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5 Practice Management Tips for New Lawyers, Small Firms & Sole Practitioners

Practice_Management

Tip #1 – Support staff is the whole game. Without the ability to delegate, you are going to burn out and hate your life and the practice of law. I frequently hear, “But I don’t have enough work to pay for support staff.” You never will have enough work if you spend three hours of your day doing things that support staff can do. Doing billable work and quickly working cases creates happy clients, which creates more billable work in the form of other clients or other work for the same clients. Good support staff will pay for themselves.

Tip #2 – Delegation requires follow up. Leaders often feel that when they tell someone to do something, that means the task is done. If only that were true. However, not only does the task sometimes languish, but it is also important to know how it was done, when it was done and whether the result was effective enough to justify paying that person to do it. Without follow up, you have no data to use to make future decisions.

Tip #3 – All errors are system errors; there are no one offs. The system has to be as fail-safe as possible. It should prevent errors if followed properly and should be easy to use so that human error is minimized. Processes should also have “double-check” so that it takes two separate errors or people to result in one error. You’ll catch the problem 99 percent of the time this way. Never solve one singular problem. Rather, look for the system failure and fix the system, then follow up on the data. Does the system now actually solve the problem every time? If not, keep tweaking until it does.

Tip #4 – Policies are not systems. Policy failures are often dealt with by telling an employee to “try harder” to follow the policy. This is not a system. You have to rely on some outer mechanism; something that takes the power away from the policy-violator and place it in a system that avoids the policy violation every time.

Tip #5 – Schedule it. Running a law practice can easily turn into putting out fires all day. Don’t let that happen. Identify the important things that you need to do that are not billable and schedule them for the same day and time, weekly or monthly. Make that time sacrosanct. No one can touch it ever. Then really do it. We all have been told that we need to take care of ourselves – go to the gym, eat healthy, sleep and spend time doing things we enjoy. We also need time alone and silent with no specific goal. Contemplative or meditative time has tremendous value. The best ideas and clearest vision comes from spending this type of time and doing this type of exploration. However, if you don’t regularly schedule it, chances are good that you’ll not do it often enough and you’ll easily allow yourself to be interrupted with the latest emergency.

Tips provided by Rebecca Long Okura of Long Okura PC.