The Small Firm Roadmap Revisited doubled-down on our Healthy Firm model. But what, exactly, is it? Join us for another stop on our podcast book tour. This week we dive into building, enabling, and integrating Healthy Systems in a law firm.
Lawyerist Labster Matt Loker sits down with Sara to discuss using systems and automation to deliver a consistent service to clients. They dive into how task management is crucial to consistent communication—from finding the right CRM, to rebuilding their systems and automating tasks, to regular system maintenance. Learn how Matt used healthy systems to save time, improve client experience, and create a seamless client journey.
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Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Sara Muender (00:35):
Hi, I’m Sarah Muender.
Stephanie Everett (00:36):
And I’m Stephanie Everett. And this is episode 453 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, Sarah’s interviewing one of our lab members, Matt Loker, about Healthy Systems.
Sara Muender (00:50):
Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Postali & LawPay. We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support, so stay tuned, we’ll tell you more about them later on.
Stephanie Everett (01:01):
So we have news here at Lawyerist. We may have talked about this before, but we’re just going to do it again because we just added a whole bunch of stuff, which is we now have an online Lawyerist store.
Sara Muender (01:13):
Sounds fun. So what can we find in this Lawyerist store, Stephanie?
Stephanie Everett (01:18):
Well, Sarah, I’m so glad you asked. We have digital manuals. The team at Affinity has put together all these amazing resources like Word for Lawyers and Office for Lawyers. Things that you didn’t know you needed it in your life, but you really do. I can tell you that I’ve already started using them and I was like, oh, I wish I had known all these things many, many years ago. So you can find our digital manuals, digital courses that help you. Also, there’s a time management course, there’s an Outlook course, there’s a get up and running with Clio course. And then our new favorite thing to talk about Lawyerist swag.
Sara Muender (01:55):
So for all of the fans out there that send me emails all the time, and they’re like, well, where can I get a Lawyerist T-shirt? Stephanie, where can they go to get all these things? And by the way, those digital courses, I’ve seen those orders coming in and they’re just flying off the shelf. And so where can they go to get it?
Stephanie Everett (02:13):
Yeah, so the easiest way, of course, we’ll put the link in the show notes for this episode, but if you head to Lawyerist.com on the upper navigation bar under resources, you’ll see a new link on the left there for the store Lawyerist store. Go there and you’ll find all the links to all these things, including some, you can get your own Lawyerist podcast swag now. So we’re going to have to all get new t-shirts and hoodies and mugs, all the things right there for you. So go check it out. Let us know what you think.
Sara Muender (02:44):
Fun, fun. It’s about time. Well, here is my conversation with Matt.
Matt Loker (02:53):
Hello, this is Matt Loker. I’m the owner of Loker Law and we’re based in the central coast of California. As a practice, we help victims identity theft, take back control of their lives, and we also work with consumers to remedy inaccurate information on their credit reports as well as inaccurate information on their background check reports.
Sara Muender (03:12):
Yeah, you do some very important work in the world. Thank you so much for coming onto the Lawyer as podcast. We wanted to bring you on here today to talk to you about systems, healthy systems. It’s one of the pillars of what we consider to be a healthy law firm, a healthy business, and you have done some really great things for your systems and building those and building a healthy law firm. We’ve really enjoyed watching you grow since you’ve been in the Lawyerist community and in Lab. So thanks again for coming on. Just start off with how you started your firm and where you were then and kind of where you wanted to build.
Matt Loker (03:53):
Yeah, I appreciate it. So in terms of the firm, we started in December, 2019, and that, as you might remember, was right before the world shut down with Covid. So we go from thinking that we’re going to just jump right in and hit the ground running, and then everything stops. And at first it was a little scary because my wife doesn’t work, she stays home with our girls to focus on them. But what the slowdown allowed me to do was you’ll look at how can we help all the consumers coming through our door in a way that makes sense and it’s consistent from person to person. Because when we’re in the law firm world, we are providing a service to our clients. So we wanted to make sure that each client that comes through receives a consistent service in order to get to the goal that they’re looking for.
So when we started, I went immediately to Clio for how manage all of my files and my procedures and all those sorts of things. And to me, it was a fantastic product that I used for a couple of years. But as I was working within it, I realized that there were certain things that I needed to go outside of Clio four. And when I was thinking about my systems and how I trained staff and other attorneys, it started to become complicated in terms of how we were putting together our Wiki. And our Wiki is where we have our internal screenshots and explanations and tutorial videos for how you go from step one for the task all the way through completion. And I realized that I just had to go from Clio to matic to a share file to any number of things, and it just became a little complicated.
