By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
It is official. One year ago, over the course of 3 months, I put small changes into place that resulted in a 6-figure practice. Six months later, that figure doubled.
Let's back up a little bit, and start at the beginning:
When I became pregnant, I knew that I would want to spend every moment possible with my new little baby. And in order to be able to spend the most amount of time with him, I needed to make sure that every moment that I was away from him at work was a profitable one. This was a hard reality because, in essence, I was running my law firm as if it were a non-profit.
I realized that in order to earn money in my law practice, I needed to run it like a business. That meant that my law firm was the business and I was the CEO. I decided that I needed to know what CEO’s know so that my business could grow.
I went to my state bar’s library. I read every book I could find on how to run a law practice. I read traditional business books. I even took a business course. I was on a mission to run a profitable practice, do excellent work, and spend as much time as I could with my newborn baby.
It has been a year since my law firm went from earning enough to cover living in Mexico most of the year (more on that in a different blog), to thriving, growing, and earning well into the 6-figures.
Here are some of the major lessons that I learned (along with some commentary):
1. Bill your clients.
It sounds easy enough, but people don’t do it. I never did it until I realized that you if you send a bill, you get paid; if you don’t bill, you don’t get paid. There is no excuse that can justify not sending your bills (my personal favorite was: “My clients always pay even if I don’t bill them.”).
You must bill.
2. Answer the phone.
There are two options: Always answer your phone when it rings or get an answering service.
Be honest. How many times do you say, “Oh if they want to talk to me, they can leave a message and I’ll call them back”? If you aren’t answering your phone, hire someone who will. Every call you don’t answer is money lost- you are either missing a potential consultation or you are missing an opportunity to give customer service to your client. How many times have you heard, “I always try to call my lawyer but she never answers my calls?” Don’t be that lawyer.
3. Respond quickly. Phone calls, email, social media, whatever it may be.
It is very hard to do this as a solo with no staff. Again, if you can’t do it, you need to find someone who will.
4. Have a list of everyone who is on a payment plan.
You should know who is on a payment plan and how much is outstanding on each account.
5. Protect yourself with a contract.
Your contract is your first line of defense. Make sure yours has you covered.
6. Charge appropriate fees. Don’t be scared.
Doctors do not take a patient’s financial situation into account before they tell a client a diagnosis and the cost of treatment. There is no reason why lawyers should either. You are changing lives with your work. Your clients are making an investment into their futures.
7. Case management software does matter.
Take it from someone who had a very elaborate system of excel spreadsheets and word documents: the money spent on case management software is worth every penny. (I love MyCase because it’s extremely easy to use.)
8. Don’t be so afraid to invest in what you need.
And most of the time what you need is staff. It could be a person who is part-time, full-time, or virtual, but help is necessary. I resisted hiring someone so much. In fact, I put out an add looking for someone for 5-10 hours a week and by the end of the first week she was full time because I desperately needed the support. Within a four months, I hired a full time virtual assistant in addition to 2 other virtual assistants 5-10 hours a week. I was scared to invest the money. I immediately doubled my income.
9. HIRE A BOOKKEEPER!
As we say in Amiga, “Be a Lawyer. Hire a Bookkeeper.” If you hate to do the books, don’t do them. Hire a professional. Invest in your practice and yourself.
10. Charge for expenses.
Another seemingly easy one that ends up costing us a lot out of pocket because we don’t bill.
11. Don’t do favors.
This goes great with number 10. Oftentimes we reason, “Oh I won’t charge the client and he will be glad that I did him the favor.” I hate to break it to you, but your client doesn’t even know about this so-called favor. He doesn’t have any idea what benefit he is receiving because you never told him that he owed the money in the first place. Plus, it can easily lead to feeling like the client is “ungrateful,” even when the client didn’t know what he should be grateful for. Favors never end well in personal life or business.
12. Charge for consults.
I have a lot of consultation related advice actually, such as: give the client incentive to come back after the consult (i.e. consult fee applying as a discount, a discounted price if signs up by a certain date, etc), call the potential client 20-30 days after the consult to follow up, send a “thank you letter” after the client leaves, have a detailed intake sheet, provide the client with a quote letter, provide the client with a branded folder (all you need is a folder, an address label, and a business card) for his consultation receipt, quote letter, and all other printed materials, and provide the clients with a written overview of the case by way of an infographic.
These are just a few things that I have learned and I want to share more! Come join me at :
to be held immediately before the AILA conference in Las Vegas, NV on June 22 from 1-5pm.
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.