August 26, 2011
The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. – Voltaire
I’ve spent the week clumping around in the medical equivalent of a ski-boot – no big deal, a few torn ligaments in my ankle that will repair themselves given time and immobilization (hence my new footwear). With the exception of making it difficult to operate the clutch pedal in my case, this is no big deal, as injuries go it’s a long way from anything of real importance (I’ll live).
The beauty of it is that this week has been one of those rare moments where there are no pressing client demands and no scheduled court dates so there was no need for me to head into town and clump around the office when I could be just as productive clumping around at home. So an e-mail to my receptionist service asking them to route my calls to my home number and I was in business smugly content in the flexibility of a solo practice. This blissful glow lasted slightly longer than the novelty of my newly acquired footwear – working (actually being able to get something productive accomplished) from home is, as I soon discovered, not for the faint of heart. (more…)
August 19, 2011
This post marks the first century of my odd ramblings about practicing as a solo out in rural America and I thought I’d mark the occasion by reviewing some of the topics I’ve covered. Rather than doing it through my eye’s, I thought I’d let the words of a keen observer of humanity do it for me, a man who once observed that “Adults are just obsolete children” and whose nonsense has helped to wake up our brain cells and enabled us to laugh at life’s realities – Dr. Seuss.
To keep things straight, the good doctor’s words are in italics. (more…)
August 12, 2011
Posted by Bruce under Marketing The Practice
, Practice Management
, Practice Matters
, Rural Practice
, Small Town Life
| Tags: Going Solo
, Rural Law
, Small Town Life
, Solo Out Of School
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Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm – Sir Winston Churchill
There are fifteen steps that, if followed precisely and in the correct order, will guarantee your small town law practice will be a successful, profitable enterprise. Unfortunately, the last person who knew what these steps is also the only person on record to have found a way to successfully transmute lead into gold. So, rural entrepreneur, you will have to be satisfied with these few suggestions to ease your way between failures.
Get paid up front
I cannot claim credit for this – this is, after all, Foonberg Rule #1. Discussing fees and collecting a retainer is the first of many difficult conversations you will have with clients, but it is something that must be done and is necessary if your practice is to thrive. It is far easier to get paid up front than it is to try to collect when all is said and done. If you aren’t collecting fees, you are doing pro-bono work and that is simply an expensive way to fail slowly. Develop a reputation for providing quality service at a reasonable price and most rural clients are not going to quibble about the price; but they also aren’t going to volunteer to pay it either – you’ve got to ask.
Give it everything you’ve got
This is more than just a reminder about working hard, in a small town there is little distinction between the profession and the professional – what you do is part and parcel of who you – so accept that you are going to be a lawyer 24/7/365 regardless of what your office hours are. Until you are established as a community fixture, you and your business are going to be evaluated, weighted and measured. You are going to be always building your reputation, so give this endeavor everything you’ve got and use every skill you have. After you are established as a community fixture – you’ll still be a lawyer 24/7, you and your practice will still be evaluated, weighted and measured, and you still have to maintain your reputation, but at least now folks will have funny stories about the day you… to tease you with – this is a good sign, it means you’ve been accepted. (more…)
August 9, 2011
This type of balancing act is more the rural lawyer's speed
Here’s the rub, if you are going to build a solo practice you’ve got to network to get clients, but when you get clients you’ve less time to network, but when you network less, you get fewer clients, which gives you more time to network, which gets you clients which … a cycle that can repeat ad infinitum while your accounts receivable develops more humps and bumps than a roller coaster. The cure – as suggested by many a wiser author than I – is to always schedule time to network into your daily routine regardless of client load; constant contact for constant clients. The problem is that it is way to easy for constant contact to simply become a rut – a once a month lunch with the local bar association, a few “how ya doing” weekly e-mails to your lawyer buddies, the bi-weekly chamber of commerce get-together, and a bit of on-line social networking.
The question is: is this really a good way to spend your time – are you really maximizing your return on your investment? Sure an e-mail to Bob the contractor (the guy that referred the last 3 real estate closings to you) puts your name in front of him for the 20 seconds it takes for him to delete it, but did it really buy you anything in terms of network building? And lunch with Delores the banker (a statuesque nordic blond that has never referred a client to anyone) may be an hour of divine and picturesque conversation but other than briefly making you the envy of guy-kind did investing that capital really do anything for your bottom line?
Given that you have limited time to invest, the business of relationship building comes down to a balancing act between the frequency of the contacts, the type of contacts, and the quality of the relationship you want to build. Now, the easy way to handle this is to cop out and simply grab minute amounts of face-time with your network at mass attendance events like bar association lunches or chamber of commerce breakfasts – develop a taste for scrambled eggs and baked chicken and you’re set for the business world’s version of speed dating. The hard way is to develop a tickler system that reminds you to take someone out to lunch on a regular basis and then to remember that “someone” needs to alternate between old friends and new contacts. (more…)