Automate

With the available technology, there is no reason not to have what you need at your fingertips. How often have you spent time looking for something you know you have done before or someone in your firm has done before? I can’t tell you how many emails I have seen from attorneys asking if anyone has written an MSJ covering a certain point or written a contract for a particular type of engagement. This is money and time flushed down the toilet.

How do you keep track of your contacts? Do you type them one time and use that list to create mailing lists and labels? Most contact management systems can use your Outlook list. If you are typing your contacts into Outlook and a contact management system or Excel, you are typing contacts once too many times. Also, you’ll need to remember to correct multiple lists when someone moves or changes firms.

Scalable automation is all over the net. Look for tools that handle your specific tasks, hire an expert to set up them up and use them. You may think that it will be too expense, but your time is billable at an hourly rate that is usually much higher than a tech consultant.

Don’t Settle

Your clients expect excellence from you. Expect excellence from those who help you in your practice, whether staff, services or products. One question I always ask a new vendors is, “what is your response time?” Recently I was working with an IT support company whose response time was something like “we’ll try and get to you in four hours.” As you know, having your computer down and maybe getting a call back in four hours just isn’t good enough. If you are working with a service provider who isn’t familiar with law firms, be clear about your expectations and put them in writing. Even an email exchange can work to be sure everyone is clear.

When you are working with someone who isn’t meeting your expectations, tell them kindly and respectfully. I hired a clerk once who had never had a job with sick time. She thought she could call in sick on Mondays or Fridays because she had the time. She was an excellent employee, but we couldn’t count on her. I spoke to her about it. Once she understood, she stopped calling in sick every time she earned a new sick day. Often, simply telling people what is expected fixes a problem.

People don’t like confrontation. However, you are running a business and need to be clear so that resentment doesn’t build and you don’t do things yourself because you are too timid to correct substandard work. I have a motto I use – Just Do It.

Develop Business Partners

Build positive relationships with your vendors. They should be your business partners. When you find good business partners who know and understand your practice, you create outsourced resources. When you need something rushed or someone to bounce an idea off of, having a trusted business partner is invaluable. I have an IT outsourcing company that I have used at every firm possible for over 10 years because they understand me and meet my standards. They will always take time to answer a question for me whether they are working with my current firm or not. I get straight, honest information from them whenever I need it.   In turn, I refer them whenever possible.

We all have clients we don’t necessarily like to work with. Don’t be that client to your business partners.

If you are running a law firm, you can find many resources for marketing, IT and client retention. What you may have a hard time finding is information in one place on general best practices for running your firm. My goal with these posts is to give you that information and create a place where we can talk and ask each other about the business of running a small law firm.

So, what have you learned along the way that you would share with those managing small law firms?

 

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