COVID-19 has forced the profession to go remote, and the way lawyers do business may never be the same. While some of these changes may eventually be positive for the legal profession, there are currently many firms struggling to meet the needs of their remote staff and maintain client relationships. To address these challenges, Christopher Anderson welcomes Kimball Parker to share solutions for privacy, technology, and support while your firm works from home.
Kimball Parker is the CEO of SixFifty at Wilson Sonsini and director of LawX at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Nexa, Solo Practice University, Scorpion, and Lawclerk.
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The Un-Billable Hour
Protecting Privacy and Other Concerns of the Remote Workforce
Intro: Managing your law practice can be challenging. Marketing, time management, attracting clients, and all the things besides the cases that you need to do that aren’t billable. Welcome to this edition of The Un-Billable Hour, the Law Practice Advisory Podcast. This is where you will get the information you need from expert guests and host Christopher Anderson, here on Legal Talk Network.
Christopher T. Anderson: Welcome to The Un-Billable Hour, the Law Practice Advisory Podcast, helping attorneys achieve more success. We are glad you can listen today on Legal Talk Network.
And today’s episode, you know, we always vary the episodes between marketing and sales and people and production and money and today is about physical plant, to be specific about technology, and to be even more specific because of the time that we are in and when this is going to be on air, technology that can assist you in operating your virtual team during this era of lockdowns and quite honestly probably what’s going to be a fundamental change in the number of people that are working with law firms that do continue after this is over to operate remotely.
And also we will talk a little bit about maintaining compliance with privacy while you are doing that and some best practices on going remote.
So the title of the show today is “Protecting Privacy and Other Concerns of the Remote Workforce”, because my guest today is Kimball Parker.
Now Kimball is the Founder and CEO of SixFifty, which is the technology subsidiary of the law firm Wilson Sonsini.
Kimball also is the Director of LawX, the legal design lab at BYU Law School. Last year at LawX Kimball and his students developed and publicly released a software called SoloSuit, which is an automated tool to help people answer debt collections and they are also now developing this year an automated tool to help people avoid being evicted called Hello Landlord; love it.
And next year LawX will develop another automated product to help people filing for asylum, so developing lots of products for people to self-help in these areas.
In 2016 Kimball was given the Fastcase 50 Award honoring the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders and Kimball was also honored as a 2019 Legal Rebel by the American Bar Association.
Kimball has just gotten one of the best introductions that I have given on the show because well, he wrote it.
I am of course your host Christopher Anderson and I am an attorney with a singular passion for helping other lawyers achieve success with their law firm businesses.
In The Un-Billable Hour each month we explore an area important to help you be a more profitable lawyer through growing your revenues, getting back more of your time and/or getting more professional satisfaction from your business.
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And again today’s episode of The Un-Billable Hour is “Protecting Privacy and Other Concerns of the Remote Workforce”, and my guest is Kimball Parker.
Kimball is the Founder and CEO of SixFifty, the technology subsidiary of the law firm Wilson Sonsini. And Kimball, welcome to The Un-Billable Hour.
Kimball Parker: Hey, thank you for having me.
Christopher T. Anderson: It’s absolutely my pleasure. Now, I usually say at this point that I gave a terrible introduction, but I think the introduction since you wrote it was actually pretty good.
So let me just ask you, I think the kind of follow-up to that is, what about your work with SixFifty and with law school at LawX leads you to wanted to present on this topic, to talk about remote work and some of the privacy challenges involved?
Kimball Parker: So when the NBA canceled its season on March 11, that night we made a decision to transfer our workforce remote. We have about 25 people working for us at SixFifty and that became like a very complicated process for us. You think like okay, you just tell everybody to work from home, but no, actually there is a cocktail of regulations both state and federal that you have to take into account, a lot of practical considerations.
Christopher T. Anderson: And I think a lot of our listeners have probably like kind of just sent people home and threw a laptop at them and are still struggling with what they really should be doing. So this is going to be great.
