LinkedIn Groups Gets an Update

LinkedIn GroupsI’ve long been an advocate of LinkedIn Groups as a business development tool, but, especially with the previous round of changes that separated Groups into a stand-alone app, many lawyers didn’t take advantage of Groups.

This month, LinkedIn announced it’s making some changes to its Groups feature in both the website and mobile app that should improve the user experience.

Groups will now be re-integrated into the main LinkedIn user interface for a more seamless experience, making it easier to access your Groups from the LinkedIn Home page.

With the new Groups interface, you’ll also see conversations from your Groups right in your main LinkedIn news feed. Threaded replies will be incorporated, and you’ll be able to edit posts and comments and reply to comments from the app.

Rich media features will also be added to Groups, allowing members to post video, multiple images or rich media links to Group discussions.

For those of you who are overwhelmed with email, you may be happy to learn that instead of getting updates from your Groups via email, those updates will now be incorporated into your LinkedIn notifications.

Changes in LinkedIn Group Administration

The previous round of changes to LinkedIn Groups included a lot of changes in how Groups were administered and monitored.

LinkedIn is simplifying Groups administration by reducing the number of categories of users in Groups to just owners, managers and members. Groups members who were previously designated as moderators will become regular members unless the Group’s owner elevates the user to a manager.

All Group members will be able to post in their Groups without prior approval. Group admins should block or remove members who consistently violate the Group’s rules since pre-approval will no longer be available.

Both Group members and admins will still be able to report inappropriate content to help reduce spam, and admins will continue to be able to edit or remove posts and comments that violate that Group’s rules.

Group managers will be able to pin items to the top of a Group’s feed.

Why You Should Use LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are an excellent tool for gathering valuable intelligence about your audience. By following Groups on LinkedIn that contain your target audience (existing and potential clients and referral sources), you can learn about their problems and concerns and see what’s important to them.

In Groups, people share information, brainstorm ideas, discuss their interests and challenges,  post informational articles or links and conduct polls, making it easy for you to get to know others and for them to get to know you.

Groups give you the ability to reach out to your target audience to ask for feedback, educate them about your services or the legal issues that affect their lives and/or businesses, demonstrate your knowledge, and increase your visibility.

Reviewing LinkedIn Group discussions and activity can also help you to generate ideas for new service offerings, blog posts, articles, presentations, and more.

Joining Groups gives you access to a wider audience that goes beyond just your direct connections. As a Group member, you can view the list of members who share a specific interest, and navigate to their Profiles for additional information or to connect.

Getting The Most Out Of LinkedIn Groups

To get the most benefit from Groups on LinkedIn you need to be an active participant, just as you would when joining a group or community in “real life.” Merely being a member won’t do too much for you-you have to get involved: start discussions, post interesting articles, engage with other Group members and their content, and reach out to begin one on one discussion or connect.

Engage naturally in Groups, just as you would in an in-person networking setting. Provide value. Don’t over-promote. Be sure to review the Group’s rules and abide by them. Post content that is relevant to the specific Group.

Don’t just post links – add your own commentary, ask a question or make a statement to encourage interaction.

The new Groups experience should begin rolling out to users shortly.

Improve Your Law Firm’s Collaboration and Productivity with G Suite

Improve Law Firm Collaboration and Productivity with G SuiteIntroduction

Looking to improve workplace collaboration & productivity within your law practice? Miles Hischier, of HiView Solutions, a Google Integration Partner, authored this article for Lawyer Meltdown to share insights about how law firms can use Google G Suite for work email, project collaboration, and document storage. Learn about G Suite  and the popular features relevant to a law firm.

What is G Suite?

Google G Suite, sometimes called by its former name, ‘Google Apps for Work,’ is a collection of Google office productivity apps for business. The G Suite package includes:

  • Professional email through Gmail (name@domain.com)
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Hangouts
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs

. G Suite also includes administrative tools through the G Suite Admin Panel.

Google offers 3 plans: G Suite Basic ($5/user/month), G Suite Business ($10/user/month), and G Suite Enterprise ($25/user/month). This article focuses on G Suite Business, which is appropriate for law firms with fewer than 250 employees.

Google Doc Features that Lawyers Love

Suggesting Mode. Google Docs allows you to ‘track changes’ and provide specific feedback inline within a particular document. Suggestions appear in colored text and can be “accepted” or “rejected” by other editors.

Commenting. This feature can be utilized to provide metadata or commentary about a specific inline edit. Just like Microsoft word, comments are captured & labeled with the commentator’s name.

Version Control. Instead of manually versioning files by name & date, Google automatically saves all edits. At any time, you can review the entire version history of a document and identify who made the last change and what specifically was changed.

Interoperability with MS Word. Google Docs can be downloaded into MS Word Docs. Google Doc Suggestions & Comments will also transfer into the Word doc as well.

Google Drive for Document Storage

With G Suite Business, you get unlimited storage (with 5+ users) and Team Drives, which enables law firm ownership of files/folders instead of Drive file ownership at the employee level.

