4 Tips for Beating the Small Law Firm Blues
Merle Haggard wasn't a lawyer, but he knew how to sing the workin' man blues -- the same song that small firm lawyers sometimes hear late at night.
"Works hard every day, might get tired on the weekend, after drawing some pay. Back to work on Monday with a little crew, drinking beer that night and singing the workin' man blues."
It's the downside of small firm practice, where lawyers often earn less than BigLaw attorneys and get overworked wearing many hats -- sometimes clerk, paralegal, and lawyer rolled into one. And if you're a solo practitioner, you are the office manager, tech staff, and secretary, too.
But the blues are really about singing your way out of the doldrums and finding a breeze. Here are some ideas to get you there:
In the old days, you had your paralegals, secretaries, and legal assistants. Nowadays, lawyers have a handful of different legal help professionals -- and some robots -- to help out:
- Legal assistant
- Virtual assistant
- Virtual receptionist
With a little help from these friends, you can get by on a small firm budget, too.
While some may debate the point, legal assistant and paralegal are synonymous. The main point is to hire a person who can perform the specific tasks needed.
Experience, of course, cannot be taught. But technical skills can, so it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.
A good legal assistant should know how to handle case management software, forms, filings and process service. But if you prefer to write your own motions, why pay more for a certified paralegal?
Robots have arrived for work in large and small firms, easing off some of the mundane tasks that can bog down practitioners.
BigLaw has turned to big buck solutions, but the small firm -- and even the solo practitioner -- can afford an office mate like Alexa. She can read documents to you, take dictation, re-order office supplies and send reminders to your cell phone.
As with any internet-enabled device, cybersecurity can be an issue because of the potential for hacking. But the same is true for email, networks and cloud storage, so the same security measures can guard against breaches.
Virtual offices often come with real receptionists, which can provide a real professional presence for clients. And a smiling receptionist cannot be replaced by an answering service.
But whatever you do to reduce the burden of managing phone calls, make sure somebody answers the phone promptly. Studies show that lawyers are slower to respond to phone calls than the average business.
Oh, and don't let the receptionist put callers on hold for more than 30 seconds. That's about when a prospective new client will hang up, and you'll be singing those blues.
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