Kimball Parker: Yeah, and it was difficult. And so we are lucky because we are attached to one of the best law firms in the world Wilson Sonsini, so we consulted with a top ten employment expert in the nation; her name is Marina Tsatalis and she kind of helped us walk through and gave us some policies that could help us navigate moving our workforce remote and some of the other issues that this COVID-19 situation raises, like sick leave.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, yeah.
Kimball Parker: And let’s say travel or how do you reimburse people if they want to buy things to help them work from home.
And anyway, so we went through it and really the experience made us think like jeez, how does any company do this or any law firm do this or really just any business, how are they doing this without a Marina Tsatalis.
And so that got us thinking about this issue kind of more on a broad — on a more broad level, not just about us trying to survive, but because the reason why we formed SixFifty is that Wilson Sonsini is one of the best law firms in the world.
Christopher T. Anderson: Just tell us a little bit more about it. I am sure almost everybody knows about it, but where is Wilson Sonsini, what’s their main thrust, what do they do?
Kimball Parker: Yeah. So Wilson Sonsini, they are based in Palo Alto. They really grew up with the tech boom in Silicon Valley, and so they represent the biggest most important technology companies in the world, and actually they founded most of them — help found most of them and brought most of them public.
But like most big law firms, like mom-and-pop shops don’t typically use them, like they don’t have a lot of car dealership or flower shop clients, they have a lot of startups, they specialize in startups and technologies, technology and biotech, but not really like traditional small business.
Christopher T. Anderson: Sure.
Kimball Parker: And so we created SixFifty to really bring that top-tier expertise from their firm to those types of companies, companies that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.
So anyway, we started automating some complicated privacy laws that a lot of businesses had to deal with like the GDPR and the CCPA. And then this experience with COVID made us think, jeez, we could really offer a service here and try to maybe automate for free some of the policies and other things that companies and law firms need to do to have their company work remote.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and some of which, I have got to be honest or I have got to imagine any way that they are — it’s not even that they are having trouble complying with them, they may not even know they exist.
Kimball Parker: Exactly, yeah. So let me give you an example, like some of the laws that govern employees regularly still govern if they work from home, like OSHA. You have to ensure that your employees have a safe working environment. The confidentiality of your information, all of that still applies. And so if you send your workforce home and you say oh, well, work from your own computer at home, that may present some issues actually with the confidentiality of the information.
Christopher T. Anderson: Sure, yeah.
Kimball Parker: Anyway, there are a host of issues like that that, again, I think like you are saying many companies may not even know exist.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, work from your own computer on your own unsecured Wi-Fi.
Kimball Parker: Exactly, exactly.
Christopher T. Anderson: Or your neighbor’s, right, some people are working — they share it with their neighbor or they are popping over to Starbucks and using theirs.
Kimball Parker: Exactly. And then maybe pulling up confidential client files or sensitive financial information and so companies and law firms, basically just all businesses need to be aware of some of the issues that can arise when you work from home.
And so we basically automated some of the policies that a company would need to handle some of those issues, which kind of brought us into this area and has led to this discussion with you.
Christopher T. Anderson: Cool. Well, I want to talk a little bit more about those but I want to just get a little bit more background. You said that Wilson Sonsini like created SixFifty to give this kind of world-class expertise and make it available to smaller businesses. How did you get into this? How did you end up at SixFifty? You mentioned also or I mentioned that you are working with LawX, like how did that all come about, what’s your background?
Kimball Parker: So I attended the University of Chicago for law school and then worked for a big law firm Quinn Emanuel, a big litigation law firm, and while I was there, one of my best friends is a software engineer, I don’t think I fully understood how good of a software engineer he was, but we kind of brainstormed about some ideas to basically help people who couldn’t afford attorneys and we started building those and they started to do really well.
And then that kind of caught the attention of BYU and we started LawX at BYU and basically LawX — the goal of LawX is like we are going to pick one area of the law that really is difficult for people who can’t afford an attorney and we are going to try to automate it for them so that they can self-service. And so we started to build tools for people who couldn’t afford attorneys and those really started to do well.
We built a debt collection tool — I was sorry we built a tool for people who have been sued for a debt, basically it was like TurboTax for answering a debt collection complaint and that had more uses in a month than we expected in the entire year. Then we built some other tools that really got pretty incredible usage, like one of our tools has been used in every state in the nation.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I mentioned at the beginning that you have this eviction tool.
