3 Tips to Improve Your Follow-Up Strategy

Following-up is an essential skill in virtually every industry. Whether you’re reminding a preexisting client or just trying to make connections, it is likely that at some point, you won’t get a response. So what do you do? You either follow-up or give up!

In my mind, giving up is a lost opportunity; whereas following-up has no risk and the possibility of a huge reward. Following-up shows that you’re taking initiative; if it’s something you want badly enough, you go after it.

Understandably, many people associate following-up with annoying someone. This is a valid concern, so it’s essential to keep your follow-ups in moderation. But, by incorporating these guidelines into your follow-up strategy, you’ll likely have more success.

1. Don’t Overthink

When you send an email and you don’t immediately get a response, try not to overthink. I’m guilty of overthinking too – I don’t receive a response, and my immediate reaction is, “They must not like me, they’re ignoring me!” While yes, that Is possibly the case, beating yourself up over it is futile; it’s better to expend effort on improving and focusing on what you can More than likely, however, it’s not a case of them ignoring or disliking you, it’s all in your head.

2. Send a Short Reminder

If you sent out an email to someone you don’t know very well, give them a week to respond, and if you don’t hear back, don’t be afraid to send a short follow-up email. Express that you’re following-up, reiterate what your first email was about (but do it in a nuanced way – fewer words and different language), and make a statement to continue the conversation.

The key to this tip is to keep it short, sweet, and to the point. The people you’re emailing are likely busy; it’s best to acknowledge that by the length of your email.

3. Know what you want

When many people don’t get a response, they give up. This is unfortunate. Making a worthwhile connection could give you a huge leg up in your career or even could result in the immediate acquisition of business – little to nothing to lose, and so much to gain by following up!

Knowing your end goal with a particular contact will help keep you focused and motivated. So if you think of throwing in the towel, remember the money you could make, the job you want, or whatever else your motivation is, and forge ahead with your follow-ups!

Conclusion

At ClientSide, we know that in the professional services, follow-ups are an everyday task. That’s why, we provide a way for you to send customized automated email reminders to your clients in accordance to your schedule. This way, you don’t have to worry about those pesky reminders – just set and forget! Want to learn more about automated reminders and ClientSide’s other tools for efficiency? Start your free trial now!

5 Ways to Optimize Your To-Do List

We know that a good portion of you rely on to-do lists to organize your work lives and/or your personal lives. But we also know that there are ways to make your to-do list easier to work with and more helpful in managing your day-to-day. Here, we want to give you some tips on how to optimize your to-do list.

1. Choose the Method That is Most Familiar and Comfortable for You

Some people prefer to handwrite their lists, whereas others are utilizing technology to keep their lists organized and accessible anywhere, anytime. With respect to technology, there are several options to choose from. That being said, the best options have syncing capability, scheduling options, and provide notifications or reminders. You should make sure that you look into the options and pick the tool that has the combination of features that you’re seeking.

2. Update Your List Nightly 

Regardless of whether you’re handwriting your list or using your phone or computer, updating your list the night before keeps your list updated, prioritized, and ready to go for the next day. This way, you don’t have to spend time in the morning getting organized and figuring out your next steps. It’s well-documented that people are more efficient in the morning, so by being ready-to-go you can capitalize on the time that you’re most productive.

3. Simplify

It’s best not to overcrowd your list with a bunch of items because that becomes distracting and overwhelming. Rather, a simple list is much easier to handle and prioritize. It’s also helpful to create lists in bundles. In other words, have a list for work tasks, another for personal tasks; one list for immediate goals and another for long-term goals.

4. Put Your Action Items on Your Calendar

Start off by approximating how long each one of your list items will take, and then find blocks of time on your calendar that you can use to accomplish a number of tasks. Some experts suggest three hours is an appropriate block of time to get work done without getting distracted. Then, once you’ve made it through your work block, give yourself a mini reward like a little snack.

5. Take Breaks

This one has to do more with your mental health. Taking breaks keeps you focused and more productive. It’s important to take mental reprieves to get the most out of yourself and to feel great after you’ve accomplished what you need to do.

