knows whom” and an inability to track open and bounce back rates. Looking past the implementation process, it was important that users understood the firm’s goals for the system. It was also important to staff the firm properly starting with the Marketing Technology team led by Jacqueline Madarang and Bradley partner, Justin McDonald. Users can now see “who knows whom” and other relationships a client may touch. They can now add contacts to mailings and are seeing the results of this relationship intelligence – they now benefit from seeing the relationships within the firm. Attorneys once hesitant to share contacts are now doing so. Of the almost 500 users trained, the few not participating are due only to scheduling and not resistance.

For a complete list of the 2018 Your Honor Awards winners, visit www.legalmarketing.org. Learn more about Bradley at bradley.comContactEase at contactease.com and CLIENTSFirst at clientsfirstconsulting.com.

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About the Legal Marketing Association
Founded in 1985, the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) is the universal voice of the legal marketing and business development profession, a community that brings together CMOs to entry-level specialists from firms of all sizes, consultants and vendors, lawyers, marketers from other professions and marketing students to share their collective knowledge. More than 90 percent of the largest 200 U.S. law firms employ an LMA member. Members at every stage in their career development benefit from participating in LMA’s array of programs and services.

LMA has eight regions and dozens of local groups across the U.S. and Canada, and its more than 4,200 members hail from 49 U.S. states and 28 countries. For more information, visit www.legalmarketing.org. If you would like to connect with LMA regarding this press release or the Your Honor Awards, please contact Stephanie Kusibab of the Legal Marketing Association at (312) 673-5954 or skusibab@legalmarketing.org.

GDPR: The Clock is Ticking

GDPR (1)

Are You Ready for GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect on May 25, 2018 — just a few short weeks from now. If you’re not ready, you’re not alone.  Earlier this year we presented a webinar on GDPR to our clients and as the deadline for GDPR compliance draws near, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with many of them about their data concerns. We’ve had some great conversations and received some thought-provoking questions. While there remains plenty of gray area when it comes to GDPR, two things are clear:

  1. There is no one right approach to compliance
  2. If your firm collects data on EU residents, no matter its location, you must be prepared to comply

While some firms we’ve talked to are making no changes to their data intake processes, many are using GDPR as an opportunity to clean up their data and obtain consent from all of their data subjects (no matter where they reside); others are relying on legitimate interests (a non-consent based option for collecting personal data).

Questions?

If you have questions about GDPR compliance and your marketing data, contact us! We’re here to help.

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