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52 Ways to Reduce Overhead in Your Law Office

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

One of the biggest shockers of working in a real law firm during and after law school was the amount of money wasted on overhead. Examples include leased copy machines (for small firms, that's a waste), complicated IT setups (virtual machines as a means of backing up and sharing data? One word: cloud storage), and dead trees (printing, copying everything).

Let's cut the fat, shall we? I've got 52 ideas, some good, some redundant, some "penny wise and pound foolish," for doing exactly that.

(Sidebar: Why 52? The number is in honor of one of my favorite Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen, who was designated for assignment on Friday after a handful of years of faithful service, a lot of great jokes, and a few autographs for yours truly during Spring Training.)

1. Use a note-taking app (Google Keep) instead of post-it notes;

2. Get a printer with the lowest cost per printed page;

3. Get a printer with auto-duplexing;

4. Use the toner-saver mode on your printer;

5. Change your typeface;

6. Go paperless whenever possible;

7. Turn the A/C up;

8. Turn the heat down;

9. Relax your office dress code as much as possible (suits are warm, which means more A/C is required);

10. Ditch the pod-based coffee maker for an old-school 12-cup pot;

11. Use coffee mugs instead of disposable cups (maybe not in California);

12. Turn off everything (monitors and printers especially) when you leave;

13. Renegotiate your deal with your legal research provider;

14. Cut extra monthly subscription services (research, forms books, etc.);

15. Cut extra staff;

16. Replace costly experienced staff with recent graduates;

17. Cut benefits;

18. Cut hours like the Cubs did (burn!);

19. Drop the landline phone for VOIP;

20. Reevaluate your cell phone provider (T-Mobile's undercut everyone else in the current price war);

21. Computer getting slow? Don't replace it -- use the system restore disk or utility that came with it to remove all the crap that is slowing it down (after backing your data up);

22. Replace LCD monitors with LED (the newer, thinner flat panels) to save on electricity;

23. Keep your old smartphone for another year;

24. Ditch local file servers for reliable cloud storage;

25. Use an all-in-one cloud practice management suite instead of paying for multiple services;

26. Use the client portal feature of your cloud practice management suite to securely send files to clients;

27. Use older copies of Microsoft Office -- nothing's changed since '95 or so;

28. Consider Google Docs or LibreOffice -- free beats paid, but Office is the standard for a reason;

29. Speaking of Office substitutes, iWork is free with new Macs;

30. PCs are cheaper than Macs, however. Keep that in mind when replacing or upgrading;

31. Drop the courier or courthouse runner service;

32. See if e-filing is an option in your jurisdiction;

33. Send correspondence to opposing counsel and clients electronically instead of snail mail (whenever possible);

34. Make a DIY website using WordPress;

35. Bill wisely (a penny earned is a penny saved, or something like that);

36. Use Microsoft's free personalized email for your firm instead of paying Google or a third-party;

37. Use OneNote (it's free, and backs up to the cloud!) to sort client files and stay organized;

38. Don't get a tablet -- they're often a waste of money;

39. Use PACERpro or RECAP to cut your PACER bill;

40. Use free legal research options whenever looking up a specific case;

41. Cut your full-time office to a part-time "executive suite";

42. Cut your office altogether and work from home;

43. Renegotiate your office lease;

44. Share an office with other attorneys;

45. Let employees work from home once or twice a week (it'll cut your power bill);

46. Videoconference (Skype) instead of meeting in person;

47. Scour craigslist for used office furniture;

48. Check deal sites (like Slickdeals and FatWallet) for deals on electronics, office supplies, etc.;

49. Use a cash-back credit card;

50. Explore free and cheap CLE opportunities;

51. Sell and replace fully depreciated assets (use the cash from the sale to offset the cost of the replacement);

52. Find cheap malpractice insurance.

Here is hoping you found at least a few amongst the above 52 that will be of use to you. And speaking once again of 52, adios Bruce Chen -- you will be missed.

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