Delivering high quality legal services depends upon experience, the proper use of technology, and clear communications.
Engaging a lawyer – What to expect
Clients are sophisticated consumers of legal services and certainly expect their lawyer to be able to deliver those services on a timely basis. They deserve to know what services their lawyer is able provide, and the costs of those services. To ensure that all parties understand what will be provided, Ted will not do any work until an engagement agreement has been provided, reviewed, and approved by a new client. The engagement letter establishes hourly fees, the services, and the expenses, and how and when invoices are to be submitted.
Clients should understand that fees charged by transactional lawyers are hourly; while every effort will be made to keep fees low, clients can have a substantial impact upon the ultimate cost of legal fees. Clients who understand what they desire, outline those desires in advance, and state their expectations clearly, ultimately will reduce their legal costs. Generally, if a client can express the objectives and allow counsel to best determine how to reach those objectives, it will reduce time. Clients that tend to micro-manage lawyers usually end up with high legal costs, as they take up much more of the attorney’s time than necessary. Clients that insist upon conferences rather than relying on telephone calls and electronic mail will also find that fees are increased. Clients inexperienced in utilizing legal services are encouraged to ask how to reduce those fees.
Technology & the Legal Profession
In the fifty years that Ted has been practicing law, the legal profession has evolved from automatic typewriters to personal computers. Beginning in the early 1980’s Ted converted his practice from a typewriter and paper practice to a computerized, paperless office, and today he maintains a practice which utilizes sophisticated technological equipment and software. By using integrated databases and specialized software, all of a client’s documents, e-mails, and other information are cross-indexed and stored, in multiple, secure, firewall protected computers, and storage devices. Ted utilizes the services of IT professionals to ensure that all equipment, software, and peripherals are as up to date as reasonably possible, and to ensure that client security is maintained.
In practice this has resulted in many years of documents being stored and indexed, which means that initial drafts of documents can be generated quickly, reducing both turnaround time and legal time, resulting in substantial savings to clients, both in financial and other terms. Documents are delivered in Adobe Acrobat’s proprietary document format, allowing them to be reviewed and printed by virtually any platform on any printer. Utilizing a number of third-party add-ins and the experience of nearly forty years of using computer assisted word processing programs, turnaround time for documents has been dramatically reduced.
Research of legal issues is conducted through either Lexis® and Westlaw® on-line research platforms, as well as other research systems. Standard form operating agreements (AAPL 610 variants) and accounting procedures (COPAS) have been licensed and various document templates for normal situations are pre-loaded, resulting in operating agreements which can be returned to a client in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days.
Ted maintains a single telephone number for clients to utilize, which reaches Ted at any location. Since Ted’s clients are in diverse areas of the globe, and in different time zones, the result is that communications are received immediately after they are sent, without the necessity of waiting for next day returns.
The pandemic has resulted in a change in client communications, centering around video conferencing, which Ted has implemented by utilizing Zoom, for face-to-face electronic meetings, and which obviate the need for travel to and from client offices.
Security of clients’ documents and information is critical. Ted has installed security software and procedures which are continually updated to ensure that all clients’ documents and information are secure. All incoming and outgoing e-mails are scanned to ensure freedom from viruses and other malware; while it is impossible to guarantee security, every reasonable precaution has been taken to ensure security. If requested by a client, additional security measures, such as encryption are available, although that may result in some delay in communications.
The use of text messages is also supported, utilizing the telephone number which is provided. For short, non-essential communications, text messaging with clients has proved to be invaluable.
All documents and information are backed up and protected to the maximum extent possible. Local and offsite storage are utilized for additional security of documents and data as well. Backups are conducted every evening, and those backups are stored locally and at least two different offsite locations.
As new innovations in technology, hardware, software, and communications come into use, they will be tested and evaluated, with the goal of providing the best of each that is then available.