Law Firm Business for Small Law Firms - Strategist
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Recently in Law Firm Business Category

You've finally got clients coming in the door! Clients are coming! After hanging your shingle, advertising, handling your aunt's cat's estate plan and living will, and redesigning your firm stationary for the 65th time, you finally have a few client intakes lined up.

What steps should you take to protect the client's interests, as well as your own? Here are five things you should be doing to ensure that you end up with conflict-free, sane, paying clients:

One of the biggest shockers of working in a real law firm during and after law school was the amount of money wasted on overhead. Examples include leased copy machines (for small firms, that's a waste), complicated IT setups (virtual machines as a means of backing up and sharing data? One word: cloud storage), and dead trees (printing, copying everything).

Let's cut the fat, shall we? I've got 52 ideas, some good, some redundant, some "penny wise and pound foolish," for doing exactly that.

(Sidebar: Why 52? The number is in honor of one of my favorite Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen, who was designated for assignment on Friday after a handful of years of faithful service, a lot of great jokes, and a few autographs for yours truly during Spring Training.)

In the time of the "start up" business, where young people fresh out of college start a business, get some venture capital, and then make a bajillion dollars, the law firm seems like a vestige of an older time, when we were genteel country lawyers writing on parchment with quill pens.

Structurally, that's the way it is, too: the vanguards of the legal profession still like to pretend law firms are a separate, distinct, elite category of business-but-not-business entity. Really, though, the law firm is a business: it needs to act like one to survive. All the worn leather briefcases and elegant constitutional references the world won't pay the bills.

The Stanford University Graduate School of Business will launch a five-week online course, starting September 15, on "growing your business." Could law firms learn something from this course?

Business trips combine the best elements of vacation with the best elements of working. Wait, maybe they actually combine the worst of each of those things.

In any case, when you're away from your law office on business, here are some ways you can make your life easier, save some money, and operate your practice on the road:

1. Join Every Frequency Program.

Airlines, hotels, credit cards -- they all offer frequency programs that reward you for mileage or spending. Airline tickets and hotel accommodations cost a lot of money, but that means they also reap the most rewards. Even if you have a corporate card, you should be able to join the card's rewards program, meaning you get cash back, points, or whatever it is they offer (though you may not want to "abuse" the program). Similarly, it's free to join practically every airline's frequent flyer program, meaning you earn miles for every mile you travel. Even if you don't have enough miles to get a free airline ticket, you can still turn in your miles to get free stuff. It's how I get magazine subscriptions every year.

Groan. The dreaded billable hour, which, like the last five minutes of a football game, never seems to end. Obviously you need to bill all your time, and you've got to be ethical about it, but are you selling yourself short? A survey conducted by timekeeping software provider Chrometa of 500 professionals who bill by the hour revealed that they captured just 67 percent of their billable time.

How do you squeeze the remaining 33 percent of that time out of your day? Here are five things you can do to make sure you're maximizing your billable hours:

Following the Great Recession of 2008, many firms found it lucrative to expand their practices to encompass debt collection. They became "debt buyers," third parties who purchased the debt from the original creditor -- or even from another debt buyer -- and then tried to collect or obtain a settlement.

The business is lucrative -- consumers owe about $872 billion in credit card debt alone, according to NerdWallet. And consumers signed a contract to pay the debt back, so something is coming.

But federal and state laws designed to protect consumers from shady and abusive debt collection practices may open a firm up to additional liability that, in the end, may not be worth it.

Earlier this week, we told you what clients look for in an attorney. Now, when all those clients come rushing to your door, how do you decide whom to represent? It's better to assess what you want in a client sooner, rather than later, because once the relationship begins, it can be difficult to escape.

Here are four things that you should look for when the client walks in the door for that initial consultation:

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

3 Reasons to Take Business Risks in Your Legal Practice

During times of relative stability, it's so tempting to grow complacent. Sure, there are those professional risks you've fantasized about taking to boost your practice. But the dreaded string of "what ifs" soon follows and puts those fledgling temptations to rest.

But here's the thing: Those "what ifs" are crippling and can actually hurt the longevity of your business. Risks are not only necessary to thrive, they're crucial to survive.

Here are three reasons why you should take calculated risks in your legal practice:

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Who doesn't want to be on TV? It is a chance to be famous, even if only for your 15 minutes, and it's a great chance to market your skills and that of your firm. But, if you're going to be interviewed for a TV news story (especially on national TV), there's a chance the interview will be conducted via speakerphone. So how do speakerphone interviews work, and how can lawyers prepare for them?

For a speakerphone interview, a cameraperson (and sometimes an audio technician) will record your on-camera responses, but the reporter won't be there in person. Instead, the reporter (or a producer) will ask you questions via speakerphone, so he or she doesn't even have to leave the office.

A recent ethics opinion out of Texas has drawn a lot of scrutiny over its ban on managerial titles for nonlawyers (e.g., Chief Technical Officer) in firms -- indeed, we had a lot of fun coming up with alternative titles for CTOs -- but the opinion also pointed out another area where firms can get into trouble with nonlawyer ownership and management prohibitions: bonus structures.

Contingent bonuses are target of the opinion, and if your firm bases bonus on revenue, you might want to reconsider.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.