Quick tips to tune up firm finances

By Tony Ogden
Dolan Media Newswires
    
PROVIDENCE — Being a successful solo or small-firm attorney means focusing not only on the practice of law, but also on business and finances.

Unfortunately, law schools haven’t done a very good job of teaching law students budgeting and finance—or “how to treat the firm as a business,” says Janis Alexander, chief operations officer at Ambrose Law Group in Portland, Ore., and a frequent speaker and writer on law firm finance, technology and operations issues.

Laura A. Calloway, director of service programs at the Alabama State Bar in Montgomery, agrees and urges small-firm attorneys to take advantage of all the digital age has to offer.
Calloway advises lawyers to focus their practice “on creating an environment that’s very technology-oriented in order to reduce costs, save money and get clients that normally would only go to big firms.”

Some other suggestions for improving your firm’s financial health:

Update billing and timekeeping

Infrequent billing is an area in which attorneys can get into trouble, Calloway says. When lawyers get “really busy doing legal work, they won’t send bills out,” she notes. “Have a time and billing program. [Attorneys] can enter their time easily, edit it easily and produce a bill easily.”

She also suggests timing bills to accommodate clients.

“Ask them when is best. If you send the bill when the client has the money to pay you, they will pay you.”

And taking credit or debit cards makes it easier for clients to pay, Calloway adds.

Minimize paperwork

For all files you close, scan all documents, send the originals back to the client and then shred the rest.

 “This saves tons of money by not having to use offsite storage and then take the time years later to retrieve and dispose of files,” Alexander says.

Automate document production


Calloway recommends using programs that do most of the work to create common documents. Taking simple document creation off your plate frees up your time and allows your assistant to do more than typing.

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