Kimball Parker: Yeah, yeah, Hello Landlord, we built that in conjunction with the University of Arizona and that’s had incredible usage. And so that caught the attention of Wilson Sonsini and they thought jeez, let’s do that, but let’s plug in our expertise into these tools and see if we can really lower the cost and make things more convenient to use our services, because again Wilson doesn’t really reach down to a significant part of the market. Most people will never use Wilson Sonsini, but if they knew how good Wilson Sonsini was, they would want to.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right, and so you are making some of their expertise accessible to those who might not otherwise engage the firm.
Kimball Parker: Exactly. And so we are building products, if it’s a product that costs money, it’s usually one-tenth to one-twentieth of the cost that it would take otherwise. About half our products are for free, so we fund our kind of pro bono side through our for-profit side.
Christopher T. Anderson: Perfect. At the end of the show I am going to ask you to give the listeners ways to check you out. So that’s really cool.
So let’s turn our attention back now to what’s going on. You mentioned lots of — we talked about lots of law firms have had to send people home, some of them weren’t as proactive as you were and waited until the actual stay-at-home order or whatever each state is calling them and in some states law firms are exempted, in some states they aren’t, but even the ones where they are exempted they are having trouble keeping their people at the office or keeping the distancing. So anyway, they are all sending their people home.
What challenges, let’s just list them right now because we are going to hear from our sponsors here in a second, but just tell me kind of as a list, what are some of the main challenges these firms are facing and when we come back from the break we will talk about them.
Kimball Parker: I think some of the challenges that firms are facing are similar to the challenges we faced and some I think are different depending on the firm. Now, we were lucky enough, we function all on laptops, all on kind of secure cloud systems and so working from home was not a big technological challenge for us, but for many firms it’s going to be a big technological challenge. I mean a lot of firms are still using desktops, don’t have laptops and so maybe people are kind of using their own computers or they are having to scramble and get laptops for those people.
Also, a lot of like document storage systems, especially if they are kind of legacy systems don’t run on the cloud, they run on —
Christopher T. Anderson: Premises servers.
Kimball Parker: Exactly, so they run on premises, so that is an enormous challenge. I mean if all of your client files are in the office and you can’t access them remotely, then it’s very difficult to do work. So that’s one bucket. There are a bunch of technical challenges there.
Christopher T. Anderson: Sure.
Kimball Parker: Bucket number two is what we discussed before is kind of dealing with some of the regulations that apply, like OSHA, ADA that are implicated when you change people’s workplace basically.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and I was just thinking — when you said that earlier I was just thinking like wow, so like the guy who goes home and puts his laptop at a bad angle and develops some repetitive motion problems, like that could be something you are actually liable for even though it’s at their home.
Kimball Parker: Sure, sure. And so you need — basically you need policies in place that employees know and acknowledge that they have received saying that they are working in a safe environment, that’s not going to cause them harm.
One other big challenge is what if your workers get sick. This is complicated in a number of different ways. One way is that companies during this crisis and this is unique to a situation like this, companies really need to know who within their company has developed COVID-19, has either symptoms or been diagnosed with COVID-19, because the company has an obligation again to create a safe working environment.
So if somebody has COVID-19, the company needs to tell that person do not come into work, please do not come into close contact with any of your work colleagues. So yeah, the company really has an obligation to the other employees to make sure that they are protected. And then the company also needs to know who that person who has been diagnosed or showing symptoms, who has that person been in contact with so that then the company can notify those people.
Christopher T. Anderson: Wow, so even do the tracing.
Kimball Parker: Exactly and trace it back, and again, this is part of a company’s obligation to create a safe workplace and the CDC and actually other government organizations who deal with this have basically kind of laid out some of those obligations for employers.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. I want to take that one and talk a little bit more about it and go through some of the others because each one is like really fascinating and important for the listeners to hear, but we do have to hear from our sponsors here for a second. So we will take a break, hear from our sponsors and we will come back. We are talking with Kimball Parker, Founder and CEO of SixFifty, the technology subsidiary of Wilson Sonsini. We are talking about working remotely and some of the technical, ethical, employment, regulatory challenges with doing that and we will hear more about that when we come back.
