VANCOUVER — Every law firm can be a goldmine, but there'sa fatal flaw in the way most people manage their firm, a flaw that decreasesincome and increases stress levels.
order to access those rewards — increase your income and decrease your stress —
you're going to have to rethink your law firm," said Mark Powers, managing
partner of Atticus, one of the United States' leading practice-management,
education and training organizations for lawyers. "You're going to have to look
at your law firm from a new perspective and, worse yet, you're going to have to
look at your role in the law firm from a new
spoke to attendees at the Canadian Bar Association's annual meeting in Vancouver last week about
how to make more money and spend less time in the office.
said the law firm model most people follow is broken. It may have worked at one
time, but it doesn't anymore. The current model has produced long hours, a lack
of control, clients who don't pay, high stress, and endless to-do lists.
definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and
expecting a new result. It's you going into the office every morning, unlocking
that door, going in, turning on the lights, getting behind your desk, turning
on your computer, opening the piles of files on your desk and saying 'today is
be different. Today I'm going to go home on time. Today I'm going to be able to
plan that four-week vacation. Today I'm going to be in control."
as a sole practitioner or a partner in a firm, you take on several roles.
You're not just the legal technician, but also the manager and the
owner/shareholder, so it's important to balance the legal skills with client-development
skills. You can also become a therapist and accountant at times, Powers said.
lawyers fall into the trap of taking on any work that comes over the threshold,
he noted, even when they know the client may be shady.
way to increase income and decrease stress is to look at your client-intake
system and rate each client from A to D: A being the client who pays promptly,
listens to advice, and has realistic expectations and D being the client with
uncontrolled emotions, slow collections and often carrying a shopping bag full
of papers and saying things like, "It's not the money, it's the principle."
you look at your list of clients, you'll find that the ones who bring in 20 per
cent to 40 per cent of your revenue use up 60 per cent to 80 per cent of your
resources, he said.
easy way to say no to a client without actually telling him no is to simply
raise your retainer or rates. Establish systems to identify time and money
bandits at the door and learn to say no with grace and compassion.
who rated an A are often surrounded by other A-list clients, while the
time-and-money bandits are usually surrounded by others like them.
urged lawyers to let go of two clients right away.
you don't know which two clients to let go, ask your staff, as they have a
better idea," he said.
successful marketing approach is another way of increasing income while
decreasing stress. Powers encouraged lawyers to make three good marketing
contacts a week and maintain at least 20 good sources of referrals.
rainmakers stay connected to people," he said. "They do things that are simple,
but they do it consistently. Don't complicate marketing. If you like to golf or
play tennis . . . that's what you do, but never stop marketing."