5 Issues to Consider Before Starting Your Own Law Practice

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5 Issues to Consider Before Starting Your Own Law Practice

You survived law school and passed the bar. You’ve been working at a law firm for some time now, and have recently been feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the job. Or maybe you were laid off and are trying to figure out the next step in your career.

Whatever the reason, you’re considering hanging out your shingle and starting your own firm. But before you pack your briefcase and bolt from your cushy office, there are several important questions to consider.

First, you need to establish whether or not you would be comfortable establishing your own firm. Consider the following:

#1   Are you comfortable taking on multiple roles?

To run your own law firm, you must be more than just a good lawyer. You will have to take on administrative and money-management duties (and personnel management if you decide to expand your practice), in addition to your normal responsibilities. In short, you need to be a business man/woman, as well as a lawyer. If you don’t already have strong business skills, be sure you are willing to learn them.

#2   Which do you value more—security or autonomy?

Opening your own firm involves taking risks. Be prepared to live with uncertainties such as not having a steady paycheck and your company’s expenses exceeding your projections. If these are not situations you think you can live with, then starting your own firm is probably not the best course of action.

However, if you’ve come this far and feel that you have the right personality for starting your own firm, now it’s time to consider your personality and preferences in order to determine what kind of firm to start.

 #3   Are you a lone wolf or a team player?

Knowing what kind of work environment in which you work best will help you decide whether to be a sole practitioner or to bring others into the practice. If you thrive off of the energy of others and prefer a team approach, enlist others to join you. If you prefer to work on your own, a solo practice may be the way to go. Tailor the company to your strengths, and it will be more likely to succeed.

Personality traits aren’t the only thing to consider in the matter of starting your own firm. You also have to think about the following more practical considerations:

#4   Do you have the money?

If you do not have money saved, be ready to borrow. This may be with a line of credit or with a credit card. In addition, you will want to keep overhead costs as low as possible—it may be tempting to rent a nice office with a view and hire a lot of staff right off the bat, but if you can work out of your home or find another low-cost option and function with no or only a few staff members initially, you will reduce your overhead significantly. Most businesses fail because they don’t have enough money to get through the first year, so be realistic about what you can afford.

#5   Do you have the experience?

One thing that will help your business succeed is having experience in a specific field. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but things will likely go more smoothly if you have a level of experience and expertise that allows you to feel comfortable fielding any question a prospective client might have. If you are fresh out of law school or still very new to the area of law in which you want to practice, you may want to consider waiting a year or two (or more) before starting your own firm.

If you decide that opening your own practice IS the right move, having the right technology will help ensure success. JurisDOC can help your practice run more smoothly with our legal document assembly software that makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. Priced at only $50/month per user, JurisDOC delivers a quick return on investment and frees you to focus on clients, not paperwork.

We’re so sure that you’ll find JurisDOC useful that we offer a free trial. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can start saving time and money.


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Billable Hours Only Pay Off When You Actually Get Paid

One of the most frustrating experiences as an attorney is when your client refuses to pay. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears (or at least a significant amount of brain power) into their work, and now you’re not going to reap the reward. While there’s no way to 100% ensure that you get paid for the work you do as an attorney, there are ways to improve your billing efficiency and make your clients feel more inclined to pay their bills, so you don’t end up getting stiffed.

#1 Set expectations ahead of time
It’s in everyone’s best interest to discuss the fee arrangement with the client before you start the case, and especially before you send any bills. Make sure your client has a complete understanding of what you will charge for your services, and put the fee agreement in writing, even if your jurisdiction does not require a written engagement agreement. You and the client both can refer to the document if there are ever misunderstandings about the bill.

#2 Provide clear & detailed invoices
Provide detail, but make it simple. The bill should be easy for the client to understand, but it should also adequately convey the legal services you performed. Don’t use shorthand or abbreviations that the client may not know or understand.

And the description areas for time entries exist for a reason – use them! Let the client know specifically what tasks were performed on their behalf. It may even be a good idea to walk your client through the first bill, so they fully understand what they are charged for. Explain each individual charge and the work that was completed, and make sure to answer any questions that arise.

