You Can’t Run a Truly Successful Law Practice Based on Hunches
Lawyers, unlike machines, make decisions based on guesswork. Lawyers react, and don’t often consider the advantages of becoming proactive. Lawyers manage data, but don’t analyze it. In that environment, it’s impossible to build a law firm other than by feeling your way through, and putting out fires — as they blaze out of control. Intake is not the only place where lawyers can collect basic data, review it and make decisions based on that review. You can figure out who hasn’t paid you by running an accounts receivable report. You can collect data about associate attorney productivity, and make promotion, salary and bonus decisions based on that information. You can establish factors for successful cases based on real results you’ve achieved, and then make intake decisions based on what you’ve discovered. Even if you don’t have a single client yet, from the moment you start a practice, you can figure out where to store relevant data, so you can analyze it later.
A case management software featuring reporting capability is a great place to begin.
Legal Software is Key-How to Run a Successful Law Practice Don’t Play the Bar Association Numbers Game
Some lawyers will tell you to join as many bar associations as you can. While it is true that the best time to join bar associations is when you’re a new lawyer (many of whom launch law practices), because your annual dues are the cheapest then, this is more a question of quality, than quantity. If you belong to twelve bar associations, and don’t get much out of any of those memberships because you’re stretched too thin, you’re wasting your money. I’ve talked to hundreds of lawyers who’ve gotten burnt out on the quantity strategy; and, they all think bar association involvement doesn’t work for marketing — because they never actually became involved. Understanding how to manage bar association involvement is tantamount to understanding how referral relationships work, because you’re seeking to meet other lawyers who will refer you cases. Those relationships are developed slowly, over time. It’s like bleeding a stone, or working with a rock hammer. It’s far better, then, to join fewer bar associations, and to form deeper relationships, than to dabble everywhere. This is similar to the choice lawyers make between creating a general or a niche practice; the one pays off at the beginning, the other pays off in the end.
The Traditional Office Lease is Overrated
The biggest overhead expense for most law firms is an office lease. Traditionally, office leases were made on terms of years, and — especially in population centers — ran to big dollars. The prevailing theory went hand-in-hand with the notion of hanging a shingle — you needed a ‘real’ office, from which to hang that shingle. The traditional office lease served a function similar to that of the modern website, which was that it verified the bona fides of a business. But, the rise of cloud-based technology caused many business owners to realize that they (and their staff) did not have to work in any particular place, and that paying for a full-time office lease when the firm’s space requirement was not full-time was not the wisest investment of capital. The use of internet services means a lawyer could run his practice entirely from a home office; or, if the need arose for office space, virtual offices would be available for hourly rates that were far lower than traditional office lease terms. And, savvy lawyers look to share space with colleagues managing complementary practice areas, so that they can more easily network, and acquire referrals. Owning or renting a full-time office space becomes less economically viable for law firms as we move forward in time, and fewer and fewer start-up law firms are building momentum that way.