We are lawyers. We are also businesspeople. Often, especially when a big trial or motion is pending, we fall into single-case tunnel vision. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Clients should always come first. After all, you have an ethical obligation to help the client, and only a financial obligation to your business.
If you aren’t careful, however, the business aspects of your small firm can dry up while you are fighting that noble fight over a motion to exclude evidence. Every day, you should be taking at least one small step towards advancing the business side of your firm, from marketing to billing. Here are five ways to do so:
Update Your Website, Blog
Do you maintain your own website? Some of the biggest factors for placement in Google search results are fresh content and regular updates. Plus, what does a client think when they see a webpage with the nothing but year-old blog posts and news updates?
Take an hour. Add a quick news update, if you have one. Write a beneficial blog post on an interesting question of law that you've faced lately. Skim your site for anything that needs to be added or deleted, such as the listing for a staff member that has left the firm.
Billing, Invoicing, and Collections
What's the hardest part of running a law office? Some might say getting clients. Others would say getting clients to pay. If you haven't audited your billing and receivables lately, it might be worth an hour or two of your time. Who has an outstanding balance? Who needs to be billed? Can you contact the clients personally and attempt to arrange a payment plan?
You may have enough clients now (maybe even too many, considering that pending motion that's nagging you), but what about three months from now? Much of the ebb and flow of small firm finances comes from the ebb and flow of clients. One way to fight that unsteadiness is to ensure that the marketing machine is operating 24/7, online and in the real world. Heck, if you end up with too many clients, you can always refer them to a friend (and possibly split the fees).
The bane of our existence, most CLEs are absolutely useless. The bar requires them however, so if your reporting date is near, or if you have an ebb of client work, now is the time to get a quick hour or two of CLEs in. There are a number of providers online, including the occasional free provider (beware of low quality). Start with your local bar association's website.
After spending all day with lawyers, the last thing you want to do now is to go schmooze with lawyers. Fair enough. Though the occasional appearance at a local bar event is good for referrals and professional contacts, you can also network with non-lawyers through social organizations (in sight, in mind), or if you're truly busy or antisocial, try much-easier social networking.