So I started researching and came across a product called Zoho, A Z O H O, and that’s another CM e-signature. They have everything. But what was interesting about Zoho is that out of the box, it’s nothing like you. You’re told what the possibilities are, but what you have to do as user is go in and design it. So what Zoho allowed me to do was basically rebuild Cleo. And when I say rebuild, that’s, it sounds a little more complicated than what it is. It’s really just dragging and dropping the fields and having it set up to how we want it. And once we started doing that, we’re able to build into things that we were using other systems for in order to send automated emails to clients if like the checks deposited or the complaints filed and those sorts of things. But it was all under one roof.
And that allowed us to build something that had a step one as the intake all the way down through the post-trial appeals and any sorts of thing that happens from there. But it made it more of a task management thing as opposed to a notes based decision. So when I say task management, it’s really just every single step, like I said, from start to finish, and once it’s done, you click completed. And anything in between of in review or in progress and those sorts of things and allowed it to just be linear. So that’s where we went from of really limited to note tech to dabbling in certain things and really settling on Zoho, which is where we are now.
Sara Muender (07:08):
So I’m wondering what you did to prioritize, where do you start with creating the systems and then not just coming up with, okay, this is how this should work, but now we’re implementing it and we’re practicing it and we’re rolling it out to the team. How many team members do you have?
Matt Loker (07:29):
Right now? We have me plus two per one attorney and one paralegal.
Sara Muender (07:34):
Okay. Yeah. So where did you start?
Matt Loker (07:36):
Yeah, and in terms of that implementation, what was nice about it is Elizabeth Wagner, the attorney with our office is we worked together before at a different law firm and we had a similar vision as to how we wanted our cases to go. So what we started with was just getting a basic place to input our data so we could track the cases. And then what we were doing was we’re trying to figure out where were we duplicating efforts in terms of updating the clients, updating the court, or anything that required duplication. And we wanted to focus on that because those updates to the clients are very important. A vast majority, almost a hundred percent of the clients come through our door are first time litigants. So they don’t know what initial disclosures are or what it means when we receive discovery. And that was one of the deficiencies that we had on our end.
Some clients were getting notice of, this is why we need evidence and or say, this is why we need your documents. And witnesses for the initial disclosures where they weren’t receiving updates about when we received discovery, what is discovery? We were always sending them a copy. So they were in the loop, but they’re lacking an explanation. So again, first we started with this is just where we’re importer information. Then we went to how can we ensure that every single client on every single case is receiving the same input? And that was one of the things that was important to us because we didn’t want one client to be fully informed and get a good result along the way, and then the next client to be completely in the dark, still get a good result, hopefully, but not know how we got there. So the people that we represent want to know what’s happening and want updates as the files being touched.
And those were things that we built in to Zoho initially. Before we got to that, I was using a system called Text Expander, which I still use. I think it’s come up before quite a few times on a podcast. But with Text Expander, what you can do is put in a snippet just sticking with the no initial disclosures, for example. So if I would type into my subject matter on email period 26 A, it would populate the subject of the email to say witnesses and documents, then it would populate the body of the email to be multiple paragraphs explaining what our initial disclosures in terms of federal litigation and what do we need from the client, and also gives them a place to upload documents securely to us. And again, that was great. It saved us a lot of times in terms of explaining what initial disclosures are, but it was only as reliable as the attorney or the staff member remembering to send it to the client. So now what we have in terms of our system within Zoho projects is you get to the judge being assigned and having a case number click complete. That’s one of the emails that it sends out automatically within a couple of days to the client. So those are really the things we wanted to focus on is how do we take off those small things that we need to remember and ensure that the client still gets it and instill is in the loop in terms of every step of the way.
Sara Muender (10:46):
Yeah, so important that’s so aligned with our vision for how we see law firms running, which is the way that we say it is. We want to make sure that every client gets the same amazing experience that leaves them feeling more secure and relieved. And it doesn’t depend on, like you say, the mood of your staff on any given day or what happens to everybody’s list that day. It’s automated and it’s well thought out in advance, and it’s an intentional client experience. And what that does, and I’m sure you can testify to this, is that it not only gives the client a better experience, but it saves you guys a lot of time and hassle. And probably a lot of questions from clients too. Have you found it to be beneficial internally as you’ve improved these systems?
Matt Loker (11:39):
Absolutely. And in terms of developing the systems, number one I stole, frankly, stole quite a bit of my ideas from Warrior, so I appreciate that. Just in terms of how these communications go out, and since they are going out regularly, we were touching base with the clients just through going from step one to the conclusion of the case. We’re touching base with them at a minimum every other week. And that was hard for us to do without those automations because it takes time to even just open up an email and chime in with them or pick up the phone and call them. But this way they’re getting those communications regularly. What was interesting about developing those is that the first iteration of my automated communications I thought were very fancy and professional looking. They included my logo and a signature from me and all those sorts of things coming through the email.
