Each year, Americans across the country aim to improve themselves by way of New Year’s resolutions. Solo attorneys can put the same mindset to work on making meaningful improvements to their law firm.
End of year is a very good time to take the actions needed to ensure your practice runs smoothly (and efficiently). To that end, here is our Solo Attorney’s New Year’s Checklist — a guide designed to prepare your firm for legal practice in 2017.
1. Archive Current Files and Go Paperless
A 2012 white paper from IDC found that information workers — a category which includes lawyers — spend 11.2 hours each week creating and managing documents. At least six hours are wasted time. As such, you may want to consider digital document scanning and online document storage solutions if you have not done so yet.
It is far easier to archive digital documents stored in the cloud vs. keeping paper files. Best of all, you have access to them at all times and digital document storage prevents the risk of lost or stolen documents. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, finding a lost document costs a company $122 on average, and an estimated 7.5% of all company documents are lost completely.
Not only will archiving current files help your firm run more efficiently, it will also come in handy should any ethical inquiries arise. The faster your firm responds to these inquiries with record copies, the better.
Get more tips on going paperless in this video with Ernie the Attorney of The Paperless Chase.
2. See Where You Stand With CLE Requirements
With New Year’s approaching, now is the perfect time to take an assessment of where you stand with your continuing legal education (CLE) requirements. Check your CLE requirements and deadlines in order to gauge how close you are to meeting the benchmarks. Additionally, plan out a course of action over the next year by seeking out free webinars and/or mainstream vendors that can offer you free CLE credits.
Depending on where you practice, you may be eligible for free CLE credits though MyCase live webinars each month. Just check out the blog sidebar to see what’s coming up next!
3. Streamline With Legal PM Software
End of year is the perfect time to take an honest assessment of your firm’s day-to-day. Contemplate your daily procedures and habits, asking yourself if any of the following can be automated or streamlined in a meaningful way with the help of legal practice management software:
- Client Intake Forms
- Calendar System
- Billing and Bookkeeping Processes with Accounting Software Integration
- File Opening and Closing Procedures
- Timekeeping and Expense Tracking tied to cases and billing
- File Maintenance Processes
- And More
You may find it is in your best interests to streamline tasks like these by implementing sophisticated legal practice management software that is designed to ease the burden of these essential day-to-day processes.
For lots of great tips and resources, check out the MyCase Legal Practice Management Software Toolkit. It’s filled with helpful templates and advice to help get you up and running with legal practice management software!
4. Make Networking Routine
While networking is essential for any attorney, it is perhaps especially important for a solo practice. Prioritize making your networking efforts a consistent routine. Even if they have waned in recent months (or years), now’s the time to reignite that part of your business.
There are a number of ways to network more efficiently. For starters, you may wish to attend monthly networking functions thrown by legal organizations or an alumni network. Additionally, you may want to bolster your online networking and brand image by getting involved on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, or starting a legal blog and engaging more with other attorneys online.
Networking is a critical component of every attorney’s marketing efforts, and it never hurts to expand your network and connect with additional colleagues. To learn more, check out our ebook on “Offline Networking: Using Referrals to Grow Your Practice.”
5. Consider a Virtual Legal Practice
If the stress of leasing physical office space is grinding you down, or you are looking to expand your practice into other states where you’re licensed, reconsider the need for a physical space entirely or consider setting up a virtual process for part of your practice. Modern technology like cloud-based legal practice software has revolutionized the possibilities of a viable solo virtual practice, so there’s no more excuses!
As lawyers continue to use web-based computing in increasing numbers, eLawyering is on the rise. Legal practice management software with a built-in client portal gives you the flexibility to run a viable legal operation from the comfort of your home or out-of-state satellite office.
Web-based services and smartphone apps can replace thousands of dollars in equipment costs for fax and copying machines. As long as you have Internet access, these software solutions ensure you can practice law no matter where you are. And, the added flexibility of being able to view upcoming appointments or case documents benefits your clients as well.
6. Open Up to Online Payments
Still not offering credit card or online payment options to your clients? Well, it’s almost 2017 (not 1997) and it’s not just that offering online payments will help you get paid faster — it’s what your clients are expecting!
Did you know that ¼ of consumers want more local businesses (hey, that’s your law firm!) to provide the option of booking appointments and managing billing and payments online?
MyCase’s built-in legal payment platform allows you to get paid faster, provides you and your firm better security vs. dealing with cash or paper checks, and keeps things simple with transparent pricing and award-winning customer service team that will answer any question you have about online payments (or anything with MyCase).
We hope this checklist gives you some good ideas to help prepare for next year!
Is there anything we didn’t include that you think is important for attorneys to review at the end of the year? Let us know in the comments!