Do It Yourself — For Now

productivity-guide-cover

Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/4203041577/

As many of you know, I’m a huge advocate for having a team and outsourcing. By the time I sold my firm, I was doing very little of the day to day activities of the business myself, which meant I only had to work 2-3 days a week. Nice, right?

Yes, very nice.

But, there are some times and some activities that call for you to suck it up and do it yourself. Especially when you are just starting out. When I first started out, I did just about everything myself.

I did my own intake with new clients. I did my own drafting of legal documents. I set up my own marketing events. I remember the first seminar I did and I was carrying the flowers, the projector and the screen in — all myself.

I did it myself because that was my only option. And I didn’t have the cash flow to do it any other way. I did what I had to do to make it work. No excuses.

One of our newer personal family lawyers met with 11 new prospects last month and engaged 9 of them. She did all her own intake, set up her own marketing events, and is drafting her own documents.

Will she keep doing it that way forever? No, absolutely not. But, that’s what she needed to do in the beginning.

So don’t get me wrong. I want you to learn how to outsource and delegate and stop answering your phone so that you are prepared to get busy. I want you to know how to let go of control and what to let go of first and how to train your people when you are ready for people.

But, in the beginning, do it yourself. Learn your scripts, learn your systems, discover what it’s like so that when you bring people on you can know if they are doing it right.

And then, bring people on intentionally to replace you, slowly but surely.

Make sure to bring on the next person you need before you are desperate to find someone so you can really find the right people for you and your  business. Train each person you bring on well and accept that you can and should have high standards. Remember, each person in your office is a reflection of you.

Do these things and within a couple of years you can be working just a few days a week in your office while your office hums along without you.

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  • Mary C. Polansky-Gravatt

    I appreciate your comments but respectfully disagree as to the ultimate benefit of the approach you suggest. I do not want to hire a bunch of people, or even get interns, to work less hours in the day, and if I have misinterpreted that portion of your writing I apologize. I want to work the same number of hours but offering more to people who need my advice and learning the law as it changes, nuances, etc. And of course have it work out in the accounting department in terms of time and income. I have only been running my own office going on 1 1/2 years now and it has been not only daunting, overwhelming, etc., but scary and unnecessarily expensive. That would be a really cool thread if we can start one…..the book that they say everyone steals off the library shelf for starting your own firm, well, I am not sure on the jury verdict there. Anyway if someone wishes to please comment and contribute it would be very coolest. Thanks for you time for reading this.

  • Derek A.

    I would echo part of Ms. Polansky-Gravatt’s comment. I know that I’m not alone among my peers in being someone who, given the current economic climate, is contemplating something I’d never considered until very recently- the solo practice. I suspect that more Lawyerist materials targeting that audience would be in great demand and spark lively debate.

  • You guys realize there is an entire category of posts dedicated to starting your own law firm, right?

    But going solo doesn’t mean you cannot use independent contractors to make your practice more efficient and free up your time (or serve more clients, if you prefer). My practice was solo for years, but I realized I could alleviate stress and leverage my own time better if I expanded just a bit. Now, I have one associate and several independent contractors to help me be more effective.

  • Steve Miller JD CIC

    “One of our newer personal family lawyers met with 11 new prospects last month and engaged 9 of them. She did all her own intake, set up her own marketing events, and is drafting her own documents.”

    I’m certain she’ll be sure to keep you on her Christmas card list after she leaves your employ and starts her own firm with all of “your” clients, too. How much tuition did you charge for teaching her how to run her own law firm?

  • Once again, what a timely post for my situation! I opened my own law firm after 15 years of being with a firm. So I’m used to having a secretary and paralegal, but I felt like not only could I not afford one right away, but I was (am) hesitant to give up control to an assistant already. I haven’t even learned my own system yet, so I am not ready to have someone else take over. I feel like I want to know my own billing, accounting and document management system throughly first, before I hire someone. Thanks for the timely post.

    Cindi
    http://www.mattlegal.com
    minnesotaguardianshiplaw.blogspot.com

  • By “our newer personal family lawyers,” Alexis means a paying member of her Personal Family Lawyer network, not a member of her firm. Alexis charges for membership.

    In any case, how would you suggest a lawyer build a firm without giving responsibilities to junior associates? If I want to, I can keep a lawyer who generates her own business by paying her what she is worth or giving her a share of the firm’s revenue. But if her goal is to start her own firm, no amount of holding back will stop her.

  • Oh, I love a good discussion. Thanks for jumping in here with your candid thoughts everyone.

    @Mary C: You wrote, “I want to work the same number of hours but offering more to people who need my advice and learning the law as it changes, nuances, etc. And of course have it work out in the accounting department in terms of time and income.”

    Yes, I agree it’d be great if you could do everything yourself and provide great service and keep learning everything you need to learn about the law and run your business. I tried that for 6 months myself, but quickly saw that it was the long road to nowhere. And yet we keep trying, hoping something will change.

    It won’t. It simply does not work out in the accounting department in terms of time and income. Your time is much too valuable to be spending it on things that can be handled by others and if you try to do everything yourself forever you will eventually burn out.

    Yes, do it yourself in the beginning until you’ve got a revenue stream that indicates you know how to attract and engage clients. And then, begin to bring in help. You will have to step outside your comfort zone and invest resources you don’t feel like you have in the beginning. It is scary, but there is a reward.

    The path you are on now offers no reward at all, just more of the same – feeling as if you can never get ahead, can barely keep up and aren’t providing the service you know is possible to your clients.

    Regarding your request for a book, I am writing one. The ABA has contracted with me to write a book on the New Law Business Model, which I implemented successfully in my own law firm. It should be out in January 2011.

    More discussion welcome!

  • This post totally resonates, and not just for lawyers, but entrepreneurial ventures in the legal profession and beyond.

    Everywhere I turned, rigid “outsource and delegate” advice was offered. What about those starting out with little more than a “dollar and a dream”? And, like Cindi said, perhaps we haven’t yet acquired the knowledge or processes to even know what to delegate.

    Agree that outsourcing is the goal, but thanks for the acknowledgment that until then, it’s okay, even necessary to juggle on our own.

    @uMCLE

  • Love reading your posts; always great advice.

  • Lisa Solomon

    While I agree that it’s a good idea for entrepreneurs to do most tasks themselves when they are just starting out, it’s also important to recognize outsourcing opportunities and take advantage of them at the earliest possible opportunity.

    Here’s an example that involves Tim Baran (above). I have been talking to a company that recently launched a new product that is targeted squarely at the same market segment that I want to reach (solo and small firm lawyers who have briefs to write and file). One of the cross-marketing possibilities we have discussed is for me to teach CLE courses about legal writing to their clients and prospects. They are aware that getting a CLE course approved in multiple jurisdictions is a pain in the a$$, and they know that giving CLE courses will never be part of their core business (i.e., what they get paid to do). I encouraged them to outsource the CLE accreditation to Tim, since that’s *his* core business. Yes, it will cost them some money, but it will take a huge burden off of them, enabling them to spend more of their time working their leads and servicing their clients. It’s not an expense: it’s an investment.