Team Drives. Team Drives can be a useful complement to your case management system. For instance, you can add multiple Team Drives, organized by client name or by case, and then archive Team Drives over time. With unlimited storage & Google Vault for data retention (see below), you’ll have an easy search panel to cull through old files down the road if needed.

Work with MS Office Files through Filestream. Filestream was created so you can easily work in MS Office from your local computer and save new versions to your Google Drive account. Filestream is a Dropbox-like sync client that connects to your G Suite account and automatically uploads a new version of your MS Office Document to G Suite. You only need to select the Filestream folder through Finder on Mac or Explorer on Windows.

Protect Firm Data through the G Suite Admin Panel

 Mobile Device Management. If you have employees accessing work data on their own mobile devices, you can use Google’s built-in mobile device management service to enforce a device passcode, helping ensure that a lost iPhone doesn’t compromise your firm’s information. Further, admins can configure ‘account wipe’ which enables you to remove all firm data from the mobile phone without deleting the employee’s personal data, like photos.

Drive Sharing Controls. Since law firms handle sensitive information, we recommend that you disable external link sharing. This means that links can be shared internally, or with clients/partner organizations that have been whitelisted through the G Suite Admin Console. If someone outside of this protected realm needs to access a document, they can still be added directly to a file as “contributor,” but will need a Google Account to access the file.

This can happen 1 of 3 ways:

  1. Their company has G Suite
  2. The account shared with is a @gmail account, or
  3. They’ve created a free Google Account with their work email address at accounts.google.com

This way, you always know who your information is being shared with. With external link sharing enabled, anyone with the link can open that file.

Security Controls. From 2-factor authentication to usage reports, there’s a range of security control options that administrators can enable through the Admin Console to ensure G Suite is secure. Read more about G Suite Security here.

Google Vault (eDiscovery & Retention). Google Vault enables law firms to archive historical mail, chat, and group history. Google Drive Files can be archived as well. Firms can enable a default retention rule, such as “save indefinitely” to retain information. Google Vault can also be used for Legal Holds, Search, and Exporting data. Audit reports are also available to show actions taken by Vault users.

Google Meet for video/audio conferencing with clients

 Google Meet is a scalable and stable audio/video solution. Google Meet offers a way to join via URL from a computer, as well as a unique dial-in number & meeting PIN. This way, you can present yourself on camera to your clients or colleagues in another location and review documents together. Sometimes, it might be useful to simultaneously share a Google Doc so you can collaborate in real time on the call as well. G Suite Enterprise is quite a step up in price but includes the option of recording calls if you desire that functionality.

G Suite = A new way of working

G suite offers law firms a collaborative set of tools that provides alternative workflows to the traditional Outlook/MS Word combo that many law firms rely on today. Plus, as you bring younger lawyers into your practice, there’s a strong chance they’re well versed in this set of tools already. Google offers a very similar toolset in their G Suite for Education package, and younger employees (most people under age 35) bring Google Apps knowledge with them to the office.

For employees less familiar with Google products, a quality Change Management engagement with a Google Partner like HiView Solutions can help you convert even the most stubborn employees over to new ways of working. To learn more about G Suite, visit gsuite.google.com.

Billing Tips for Solos and Small Firms

paying with credit cardThis post contains affiliate links. If you click through, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). 

One of the biggest hassles of being a solo or small firm lawyer is dealing with billing issues including tracking time (if billing by the hour), generating invoices, tracking payments, following up on late payments, generating financial reports, logging expenses, and more. And one of the biggest areas of conflict between lawyers and their clients is conflict about billing, invoices and fees, in part because lawyers don’t track or enter time properly, send bills consistently, or create bills that are easy for clients to understand and pay.

There are many solutions for solo and small firm lawyers to get rid of these headaches, including full-featured practice management programs that include time tracking, billing and invoicing, calendaring, document and case management. But if you’re not ready for a complete practice management program (or if your practice management solution doesn’t include billing and accounting functions), and you’re looking for an easy to use, quick to deploy billing and accounting solution for your solo practice or small law firm, FreshBooks might be the answer for you.


I personally use FreshBooks for Legal Ease Consulting and it has become an essential part of my practice. FreshBooks is a cloud-based billing and accounting software program that includes a whole host of features to help you with your firm’s finances, and the dashboard makes it ridiculously easy to see where you are financially at any time.

Estimates

Clients like to know that their legal matter will actually cost them, not just what your billable rate is. Any time you can provide clients with an up-front estimate or budget, it’s a win for you (if you stick to the budget and explain variables that might affect the budget or fee in advance).

FreshBooks has an estimates feature that can help minimize that friction with clients whether you’re billing on a flat or fixed-fee basis or billing by the hour. They can also be great for clarifying the budget or scope of work, or for giving clients a roadmap of the steps that will be needed for their matter to reach a conclusion.