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Christopher T. Anderson: Welcome back to The Un-Billable Hour. We are talking with Kimball Parker, Founder and CEO of SixFifty and we have been talking about the challenges that small businesses and particularly law firms, because that’s you, my wonderful listeners are facing with going and taking their workforce remote and what some of the challenges are. And what’s cool is Kimball was talking earlier about the fact that he has taken his own company remote and so has experienced a lot of these himself. And now in his role as sort of bringing the expertise of his partners at Wilson Sonsini who gave lots of great information to them, they are giving this information and putting it out there for you. And at the end of the show we will have a link where you can learn more.
So we were talking about several different challenges Kimball and you were in the middle of actually talking about the responsibility with COVID-19 and telling people as sort of under the umbrella keeping a safe workplace and I kind of cut you off on there. So let’s start there and I want to go over some of the more technical stuff and the privacy stuff.
Kimball Parker: Yeah. So basically under normal circumstances a company really shouldn’t dive into the health of their workforce and it’s really none of their business and there are laws to protect against it, but during a pandemic like this, especially one that is so dangerous to such a large portion of the population, those rules are softened and actually government agencies suggest, actually pretty strongly suggest that employers really try to track the health of their employees as it relates to COVID-19 during this pandemic.
And again, if you kind of think about the fundamentals of it, a lot of it makes sense, employers have to keep — they have an obligation to keep a safe working place for their employees and if there is somebody who has COVID-19 who is then interacting with all the other employees, that’s not safe, right. And so employers have to track that, need to try at least to track that information and so this again are things that we heard from our law firm.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, that’s a really good point. So let’s go through some of the other ones. The technical, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory and quite honestly it’s 20/20, like you mentioned at the beginning, secure cloud for you made the transition a lot easier and the challenge for a lot of law firms is that some are still working on-premises servers, that their document management system is physically located in the office and they are facing greater challenges.
I mean obviously the time is too short for them to make the full transition to cloud-based document management systems. So what are you recommending they do right now?
Kimball Parker: It’s interesting. So several law firms that I have worked at had actual physical files and file cabinets and I think lawyers probably need to take those home and store those at home where they are going to be working. I think that’s probably what I would have done when I was back practicing law with physical files, but otherwise I think it’s tough. I mean, probably they need to take a day, get everything they need from the office, download whatever they can onto laptops or hard drives that they can put onto their computer so that they can work remotely, but again, all that raises confidentiality issues as well. Those confidentiality issues are tied directly into the technology that people use while they work at home.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, we mentioned that, so they may have confidential information on their laptop that they bring home or they may have to move confidential information to their computer that they are working out from home, so what should law firms be looking at doing to try to mitigate this issue?
Kimball Parker: Law firms to the extent that they can do this, obviously should try to transition as much of their work on to the cloud as possible and any kind of file sharing, they are secure FTP systems that they can use to kind of transfer files and information securely, but it’s something that they need to monitor and obviously they have a duty to their clients to do it, but I think taking as much as can be had physically I think is probably key if it’s still there.
Christopher T. Anderson: And what do you think about like as a short — at least a short term solution about moving files that might otherwise be on a file server to one of the public services or publicly available services like Box.com or Dropbox or SharePoint or one of these?
Kimball Parker: Well, I think one thing that I think will be really interesting out of this is that the law has been actually pretty hostile towards working with a bunch of cloud tools and kind of collaboration tools.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Kimball Parker: And so we don’t have this problem at SixFifty because we’re not a law firm, we are a technology company.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right.
Kimball Parker: The subsidiary of a law firm, so we’re not dealing with all of those same obligations and so we can use, for example, the Google’s — like Google Drive and use Google Docs and so — anyway, I have wondered whether this situation is going to help soften some of the regulatory hurdles to using those services, because like something like Google Drive or Box or Dropbox, SharePoint, those services are just essential right now.
