Your Law Practice: Make It Work For You and Without You
Posted by Nickie Freedman
Does anyone go to law school to run a small business? How about to become a salesperson? Instead of the noble vocation of practicing law envisioned, many attorneys find out quickly about the harsh realities of running a professional legal business. But there are ways to transform your PRACTICE into a BUSINESS that works for you and that can run its daily operations seamlessly without you, leaving you free to do what you desire -- practice law.
Does anyone go to law school to run a small business? How about to become a salesperson? Probably not. Attorneys go to law school for many reasons, but being a business owner or closing sales is not one of them.
But that's what happened, isn't it? Instead of the noble vocation of practicing law envisioned, many attorneys find out quickly about the harsh realities of running a professional legal business. They learn that:
The billable hour is everything
They've become the salesperson they never wanted to be
They own and operate a small business
The last point is sometimes the hardest issue to face. Owning your own business means that bringing in revenue and keeping the doors open may get pushed aside and replaced by the many details of actually running a small business.
Who's Running the Store?
Many attorneys find that business matters overtake their practice, and billable hours and revenues decline. So a secretary or administrator is hired to run that side of the business. Not a bad idea. But who ends up running their business -- the staff person or the owner? Do you want to hand over your livelihood to someone else? What happens when that person leaves? Does 90% of your administrative knowledge also leave or are you stuck with an underperforming employee who can hold your business hostage with their knowledge? That can be a dangerous way to run a business.
There are solutions to this issue, but the one that may work the best is sometimes the hardest to find time for: writing and maintaining a procedures manual so that anyone can step in and take over when needed.
Why is this Important?
If procedures are streamlined and duties written exactly as they should occur, attorneys are free to do what they truly love to do Â– practice law. But that's not the only advantage. If procedures are written:
a staff member can take over the non-legal, non-billable matters that take so much of the attorney's precious billable time.
correspondence and pleadings will have the same quality of work product, look, and accuracy.
clients are confident that consistent, high quality service is assured. Outstanding quality, accuracy, and service are a priceless commodity in today's highly competitive legal market.
How Do I Write a Manual?
Option A: The attorney could do that themselves, but again, that's a waste of valuable billable time.
Option B: The attorney could entrust the staff to record the steps that compose their daily duties, but that probably wouldn't streamline the process since no new techniques or insights would be gained.
Option C: Outsource the process to a knowledgeable, trained consultant specializing in law firms and their procedures.
Obviously, Option C would probably work best. A consultant assesses the true needs of the firm, suggests options for different categories, observes the duties and processes employed by the staff, recommends steps to streamline needed procedures or eliminate unnecessary ones, and documents and writes the procedures manual.
However, care must be taken in finding and hiring the right consultant. There are many qualified Human Resource professionals who consult with small businesses; however, a professional law firm is unique in its services, confidentiality issues, practice, and procedures.
What to Look For
When hiring a consultant, look for the following qualities, body of knowledge, and experience in the:
day-to-day operations of a law practice
client confidentiality issues inherent in a law practice
different types of law and resulting practice procedures and requirements
organization of a well-run practice
techniques to increase staff participation
recruiting of qualified staff
training of legal staff to adopt an ownership attitude
legal marketing and business development
creation of additional profit centers
The right consultant who can assess the true needs of the practice and apply that knowledge to streamline processes, document procedures, increase client satisfaction, originate new profit centers, encourage a staff ownership attitude, and increase the attorney's billable hours is truly worth their weight in gold. They can help change your PRACTICE into a BUSINESS that works for you and that can run its daily operations without you. Leaving you to do what you really desire -- practice law.
Nickie Freedman is a professional speaker, business consultant and trainer. She is also the founder and principal of Legally Large, a training and consulting company dedicated to helping firms rise to their next level by optimizing what they already possess. Contact her via http://LegallyLarge.com/