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  • Writer's pictureCathy Nedd

Flying Solo

If you are a solo practicing attorney, being organized is an indispensable attribute! If you are like me, and you are your own secretary, you do your own research, drafting, billing and collecting--one false move can mean disaster. A solo practitioner must understand that running a business can be even more essential than your lawyering skills...because if your business fails, there won't be much room for lawyering anyway.


If you are a solo practicing attorney, being organized is an indispensable attribute! If you are like me, and you are your own secretary, you do your own research, drafting, billing and collecting--one false move can mean disaster. A solo practitioner must understand that running a business can be even more essential than your lawyering skills...because if your business fails, there won't be much room for lawyering anyway. Starting off each day with a list of "to do's" is critical. Consider all of the areas of your business that require attention and separate these areas with tasks for the day. For example, in my practice, there are certain aspects of my practice that require daily attention. Topic areas such as DRAFTING, BILLING, CALL-BACKS, RESEARCH, LAW PRACTICE MANAGEMENT, E-MAILS, are some examples of areas that usually have a number of tasks that I tend to each day. Customize your topic areas to fit the nature of your practice. Under each heading, list the tasks that need to be done. The more topics, the more detailed your lists will be, and the less likely it will be that a task will get overlooked. When a large portion of your practice is spent at the court, your time for managing your practice is minimized. Invest in a multi-functional SMARTphone. If you operate out of a virtual office, or don't have a receptionist, consider a 24-hour answering service that has the capacity to send you emails or texts of your calls. I'm no tekky, but my iPhone coupled with my iPad is a wonderful thing! The new iCloud feature allows all the apps, downloads, documents and activity that happens on one device, to be easily available on all the other devices. That means that if I've made changes to my calendar on my iPhone, those changes will be ready and waiting when I open my iPad! Follow up with potential contacts and clients immediately. When most of your networking takes place and you meet potential clients or contacts, your follow-up can often get lost in the day-to-day life of a practicing attorney. But take time out of each week to follow up with potential contacts even if its just to tell them how good it was to meet them. Those connections go a long way and show people that connecting with them meant something and has some value. Pass It On! There's nothing like being the Mentor you didn't have! When indulging in a new practice area or a new matter, create a STEP-by-STEP log of procedures and processes that will not only be a guide for you later, but can be an unofficial manual for those lost souls that may need your help later on. Not to mention, one of the biggest problems with solos is that teaching a secretary how to run your practice becomes so time consuming that you just as well do things yourself! If you have some modus operandi that can steer your ship when you need assistance, you have just made your job of teaching that much easier. Return Calls within 48 Hours. One of the biggest complaints lawyers get is that they don't return phone calls. Clients need communication. Communication to a client translates into "the lawyer I paid is working for me." Keep the client informed about the status of his or her case. Lack of communication often means that the lawyer has not done what he or she has agreed to do, is delayed, and is avoiding the client. A good way to avoid this pitfall is to designate one day a week and designate a time for client communication only. This could be a short, brief letter updating the client, or this could mean an automatic cc: of any and all correspondence that goes out on every case. Can you imagine how important this must make the client feel? They are now part of the process. They are not learning of information for the first time on the date of the hearing, or worst, when they are informed by the court or a third-party before being informed by their attorney. You are a business owner. Managing your law practice takes an attention to detail, and a skill that will improve with time. An older lawyer told me once that if you're not willing to put money into your business, your business will not make money for you. He was right. Your law practice reflects the value you put into it. You may not have a 100-attorney law firm, but your client does not have to know that. Manage your practice as if you want it to be a profitable business for you. Think about expansion and the bigger picture. The new law practice management center launched by the State Bar of Michigan is an excellent starting point.




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