#3 Keep fees reasonable
If your hourly fee is considered appropriate, but a lack of legal experience results in your spending an excessive amount of time on a routine task, the amount you ultimately bill will not be appropriate after all. Or if you worked on a document and then had to revise it because you discovered a fundamental error, clients won’t want to pay for that extra time.

Clients are paying for you to get it right, efficiently, the first time. With that in mind, include all of your work in the invoice (so that the client knows exactly what you have worked on), but make a note by any excessive time to let the client know that they won’t be charged for that time.

#4 Make getting paid easy with legal technology
As always (or at least, almost always), technology is your friend. Software specifically designed for lawyers will help streamline billing processes and make your life – and your clients’ lives – a lot easier.

We can’t strong-arm your clients into paying their bills, but we can provide you with simple and effective software for billing those clients. Start with a free trial of JurisDOC’s document automation and client invoicing software and start reaping the rewards today. Find your free trial at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.


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Build or Buy? How to Choose Legal Document Assembly Software

One reason some law firms hesitate to start using document assembly software is because they don’t fully understand how it works. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?

The problem with this thinking is that you end up missing out on an easy way to save money and make your processes more efficient—and achieve the golden goose of fewer hours spent on paperwork, more hours spent on billable work. There’s a reason Richard Susskind named document assembly as one of ten disruptive technologies altering the face of the legal profession—it really works! Here’s how:

Created in the late 1970s, document assembly software has only recently really started catching on with lawyers. It automates the creation of legal documents that are used repeatedly, like wills, leases, contracts and letters. The goal is to replace the time-consuming and repetitive manual completing (read “copying and pasting”) of documents with a template-based system. After you select a template, the software asks a series of questions and uses your answers to populate the template and provide you with a finished document, thereby saving you time on document preparation.

Seth Rowland and Rose Rowland, of legal technology consultancy Basha Systems, LCC, divide document assembly software into two categories: Buy and Build.

With “buy” software, a system of pre-crafted legal documents gives you the ability to select a document, answer a series of questions, and produce a finished document in less than 15 minutes. These systems make document preparation about as fast and simple as it can get.

“Build” software offers a do-it-yourself approach. You build your own automated templates, using your own words, your own rules and your own intake forms. Some systems allow you to build templates on your desktop, while others are web-based solutions. Build systems require more time initially but offer an excellent option if you prefer to customize language in documents.

The kind of document assembly software that will work best for your firm depends on your preferences, but rest assured you will find software available that will work for you and can be customized to fit your exact needs.

If you’re interested in testing the waters before committing, start with a free trial of JurisDOC software, and see how it can be useful in your practice—saving time and turning that time into money. Find your free trial at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.


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5 Tips to Make Your Law Firm More Efficient

As the old saying goes, “Time is money,” and that’s especially true for attorneys and billable hours. Making your practice more efficient will ultimately make it more profitable, so it’s worth setting aside a little of that precious time to think about where your inefficiencies lie and what you can do to change them. Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Go Paperless
Or at least consider making do with less paper. This small change will not only reduce cost and clutter, it will make your practice more efficient. The potential benefits (reduced costs and labor, inexpensive and easily searchable document storage, improved client communication and storage) far outweigh the objections (hackers, computers crashing), especially when there are now solid solutions for these objections (back-up power, off-site data storage, firewalls and more). It may be tough to transition at first, but you’ll be glad you did.

2) Don’t Multi-task
Multi-tasking may seem efficient, but the reality is that it’s one of the least efficient things you can do. Dividing your attention between two or more tasks at one time ends up increasing the time it takes to complete each task. Try giving your undivided attention to one task at a time, and you’ll likely find that your remember things more clearly and that you spend less time searching for emails, tasks and pieces of paper (which you are using less of, right?).

3) Utilize Case Management Software
Case management software helps run processes and keeps workflow moving. Designed to help you manage client information, cases and business matters, case management software makes it easier to manage, protect and share information, as well as track and shape your cases to make them more manageable.

4) Track Your Time
Keep track of how you’re spending your time (whether it’s with a timekeeping program or with practice management software) and learn to recognize inefficiencies in your routine. Tracking and reviewing how you spend your time may seem like busy work, but ultimately the records will help you see where you’re wasting time, and hopefully galvanize you to take steps to weed out those inefficiencies.