FreshBooks has estimate templates you can use, and they can be customized with your logo, colors and images. Clients can view and accept the estimate online, and you’ll be able to check the status in your dashboard to see whether the client viewed or accepted the estimate. You can also create discussions through comments to work through any questions the client might have. You can also use the estimates to compare to actual invoices and fees in the future to improve your budgeting and estimating skills.

Time Tracking

Tracking time is unavoidable if you bill by the hour. It’s always adviseable to keep track of your time as you are performing tasks for clients. This not only leads to more accurate billing, but it saves you the time it takes to attempt to re-create what you did later.

FreshBooks includes a timer that will help you keep track of how long you spend on specific tasks, and you can easily see how much time has been logged by your associates or staff. Time can be logged on the go with the FreshBooks mobile app.

Once the time entry is created, it’s easy to add it to an invoice. You’ll also have the added benefit of being able to see how much time is being spent on specific tasks so you can improve your productivity (not to mention your client estimates and budgets).

See more about Freshbooks time-tracking here.

Professional-looking invoices

The days of manual billing should be long past us, but too many solos and small firms are still sending invoices on the fly using a word processing program. Not only does this make billing and payments difficult to track, but it looks unprofessional and it takes up far too much time.

If you’re meticulous about your work product, your business cards, your website, and your appearance when meeting with clients, why wouldn’t you be just as meticulous with your invoices or billing statements?

Your invoices should be well laid-out, easy to understand, professional looking, and contain your firm’s name (and/or logo), address, descriptions of the work performed for clients and the fees charged. FreshBooks can help you with all of that. It’s easy to create invoices, set due dates, or even send recurring invoices for clients on a regular payment plan. Again, you can use the templates already in Freshbooks or customize your own.

One of the things I love about FreshBooks is that I can see the status of every invoice that was sent out. I check my dashboards periodically to make sure that none of my invoices were overlooked by my clients. I can see whether a client has viewed the invoice, and if they haven’t viewed it within a specified period of time, I can reach out to them to make sure it didn’t land in their spam folder or get lost in the shuffle somewhere, and I can easily re-send the invoice.

I don’t have to worry about following up for late payments, either. I can set up FreshBooks to send my clients a late payment reminder automatically if payment has not been received within the amount of time I specify. If you want, you can also add late payment penalties.

See more about invoicing with Freshbooks here.

Accept credit cards and online payments

Make it easy for your clients to pay you – and get paid faster – by sending clients online invoices and accepting credit card payments. One of the great things about using FreshBooks is that you don’t need to set up a separate merchant account and payment gateway or jump through a lot of hoops to accept credit cards.

If you decide to take credit cards, you need to set up the feature in FreshBooks (they take a percentage of the fee, similar to other credit-card acceptance platforms), click a button in the invoice, and your client will be able to pay you with a click of a button in the invoice as soon as it is emailed to them.

But if you don’t want to accept credit cards, you can still send online invoices and tell FreshBooks that you only want to accept checks – your clients will still get their invoice by email, which can significantly decrease your wait to get paid.

Find out more about accepting payments through FreshBooks here.

Expense tracking

If you connect your bank account to FreshBooks, you can automatically track and categorize expenses, and even pass expenses along to your clients where appropriate. Freshbooks will also let you take a picture of a receipt and add it to an expense, making it much easier at tax time.

If you don’t want to connect your bank account, you can add and tag expenses yourself. Either way, it’s easy to see what your weekly, monthly and yearly expenses are.

Financial reporting

Don’t wait until tax time to take a look at your firm’s overall finances. Financial reports can help you see where your firm stands financially at any time, and can give you insights into average fees, fees billed vs. fees collected, how much work was written off, and more.

In addition to the dashboard mentioned above, FreshBooks has a host of financial reporting capabilities to help you stay on top of your firm’s finances (and to help you and your accountant prepare your taxes!). These include profit and loss statements, accounts aging and expense reports, among others. You can sort, filter and customize reports so you get only the information you need when you need it.

See more about financial reporting with Freshbooks here.

FreshBooks is just one of the tools that I use in my practice – it makes dealing with my firm’s finances not only easy to use, but easy to understand. You can try Freshbooks for free, or look at the FreshBooks Pricing Page for full details on all of their plans. (If you click on these links and sign up for FreshBooks, I get a small commission at no additional cost to you, but I wouldn’t recommend FreshBooks if I didn’t think it could be helpful to you!)

FREE Data Protection Checklist for Choosing Cloud Practice Management Providers

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Download our FREE data protection checklist for cloud practice management program selection – just enter your name and email below. I promise never to share your email – it’s safe with me.

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How to Do More In Less Time Podcast

How to Do More In Less Time Cover Image

Having difficulty managing your workload? Think you could be more productive? My newest book, How to Do More In Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line may help. The first part of the book will provide you with strategies to help you manage your day to day tasks, while the second part of the book will give you specific tips on how you can shave time off of everyday tasks by using the software programs you’re already employing in your law practice more efficiently.

Want a preview?

Listen to this podcast interview with me and my co-author, Daniel J. Siegel.