For many solo and small firm lawyers, the ability to be your own boss is one of the highlights of the job. That’s certainly the case for Gustavo (Gus) Bravo, a Plantation, Florida litigation attorney. Prior to starting his own firm, Gus worked as an associate in a large law firm for eight years. Although he enjoyed his time as an associate, when the time came, he knew it was time for a change.
Becoming his own boss
According to Gus, he always knew he’d eventually run his own law practice: “In 2009 I decided to take the plunge. I had always wanted to be my own boss, because unless you’re the lead dog the view never changes. So I started a law firm with a friend and we ran it together for four years but then decided to part ways, at which point I started my own firm, Bravo Law. I now have two lawyers working for me, plus staff.”
Heading up his own law firm suits Gus and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “The best part about running my own firm is that there are no boring days. Every day presents new challenges. It’s very different from when I was an associate at larger firms, pushing paper. The cases were interesting in the sense that we were dealing with mass torts and class actions, but I was small cog in the wheel,” he says. “Now that I’m on my own the cases are smaller, but to my clients they’re very important. And it sounds corny but when you run the show and are helping people out and trying to fix their problems– it’s kind of nice to play the role of problem solver.”
Ahead of the technology curve
Part of being his own boss includes running his law firm as efficiently as possible. That means learning about technology and using it judiciously, somethings that has always been a priority for Gus. Fortunately, he’s always been comfortable with technology.
“Although the practice of law is changing, the legal industry tends to be slow when it comes to change. But, I like to think of myself as fairly progressive and not your typical lawyer,” he explains. “I try to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. That’s why my firm has been using cloud computing for nearly three years now–and I did it when a lot of solos in town weren’t even considering the cloud.”
MyCase–the perfect fit for his firm
Four years ago, Gus’ firm was using premise-based case management software and decided it was time to switch to a cloud-based solution. “We were using desktop-based client management software at the time and it was good but I really liked the idea of going cloud-based since it gives clients better access to information. We tested the competitors, but what I liked about MyCase is that it’s much more user-friendly. I had my staff use it, too, and it was unanimous: everyone preferred MyCase because of its interface and intuitiveness.”
But it wasn’t just the software that convinced him to switch to MyCase; he was also impressed by the company and its leadership. “MyCase is one of the best products out there and the company seems more progressive and not set in their ways. If there’s a way to do it, they will–but they’re more concerned with doing it right than being the first to do it,” he says. “MyCase is different from some of the other cloud-based law practice management systems that are backed by the ‘big boys.’ With those companies I knew it would just be more of the same old thing. But MyCase was different. It was started by entrepreneurs and as MyCase has grown, so has my law firm.”
Reaping the benefits of MyCase’s client portal
From the outset, one of the selling points of MyCase for Gus was the client portal. It’s something that is used everyday by his clients and greatly increases their satisfaction. “I really like the client portal, as do my clients. My clients appreciate that they can easily communicate with me at their convenience,” he explains. “The biggest complaint clients often have is lack of communication with their lawyers. Even emails take time and phone tag can be incredibly frustrating. That why many of my clients use the portal religiously. They upload documents all the time and report that they feel more involved in their case and in control of the outcome.”
Gus reports that MyCase and the client portal does more than just save his firm time and money: it also helps to make money for his firm. “Many clients – especially business clients who are accustomed to hiring bigger firms to handle their work—are often concerned about whether a small firm will have the resources to properly handle their cases. So when we show them MyCase and they see how well everything is managed and properly maintained, they’re impressed with our investment in technology. This helps us to compete with the larger firms in terms of document management and communication and gives the perception that we’re ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. MyCase evens the playing field for us.”
When I asked Gus if he had any advice for other attorneys, he offered up these gems: “First of all, live below your means and save as much as you can. That way you give yourself the flexibility to make choices in your practice down the road that aren’t going to be dictated by your financial needs. Your expenses will be dictated by your income. When I went out on my own I hadn’t saved enough which made it more difficult to hang my shingle than it needed to be. Second, don’t be afraid to take risks—it’s called the practice of law for a reason. Roll up your sleeves and get in there. Too many of us take the safe route instead of going for it. Finally, locate and befriend a good network of mentors. Find folks that are where you would like to be 10-15 years down the road. Find the person who is the most like how you would like to be and learn from them. Try to soak in as much advice as you can.”