But I realized as we were using that, people weren’t opening them because we could see the click rate and the open rate and all those sorts of things. People just assumed that those fancy looking emails were boilerplate and not really something for them to be worried about or look at. So as I noticed that all the important information I wanted to convey, I changed it away from that fancy looking template to a place where it just looks like a regular email from me or whoever’s clicking send. So that was interesting. So it’s really cut down on the number of phone calls I’ve received from clients just wondering what’s happening. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback as we close out our cases. We send a request for a review on our various places where our marketing and we also have a form we ask ’em to fill out just about how we did so we can adjust that and do better from case to case to case. And the communication is always one of the things that the clients emphasize about what they like about working with us. They felt in a loop. They didn’t feel unsure, they didn’t feel like we forgot about their case because there’s this constant communication. So that’s been a really big plus for us.
Sara Muender (13:46):
Yeah, that’s always the number one complaint against law firms and working with Lawyerist is lack of communication for sure. I mean, I’ve been on that side and I know how when you’re dealing with legal issues, I mean, most people don’t want to have to be dealing with legal issues. Let’s be real, right? No one wants to have to work with an attorney for the most part, for most things. And whatever we can do to make their lives easier so they can sleep better at night, that’s a gift to them, but it’s going to result in us being more profitable and more efficient.
Matt Loker (14:16):
Sara Muender (14:17):
So let’s take a quick break to hear from our sponsors, and then when we come back, I want to find out how you prepare them for all that and what to expect.
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Sara Muender (15:47):
I’m back with Matt Loker, and we’re talking about systems, and you brought up some really awesome specific things to maybe think about implementing into the client journey in systemizing the process to make sure that every client has an amazing experience, that they know what’s happening with their case or with their file or with their trial, and even going as far as to systemize asking for reviews at the end. And I’ll just throw in there, you know, can ask for reviews at any point in the process. And so I’m wondering, I have two things that I’m wondering how you’ve done this. So first of all, when you onboard a new client, how do you set them up for what’s to come? Do you give them a welcome packet or do you explain to them, here’s the emails that you’re going to get along the journey and here’s how we’re going to update you? What does that look like?
Matt Loker (16:43):
Yeah, exactly. So we want to make sure that they have our expectations of how the case is going to go align with our client’s expectations. And the way we do that really starts with the intake. So I give them a brief overview as I’m discussing the case with the consumer about if we get to litigation, what does that look like? Because again, most of our clients only know about litigation from the movies like Suits or John Grisham books or movies, what have you. So I try to give them an insight just as we’re developing that relationship. They’re right from the intake about what to expect. And then once we get to the stage where they sign a retainer with the firm, there’s a drip campaign that tells ’em about litigation. So there’s a very high overview of step one of filing the complaint to the discovery process, depositions and trial.
So that gives them a sense of what’s the linear progression of the case? We go from A to B. Then as we’re getting further into the case and we actually get to the written discovery stage or actually get to the deposition stage, they get a more detailed email about what this actual stage is. So we try to give them the overview to begin with so they’re not surprised like, oh, opposing counsel wants to depose me. Is that normal? Is that weird? Did I do something wrong? So we just try to give them very brief information right up front so they know this is just how litigation goes, and it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Sara Muender (18:14):
And we know that people need to hear the same thing repeated over and over again. And so I’m sure it only helps to just repeat those reminders along the way. So what do you do then to ensure that your client journey is optimum, that things are continuing to improve as the world changes and improves? Do every once in a while look at your client journey and your systems, and do you systemize the process of systemizing? Is this like a quarterly thing? What do you do to keep up to date?
Matt Loker (18:52):
And there’s a couple of things. So it’s an ongoing ever developing process where initially I’m sitting down and thinking about how litigation goes, and I type out the particular system or update our flow of the case, and I think it’s fantastic. Then someone else actually uses it and well, this doesn’t make sense. So then we’ll go through and modify. And what’s nice about that is I teach over at the San Luis Obispo College of Law, and so does Elizabeth Wagner for my office. So we’re constantly getting new students into our firm as interns and eventual associates as well. So we’re getting a lot of fresh eyes on our systems, and that’s been really helpful in adapting things because they show us, okay, well you’re step two, three and four were this. But it made sense for me to go through CD and E. And we’re also getting that feedback from our clients as well when I asked them what did they like and what did they not like about how we did things.
So we’re constantly changing the systems in that regard. And then beyond that, we don’t just simply rest upon the systems to hope that they do well because it is computer based and we do think that everything’s going to go from step A and so on and so forth. But what we also do regularly is go through our cases with the attorneys in our office. So I have a big vibe board here in my office, which is just like a 55 inch screen that’s a touch screen so we can open up where are we in each case, and it has an internet access, so we can look at the flow chart for each case, look at where we are in terms of documents and review ’em together and just make sure that everything’s lining up, check, communications, those all go through. So it’s not just a matter of building and pushing play, and you never touch the systems again.
