As far as law firms go, one size does not fit all. You can operate as a sole practitioner or as a large firm with partners and every size in between, but be careful not to bankrupt your law practice by getting ahead of yourself. Slow growth, detailed accounting, and a hands-on approach will help you become the owner of a successful solo law firm.
Avoid expanding too quickly. Choosing an office space is a big decision. Don’t overpay for a large space if you don’t have the employees to fill it up. It’s best to start out with a modest work space and a short-term lease. As you grow and hire more in-office staff (secretary, paralegal(s), office manager) you can relocate to a larger office. With the kind of slow-but-steady growth that will set you up for long term success, you won’t need to find a bigger space for several years.
Hire mobile team members when possible. Many small business owners feel confident that they can manage their own social media accounts and online marketing/blogging. Additionally, some attorneys don’t fully grasp the importance of staying on top of your firm’s online presence. Working with an independent social media manager is a great way to grow your client base without needing to find a desk for your online management specialist.
The same is true when it comes to your finances as a solo attorney, especially if this is the first time you’ve owned your own business. Working with a mobile accountant truly is one of the smartest time-saving decisions you can make! Not only will you find yourself with ample time to focus on building your business and attending to clients’ needs, but you can stop worrying about the possibility of substantial accounting errors that could very well end up costing you a lot of money and potentially even your business.
Think big, but act small. If you have a secretary but he’s left for the day, don’t automatically send all calls to voicemail. Little things like greeting your clients immediately when they call can incite a solid connection when it matters most – when your clients are in need of help. In the same vein, if you have the time, go ahead and schedule your own meetings when you can! Adding a personal touch to your client interactions will make you much more approachable, solidifying your working relationships as well as your reputation.
Set yourself up for mobile success. In today’s tech-centric world, you simply can’t be tied down to your office. By keeping all of your legal and financial documents filed in the cloud, you can access them from anywhere. If you’re meeting clients at their place of business or taking a working lunch, you can have all of your information on hand without the inconvenience of lugging a large paper file everywhere. If you’re a solo attorney who prefers hard copy files, you can still kick it “old school” behind your office doors (if you have ample space.) In all honesty, however, it’s simply best practice today to use a cloud accounting program like QuickBooks.
Be firm and up front with your clients about your fees. Disclosing your fees to a potential new client doesn’t have to be awkward. Depending on your practice area(s), you may have fixed fees for straightforward legal work. Alternatively, you may work on contingency which means you get a percentage of potential settlements or “winnings.” In most other cases, you’ll want to give your clients a financial estimate after the initial consultation. If you skirt around the fees because it makes you uncomfortable, it will make the clients uncomfortable, thereby increasing the chance of a disagreement over future invoices. Use your legal expertise to present each client with a clearly written contract outlining what potential fees they may incur and payment options that are acceptable. Prioritizing your income stream can make or break your practice.
Reconcile your accounts each month. “Reconciling accounts” simply means make sure all of your account statements match. When you work with an experienced mobile cloud accounting expert like JADDE Financial Solutions, we will keep your bank accounts, trust accounts, and statements up to date by month so if a mistake is found, it can be fixed immediately, rather than letting the errors go until the next quarter.