One of my favorite chapters in the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On The_Prairie series is the one recounting Pa’s annual hog butchering ritual. At least sixty years later, Wilder was able to describe the event in vivid detail (if you’re a fan of the series, I’m sure you remember these details), from the somewhat gory slaughter to the process of curing and preparing the meat to last through the winter. What always amazed me was how Pa used every last bit of the pig — he cured and smoked the meat for winter, carved up the spare ribs, turned some part (don’t remember which) into head cheese, saved the lard, roasted the pig tail for Mary and Laura (with bones for their dog, Jack) and even blew up the bladder into a little balloon for Mary and Laura to play with.
Pa’s treatment of the pig got me thinking about the analogies for solo practice. As solos, the legal services we provide comprise the meat of our practice. But are there other ancillary services or products that we can recycle or re-purpose? For example, if a firm handles traditional divorce work, it could also reuse its expertise to provide unbundled services to clients who want a lawyer to handle the work but can’t afford a large fee. A litigation lawyer can offer consulting services while an insurance attorney might set up a risk management company. A lawyer who practices in a unique area (such as a former energy colleague of mine) can offer for-fee seminars and trainings (either in person or online) to in-house counsel, which can provide a stream of revenue, and help the lawyer continue to market his practice. Some lawyers develop systems to streamline their law practices, then market those systems to other lawyers to generate a flow of passive income, while others use toll bridge agreements that provide low cost service to clients with some regularity. The list of innovative practices is endless, and the blogosphere abounds with examples of lawyers who are doing all of these exciting things.
The problem with being a solo is that we’re necessarily limited by the number of hours in a day. Without associates against whom we can leverage our time (and look at how well that’s working for biglaw these days?!), we need to come up with other ways to extract multiple streams of value from every minute of our labor.
What can you do to go whole hog with your practice? Or if you’re doing something innovative already, please share with us below.