It’s always just making sure that things are lining up and everyone’s as happy as possible. Because like you said, Sarah, people don’t come to lawyers when things are going well and when they’re happy emotions are high, and we’re dealing with identity theft and credit reporting issues, and it feels like things are over. And in essence, people’s financial lives are ruined, and that feels like everything is ruined. So we always want to make sure that we’re receiving that feedback and implementing it. It’s not just receive the feedback and put in the trash can. It’s like, oh, we disagree. We’re great, and we try to look at it objectively and make the changes that we can.
Sara Muender (21:19):
Yeah, great job. It’s amazing. It made me think of the analogy for some reason of an airplane and how you’re saying you don’t just set it and forget it. It’s an ever evolving improvement iterative process to make the client experience better and more efficient for you guys. And it’s like, yeah, an airplane flies on autopilot, but every single flight that goes out still has a number of checks to make sure that those things are working properly because there is a lot at stake. And with you and law firm owners, there’s a lot at stake because it’s not just your license, it’s people’s lives. And then if they don’t have a good experience at any step of the way, that could be bad review for you. So it seems like you’re really going through constantly and thinking about how can we make this better? How can we make this better? So what’s next on the horizon for you?
Matt Loker (22:15):
Yeah. So in terms of what’s next, what we want to do on our end is take the firm to what we consider to be the next level. So for the past three or four years, I’ve been developing the systems with a goal in mind of expanding to hire additional attorneys and additional support staff. So where we’re looking right now is the way we quantify it is revenue, not necessarily because we’re obsessed with the money. Obviously it’s a good thing and everyone’s in business to make money, but it’s just the objective criteria that we can look at. So I see the next step being gross revenue of 10 million. That’s my goal. I’m just going to put that out into the universe and I want to do it by the end of 2025. And we’ve been thinking about how do we get there, how many cases do we need to bring in order to hit 10 million?
So that what we did in order to really get the objective and just numbers was go through and build out our analytics, which was a borderline obsession with mine. I thought I was obsessed with the tech. The tech was very fun. But as we’re going through and building out analytics, it’s just such valuable insight into the business. And it’s not just financial analytics. The consumer calls and during your intake, they’re like, well, if we go forward to litigation, is this going to take two years? And my answer is always no, it’s only going to take about six to eight months. But with the analytics, what we’re doing is we’re putting in the exact amount of time. So we know that the average case life is 192 days. So I was right in a sense that it is between six and eight months, it’s just over six months for our average case life. But we have those concrete answers for clients now. So the analytics just helped us get a clearer sense of how do we meet those goals as opposed to just, I think this is how we get there and I think this is what we need to do, but that is the next goal for the firm.
Sara Muender (24:18):
Yeah, super exciting. And I love that you’re setting big goals and then working backwards to figure out what no bs, what would it take to get there? Exactly. And I know you can do it. Well, amazing work mean thanks for coming on and sharing about how you run your firm and how you’ve gotten to where you are. It’s just been so cool to work with you and help you and watch you grow and have you in the lab community. Is there any last piece of advice that you’d love to leave our listeners on? Systems?
Matt Loker (24:50):
And it’s really just to get started. So one of the things that can be overwhelming is the fact that it does require constant changes and improvements, but you have to keep in mind that the first time is the hardest. The first time is when you’re sitting down and putting pen to paper or putting into your computer and from scratch. But after that, it’s really just tweaking, tweaking those discrete pieces that didn’t function the way that you thought they would. So that was really something that held me back. It’s like, well, I have so many cases. I don’t know when I’m going to sit down and do all this, but running those systems, developing those systems rather helped me litigate those ongoing cases that I had better and more efficiently so that I can take on more cases and eventually bring on more people. So it’s really just step one. So if you’re listening to the podcast, I’m assuming that you’ve taken that first step of thinking about what those systems are and thinking about what you need to do in order to prove, so now it’s just putting it down and testing it.
Sara Muender (25:54):
Yeah, that’s great advice. Why not start with one thing? What’s the number one thing that if you improved would make the biggest impact in the way that your law firm runs? What’s one thing you could do this year by the end of the year? And then you think about, all right, well, what needs to happen? What can I focus on this next quarter in order to get that momentum rolling in and to get in the game and to just start making improvements. And then like you said, you just go from there. I
Matt Loker (26:21):
Love it. Exactly.
Sara Muender (26:22):
Well, thank you Matt Loker for coming on to the Lawyerist podcast, and we will stay tuned for the 10 million mark that we know you’re going to hit.
Matt Loker (26:32):
Thank you, Sarah. I really appreciate it. Everything that you’ve done and Lawyerist has done for me. I really appreciate it.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.