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Solo In Chicago

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Don't Waste Time!

Saw this top 10 list of lawyer time wasters. Interesting list...personal Internet usage and too much e-mail checking I think are the biggest time wasters lawyers or otherwise. I'm not sure I'm mature enough to handle a Blackberry myself.

But back to the lawyer exclusive list...my personal top 3:

1. The problem client. This is a very real time waster area...two of my clients pop right to mind in this area. One of these clients was in an area where there was a clear "end" to the representation...i.e. estate plan, real estate closing. In this sort of area I tend to take the "suck it up" attitude. Only a month or so until the closing and then he/she is gone. In a less defined representation this is tougher...I have one right now in some post-divorce work. A couple thoughts here...set a fairly high "minimum billing" time. For example you'll bill in a minimum increment of 1/4 or 1/3 of an hour. So if he wants to make all these "garbage" calls keep the meter running. Related, make sure you're billing for all the "garbage" calls. I think I've had a tendency to sort of get exasperated with the "garbage" calls of such a trivial nature but then due to their triviality I'll under-bill. Big mistake!

2. Dabbling in unfamiliar areas of practice. My leaning on this point is to take most business rather than not. I think as a "newish" sole practitioner you need to seek business aggressively. When you get that business that's not familiar research the issues and get a mentor for sure. The reason I'd error on the side of taking unfamiliar business is simply that it's too unpredictable where your business is going to evolve over time. Even sitting here in my sixth year of practice I'm not totally locked into the 2-3 practice areas that are going to really work for us forever.

3. Ignoring accounts receivable. Unless your representation is pro bono, your time is wasted if you cannot collect your fee. Two resolutions for '08: get bigger retainers up front & use a non-lawyer collection manager to prod those slow in paying or not paying.

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