Conclusion

Optimizing your to-do list is essential in maximizing your efficiency, but with ClientSide you have a tool that helps you accomplish some of your to-do list in a fraction of the time. With ClientSide, you can send your documents in just a few clicks; you can check up on the status of your pending signatures in one central location; and you can set automated reminders to be sent on a preset schedule. Want to learn more about how ClientSide can be a tool to get your to-do list done faster? Start your free trial now!

Four Tips for Effective Networking

When people talk about building a professional network, it’s often associated with attending happy hours and other meetings, shaking a bunch of hands, and collecting business cards. These are surely part of the picture, but too often people don’t realize the serious impact networking can have on their business. Networking is a fundamental skill of any business person, but in order for it to become a skill of yours, you have to understand how to do it well. Here I’ll give you some tips to improve your networking skills.

1. Follow-Up

The goal with networking is to build a relationship, which takes more effort than a five-minute conversation. When you meet someone, make sure that you secure a means to follow-up with him or her. Ask for a business card, jot down an email address, or even just ask for their last name so you can add them on LinkedIn. Personally, I prefer email or phone info over LinkedIn (though you can always do both), but something is always better than nothing! Relationships aren’t built overnight, or in this case in five minutes, so make sure you have a way to continue building on the connections you make.

2. Have a Game Plan

It’s always best to have a plan for a networking conversation or networking event. For events, you should try and take a look at who will be attending, and who you would like to talk to and why you want to talk to them beforehand. Not all events will list the attendees, but you should consider who will be attending so you are prepared for prospective conversations. Aside from events, if you schedule a networking meeting or phone call, you should educate yourself on the person whom you’re meeting with. What do they offer you? What do you offer them? These are important questions to consider before your conversation.

3. Strike Up Conversations

At networking events people often perceive a large group of individuals as intimidating and they find it difficult to find their place. The reality is the vast majority of the people there are in the same boat as you! With that said, don’t be afraid to approach anyone. Sure, they may not be the person you came in the door wanting to meet, but you never know who could end up being a resource. You’ll be surprised by the number of valuable connections you can make by striking up a conversation with a random stranger!

4. Have a Balanced Conversation

It’s important to be mindful of the way your conversation is going with someone. You don’t want to just ramble about yourself, but you also don’t want to constantly avoid talking about yourself either. With that said, you have to find a way to balance talking about yourself and not talking about yourself at all. When the person you’re engaging asks you a question about yourself, of course answer in a friendly, genuine way; but then follow-up your response with a question about the other person. This way, your voice is heard without monopolizing the conversation.

Conclusion

Networking is all about relationship-building, and at ClientSide we place an emphasis on the maintenance of and improvement upon relationships. A central goal with our technology is to make your clients’ experience working with you more pleasurable. In this way, we help you foster positive, lasting relationships with your clientele. Want to learn how you can improve your client relations with smart technology created by a company whose focus is you and your business? Start your free trial today!

Top Ways to Improve Your Engagement Letters Part 2

Here we will continue delving into the top mistakes made on engagement letters, and the steps you can take to improve your engagement letters. To catch up, check out part one here.

Tip 6: Establish Expectations

In the engagement letter, it is a good idea to establish what the client can expect from your relationship. In terms of communication, you ought to explain how it will typically be handled, how often, how a clients’ communication will be returned (via phone/email), and when/how to expect filings, letters, and documents to be delivered.

It is also good to establish the decision-making authority in the engagement letter. This could entail: short extensions to deadlines as needed, the right to pursue whatever steps necessary for an expressed purpose (within reason), and how issues should be handled in correspondence, pleadings, or court matters.

Additionally, it’s smart to make an explicit statement regarding the inevitable uncertainty of results. This way, by stating that there’s, “no guarantee in success,” you can protect yourself from claims that you promised a certain result.

Always avoid language that operates as a superlative or definitive statement because this language can be take as an assumption of a higher standard of care in the case that your relationship with your client sours.

Finally, it is smart to establish responsible use of email and social media in the engagement letter. In this way, you’ll be able to conduct your work in the most efficient manner, while also protecting yourself.

Tip 7: Clearly State the Clients’ Expectations

It’s essential that you outline the responsibilities of your client before you commence your working relationship.

You should require full disclosure of all facts and documents on their behalf. This will help you in conducting your risk assessment of working with a particular client. This could also save you time and money, in the case that your client reveals unpleasant information in an untimely manner, such as during a trial. Putting the requisite of truthfulness in writing will help shield you from the difficulties that could potentially arise in this situation.

