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Head-banging Lessons for Starting a New Law Firm

Head-banging Lessons for Starting a New Law Firm

Spend enough time around Ernest (Ernie the Attorney) Svenson and legal technologist Craig Bayer and you’re bound to learn a few things.

The two will be leading a CLE webinar today (Tuesday, November 3rd) for attorneys starting their own firms, so it seemed worthwhile to get a sneak preview of how they approach their work with new-firm owners, or those just thinking about going out on their own.

The power of head-banging, for instance. Ask Mr. Svenson what has made him so successful, not only as a litigation attorney, but as a marketer, Small Law Firm Bootcamp owner, meditator, whatever happens to be on the agenda at the moment…

“Most things I’m good at, I’ve gotten that way because I’ve banged my head on the wall for so long.”

Fair enough. And Mr. Bayer, as a technology consultant for law firms, what words of wisdom do you have for attorneys opening their own firms?

“Plumbers use accounting software from the big box business store. You’re not a plumber.”

You might get the idea that the two have a pretty relaxed approach to helping attorneys, and you’d be dead-on in that assessment. If you take that to mean they don’t take the success of new law firm owners seriously, though, you’d be dead wrong.

“We’re really sensitive to the fact that attorneys might be afraid of being embarrassed about not knowing how to do something,” Mr. Svenson said. “We keep sessions very open and welcoming so people feel like they can answer any question, even if they think everyone else in the room already knows the answer.”

“Besides the fear of not making money, or not getting paid, or pretty much anything that involves money, the biggest fear attorneys seem to have is making mistakes.”

There are some subjects, in fact, that almost every attorney wants to learn more about.

“Besides the fear of not making money, or not getting paid, or pretty much anything that involves money, the biggest fear attorneys seem to have is making mistakes,” said Mr. Bayer.

“They come to me and they’re afraid of choosing the wrong hardware or software and that’s legitimate,” he said. “But as long as you take a big-picture approach and find a knowledgeable person you trust to guide you in the beginning, you’ll be fine.”

And if not? Mr. Svenson tells a real-life worst-case story of just how frightening NOT being properly prepared with the right technology in place can be.

“I knew a lawyer who started a new firm in New Orleans about the same time that I did, after Hurricane Katrina devastated us in 2005,” he said. “He opened his doors specifically to handle property damage cases, which were obviously big around here at the time.”

“The problem was, he didn’t have a good email management system, which probably sounds harmless, but he didn’t realize that all federal cases are done through e-filing. Between all the emails coming in from clients and potential clients and federal e-filings, he lost track of important dates, missing filing deadlines and court dates.

“All too often for new-firm owners starting out, you don’t always realize what you need until you have to live with the mistake of not having it.”

A sentiment echoed by Mr. Bayer, who all too often, has attorneys contact him after finding out what they really needed the hard way.

“It’s really easy for small firms starting out today because technology is improving rapidly, so it’s much easier to scale costs,” he said. “But it’s so much better to work with new firm owners from the very start so you can make certain everything works together seamlessly. That way, you don’t have to fit everything around a bad choice made at the very beginning.”

* * *

Join Mr. Bayer, Mr. Svenson and the Firm Manager team on the webinar today!

  • 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)

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
9 Concerns that Keep New Law Firm Owners Awake

Photo credit:  Flickr, texturepalace, 84 Rusty Color Metal… (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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About Paula Avery

Paula Avery
Paula Avery is the Creative Manager, Content for the Business of Law and Litigation Software Solutions (BLSS) group at LexisNexis Legal & Professional. With a long background in advertising and marketing – including 20 years running her own advertising/consulting firm – Avery’s focus is on helping companies better connect with and communicate what makes their customers’ lives better, a focus she continues in her work with LexisNexis today. Paula has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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