By Tatia L. Gordon-Troy
You’re a solo practitioner and you run a lean practice. You rarely, if ever, seek help from others. In fact, you seem to prefer doing everything yourself: changing the ink in the copier, ordering office supplies, bookkeeping, mailing client invoices, emailing appointment reminders, making follow-up phone calls, completing client intake forms, or spending hours on the phone with your IT person every time your website crashes or your VOIP phone system suffers a glitch.
What’s interesting is that no task mentioned above has anything to do with practicing law, but everything to do with running a business. A law practice is a business, for sure, which means it needs to be run like one, or it won’t survive.
But what happens when you spend more time running the business, and not enough time practicing law? You suffer financially. What happens when you spend more time practicing law and not enough time running the business? You still suffer financially.
But there is an alternative to this perpetual catch-22 that has allowed you to nevertheless survive for the past few years. And, it’s called becoming the CEO of your law firm, which requires a change in mindset, and a willingness to take some risks. And, it just might help you regain some semblance of your life.
No More Jack of All Trades
Becoming the CEO of your law firm entails removing yourself from the center of your law practice so you can concentrate on generating income. If you’ve been in practice for a few years, it is important to recognize just how much time you spend on non-lawyer tasks and how that time could be better spent earning your client’s retainer.
Stop being the “jack of all trades” within your law practice, because “jacks” are oblivious to the amount of money they lose every day.
Delegate or Die
One of the first steps to becoming the CEO of your law firm is to delegate non-lawyer tasks in order to maximize your time generating income through billable work, networking, developing content, or planning and implementing a marketing strategy.
But with delegating comes risk—the risk of someone else performing those coveted non-lawyer duties more proficiently than you. And that’s a risk you should be willing to take.
Hire an Assistant
Have you ever thought, “I could be paying someone else to do this,” while in the throes of performing some mundane task? To put this in perspective, let’s say your hourly rate is $275. You arrive at your office anticipating a productive day. Instead, you spend an hour on IT problems, an hour answering the phone, and an hour filing client documents in order to clear your desk of closed cases.
Would you pay someone $275 an hour to perform those tasks? No, you wouldn’t. For every hour you spend on non-billable work, you are not getting paid.
Hiring an assistant to perform those tasks at $15 an hour would have allowed you to spend three hours on your client’s case for which you would have earned $780 versus, an unearned $825. Sometimes, spending a little money can actually help you make more money.
Find an in-person or virtual assistant, full-time or part-time, to relieve you of administrative duties such as:
If you’re thinking that hiring an assistant goes against running a lean, mean, legal machine, consider this: the average time spent on billable tasks is 2.3 hours a day, according to a 2017 Clio Legal Trends Report, with office administration siphoning much of a lawyer’s time.
Bringing on an assistant can decrease your stress level and lead to a more efficient and well-paid practice.
Outsource to Professionals
One thing that holds many solos back from outsourcing is cost—the cost of hiring this person or paying for that service. But a CEO mindset views cost (a negative) as an investment (a positive). You will conclude that law practice is for lawyers while, bookkeeping is for bookkeepers, and HTML coding is for IT professionals.
Are you really sitting at your desk learning basic HTML when you could be drafting interrogatories? I know lawyers who have done this.
Stop thinking that doing everything yourself is more efficient. It’s not. Being the CEO simply means taking control of your practice, rather than allowing your practice to have control over you. With the right mix of people and processes in place, you’ll see that running a law firm can bring forth financial stability and enjoyment.
To learn more about virtual assistants, visit https://greatassistant.com/ or www.freeeup.com. And for bookkeeping services, see https://bench.co/ or locally-owned www.lawfirmbookkeeper.com and www.support4B.com.
Tatia L. Gordon-Troy, Esq., is a member of the Maryland Bar and a regular contributor to the Bar Bulletin. She develops content and client outreach products for attorneys and law firms and runs her own publishing house, Ramses House Publishing LLC.