By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
Could your law firm survive if you took a three week European Cruise? Most solos would answer a resounding, "no." Though many solo practitioners and owners of small firms crave the freedom to travel when and where they want, they don't know how to create a law firm that allows them to do just that.
Streamlining and fully automating your law firm are the keys to being able to travel and work abroad while knowing that your law firm is running smoothly while you are gone.
I know that it is possible to have a thriving, profitable law firm while not spending a lot of time at the office. I work at my firm on average 20 hours a week. I often travel 1-2 weeks a month.
Here are a few tips to help you run your law firm from anywhere in the world:
1. Become systems dependent, not people dependent
This is a quote from the fantastic book the E-Myth. Your firm should have clear systems in place so that you can run as smoothly as a fast food chain. Create a policy manual and a training manual and understand their importance. Have clear expectations for your staff.
Create a step-by-step process for signing up clients, starting their case/ paperwork, and meeting for them to review paperwork. (Pro tip: Start working on the case on the day of sign up. Schedule the meeting to last 2-3 hours so you can do a bulk of the work that day. Create questionnaires that gather the exact info that you need to be able to complete the case so that the only next appointment with the client is to sign papers.) Many lawyers believe that we are the only ones who can sign up the clients, do the paperwork, and the like, but it is not true. Paralegals and legal assistants can easily fit into these roles if you provide a step-by-step manual and some basic training when they start.
2. Hire (immediately)
If you are a solo, hire staff. It is a scary leap. Yes, it will require an investment of both money and time to bring on an assistant. However, note that it is an investment and not a cost. You need to be able to bring on the right team members to make your firm run great and take some of the responsibilities off of your shoulders. (For all of the responsibilities you have as the CEO of the law firm, in addition to the legal work, check out my 6 part blog series and Power Hour).
Here's an AMIGA guide to when to hire. Two of my most essential team members are not what you would normal hear of for law firm hires: a virtual assistant and a business manager. A paralegal and/or admin person are also instrumental to the health and growth of your law firm. Once you get the right staff in place, you can book those tickets to Cancun!
3. Get a Case Management System
This is a law firm requirement. If you're concerned about the cost, go with MyCase, which is only $39 a month. In addition to its accessible pricing, it is very easy to use, even for non-techy people.
Whenever you communicate with your staff about a case, use only the case management system, not email. This keeps a better record about your client communications, and it also serves as a way for anyone to come in, read the notes, and know what is going on in the case. Plus, there's the added bonus that you can access it from anywhere.
4. Require Daily Mail Scans
Each day our administrative assistant emails over a scan of all of the mail that we receive. By seeing the mail that comes in, you don't have to rely on notes and messages and you know immediately what needs to be done, especially if there is something that is time sensitive.
5. Keep a Call Log
A daily log that is kept contemporaneously with the incoming calls will give an important snapshot on what is happening in your office. You will see who called, what the need, and how it was resolved. Here's the excel spreadsheet that we use to help get you started. We use Dropbox as our firm's server and so it syncs immediately so that you can check the spreadsheet throughout the day as need.
6. Join Global Entry, Nexus, or Sentri
These frequent traveler programs allow you a quick passage through customs, include TSA pre-check, and make any border crossings significantly easier. It also helps lessen the worry about your privileged information being searched on any devices that you need to bring with you across international borders since the screening process is accelerated. (TSA pre-check is included in Global Entry, Nexus, and Sentri, so don't make the mistake of also paying to enroll in TSA pre-check. Also, it is possible that Nexus and Sentri have nearly all of the same benefits for Global Entry for a fraction of the cost, so it's worth checking that out first, especially if you live near the northern or southern borders.)
There is so much to say on this topic, but these are a few basics to help your office run smoothly while you are jet setting around the world.
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.