By no means are new law firm owners alone in the experience of being woken from deep sleep in a state of sweat-soaked angst, any chance of further sleep exhausted.
But for attorneys going out on their own to start new firms, the pressures are intense enough to make them feel as if no one else could possibly understand.
New Orleans attorney Ernie Svenson knows differently, and from deeply personal experience. Though he survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the flooding and power loss paralyzed the prestigious 50-attorney law firm he worked for at the time. With no phone, fax or email service, no website, and no access to client documents, the result was what he today refers to as “Goliath on its knees.”
Within months, Mr. Svenson put his technology knowledge to work to start his own solo firm. While his technical smarts made it easier to automate his practice, by no means did it solve every problem he encountered. For that, he relied on others who had also gone their own way.
The help he got from other attorneys was so important to his own success that he started his Small Law Firm Bootcamp to help other small-firm owners be more successful
- Not having work
- Cash flow/dealing with expenses
- Not making enough money
- How to get the administrative work done without hiring full-time employees
- Missed filing dates, court dates, client meetings, etc.
- Making mistakes
- Not getting paid for work
- Whether to rent/how to afford office space
- Not making trust accounting mistakes
As for solutions, there is no one answer for every concern. Both Mr. Svenson and Mr. Bayer say they discover new solutions to old problems nearly every Bootcamp session. Here is their most important advice for attorneys starting their own firms, or even for those just thinking about it:
1. Get your website up, pronto. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Just get it up and running so people can find and contact you. If you’re feeling stuck, Mr. Svenson advises you to call on a website designer and have them get started from your LinkedIn profile.
2. Take advantage of automation and the digital tools available today, right from the start. According to Mr. Bayer, “some of the best legal programs out there today are scalable even for solos. New firms today have a tremendous advantage. There are almost no limits to what they can accomplish with today’s software.”
3. Go paperless. Mr. Svenson says it’s not just about making yourself more efficient so you can get more done in less time. “It’s about helping your clients. They don’t want to wait while you chase down a file. Pull it up on your iPad® device and answer questions on the spot.”
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every attorney who’s ever gone out on their own has been where you are. Nine times out of ten, if you ask another attorney who’s been there, you’ll get the help you need. And if you don’t, well, there’s always Bootcamp…
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We’re hosting a webinar for attorneys aspiring to build a new law firm in early November with Mr. Bayer and Mr. Svenson:
- What: Hanging Your Shingle Webinar
- When: November 3, 2015 | 2:00-3:00 p.m. (ET)
- Where: Online, register here
- Cost: Complimentary with registration
- Presenters: Ernie Svenson and Craig Bayer
Check out this interactive and fun infographic to learn about the advantages many new-firm owners have even over well-established firms (no registration)
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