I was a little reluctant to try my hand at this blog post, especially because I am not an attorney. However, I have a unique perspective, because for 17 years I have been able peer in from the outside. I have seen the challenges lawyers face firsthand, albeit not experiencing them directly. Cataloging all of the daily challenges that a solo attorney experiences while running their law firms is not as helpful as providing you with a prioritized list of issues and suggestions, so that is what I will do here. Here the top 3 challenges I have seen solo attorneys face in their practices.
By far the greatest challenge I have seen (and am frequently told) is creating and maintaining a steady pipeline of potential clients. This is especially hard when you are first starting out and do not have the benefit of a large referral network such as many past clients, or other attorneys that can send you leads. So what do you to meet this challenge? Generate your own leads and build a referral network.
While marketing and advertising costs may seem prohibitive when you are first starting out, if done correctly the investment will pay off. The biggest mistake newer attorneys make is not investing enough in themselves. Do a little research so you understand what you need, then find a law marketing professional to help you and pull the trigger. It may make sense to use marketing to build a referral network first, then begin advertising directly to potential clients. For instance, you can run a direct mail campaign targeting chiropractors, small businesses, accountants and other professionals that are likely to send you business. In the mailers you can ask to setup a meeting with them, and ask for referrals.
Hiring a reliable support person is another challenge. Before you begin the job search, knowing when it’s time to hire someone is also a popular topic. From what I have observed, successful solos hire someone as soon as they can barely afford to. Why? Because a good support person will free up several hours of your day (computer troubleshooting, calls, meeting scheduling, etc.) allowing you to focus on the things that generate revenue like prospecting and fulfilling work you have been retained to do.
When hiring support, take your time and do it slowly. Don’t get impatient. Spend time generating a great job description and post on several job sites like Indeed.com and Craigslist. When it comes to firing, apply the opposite advice. If you feel like you’ve been duped by a great interview and the work product is lousy, count your losses and move on quickly. Don’t waste any time trying to right a wrong.
Fortunately, there is a lot of software out there that can help you organize and run your practice efficiently. Please note that all of these tools require you to start with a solid process for running your law practice. If you need help with organization and developing solid process for running your law firm, I recommend you visit the ABA’s law practice management section for resources. Once you’ve got that down there are a variety of tools, such as Google Apps for business, Clio, and even prospecting tools like Insightly to help you with running an efficient practice. Whichever tool you choose, be sure there is wide support, and adoption so that you are sure you getting one that will be around for a while. It may also help to hire a consultant for just a couple of hours to help you get started.
While you’ll have many challenges running a law practice, taking care of these first three will help you set your firm up for success and provide you with a foundation that you can use to grow your practice. As always, if you have any questions about this post or any of my work, please do reach out to me directly in the comments below or contact us by phone (626) 578-5040 or by filling out our contact form.