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Webinar Recap: “Law Firm Autopilot: How to Earn More, Work Less, and Avoid the Office”

Noel Peel

Written by

Noel Peel


January 29, 2019

Ernie “the Attorney” Svenson joined Smokeball cloud-based legal practice management software for “Law Firm Autopilot: How to Earn More, Work Less, and Avoid the Office”,  an enlightening webinar on re-evaluating and adjusting your goals as a practicing lawyer. You can watch the full presentation here.

Ernie’s unique background lent particular weight to his discussion about working to live your best life rather than simply living to work. Ernie began the webinar by outlining his previous work experiences right out of law school, his ascension to partnership at his BigLaw firm, and his ultimate disillusionment with the structure of practicing law while growing to hate it. The goal for Ernie after that first portion of his life in law was to practice in a way that was not suffocating and was still very profitable. He did so in an extraordinary way by using three main pillars of practice.


Laying the foundation for your next moves and planning out your goals is crucial to new successes. Ernie highlighted that having a vision and goals for where you see yourself in practicing law is key. He suggested trying to answer the following questions as a way to spend time reflecting: What kind of personal life do you want to have? What kind of practice supports that kind of personal life? What kind of clients do you want? Next, it is crucial to have a plan for what “success” looks like. Again, he posed a possible question to ask yourself: What are your financial goals? Breaking down and tracking the answer to this very broad question for periodical review will highlight success or plan re-adjustment.

Within this pillar, Ernie recommended a book by Michael E. Gerber, “The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”. To implement a strong foundation, Ernie next focused on getting the proper help: Who can you rely on to help you fulfill your success plan? This questions ultimately ensures that you find trustworthy consultants, guides, coaches, and tech pros. Ernie also highlighted having a network of lawyer peers who are in a similar place to you. With good people and a good plan in place, your new foundation will be a sturdy one.


Ernie began speaking about this second pillar admitting how averse he was to “marketing” and “networking”, as many other lawyers are. He pointed out that the “noble and learned profession” of lawyering sometimes makes lawyers think they should simply think and do good work, and new work will come walking in the door. While that is sometimes true, lawyers certainly need to be mindful of getting their name and expertise into the legal market. Ernie advocated understanding marketing in the way that other small business do. He also highlighted that trust is the key component for lawyers.

Thus, there are only two kinds of trust-related marketing that lawyers should do: referral and online. Referral marketing is the lowest cost to lawyers, and it uses the trust clients have in you and transfers that trust to new potential clients. Online marketing differs in that it can be more expensive and time-consuming. It does not need to be either, however, if done properly and with a good plan (but it will take more than just having a modern law firm website. Ernie’s book recommendation to support this pillar was “Direct Marketing Second Edition: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses” by Dan S. Kennedy.


According to Ernie, the final pillar to a dream practice is operations. Within this pillar, you must have great systems optimized and written down in painstaking detail. Ernie pointed out that if you can’t describe what you do as a process, you really don’t know what you’re doing. For this piece, Ernie suggested John H. Fisher’s book, “The Power of a System”. Next, Ernie described how legal document management and automation is a very powerful tool for lawyers. He recommended technologies that can assist with the repetitive and mundane tasks within lawyering, whether its calendaring software for law firms or using law firm time tracking software. Last, Ernie discussed delegating so that lawyers do only “lawyer work”. He outlined that the only real barrier to delegation is mindset and momentum.

Love Your Practice

Ernie concluded the webinar taking questions from the audience and giving anecdotal evidence of a re-thought practice. A friend of his recently texted him from Hawaii to say that he was lawyering from the beach and his hotel room and to thank Ernie for his help getting him to that point. Ernie’s ultimate point: shouldn’t we enjoy being lawyers as much as possible?

For Ernie, finding a way to work when you want, from where you want, and how you want made all the difference in his love of the law. When you are able to control your work, you have the ability to feel more in control of life as well. The fears or concerns that prevent lawyers from re-evaluating their practice can be allayed by focusing on Ernie’s three main pillars. As Ernie highlighted during the Q&A portion of the webinar, stubbornness is really the only impediment to thorough re-assessment of your goals. Lawyers of all personalities, practice levels, and practice areas can make the jump to law firm autopilot if they are willing to put in some effort up front.

Smokeball Can Help

Smokeball can help get any lawyer to that point. Let Smokeball help you love your practice again by taking away the things that consume you and hurt your attitude towards practicing. Smokeball is one of the top legal document solutions, so you can easily follow Ernie’s automation advice. It also has detailed task and firm workflows so that you have a place to put your written systems, as Ernie also suggests. The ability to delegate, another of Ernie’s main suggestions, within Smokeball is unparalleled – easily pass work to others so that your are truly focused on “lawyer work”. To see all the amazing features that Smokeball provides to small law firms, schedule a demo today.

You can view the entirety of Ernie’s webinar hosted by Smokeball here.

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