Legal work in a lot of law firms in a lot of instances just cannot be done without those types of file-sharing services and so I think it’s like not completely clear from what I understand from the law whether those are allowed. I know that there have been some opinions questioning, whether people can use Google Drive or some of those services, but now in this time I don’t really see another choice.
Christopher T. Anderson: But what I think what you’re definitely saying is that regardless of where the law is right now, because it may be different in each state and whatever and we’re certainly — we’re not stating in a panel what the law actually is, but what I think you’re saying or seeing is that it has the uncertainty around, it has reduced law firms’ reliance on these tools that would be very helpful in a time like this.
Kimball Parker: Absolutely.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Kimball Parker: Absolutely, I think it’s driven law firms away from those tools which now I think is really coming back to bite the profession in a time where they have to work remotely. I mean, in a lot of states you mentioned it’s by order and so there aren’t a lot of choices there and if the rules eliminate five of the seven best ones, it’s difficult to fish out which ones work and which ones don’t under the rules. Anyway, I think there needs to be more flexibility there.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I totally agree. All right, well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to hear from our sponsors one more time and when we come back we’re talking with Kimball Parker of SixFifty and we’ve been talking about law firms moving remote in response to the COVID-19 epidemic and the work from home or the state home orders that are coming down.
And what I want to do is transition a little bit as we come back and we’re going to talk to Kimball about, again, some more tips about what people should be doing in a short term, but also how this might be a wake-up call and what law firms, law firm owners should be thinking about to be better prepared to work remotely in the future. So with that we’ll hear from our sponsors and come back and talk a little bit more with Kimball Parker.
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Christopher T. Anderson: And we are back with The Un-Billable Hour, and Kimball Parker, Founder and CEO at SixFifty, technology subsidiary of the law firm Wilson Sonsini. And we are talking about the need, the kind of quick and sudden need, I mean, Kimball said that they heard about the NBA shutdown on March 13th, was it? And then you basically made the decision right-away to go remote. Yeah, a lot of law firms are facing decisions about that quickly.
So what I wanted to do at this point in time is talk a little bit, Kimball, if you would about just some best practices based on what you experienced, based on what some of your clients have experienced that law firms should be doing now and then also about what they really should be thinking about to be better prepared to work remotely in the future?
Kimball Parker: Yeah, so this Coronavirus pandemic really has shuffled the legal market I think already.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Kimball Parker: And has the potential to really reshuffle it in the future for a long time and I think basically the winners that are going to come out of this are the firms that are the most nimble and that can react in the most helpful way for their clients.
I think in a lot of ways small firms are at a huge advantage here, because a big — big institutional firm it’s typically very difficult to kind of change direction on a dime, and Wilson Sonsini exempted actually. I think that this is one of the values kind of we bring to the firm is that we’re able to pivot and release kind of meaningful products pretty quickly, but companies right now are really scrambling, really, really scrambling to deal with COVID-19 and I think to the extent that a law firm can get up to speed with what companies need and service those needs in a way that’s helpful obviously to the company, I think puts them way ahead.
Christopher T. Anderson: Sure.
Kimball Parker: And again, I think a small firm can pivot like that in a way that a big firm may have a hard time doing. So I think aside from all of the — all the issues we talked about kind of having the technology in place, making sure that you’re not tripping over other regulatory issues, I think this really is a big opportunity for those who can seize it in helping clients getting on their good side which eventually when this thing flattens out and we recover from it, I think it will pay huge dividends.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, absolutely, those who can continue to serve their clients will be remembered by their clients for it.
So what would you describe as any must-have resources that you could recommend to assist with this going remote? I think we talked about some of the online file storage, I said Dropbox and Box and you also mentioned Google Drive, which is great, and I think I also said SharePoint, but what are some other resources they should be thinking about?
Kimball Parker: So legal file system that I like is NetDocs, so as I’ve kind of moved to different firms and worked for different institutions I think that to me is kind of the best software for law, that’s secure, that can kind of manage documents, drafts, everything like that, that a law firm needs.
Christopher T. Anderson: And cloud-based.
