Last year, the State of U.S. Small Law Firms report shared results from a survey of 300 solo and small firm attorneys, an attempt to try to learn more about the top challenges they encountered.
The survey found that the top issues for solo attorneys were:
- acquiring new client business (75%)
- spending too much time on administrative tasks (70%)
- clients demanding more for less (69%)
- addressing the competition (63%)
- collecting from clients (63%).
Nowhere near the top of the list was there any mention of the practice of law. The concerns centered upon the business of law: marketing, collections, and firm administration.
Here are some of the top opportunities for solo attorneys to use technology to improve on the business of being an attorney, so they can get back to practicing law.
Running the business
Every solo attorney needs to use a practice management system, and there are plenty of options. Look for a software for managing and automating your dockets, communications, calendar, court forms, templates, and case files. Many systems are now cloud-based platforms, which means that everything is in one place and is accessible from anywhere.
Even better if your choice includes time and billing software. The days when Excel can sufficiently manage your finances is long gone. Now’s the time to up your professional game in order to continue to grow.
For good or for bad, as a solo attorney, you have absolute control over your law practice. This also means you have the ultimate responsibility. Come emergency or glitch, as a solo, you need to take extra precautions to prepare for disasters in your business.
Using a cloud-based practice management system as discussed above is a good start, but you should also consider a separate online backup service. This service will protect your important data from the most common forms of data loss, such as ransomware, accidental deletions, hardware failures, and natural disasters.
The top concern of solo attorneys in the latest survey results was acquiring new client business. Creating and maintaining a steady stream of potential clients can be a full-time job, and there are many companies out there that would like to do it for you—at a hefty price. But even if you’re not ready to sign on with big marketing plans, there are some “must have’s” and many low-cost strategies that can pay dividends.
At the very least, a website is essential. Do some research: look at the competition’s websites and see which ones stand out and why. Search for an attorney in a similar practice in another part of the country and compare websites in a specific location.
You’ll also need to dig deep to understand your firm’s message and your brand before discussing construction with a developer. And just like any other service, shop around, get some quotes, and compare.
Networking is critical for any professional, but particularly a modern solo attorney. This includes social media like LinkedIn, local groups like the Kiwanis Club, and seeking out opportunities—whether it’s sponsoring the eighth-grade girls’ basketball team or providing a free legal seminar at the city library.
When you have a strong network of colleagues and vendors already set up, you become a trusted name who acquaintances feel comfortable recommending. Word of mouth can be the most powerful tool when you open yourself up to other, greater opportunities.
Time is precious, whether it’s yours or that of your legal support staff. That means that relying on outdated practices like the use of a court runner—or waiting at the counter yourself—are not the best uses of your resources.
Take advantage of technology solutions like One Legal, that allow firms to file documents with the court straight from the office. Whether your county is accepting electronic filings or not, One Legal makes the process wholly digital for you.
Depending on your availability or skill level with certain tasks, you may consider farming out some critical projects. For example, hiring a contract attorney to conduct research and to draft pleadings for your review can save time. Hiring a virtual paralegal can give you greater flexibility during spikes in caseloads.
Likewise, One Legal’s Concierge services can be leveraged to file court documents and serve papers. Do what you do best, and cut down on the administrative work that takes up so much of your valuable time.
Solo attorneys are tasked with running their businesses while at the same time practicing law. Consider these tools and strategies to help you manage your practice and become more efficient as you build your client base and become more successful.