5) Use Document Automation Software
Document automation software plays a critical role in providing legalservices in an efficient and effective manner. By automating the creation of repeatedly used legal documents, you can avoid the hassle of finding the right form to use and stop cutting/pasting the same information over and over again. You save time, increase consistency across staff members and multiply your billable hours.

There’s no time like the present to start making your practice more efficient. Start with a free trial of JurisDOC’s document automation software.

JurisDOC makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. The software also tracks hours, generates invoices and tracks payments, so you can spend your time doing what you do best. Find your free trial at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.


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5 Reasons NOT to Start Your Own Practice

Debating whether or not to start your own law firm? As I discussed in a previous post, there are a number of issues to consider when deciding whether or not to hang a shingle. You may have already decided that going out on your own is right move for you, but if you’re on the fence, here are a few reasons NOT to start your own practice:

#1  When You’re on Your Own, You’re on Your Own
At a firm, you can turn to experienced attorneys when you need advice on a matter. As a solo practitioner, you’re going to have to handle these matters on your own—or cultivate mentor relationships with attorneys from other firms. If you’re planning on going solo straight out of law school, this may prove especially difficult.

#2  Crazy Hours
Face it—you’re going to have to work some long hours if you start your own business. During the startup phase in particular, you’ll need to work weekdays, weekends, holidays and plenty of nights, too. Once the business is up and running, you may be able to scale back on the hours, but if you have no one else to cover cases, it will still be difficult to get away for a vacation.

#3  It’s Expensive
Starting your own business is not cheap. You’ve got to pay for malpractice insurance; the phone bill; legal research; accounting software; maybe even an office and a few employees. All of these expenses add up, and it may be more than you’re willing or able to pay.

#4  Risk and Debt
With those kinds of costs, your income will probably be pretty limited or even nonexistent for a while after just starting out. If you’ve got student loans and/or a family to take care of, the potential reward may not be worth the risk. Especially considering that, according to a recent survey, solo practitioners and two-person firms rank lowest in terms of billing efficiency. At only a 39% efficiency rate, most solo practitioners and two-person firms are getting paid for less than half of the time they work. Yikes.

#5  Difficult Clients
You’re going to get some clients who are a pain to deal with. They might fight the bill, micromanage, or email you with 50 different questions every day. Or even worse, you might wind up with an angry client who sues you, complains to the bar, or otherwise makes your life miserable. Whatever it is, rest assured not every client will be a walk in the park.

However, if after reading all this you DO decide that opening your own practice is the right move for you, having the right technology will help ensure success. JurisDOC can help your practice run more smoothly with our legal document assembly software that makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. JurisDoc also tracks hours, generates invoices and tracks payments, so you can spend your time doing what you do best.

You can start with free use of JurisDOC, and see how it can be useful in your practice—saving time and turning that time into money. Find your free trial at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.


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The ROI of Document Automation

Ever heard the saying sometimes you have to spend money in order to make money? In the case of document software, this couldn’t be more accurate. Yes, you’ll have to spend some money on the software, but what you end up saving as a result makes the software worth more than its weight in gold.

When used consistently, document assembly software can save an attorney 15-30 minutes, or more, each day. Time that could be spent on work that you can bill your client. Those minutes may not sound like much, but 30 minutes per day—every day—start to add up. Consider:

30 minutes/day x 5 days/week= 150 minutes per
150 minutes/week x 48 weeks/year= 120 hours per year

Let’s say you’ve got an attorney making $200/hr.

120 hours/year x $200/hr= $24,000 per year

$24,000 per year! And that’s just one attorney. Think about how much money your firm makes if every attorney in your office saves that much money each year! You have the potential to generate the equivalent of one or two full-time staff members. Isn’t that worth it?

Now is the time to invest in document automation. Start with free use of JurisDOC software, and see how it can be useful in your practice—saving time and turning that time into money. Find your free trial at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download.


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Making the Case for Document Automation

Automate, automate, automate! We’ve all heard it numerous times. As an attorney, it’s difficult to escape that word these days, especially when it comes to document assembly and creation. The knee-jerk reaction may be to say “I’ve gone without automation software all these years and have been doing just fine, thanks.” But there are legitimate reasons why you should consider hopping on the automation bandwagon.

