Running a solo practice has never been easy. But for 21st century solo lawyers, there’s good news: there are lots of resources and technology tools that can ease the burden of managing your solo law firm. The challenge is knowing how to prioritize your firm’s needs and then choose the most appropriate tools for your practice.
Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle the task of choosing the right technology and tools for your practice on your own. There are lots of resources available to educate you and guide you in making these important, impactful decisions. One great place to learn about these topics is at ABA Techshow, a conference that occurs every year in Chicago. At this year’s conference, which was held in March, one of the sessions offered lots of great advice for solos, “The Full Monty: Everything A Solo Needs For Their Law Office.” During this seminar, Rochelle Washington and Ashley Hallene provided a slew of useful information for solo practitioners.
Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session along with some of our favorite tips and links to sites that provide further information (click to view larger image):
Get a handle on the basics
First and foremost, the presenters emphasized the importance of setting the groundwork for success by mastering the basics. But what exactly are “the basics”? For starters, ensuring that you have access to the information necessary to run a successful solo practice is key. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction’s ethical rules and know which organizations are available to you, such as your local bar association, to provide assistance and resources on running your law firm. Also important is to create policies for your law firm, draft a business plan with milestones, and establish processes that will help your law firm to run smoothly.
For lots of great tips on the basics of running a solo law firm, make sure to download this chapter from our ebook on starting a solo practice: “Launching Your Law Firm: The Necessities.” In it you’ll find all sorts of advice on the ins and outs of setting up a solo law practice.
Use tools that work for your law firm
Another important tip is that you choose the tools that your firm really needs, not the tools you think it needs. Of course, the trick is ascertaining which tools will be the most beneficial for your law practice. According to the presenters, you need to review your firm’s processes, educate yourself about the different types of technology available, and then selectively choose and evaluate the tools that you think will be most impactful.
Among other things, they suggested that you consider using law practice management software, an answering service, video conferencing tools, and virtual law office features so that you’ll have a law office “on demand.” Another important element to consider is moving your firm toward a paperless practice. As the presenters pointed out, doing so gives your firm increased flexibility and mobility. To learn more about setting up a paperless office, make sure to watch the video recording of our webinar on setting up a paperless law firm.
Use tools that work for your clients
One of the keys to a successful solo law practice is to ensure that the tools you use also improve your clients’ experience. That’s why it’s always important to consider how the technology you incorporate into your firm will affect client service. During this session at Techshow, the presenters emphasized the importance of using web-based client portals, which are often built into legal practice management software. Client portals provide your clients with 24/7 access to information about their case while also allowing them to communicate and collaborate with you in a secure, encrypted online environment.
The presenters also suggested thinking of your clients’ needs when creating marketing content for your firm. Create content that answers questions that your clients might have. When your law firm’s online content addresses issues that your clients have, it shows potential clients how your law firm can likewise solve their problems. For more tips on creating effective online content for your law firm, make sure to watch the video recording of our webinar on building your practice through blogging.
Use cloud computing software to streamline and secure your law practice
The presenters also stressed the benefits of using cloud computing software to manage your law firm. Cloud computing technology is the great leveler, or as the presenters described it, the “great equalizer.” It allows solo lawyers to effectively compete with larger firms, since it gives them affordable access to powerful software that streamlines their law firms.
By moving to a paperless law office and using web-based case management software to run your firm, you’re able to increase efficiencies while simultaneously securing your law firm’s data. As the presenters explained, cloud computing software typically offers a more secure storage environment than the servers operating in most law firms. You can learn more about moving your law firm to the cloud in this chapter from our ebook on starting a solo law practice.
Use technology to track time and handle billing – and get paid quickly
Finally, last, but certainly not least, the presenters offered advice on getting paid. First, they explained how the time-tracking and billing software built into most practice management platforms can save you time and money by ensuring that you capture and enter all billable time into your firm’s billing system. Once you’ve done so, invoicing clients is a breeze since all time entered into the system is already associated with the client matter with which it is associated.
The presenters explained it’s simply a matter of editing the invoice and then sending it to the client using the client portal. And if you make sure your firm is set up to accept eChecks and credit cards, getting paid is a easy. All yours client have to do is click a button, enter the payment information, and before you know it, the invoice is paid! To learn even more about setting up processes that ensure that your firm is paid quickly, don’t miss this chapter from our ebook: “Let’s Talk Money.”