I wanted to prompt you all to make your week just a little bit easier by encouraging you to use automations. Here are four common ones that it seems to me family lawyers and family mediators are not using as often as they should.
Calendars and scheduling
You probably have a digital or electronic calendar of some sort, but are you using automation to make appointments? Are you still typing in appointments yourself, or are you giving people a link and letting them pick a time that suits them?
There are so many reasons that you should be automating this, and there are so many free options that sync with your existing Google or Microsoft calendar.
Forget saving time, automate your calendar for the following reasons:
friendlier - done well, this is a more friendly experience for the other person because it lets them choose a time that suits them, they can check against there own calendar in their own time rather than having to choose and commit on the spot
accuracy - it means they enter their details, and so you won't write their phone number or email address wrong or spell their name wrong in a way that causes you to mispronounce their name
reminders - the program that you use will almost certainly send out email reminders, some of the paid plans will even send out text reminders, making it easier for everyone to remember the meeting
triage - you can set many of them allow shorter periods of time (say 15 minutes) so you can invite people to give their details and book in a time for a telephone call, getting rid of the tyre kickers who think they have 'just a quick question' and have no intention of ever entering into an ongoing relationship with you
We recently discussed who is using what free calendar-booking automation in our Flexible Family Law group (if you are interested in joining our Facebook group click here, it is free, you can join here). Some popular options for people in that group include:
There are plenty out there though, figure out what feature is important to you (for instance, which details about the other party are collected on a free plan, can I embed it in my website or emails, does it send reminders and if so how (text/email) and how many) and do your research.
There are also some great paid options for booking pages at LawSwitch, either stand alone booking pages or chatbots that can also book your client in as part of the onboarding process. You can read more about that here.
Email - use your filters
I previously wrote a five-part series on email and regaining control of it. Do you hate checking your emails in the morning? You aren't imagining it, your email is adding to your stress levels (read more on that here).
In one blog I covered how to turn your inbox into a force for good, and one of the things I touched on was using the filters. You can read that blog here.
You can unsubscribe to things sure, but you can also use your filters to group emails for you. For instance:
Fun - if you receive some emails for fun, or for light reading, then filter those into a folder that you title "Fun" and then as an added bonus, when you need a break from work you can jump into that folder and find something to read for five minutes while you drink your coffee.
Internal - if you use emails in your office for tasks, you can filter those internal emails into their own folder
Training - if you receive some emails for training purposes, whether it is in your field (so legal updates) or in an ancillary field (sales, marketing, bookkeeping, networking, tax) then send those to their own folder. You don't need to see that stuff first thing in the morning when you are plotting your day, you can come back to it later when you have allotted some time for that task.
Sales and promos - this is separate to your fun reading (though it may be fun to read), do you regularly read emails from a certain shop app that you use. You might read the emails to see what is new and whether there is a sale code? This stuff might not go to your 'promotions' folder because you actually engage with it, but there is no reason that you cannot set up your own folder to go and read through it or find that sales code later.
Tasks - you can either use your inbox filters, or you might need to use something like Zapier automation, to deal with emails that are actually requests for you to do something. Don't use your inbox as your to-do list, that is just confusing and adds to the feeling that your inbox is overwhelming. Either have a folder for those emails with a filter to try and redirect them, or use some automation to convert those emails into a to-do list.
Your filters might look different, it depends on your general approach to your inbox. You can sign up to receive that five-part series to your inbox here (yes I realise the irony of that).
Welcoming new clients
I considered not including this in this list because honestly, there are so many options it should be its own blog post. I will include it however because it is in my top four list of things that family lawyers or family mediators should be automated, and can automate (partly) using free software.
Have you revisited your client journey recently? We shared a great checklist in last week's email which you can use to review your client onboarding process and choose which part you need to attack first.
If you have revisited your client journey recently, have you considered which parts you should automate? There are so many ways you can do this but the most obvious is email. If you can filter new clients by the type of matter then there are some really obvious pieces of information that you can be sharing with them in some initial welcome emails including:
Your contact details - remind them of the ways they can contact you, they might have spoken to you by Facebook or phone so they don't have your email address for instance
Your availability - do you have office hours, do you work remotely, do you mostly communicate with clients by face to face appointments, Zoom, telephone, email? Give the new client some more information around this.
Next steps - you can spell out what the initial steps are for this matter type, for instance, if it was a new enquiry and you use FamilyProperty then you are probably going to do a conflict check and then send them the questionnaire
Your team - if you don't work on your own, this is a great opportunity to briefly (briefly) introduce your team (with photos) and explain their roles, it will make it easier when someone else needs to contact them about the matter
FAQs - again this will depend on the matter type, but if you have been doing this for a while you can probably guess what a new client's FAQs are
Costs - you could even have a brief costs summary included, in writing, early in the piece so that you know that you have let the clients know about the costs at many different stages during the process
If you want to see some of the free automation options in action (including Zapier, Gmail and Mailerlite) then head on over to my trial page for our online client intake questionnaire. You will interact with our legal chatbot, which is part of our product but you will then receive some welcome emails using free software (Zapier, Gmail and Mailerlite) to give you an example of what you can do, and maybe also to remind you of what it is like to be on the client's side of the equation. Maybe you hate my whole process on this page and want to do it differently, so write down what you didn't like, whatever helps you to make a plan and move forward.
These days there are so many ways and places you can embed code, easily, without understanding coding at all. You probably feel like this isn't a new automation, but a variation on an existing automation, and you would be right. However, I think it is worth mentioning in the top 4 because I don't think most family lawyers and family mediators are doing this as much as they should be.
As with most automation it is a question of how and when to use it. We just need to be on the lookout for it, and also actively thinking how can I use this, where can I embed this to save myself some time? Where can I embed this to give my client or potential client an opportunity to communicate with me?
It saves you from having to share links and it also means that people might use those forms themself without you even having to prompt them. For instance, my Hubspot booking tool can be embedded in my blog pages or landing pages, so I can invite people to book themselves in for a demo.
My Mailerlite account allows me to create sign up forms, most CRMs and email marketing campaigns do, and so I can embed that form and invite people to sign themselves up to my client email list. I have also used these Mailerlite forms in another job to invite clients to provide me with their personal details so that I reduce data error (they can probably spell their own name) and save time on that task, I would filter those signups into a specific 'group' within Mailerlite (new clients) and set up an email notification to send me an email every time there was a new subscriber to that group.
You can also hyperlink instead of embed, so my email signature has a link to my booking automation, I had to create a Canva image and then hyperlink the image as neither Gmail or Outlook allow you to embed code in the traditional sense, but it was a simple workaround. You should be alert to which forms in your business can be embedded in other places, and then looking out for opportunities to embed that form and save yourself some time.
Family Property users
Are you a current subscriber to FamilyProperty? If you are then there are four automations included in the annual subscription fee that you should visit and start using today. They are:
Legal Chat Bot - it seems obvious but it has to be said, have you set up your Legal Chat Bot?
Online Intake Questionnaire - when you revisit your client journey, are you thinking about when and how you use this online intake?
Email welcome - have you gone and looked at your automated emails and customised those?
Firm branding - there are so many parts of our product that you can brand or change or customise, have you gone through those?
If you want me to step you through any of these options, I would love it if you booked a time with me. If you haven't used FamilyProperty before and would like a demo then please book a time, I would love to show you.