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Solo & Small Law Firms

How to Overcome the Common Challenges of Running a Solo Practice

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Author: Thomson Reuters

Let’s look at the list:

  • Of course, there’s your daily caseload. Those clients have to be properly cared for.
  • But then there’s the common business tasks like paying the bills, collecting your fees or ordering supplies.
  • What’s left for growing your business? That new website content isn’t going to write itself.

Day after day, solo attorneys are bombarded with tasks that need their attention. Some are more critical than others, but all of them need to be done eventually in order for the law firm to survive.

Download FindLaw’s latest free playbook, Client Acquisition Strategies for the Solo Practitioner.

But how can you do it all when you’re doing it all yourself?

Making the switch to a solo practice takes a thousand tired clichés and turns them into a thousand stark realities. Solos run a business on their own dime. They wear multiple hats. They’re Jacks and Janes of all trades, paying their bills before they can pay themselves. You get the idea.

These intrepid attorneys aren’t doing this because they love risk. They’re not motivated at the thought of being shackled to the home office around-the-clock. On the contrary, solo law firms often exist to provide their owners freedoms they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Read the back story on a hundred solo firms and you’ll find a recurring theme: Attorneys who head out on their own want the flexibility to practice law the way that suits them best.

But liberating yourself from the bounds of someone else’s firm isn’t simple. Building a business today requires a combination of old-world skills like networking and customer service and modern-era strategies like online visibility campaigns and influential content marketing.

Online marketing requires a measure of technological savvy and thoughtful execution, and it includes some behaviors that aren’t necessarily second nature to every attorney:

Take branding for example.

Solo firms need to establish a brand online, even if it is a small one. Prospects aren’t expecting you to have a cutting-edge logo or custom-embossed legal pads at every meeting. But building a brand for a solo practice helps your future clients identify you against a sea of competing firms. It also helps you because time spent defining your brand will help you verbalize your firm’s value in the future.

Consider that websites still matter.

Lawyers have been fretting about websites for years now, but that’s because they’re such an integral part of the online research experience. Knowing why you need a website and how to work with your website vendor is essential for a solo attorney. This is because law firm websites only provide value for you when they’re built properly and managed effectively.

Never discount the importance of soft skills.

Remember those tired business clichés? Well here’s another one: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The way solo attorneys interact with their prospects and clients will absolutely impact their future business opportunities. Developing your ability to gain the trust of your clients and nurturing your online reputation is always time well spent.

Have a plan for face time with clients.

Attorneys are fallible like anyone else. They can do everything right in the early stages of client acquisition, but stumble at the end when it matters most. Sales conversations, requests for free advice and discussions about your attorney fees are all guaranteed to come up in the course of running a solo firm. With no one else to turn to, solo attorneys are forced to develop a plan for these discussions from day one.

No doubt, that’s a lot to swallow for someone considering starting their own firm. It’s a lot to manage when you’ve been a solo lawyer for a decade or more. But here’s the good news. Despite their descriptor, solo attorneys are not alone. Lawyers have been contending with the challenges of doing it all themselves since … well, forever.

They’ve found success by learning new skills, bringing in help as-needed, and working with trusted vendors to name just a few. And they’ve turned to online resources year after year to build their repertoire and grow their knowledge base.

Now it’s your turn. FindLaw’s latest free playbook, Client Acquisition Strategies for the Solo Practitioner, addresses many of the skills and challenges described above. No playbook has all the answers. But for any attorney who is out there making it happen on their own, this collection of advice and instructions deserves a place on your digital bookshelf.

  • A big way to free up time for the types of tasks you mentioned (such as writing web content and meeting with clients) is to automate as many of one’s office processes as possible. Bills should be set up for auto pay so the attorney doesn’t spend as much time managing invoices, the attorney should accept online payments through a service such as Intuit so they don’t have to spend time on the phone taking the payment, etc. It will blow a lot of attorney’s minds when they realize how much time they spend on processes which can be automated. That, in turn, opens up time for more valuable tasks.

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