Kimball Parker: And it’s cloud-based, exactly. So that’s one of the huge advantages of it. We use Google Drive for people in jurisdictions where that is not an issue. I mean, Google Drive is incredible and it’s incredible for drafting documents too. I mean the collaboration tools in their Google documents tool is really like the best on the market, and it’s a shame that lawyers have been reluctant to use it, but basically every startup, every other business like that uses Google Drive and Google Docs extensively, including Google.
And so to the extent that it’s not some kind of issue with your local — in your local jurisdiction that’s an incredible option and it probably figures if you won’t ever go back.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yes, that’s another great resource. What about — so obviously everybody is using some sort of video-conferencing, UberConference, Zoom, GoToMeeting and others and they have risen in the past week or two, some concerns about privacy of these services. I just wanted to ask you to talk more generally about privacy issues that law firms should be concerned with in this more virtual world. Is Zoom safe, are products like that safe? What should they — and what other concerns should they have?
Kimball Parker: Yeah, so we use Zoom, the Wilson Sonsini uses WebEx, I think both of those are great options. I think the privacy issues are, as far as I understand them, are more on the margins. Yeah, I don’t think that it’s the type of privacy issues that small firms should really worry about. It’s more sharing, usage like with some social media platforms, not like somebody can hack in and listen to your client conversations. So both of those are great options.
Google Hangouts, we actually use Google Hangouts a lot, Google Hangouts is free. Zoom actually is free but you can’t have meetings over 45 minutes and so that creates a little limit there, Google Hangouts is free and you can use it as extensively as you want. I don’t think that the video quality is quite as good on Google Hangouts as Zoom. There are a lot of good secure — secure enough at least video conference options there for firms that make collaborating so much easier, remote.
Christopher T. Anderson: Perfect. So I know that you and your company SixFifty have a COVID-19 online resource that you recently released to help businesses including law firms navigate these COVID-19-related workplace issues. You have some policies or procedures that include a telecommuting policy. Is this something that law firms could use throughout for themselves and their clients?
Kimball Parker: Absolutely so we’ve had hundreds of companies use our service right now so far for free and a significant portion of those are our law firms. Now part of the terms of service are that you can’t take those policies turn them around and sell them, these policies are meant to be free for all businesses including law firms and so —
Christopher T. Anderson: Yes, so you can refer them.
Kimball Parker: Yeah, exactly… exactly, and really use them for your own purposes to help you think through as a law firm, how do we transition our workforce remote, how do we deal with extended sick leave? How we do with reimbursements in travel, and then we also developed a kind of a ticketing or questionnaire systems that can collect information from employees who’ve been affected by COVID-19. Some of that information, it’s easy to deploy. We actually have customer service reps ready to help people use it and set it up, and again, that’s free and we’re not looking for an angle here, it’s not free for two months and then you have to pay.
Christopher T. Anderson: I got you. I wouldn’t let you talk about it this much if it weren’t.
Kimball Parker: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. So that’s great. So where can people go to find out more about this?
Kimball Parker: So they can go to sixfifty.com/covid.
Christopher T. Anderson: SixFifty. So that’s sixfifty.com.
Kimball Parker: That’s right, that’s right, spelled out. So www.sixfifty.com/covid for information on those tools.
Christopher T. Anderson: And if people wanted to contact you to learn more about you or what you do, what’s a great way for people to reach out to you if they want to know some more?
Kimball Parker: Oh, absolutely yeah. My email is [email protected], and yeah, we would love to hear feedback or any suggestions or product ideas to help with this covert situation.
Christopher T. Anderson: Thank you very much, Kimball, and this of course wraps up this edition of The Un-Billable Hour, The Law Business Advisory Podcast. Our guest, one more time has been Kimball Parker.
Kimball is the Founder and CEO of SixFifty, the technology subsidiary of the law firm Wilson Sonsini, and he is also the Director of LawX, The Legal Design Lab at the BYU Law School. He has given you his contact information and I hope you will reach out to him and take advantage of the resources that he’s providing free to the legal community and other businesses as well.
Of course, I am Christopher Anderson and I look forward to seeing you next month with another great guest as we learn more about topics that help us build the law firm business that works for you.
Remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes.
Thanks for joining us and we will see you again soon.
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