You should also necessitate your clients’ cooperation in the engagement letters. They should agree to keeping their appointments with you and making themselves available for meetings, hearings, trials, depositions, etc.

You should explicate the clients’ duties to keep their contact information updated and to keep your staff informed of any changes in structure or ownership. They should also agree to pay invoices and you should establish the termination of your partnership should they elect not do so.

Finally, if necessary, you should, in writing, establish your clients’ duty to preserve evidence. This could save your firm from a malpractice suit and your client from court-imposed sanctions should some piece of evidence be needed and be unable to be obtained.

Tip 8: Establish the Terms of Termination and Withdrawal

You should, outright, state that a client may terminate a partnership at any time. You should also explain when you’re allowed to terminate a relationship. Try to establish the conditions in as clearly as possible (e.g. the lawyer may withdraw for any reason; 1. if the client fails to cooperate or communicate, 2. If the client fails to pay 3. If the client threatens to lie, etc.)

Be sure to check with your jurisdiction regarding its rules on how a withdrawal can and should happen.

Finally, establish when a relationship should be deemed to have ended. This will help determine when your current client becomes a former client for conflict purposes.

Tip 9: Clarify Document and File Retention Procedures

You should use the engagement letter to explain how a client’s documents will be handled while you are working together and after the matter has concluded. You should clearly state what will happen to the original documents when the matter is over and how long your firm will maintain the client’s file.

It is important to consider the rules of your jurisdiction regarding the required duration of retaining a client’s file, but you should also consider other potential circumstances that could impact how long you want to keep a client’s file; for example, the potential of working together in the future.

Tip 10: Discuss Dispute Resolution

When possible, you should consider incorporating alternative dispute resolution provisions in your engagement letter to require mediation and/or arbitration to resolve any disputes.

These provisions can be advantageous in that mediation and arbitration are confidential procedures that can be handled internally and privately. Additionally, discovery is usually more limited in arbitration, which could help reduce the cost and the time spent on litigation. There are also fewer chances to appeal in arbitrations.

It is important to consider what your jurisdiction says regarding arbitration and mediation. You may, based on jurisdiction, need to distinguish between the arbitration of fee disputes and malpractice claims. Furthermore, some jurisdictions simply prohibit or do not approve of the inclusion of arbitration provisions in the engagement letter. Others say that these provisions are not enforceable, but the clients must be informed of the consequences of such a provision. Meanwhile, other courts have upheld arbitration provisions without requiring the disclosure of potential consequences. Clearly there is a good amount of variability, so it is essential to check with your jurisdiction.

Conclusion

Clearly, a lot goes into drafting an engagement letter, but there are circumstances where you’re simply replicating the same engagement letter with minor modifications. With that in mind, you should consider ClientSide’s Form functionality, that enables you to quickly prepare your forms using a custom template created to suit your needs. Imagine sending your engagement letter out with just a few clicks. We’d love for you to see for yourself; click here to start your free trial today!

Top Ways to Improve Your Engagement Letters Part 1

Engagement letters are an essential part of a professional services practice; they formally define and establish the terms of your legal relationship with your clients. Too often, though, an engagement letter is weakened by a lack of clarity. Here, I will outline a few aspects of an engagement letter to keep in mind to strengthen your future engagement letters.

Tip 1: Establish the Terms in Writing

By establishing the terms of an engagement agreement in writing, you and your client can ensure that you’re in mutual agreement. This explicit documented agreement can also help in risk management in case of a dispute between attorney and client. It is essential to note, however, that a written agreement is virtually meaningless, and potentially harmful, without a client’s signature. The rule of thumb here is to be explicit in your writing and always secure your clients’ signatures.

Tip 2: Identify the Client Clearly

Uncertainty in who you represent can undoubtedly lead to conflict. To avoid this uncertainty, you can use your engagement letter to clearly state who your client is and who your client is not.

