Energize Yourself - "The Power of Going SOLO"
If you are starting your own law firm or are already a solo legal practitioner you are not alone and you are in good company. As a solo you are getting used to the concept that you have to do everything – not just the practice of law, the legal research and all but the actual running of the business. You already have the "product knowledge” from your legal training but what about the “financial knowledge” and the “market knowledge” also needed to have a successful business.
There is also the issue of time management. If you are spending too much time on finding the clients, collecting fees, recording expenses, keeping auditable books, you are not making best use of your time – how many of your hours are billable and how many are overhead. This can be a tough problem for the solo practitioner.
Fortunately, technology can come to the rescue. Here are some tips for the legal practitioner.
Use the benefits of practice management software combined with legal accounting software. Put aside the spreadsheets, the notebooks, the sticky note reminders. Get some real benefit from that new smart phone you are carrying.
Here’s what this software will do for you.
- Manage your business finances. Your legal practice is more complicated than a typical small business because of the need to keep funds taken in trust separate from the funds you use to run your day-to-day operations. Typical financial software is not designed to manage trust transactions. Trust management is not just a separate set of books, as the trust processes must be integrated with general ledger processes. The trust management module in your practice management software automates the movement of cash from one ledger to the other – seamlessly, error free and fully compliant with your legal society rules. Other aspects of managing your books are also automated in a modern practice management system. Who owes you money? How fast are you getting paid? Have you kept your disbursement records in order? Do you know and have a record of all the time you have spent on each legal matter for each client? Are you ready for your annual tax filing? All of this is automated in your practice management system. Traditional pc based softwares like PcLaw or modern Cloud based Legal Accounting software like uLaw do this for you round the clock.
- Improve your marketing results. Keep all your client information in one place. Electronic records are searchable and time stamped. Filling out a court form? You need not re-type the same data over and over again. You can save the time and the keystroke errors. You can be certain that you are using the latest version of the court form. Need to associate forms, records, documents and emails with one or even several clients? Use your practice management system for this. Find and search the correct document for the information you need. You don’t even need to know the name of the document – just type in some key words and you will be quickly led to the document you need. Do all this on the fly from your smart phone. Need to send out messages to a client (or a group of clients) at predetermined points in your business process – an invoice for example or a follow up when a trust top-up is required? All of this and more can be automated with your practice management software.
- Gain a new understanding of how well your business is doing. Business analytics are no longer soly the domain of the large firm. Software that used to cost thousands of dollars per year and needed technical and business specialists to operate is now buried inside your practice management solution, quietly ticking away recording each transaction and converting the data into clear business metrics with trend lines and forecasts – charts and graphs rather than columns and rows.
- Efficiency and confidence. With all this business process automation running on your behalf, you now have an important choice to make: do you take the saved time and increase billable hours – more clients and more work? Or do you take some time off for the family or for yourself. In terms of confidence, the debate is pretty well over- cloud computing has won. Won in terms of cost containment – a tenth the cost of owning and operating the software and computing infrastructure. Won in terms of system availability – cloud-based solutions operating for the past 5 years now are reporting downtimes in terms of a few minutes per year. Won in terms of security – encrypted data, fewer people in your own office with access to the data, fewer people with password management responsibilities, less concerns with the need for physical protection, no more USB drives with client private data floating around. Won in terms of anywhere, anytime access - your business is pretty much in your pocket.
If you are a solo practitioner and are interested in improving your business, interested in best practices for a law firm in Canada, have a look at a modern online practice management system that costs in the vicinity of $1.50 a day.