Summer teeth: it’s time to bite into those long-overdue projects
Nobody starts a law firm on exactly the footing they expect.
Even though some attorneys work an aggressive plan for establishing
a new practice, there are always things "left a slide"; and, for some, practice
management is thrust upon them. The absolute best time to settle
your firm practices is at its inception. If you don't, you'll find
that you're making ad hoc decisions later, and often when
you're too busy to make them well. The blessing and curse of
starting a law firm is that you don't have a lot of clients; so,
while you're not making money, you do have time -- time to
implement and to learn your systems. If you don't take advantage of
that time, you'll have to backfill later.
There are ebbs and flows in law practice; there are also times of the seasons. Normally, when you have a
down month as a solo or small firm attorney, you're getting jacked
up on client development in order to try to get those folks moving
through the doors again. But, the summertime is a little different.
The pace slows for almost everyone when the weather gets real warm;
you'll expect some downturn in client intake. With a release of
some pressure, you'll have some more time to do some things outside
of the substantive practice. This is, then, in many ways, the
perfect in-practice time to catch up
on some of your lost projects.
If you didn't do these things when you started your law firm,
summertime's a pretty good time to get them done:
Project 1: Draft a Business Plan. Even if
you've been practicing for quite some time, it's nevertheless a
good idea to create and follow a business plan. Even if you had a
business plan from the beginning, you would have revisited it from
time to time in order to see where you'd need to reset your
services. Drafting a business plan when you're already in practice
is a more comprehensive effort. But, it will require you to take a
fresh look at your law firm management, and to analyze your
prevailing practice settings on the basis of relative
effectiveness. Here are some tips to get started.
Project 2: Draft a Marketing Plan. If you've
never drafted and followed a marketing plan, you are more likely to
waste your time in places, and to have only a fuzzy idea of what
your efforts yield in terms of client gain and retention. If you do
draft a marketing plan, you can settle your options and determine a
methodology for figuring out what your return on investment is --
if you can create a money spent (hard and soft costs) versus money
returned (new client billings) analysis, that is best. If you don't
feel that you have the time to draft a complete marketing plan,
though, instead create a "marketing platform" -- a list of the
places from which you broadcast your message and figure out what
the ROI will be. If you have a marketing plan, and it's not
working, here's how to fix it.
Project 3: Get Your Trust Accounting in Order.
It is surprising just how many attorneys out there are not
performing their trust account reconciliations appropriately. If
you did not learn the rules when you started, and you never set up
a process from the beginning of your time in practice, you're
likely to carry those initial bad practices with you. Well, this
would be your chance to reconcile your habits. Here are some tips to get started.
Project 4: Settle Your Client Intake Protocol.
If you can effectively process new clients, it will have a positive
effect across a number of areas of your practice management. If you
do not have an effective intake form, now would be the time to
create one, or to convert one that you have borrowed. If you do
client intake right, it will help you immensely in at least a few
specific areas. You need to input the correct, holistic data in
order to run useful conflicts checks.
You won't be able to determine the return on investment of your marketing
efforts unless you know how your clients came to you. If you
don't know your clients' preferred methods of contacts, you may be
continually contacting them on lines which they ignore. (Intake,
incidentally, is also a good time to inform your clients of the
firm's communication guidelines.)
Project 5: Take a Break. It's summertime . . .
make time to do something fun. Go to a concert. Host a barbeque.
Get sunburnt yourself. Watch bad TV. Being a lawyer is a demanding
job. Take some time for yourself, while you can.
Tip courtesy of Jared Correia, Law Office Management Assistance
Published August 8, 2013
To learn more about the Law Practice Management
Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members,
contact LPM Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar or Vice
Chair Cynthia E.