Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Top 5 Features Added in Revit

A building information modeling (BIM) software, Autodesk Revit, has been useful for architects, structural engineers, MEP engineers, designers and contractors, enabling them to design structures and buildings in 2D and 3D, as well as being 4D BIM capable. It’s first version was released more than a decade back and since then it has seen many updates and new version releases, some have been just incremental updates serving for bug corrections and some have been significant technological updates.

Compared to the 2017 update, the previous 2 editions did not provide any significant upgrade until their ‘release 2’ (R2) editions were released. The 2017 update brings about 50 new, refreshing features which will prove to be immensely useful in creating BIM models. All the new features within the update are equally important and will be useful during the life cycle of a project, but out of those let us discuss the 5 most important features from Revit 2017. 1. Text Editing:

The most awaited feature in Revit since the time it was introduced, text editor has been included in the latest edition of Autodesk Revit. This provides a completely redesigned text engine which is compatible with imported files such as AutoCAD DWG files. The text editor in Revit 2017 also brings corrections to the flaws of text editor from earlier editions and lets users seamlessly switch between text editing mode and viewing mode without causing any unexpected disruptions in text.

2. Global Parameters:

Global parameters feature which was introduced in Revit 2016 R2 version, has received a much needed update in the 2017 edition. The latest update brings in the power of parametric families into the project environment. Applying global parameters to multi-segments is possible in this version, also grouping the parameters becomes easier, as does filtering and reordering. Even though the upgrades do seem to bring a lot of additional features, they do come with their limitations, such as the parameters can only be assigned to certain system family categories and only to user defined instance properties.

3. View Template:

View template is a very simple yet powerful feature added in Revit 2017 which enables the user to share data and reuse schedules. This feature automatically updates all the schedule changes whenever they are affected within their respective templates.

4. Calculated Values in Annotations:

An essential and a long overdue feature introduced in Revit 2017 is Calculated Values in Annotations. It is a useful feature that allows the user to document projects with annotations that allow calculated values and which obey pin restrictions maintaining consistency and accuracy of the project. A tag created with calculations in it can be used with any tag type and pinned to an element allowing the user to reposition that element without actually moving the pin position.

5. Railing Host:

Railing Host or Hosted Railings, is another valuable feature introduced in Revit 2017 (SHOULD THIS SAY 2017?) along with Calculated Value in Annotations feature. With this feature it is now possible to host the railings on Walls, Roofs or Slab Edges and the railings will adjust with variations in slopes and surfaces.

There are a host of other additions and updates in Revit 2017 apart from the ones listed above. It remains to be seen what if any flaws exist during real time use or if they truly result in the enhancements promised. Although, considering the supposed flaws that may exist, Revit 2017 is a huge step forward.

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Sailboat And Yacht Detailers Companies Need To Think About Sail Cleaning Services

Sailing is the fun part, cleaning, well not so much. Still, if you don’t take care of your equipment, Murphy will take care of you. Luckily, for those of us in the sailboat and yacht cleaning business we can make money taking care of the challenges that go along with boat maintenance and keep repairs to a minimum by helping owners keep their vessels in ship-shape. I’d like to explain one aspect of boat cleaning that many boat detailers fail to take advantage of, and that is sail cleaning.

Why clean sails? Well, of course you want them to look good when you hoist them up, free from black mold and ugly salt marks. But that’s not the only reason, healthy sails will not chafe as easily, nor will their stitches come apart as much. Doubt what I am saying? Well, then let me recommend some required reading. In the January 2017 Issue of Sail Magazine there was a relevant article titled; “Sail Care – Look After Your Sails And They Will Look After You,” by Peter Nielsen. The article talked about the fact that if you don’t clean the dirt or salt off the sails, then you will have abrasions from the dirt and rats will smell the salt and be attracted to it, then make their nests there and eat away at the sail. Cleaning the sails is not hard to do, but many sailors and yacht owners do not have the time or are too tired after a day of sailing to clean them properly.

The article and most professional boat cleaners recommend soaking the sails in warm water and detergent, something mild and approved by the manufacturer – always remember that sails have different amounts of material and stitches in them and the manufacturer knows what’s best to use to prevent deterioration. After soaking the sails you want to thoroughly rinse them, I recommend soft or RO water. The article stated to rinse until you could no longer smell any detergent and I’d suggest you don’t smell any salt either and if you’ve rinsed them properly you won’t. It might take a couple of rinses to be sure. Charging $100 per sail is not unreasonable, but be careful if they haven’t been clean in a while, you’ll need to charge more for neglected sails or sails that are dirty or starting to come apart as you have to use a little elbow grease (lightly) and it will take you a lot longer to clean. However, if you regularly clean the sailboat for your customer, $80 to $100 for average sized sails turns out to be a nice add-on to your boat cleaning services, larger sails go up in price try $150 to $300. Think on this.

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How Can I Set Up An Online Business?

If you’ve been considering setting up an online business you’ve most likely been motivated by sheer volume of buying and selling that is now taking place on the internet.

More and more people are buying products and services online. And if you set up your own online business you can claim your cut of this expanding marketplace. Here are the 5 steps to follow to set up an online business.

1. Pick Your Market

If you’re going to set up an online business your first task is to determine what type of business it’s going to be. Are you going to sell products or services? You can sell your own products or you can sell products produced by other businesses who will pay you commissions on your sales. Or you may choose to set up a membership website or offer teaching and coaching services online.

Getting a website online isn’t as complicated as you may think. Initially you’ll need to purchase a name for your website (known as a domain name). Next you need to ‘rent’ some space on the internet (known as website hosting). Lastly you’ll need a software package that will make it possible for you to put written text, images, videos etc onto your website. There are many website building programs available that make this whole procedure very easy.

3. Get Visitors To Your Website

When you website is online you have to get potential customers to visit it. There are two main ways to do this. You can use free website traffic techniques or paid website traffic techniques. Both have their pros and cons and the most effective traffic tactic to use a mixture of both.

4. Develop A Customer List

It’s doubtful that your website visitors will want to buy anything from you on their first visit to your website. They may visit your website and never return. But obtain a visitor’s email address with a special email capture form, you can remain contact with them via email. Your emails can keep them informed about your business and encourage them to return to your website. If you offer something of value for free in return for someone’s email address they are more likely to give you their email address. This can be something as straightforward as a free report or eBook that is relevant to your industry.

5. Provide Value

The content material on your website and in your emails, articles or blog posts has to be more than continuously trying to sell. When you provide high quality, useful information to your target audience will come to know, like and trust you. Your prospective customers will then be more willing to buy from you and continue to be as loyal customers for many years.

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