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More On House Calls

by Carolyn Elefant on May 21, 2006 · 2 comments

in Business Models, Client Service, Office Options

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Joining a previous and long ago post on housecalls is this piece, Swtiching to House Calls, Hope Viner Samborn (ABA Journal 5/2006).  These days, house calls are viewed not just as convenient for clients but as a way to avoid having an office.  From the article:

Solo practitioner Laura S. Petelle gives new meaning to the moniker in-house counsel–she always meets clients in their homes, businesses or public places. Petelle travels throughout a three-county area around Peoria, Ill. She sits in kitchens or living rooms with families, writing notes while discussing estate planning. Breaks are common for homework, after-school snacks and playing with dogs. And it’s common for her to be asked to stay for dinner.  She is one of a new breed of solos who have abandoned a traditional office, instead traveling to clients wherever they may be. Cell phones and portable computers keep them in touch and make this practice model possible.

It’s interesting how technology is allowing us to return to the traditional practices of our predecessors.

  • Seth Rogers

    There are some real advantages to this, if you’re in the right practice area.
    In personal bankruptcy (debtor side), for example, house calls have the following advantages:
    1. Poor clients don’t have to find day care for the kids and invest in expensive travel time.
    2. All the tax returns, pay stubbs, financial records and other extensive documentation is right there in the house. Lawyers who do bankruptcies from an office report that clients almost never provide them with all the documentation they need on the first meeting. This necessitates additional calls and delays as the client shuttles back and forth with additional paper.
    3. Bankruptcy clients are typically already intimidated enough by the whole process. They tend to be more relaxed and honest in their own element.
    4. The new version of the Bankruptcy law requires the attorney to sign an affirmation that the client is being truthful in describing his/her assets. It’s easier to sign this when you’ve been to their house and you know what’s there and what condition it’s in.
    The downside is that you have to factor in travel time. Furthermore, you’ll get the odd client who doesn’t want you to visit their house. If you don’t have your own office, it can feel odd setting up a meeting at a local restaraunt or the public library.
    You probably take a cut in the amount of volume you can handle by going office-less. Bankruptcy is a high-volume practice area that operates on a thin margin. Personalized attention may feel nice and make your clients very happy. But it can really cut into profits if you’re not careful. A paralegal, for example, can be a real revenue booster in a bankruptcy practice. But it’s hard to have a paralegal when you have no office.
    But the biggest problem with not having an office is that you have to be very, very disciplined. Otherwise, your work intrudes on your family life, and your family life intrudes on your work, and you lose a lot of productivity.

  • Seth Rogers

    There are some real advantages to this, if you’re in the right practice area.
    In personal bankruptcy (debtor side), for example, house calls have the following advantages:
    1. Poor clients don’t have to find day care for the kids and invest in expensive travel time.
    2. All the tax returns, pay stubbs, financial records and other extensive documentation is right there in the house. Lawyers who do bankruptcies from an office report that clients almost never provide them with all the documentation they need on the first meeting. This necessitates additional calls and delays as the client shuttles back and forth with additional paper.
    3. Bankruptcy clients are typically already intimidated enough by the whole process. They tend to be more relaxed and honest in their own element.
    4. The new version of the Bankruptcy law requires the attorney to sign an affirmation that the client is being truthful in describing his/her assets. It’s easier to sign this when you’ve been to their house and you know what’s there and what condition it’s in.
    The downside is that you have to factor in travel time. Furthermore, you’ll get the odd client who doesn’t want you to visit their house. If you don’t have your own office, it can feel odd setting up a meeting at a local restaraunt or the public library.
    You probably take a cut in the amount of volume you can handle by going office-less. Bankruptcy is a high-volume practice area that operates on a thin margin. Personalized attention may feel nice and make your clients very happy. But it can really cut into profits if you’re not careful. A paralegal, for example, can be a real revenue booster in a bankruptcy practice. But it’s hard to have a paralegal when you have no office.
    But the biggest problem with not having an office is that you have to be very, very disciplined. Otherwise, your work intrudes on your family life, and your family life intrudes on your work, and you lose a lot of productivity.

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