By: Ally Lozano, CEO and Founder
In order to make your law firm more profitable, there are four things that you need to STOP doing in your law firm right now.
Be a lawyer, hire a bookkeeper. When money is tight, it's easy to reason that you can just do the bookkeeping yourself because it "isn't that hard." While that may be true, it isn't something that you should spend your time doing. Your clients need you for the professional services that you offer as a lawyer, so that is what you need to do. You want your clients to hire you for your legal expertise, and you should hire a bookkeeper whose entire career is dedicated to bookkeeping expertise.
Many solos fall into the trap of doing their own bookkeeping and it is a drain on their resources of time and mental energy. Solos are busy running a business and doing legal work and simply do not have time to devote to the bookkeeping, so they get behind. When they get to it, it takes a long time to catch up, in addition to the mental energy and stress that has built up knowing that it's something that needs to get done. Also, the majority of lawyers do not like to deal with finances which causes even more procrastination.
If you aren't convinced, or even if you are dedicated to keeping up with the monthly bookkeeping, then think of it this way: let's say you bill at $300 an hour. A bookkeeper charges between $150-$300 for the month. That means that you would have to complete your books in 1 hour or less to justify not spending on the bookkeeper.
Leave this one to the professionals and take it off your plate once and for all!
2. Allowing Consultations Without Prepayment
You are wasting your time and precious calendar space by filling it with consultations who may or may not show up. Though your calendar may look filled with consultations, if half of them (or any portion of them) aren't showing up then you aren't making money.
You can turn this around by requiring prepayment of the consultation in order to be able to schedule it. You can accept the credit card payment over the phone or via your website if your clientele would be interested in scheduling via internet. If someone insists on paying in cash, require that they come into the office to prepay in person at least 24 hours before their desired time of the consultation.
When first making this switch from non-prepaid consults to pre-paid consults, it is a bit scary because your calendar will look more empty. However, your bank account will look more full. You are going to be earning more money because the prepayment will be immediately processed and also because you will ensure that the people who have scheduled a consultation with you are fully invested in starting their legal cases.
3. Answering Your Phones
For as much as lawyers like to talk, we simply do not like answering our phones. This means that you shouldn't. Take that responsibility off of your shoulders. If you do not have staff to answer your phone, invest in a phone answering service to handle your calls.
It costs you money when you do not take incoming calls. Many calls are people first-time callers who are looking to schedule a consultation. If you do not take their call then you have missed an opportunity for new business. Because most attorneys make the mistake of not returning every single missed call, then that caller/ new business is lost forever. By ensuring that every single call is handled, you can increase your bottom line while gaining new opportunities to do what you love. (More consults means more clients which means more work, and the work is why you became a lawyer in the first place!)
It is not a cost to your firm to use an answering service and/or hire a receptionist. It is an investment. If your business is not busy enough for a full-time receptionist, start with the answering service and go from there. The truth is that once your firm answers every call and returns every missed call, the increase in your business will likely require a full time receptionist shortly thereafter!
4. Refusing to Accept Credit Cards
Start taking credit cards immediately. If you do not accept credit cards, you are losing business. Bank of America merchant services has some of the lowest rates on the market and may be a great starting point. We also have listed out other credit card processing companies and their pricing here for you to check out.
It may seem stressful to have to set it all up and figure it out, but it is an investment of time that will increase your profits immediately. I used to believe that my clients wouldn't pay with credit cards because, as a culture, they prefer cash, but I was wrong. Many of them have debit cards or can get a prepaid credit card to pay for the consultations and the cases. There is no excuse that would be good enough to justify not accepting credit cards. At the very least, even if you do not want to have credit cards as your main way of taking payments, set up the system so if someone insists on a credit card payment you have a way to process it.
What else would you say that lawyers need to stop doing in their law firms?
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Lozano 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 husband and their 5 children.