I cannot believe I have been running my own law firm for 8 years! Time flies when you are busy with your dream. In those 8 years, I have grown as an attorney as a business owner. I have learned a lot about running a practice, both through trial and error as well as speaking with other firm owners. To spare the next generation of law firm owners, I wanted to share my experiences.
1. Invest in a Client Management System ASAP!
When I started my firm, I tracked all of my clients and bills using a spreadsheet and my email. This was cheap and effective for the 10-20 clients I served. It was not, however, built for growth. In year two, my firm grew significantly and I could no longer track efficiently using spreadsheets. Moreover, it was hard for my new employee to know how to contact my clients. I added a Client Management System to ensure I knew how to get a hold of my clients and so did my employee. The problem then became we were so busy with new clients we did not have time to input all of the old client data into the System. Eight years later and we still find an old client that has not been fully transferred to the system. Using a system from Day 1 will ensure your firm starts and stays organized.
2. Invest in Cloud Storage
The second month of owning my law firm I dropped my laptop and destroyed it. I was in tears. Nothing was backed up to the cloud. Thank goodness I was only in month two so not much was lost. From that day forward, I invested in solid cloud storage guaranteeing I could always access my files. This was invaluable when I added my first employee. By one click of the mouse, my new employee had access to all of my files and could get to work! We were also extremely prepared for remote work during the pandemic. Everyone took their laptops home and began work. Not a day was lost transitioning to remote work.
3. Be As Paperless As Possible
I hate paper. It clutters your desk, it costs money, you have to shred it, and so on. When I started my firm, I wanted to be completely paperless. While that is still the goal, it is impossible. Courts send notices in the mail, big firms provide hard copies of everything, and some clients do not know how to scan. My firm implemented processes to ensure everything through the door is scanned so there is no reason to keep a hard copy. By making everything electronic, you and your staff can always access the documents. This strategic initiative also helped for the pandemic. It was very easy for my staff to transition to remote work. Even now with the pandemic moving behind us it allows my staff to work from home as needed.
4. Hire Before You Want To
As I mentioned before, I tried to keep my overhead as low as possible. This meant doing a lot of administrative work myself. Around year 1.5 I knew I needed to hire help, but I was not ready to pay someone. This was a mistake. By the time I hired someone I was so busy, I had very little time to train them. As a result, I was not happy with the output. Had I hired someone at year 1.5 instead of 2, I would have had time to train the employee on what was needed. I now try to hire a month or two before I am fully in overdrive so I have time to train! I’ve also found many more options to find help when you need it. Virtual receptionists, virtual assistance, appearance services, and remote paralegal support are just some of the ways you can get the assistance you need without hiring a full-time employee.
5. Have a Calendaring Tool
As attorneys we have to meet with clients, opposing counsel, courts, and more. The biggest waste of time is coordinating calendars or playing phone tag. Invest in an online calendaring tool. The tool will allows your clients, the court, and opposing counsel to see your schedule and select a time that works for them, eliminate phone tag and several emails. I started using this tool two years ago and it saves my firm so much time. It also eliminates a task for support personnel. This tool can improves your efficiency by eliminating unplanned interruptions. Each time you take a call you are prepared for the context of the call and can give it your undivided attention.