Running your own lawfirm as a solo attorney has lots of great benefits and lots of new responsibilities—in the immortal words of Spiderman’s uncle “with great power comes great responsibility.”
One of the biggest issues for solo attorneys, especially new ones, is figuring out how to balance the books and keep your overhead and costs low. Here are few tips to reduce costs and hopefully make your firm more profitable.
Going paperless is good for the environment and it will also increase your ability to take advantage of cloud storage and run a mobile law office.
Another practical result is that you will have a cleaner and neater office. The only paper in my office are originals stored in a secure location, or documents that have yet to be scanned. I do not have to waste space for storage of hard copies. If you run a high volume practice, this could result in a huge reduction in rent—which is usually one of the highest costs for solo attorneys.
The only caveat is that you will need to spend around $425 up front to buy a ScanSnap, but that cost will pay for itself within a matter of months with the money you will save elsewhere.
Find alternative research sources
I admit that I miss the ease and utility of Westlaw. At the same time, like most solo attorneys, I do not have any desire to pay the rates that Westlaw charges.
As a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association, I have access to Fastcase. It is not nearly as robust as Westlaw, but it certainly gets the job done. A free option—Google Scholar—appears to be getting better by the day.
Check around to see what other options are available to you, especially if your practice is not motion practice heavy. Chances are good you can survive without paying a high amount for research. If you find yourself in a pinch, you can always use the public access terminal at your old law school.
Tackle your own administrative tasks
When things get busy, most solo attorneys dream of hiring an assistant to handle answering the phones, doing basic client intake, and handling the firm’s accounting. At the same time, once you get in the habit of handling those tasks, they will not drain as much time as you think.
Frankly, I like answering my phone, regardless of who is calling. Answering services and assistants do not always pick up on little details that can result in a case I can take. On top of that, I like creating that instant connection with potential clients—which leads to a strong client relationship once they sign a retainer.
Bookkeeping and other tasks take time out of my day, but even when things are booming, there is always some downtime during the week. Those are great times to balance your books, close out files, and handle those other administrative tasks. Lots of times, those tasks are a welcome break from actual lawyering.