This can particularly be an issue when you’re representing a corporate entity with multiple owners, shareholders, and officers. In the case that your client is the corporate entity rather than the individual subgroups of owners, shareholders, and/or, officers, it is best to clearly state this. If, you’re only representing one party, clearly state who is and who is not represented by calling attention to the related entities and individuals

Similarly, in cases where there are multiple subsidiary companies, the lawyer should identify which entities are and are not to be represented by them. Avoiding broad language that encompasses all companies can certainly help avoid conflict.

Tip 3: Consider Conflict

Being open and honest when it comes to conflict is the best plan of action. If you find a potential conflict of interest, it is best disclosed in writing. If the client chooses to proceed, then explicate the conflict in your engagement letter along with the potential disadvantages of continuing to work together. You should then seek out a signed conflict waiver (but beware: not all conflicts can be waived).

In your engagement letter, explain what will happen should a conflict arise. With multiple clients, explain the course of action should there be a conflict between the jointly-represented clients, and also establish the terms of information disclosure between the jointly represented clients.

Tip 4: State the Scope Clearly

Too often, clients think they’re getting more than what they pay for, and this results in conflict. To prevent this from happening, you should clearly state, in writing, what you have been hired to do. The more specific you can be in your engagement letter with respect to what you will and will not be responsible for, the better. Broad statements, open-ended language, and vagueness ought to be avoided. And should you be handling work outside of the scope of your agreement later on, you should issue an amendment to be signed by the client.

Tip 5: Clearly State Fees and Costs

In every jurisdiction, lawyers are required to communicate the rate of fees; some require it to be in writing (with some exceptions) and some prefer it to be in writing. But, in most, if not all, jurisdictions, contingent fee agreements must be in writing.

It is also important to answer the questions of a retainer cost in the agreement. If you will have a retainer, how will work and how will it be used?

Unless you are employing a fixed fee model, your engagement letter should acknowledge the unpredictability of the total fee, as well as establishing the hourly rate and its potential fluctuation.

You ought to also include the reimbursable expenses and how expenses are calculated, while keeping in mind the significant costs that may arise.

Lastly, your engagement agreement should tell the client when they will be invoiced, when payments are due, the interest fee that will be tacked onto unpaid invoices, and the effect of a failure to object to invoices.

Conclusion

Clearly, a lot goes into drafting an engagement letter, but there are circumstances where you’re simply replicating the same engagement letter with minor modifications. With that in mind, you should consider ClientSide’s Form functionality, that enables you to quickly prepare your forms using a custom template created to suit your needs. Imagine sending your engagement letter out with just a few clicks. We’d love for you to see for yourself; click here to start your free trial today! Interested in more tips on improving your engagement letters? Click here for part 2!

The Difference Between a Task and a Workflow

We know that differentiating tasks and workflows can be a little tough to understand, so we thought we would use this post to explain the difference. We hope that by the end of this post you’ll see that by attuning your focus to your workflows (rather than your tasks) you’ll be able to accomplish your larger objectives much more efficiently.

What Is a Task?

A task is a single isolated process that goes into accomplishing a larger objective. Tasks are repeated, usually sequentially, every time a specific, larger objective must be accomplished.

What Is a Workflow?

A workflow is the larger objective. In other words, a workflow is a complex end goal that is achieved by completing its component sub-tasks.

An Example

We know that this difference may seem convoluted, so we wanted to provide a relevant application to illustrate the difference.

Let’s use sending a document out for signature using the traditional print-sign-scan model. Each of these steps (print, sign, scan, email) represents a task. To print a document constitutes a task. To sign the document, another task. To scan the document, you got it, another task. Finally, to email the document, yet another task.

To conceptualize the larger goal that you achieve by way of these subtasks is to understand the larger workflow. The larger goal in this case is to have a document successfully signed; in other words, these tasks are the components of a signing workflow.

How to Apply This to Your Firm

It’s important to note that with this traditional print-sign-scan model, there are more tasks involved than the step-by-step print, sign, scan, email; there are a series of reminders sent on behalf of your law firm and the potential errors and steps taken to remedy those errors just to name a few.

With ClientSide, transcend the traditional step-by-step print-sign-scan-email model by adopting a streamlined signing workflow. Imagine sending your document to your clients with just a few clicks and enabling them to sign anywhere on any device, without missing any fields. Imagine sending automated email reminders in accordance to your schedule.

These are objectives you can accomplish with ClientSide today. If you’d like to see for yourself, start your free trial today!