Standardization
Chances are, you or your staff prepares the same types of pleadings or documents over and over again, with minor changes, in the same types of cases. It might feel more comfortable to personally craft the words in each document because we can ensure they’re perfect.

With customizable software like JurisDOC, you have access to thousands of alternate clauses as well as the ability to edit each document. This means you can customize your documents, while at the same time, increase consistency across staff members. When changes need to be made, all relevant documents can be updated accordingly and made available to staff members, so everyone is using the most current and relevant documents, and error is minimized.

Save Time
Let’s be honest—crafting legal documents is a time-sucker. When you create these documents yourself, time gets wasted trying to find the right form to use. More valuable time gets spent as you repeatedly copy and paste the same information to the numerous forms required throughout each case.

With document assembly software, you don’t have to worry about any of that. In the case of JurisDOC, the right forms are easily accessible in an extensive database covering numerous areas of law, and with over 2,000 alternate clauses at your fingertips, little to no copying and pasting is necessary. If used consistently, document assembly software can save you 15-30 minutes, or more, each day.

Increase billable hours and monthly income
With that kind of time saved each day, you’ll get 6-10 additional billable hours each month, which translates to increased income. The question now is not whether you can afford it—but whether you can afford to be without it.

Stop wondering about how legal document automation can help you and find out—at no risk or cost. Download a free trial of our software and see how JurisDOC can help you spend less time assembling documents and more time practicing law. Get started today at https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download and try it free.


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5 Issues to Consider Before Starting Your Own Law Practice

You survived law school, and you passed the bar. You’ve been working at a law firm for some time now, and have recently been feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the job. Or maybe you were laid off and are trying to figure out the next step in your career.

Whatever the reason, you’re considering hanging out your shingle and starting your own firm. But before you pack your briefcase and bolt from your cushy office, there are several important questions to consider.

First, you need to establish whether or not you would be comfortable establishing your own firm. Consider the following:

1) Are you comfortable taking on multiple roles?
To run your own law firm, you must be more than just a good lawyer. You will have to take on administrative and money-management duties (and personnel management if you decide to expand your practice), in addition to your normal responsibilities. In short, you need to be a business man/woman, as well as a lawyer. If you don’t already have strong business skills, be sure you are willing to learn them.

2) Which do you value more—security or autonomy?
Opening your own firm involves taking risks. Be prepared to live with uncertainties such as not having a steady paycheck and your company’s expenses exceeding your projections. If these are not situations you think you can live with, then starting your own firm is probably not the best course of action.

However, if you’ve come this far and feel that you have the right personality for starting your own firm, now it’s time to consider your personality and preferences in order to determine what kind of firm to start.

3) Are you a lone wolf or a team player?
Knowing what kind of work environment in which you work best will help you decide whether to be a sole practitioner or to bring others into the practice. If you thrive off of the energy of others and prefer a team approach, enlist others to join you. If you prefer to work on your own, a solo practice may be the way to go. Tailor the company to your strengths, and it will be more likely to succeed.

Personality traits aren’t the only thing to consider in the matter of starting your ownfirm. You also have to think about the following more practical considerations:

4) Do you have the money?
If you do not have money saved, be ready to borrow. This may be with a line of credit or with a credit card. In addition, you will want to keep overhead costs as low as possible – it may be tempting to rent a nice office with a view and hire a lot of staff right off the bat, but if you can work out of your home or find another low-cost option and function with no or only a few staff members initially, you will reduce your overhead significantly. Most businesses fail because they don’t have enough money to get through the first year, so be realistic about what you can afford.

5) Do you have the experience?
One thing that will help your business succeed is having experience in a specific field. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but things will likely go more smoothly if you have a level of experience and expertise that allows you to feel comfortable fielding any question a prospective client might have. If you are fresh out of law school or still very new to the area of law in which you want to practice, you may want to consider waiting a year or two (or more) before starting your own firm.

If you decide that opening your own practice IS the right move, having the right technology will help ensure success. JurisDOC can help your practice run more smoothly with our legal document assembly software that makes it easier and faster for law firms to generate pleadings and other legal documents. You can download a free trial of our software and see how JurisDOC can help you spend less time assembling documents and more time practicing law.

https://www.jurisdocpro.com/download


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