Suddenly Solo? Value Your Time

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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.

With the legal economy still struggling many attorneys, including young attorneys, are going solo and starting their own firm.

Finding clients is one of the most difficult parts of going solo. Don’t use that as an excuse to undervalue your time.

Do not bargain over your rates

Disclaimer: if you just started your own firm, you should not be charging $350 an hour. Other than that, most newly solo attorneys I know ask around to make sure they have a reasonable rate. Assuming you have done your homework, your rate is probably reasonable.

With that in mind, stand your ground on your rate. When you drop your rate at a client’s request, that can imply that you are not confident in your abilities and your experience. It also shows that your client may not respect your abilities and time–which means they may continue to try and walk all over you as the case progresses.

It’s one thing to offer to cut your rate for a reason that you decide (do this sparingly). It’s another thing to cut your rate at a client’s request. Stand your ground and make sure you set the right precedent for your attorney-client relationship.

Your time is valuable

Let’s say you spend two hours a day working on a case at a reduced rate. That’s two hours you could be spending on marketing, administrative tasks, or other cases. Sometimes the best case is the case that you decide not to take.

In other words, taking a rate reduction not only reduces how profitable that case is, it has a domino effect on everything else in your practice. When you run a solo practice, because you have so many other tasks in addition to lawyering (marketing, administrative, networking), making the most of your time is critical.

You may also start to develop negative feelings towards the case or even the client because you agreed to lower your rate. The bottom line is there is little upside and lots of downside to reducing your rate because of a client request.

Of course, there are limited situations where you may feel it is appropriate to modify your typical retainer or fee structure. But let that be your decision, not a potential clients. Bargaining up front sets a dangerous precedent that can be tough to change. You might newly solo, but your time is still valuable.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/trigs/2229754713/)

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  • Great advice, and advice that has held true for me over the last year or so of being “suddenly solo”

  • Justin Morton

    I’m new to this solo game, but so far I totally agree with your post. There are so many other aspects to practicing solo, that you absolutely must be mindful or your time.

  • Great article but a printer friendly version would be nice

    • We’re flattered that you would want to print out a relatively short blog post. But why would you?