“Managing a solo- or small-law law firm practice requires business acumen.”
So says Heidi S. Alexander a law practice management advisor with Massachusetts LOMAP – the law office management assistance program. Her experience – and by extension advice – stems from her role as an advisor and entrepreneur with solo law firm experience.
Ms. Alexander joined us for a Google Hangout interview this week, of which the complete video is embedded nearby. Here’s summary (paraphrase) of some of the primary questions – and her answers.
What are some of the common pitfalls attorneys make when establishing a new law firm?
A law firm is a business and newly minted solo- or small-law firm attorneys don’t realize when they begin, that a significant portion of their time will be dedicated to managing the business. All law firms need to dedicate time to managing a practice or risk winding up in trouble both ethically and financially, says Ms. Alexander.
A good way to mitigate such risk is to have a business plan that outlines a roadmap for the business side of a practice. A business plan doesn’t have to be a formal document, but a set of guidelines, including a budget and a marketing plan, that can be reviewed and adjusted every few months. The mental exercise of business planning helps attorneys make better business decisions and set goals for the growth of a practice.
The other mistake Ms. Alexander observes is a lack of organization. Attorneys in small law firms tend to juggle multiple responsibilities and she recommends small law firms use a law practice management program. Such software helps attorneys track clients, matters, deadlines, court dates, conflict checks, billing among a number of other routine management tasks a small law firm attorney needs to be concerned about.
In a small law firm, the attorney is also the brand – anywhere they go – they have to “sell themselves.”
What do solo- or small law firm attorneys do well, which they may not always recognize, or give themselves credit for?
Many don’t give themselves credit for how much they actually know about marketing instinctively. In a small law firm, the attorney is also the brand – anywhere they go – they have to “sell themselves.” As a result, solo and small law firm attorneys naturally tend to get pretty good at marketing.
Ms. Alexander also finds that small law firm attorneys tend to work efficiently. She believes this is a consequence of the fact that the attorneys must do much of the administrative work required to run a practice. Those attorneys that excel at efficiency are the ones that establish good workflow from the very beginning and make effective use of technology.
* * *
The complete interview runs about 19 minutes and she explores some of the options for new law graduates considering starting a firm near the end. Ms. Alexander can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ – and she also co-hosts a podcast with the Legal Talk Network called the Legal Toolkit.
Additional helpful resources
- Reference: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- News: Mass LOMAP email newsletter
- Resources: Law Firm Startup Kit
- Webinars: Lunch hour legal marketing
- Mass LOMAP on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Legal Tech Briefs: Virtues of Virtual Law with Stacey L. Romberg