Interview Series: The Entrepreneurial Law Firm
At Kahuna Accounting we spend a lot of our time working with attorneys in solo practices or in small law firms. While we serve them by taking care of accounting, our real focus is on helping entrepreneurs be more equipped to run their business.
As a lawyer, there is a lot to learn about how to run a practice.
So today we have our latest installment in a blog series covering everything in law practice management.
We are interviewing experts who will share from experience some of the changes in the industry, and the most powerful things lawyers can do to ensure their success.
Today’s interview is with Jared Correia, the Assistant Director and Senior Law Practice Advisor at The Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program.
Before joining LOMAP, Jared managed CLE publications and the Casemaker research engine for the Massachusetts Bar Association. He has also been a practicing lawyer, in small firms, where he mostly focused on personal injury, real estate and disability law. Jared is a frequent speaker for local, regional and national lawyers’ groups.
He is a regular contributor to local and national legal publications, including Attorney at Work, where his monthly column, ‘Managing’, appears. Jared is the author of the American Bar Association publication ‘Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers’. He is the co-host of the ‘Legal Toolkit‘ podcast on Legal Talk Network, and is featured on a quarterly podcast at Solo Practice University. Jared presented at ABA TECHSHOW 2013, on remote access and social media marketing.
This is the second post in a 2-part series with Jared. See part 1 here.
Seeing the Big Picture
Going beyond time management, you have this additional element of seeing the big picture.
You’ll never even get to be able to prioritize if you can’t see outside the day to day. So how does a lawyer who’s in the middle of doing so much to keep up step back enough to breathe and gain some perspective?
Yeah, you want to be proactive rather than reactive.
You want to be making considered decisions rather than impulsive decisions. I think there’s probably two things you can do.
The first is you can write a business plan which includes a mission statement. Most attorneys don’t do that. They resist diving into a business plan because they think it’s a massive project.
That’s because they have the wrong idea of what the goal of a business plan should be. If you write this long narrative filled with text, it will become a massive project and accomplish nothing.
What I like to suggest is a business plan where you set up goals and create a mission statement.
It should talk about what your firm is and what it means to you.
If you know what your mission statement is, you can follow through on it.
If you have 5 goals to work on, you can achieve them or make progress toward them.
I like that idea, because I think the giant 40-page business plan isn’t helpful because you can’t clearly define what it’s telling you.
More importantly, you’ll shove it in a drawer and never look at it again, so what is it actually accomplishing?
Well that’s the thing I tell people too. If you’re going to create a business plan, don’t write it down and put it in a drawer.
Don’t save it to a file folder and never look at it again. I tell people, you see, you’ve got tasks and goals in mind that are attached to your business plan.
This is a really valuable conversation – especially regarding how much law firms are bombarded with conversations about technology.
I think it’s important to remember that technology doesn’t do anything for you if you don’t know what you want or where you’re going.
So the right business plan and mission is a much better place to start and allows a lawyer to have a plan for how technology might benefit the practice.
Oh yeah, I think the technology topic gest pretty overwhelming after a while.
Eventually, you’ll be more focused on the technology itself than what it does to further their practice. And you get to that spot where you just want the new iPhone because you just want the new iPhone.
So, I’ll ask one more kind of broad question just to wrap it up, because I’m really intrigued by this.
We talked before about how to manage the different areas of life, but I think it’s also relevant to consider stress as it relates to the present moment.
As a solo attorney, it can be lonely and it’s easy to be so worried about the future that you aren’t able to enjoy the present moment.
So what’s your advice to a solo attorney? How can they enjoy the present when they know they are not where they want to be?
Lawyers are so stressed out and it’s understandable, because it’s hard.
Just look at Massachusetts. There’s so much lawyer saturation in Massachusetts right now, it is crazy. We have 60,000 lawyers and for the size of our state, that’s just a staggering number.
So everybody’s hustling all the time for business. And you get into a situation where you are always thinking about the next month, and getting clients in for that month, versus focusing on the substantive work that you need to do.
So how do you avoid focusing on the future? I think as we talked about, if you look ahead in a way that is structured and planned, I think that’s helpful.
I think the reason looking ahead is stressful is because it is uncertain. You’re never going to be able to apply exact certainty to the future.
But if you set up a business plan, create specific goals and make revenue projections you try to meet – then you’re not just taking shots in the dark.
I don’t think many attorneys do that. They are extremely reactive and looking backward. They think, “I haven’t gotten a client from my website in the last 3 days, I should probably rebuild my website.”
They often make quick decisions like that without taking the long view.
I think to feel more secure about the future, attorneys need to look back as well, especially when you’re starting out.
For people to feel more secure about moving forward, it helps to look back and say, “Okay, here’s what I’ve done to progress through the last few years. I’ve seen a number of positive gains, now it’s just a matter of replicating that.”
I think lawyers are really comfortable in systems. So if they see their practice management as one big system, then they’ll feel a lot more secure about the future.
I think that allows attorney to be less reactive, and they can plan appropriately without getting stuck.