Top legal trends in 2016 that will impact your bottom line

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We often think of trends as exciting and new. 2016 brings us trends that have been long coming. If you follow only 3 trends this year, we suggest these: elect to e-file, end the age of paper, and eliminate legalese. If you are considering entering an emerging field in 2016, it will be wise to examine your capacity.

  • Elect to e-file

If you have not learned your state’s e-filing system, the time has come. Keep in mind that e-filing may impact your bottom line in two ways. The first is the cost of e-filing. While some states have established funds to pay for purchasing and implementing e-filing software and systems, most states have simply added court automation and e-filing fees. While some argue that this is simply a way to pass on costs to clients, many solo firms have difficult conversations ahead and may find themselves absorbing these additional fees in the interim. The second way e-filing will impact your bottom line is time and tech costs. It will take time to learn the system and you may have to upgrade your equipment to effectively use it.

  • End the age of paper

If you still find yourself looking at stacks of returned-as-undeliverable court reminder letters, thinking, “What if I’d just emailed these instead?” then it’s time to get with the program. That one simple step reduces the spend on paper, envelopes, ink, equipment wear, and stamps. Your dentist and your dog groomer send you a text message appointment reminder with a confirmation request. Why not send one to your client? Cloud storage, external hard drives, and web-based applications like calendars, document-creation tools, and contact management systems will sync to all your devices. Making a few simple changes in your tech habits can transform your business.

  • Enter an emerging field

Elder law, health care law, marijuana law, cyberlaw, and LGBT law are all areas that have been expanding in recent years. If you have been thinking about practicing in one of these areas, 2016 may be the year to finalize your plans and begin serving clients—before the field is saturated. A good way to decide whether it is feasible to expand your practice or enter a new field is to write a business plan. This activity can be time intensive, but it is invaluable to making a sound financial decision and realizing sustained positive impact to your bottom line.

  • Expunge legalese

It is time to do away with legalese. It is unnecessary. Using plain language that clients can understand is not going to negatively impact your bottom line. In the digital age, attorneys cannot afford to be misunderstood. The fear that clients will start representing themselves if they understand what you are saying is a thing of past. Increasingly competent representation, meeting your clients’ needs, imparting the belief that you will see them safely through the most stressful, difficult time of their life, and ultimately, speaking plainly will bring clients to your door.

Endeavor to make 2016 your best year

How will you serve your clients in 2016? Becoming an expert e-filer will streamline your office operations. Making a strategic, well-planned decision to expand into an emerging field can be an exciting challenge that increases revenue and provides needed representation to an underserved market. Working to simplify your language will make you a better communicator. Not only will clerks and judges appreciate your efforts, your clients will love you for it. Happy clients? Happy 2016.

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