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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Basecamp overview

Good piece from Chuck Newton here on Basecamp usage...I must admit, I've been slow getting on that train.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Welcome Bryan...

One of the more "connected" attorneys I know, Bryan Sims, has FINALLY started a blog...


Monday, February 12, 2007

Coffee and legal services

A good quote from one of the business publications I read from an independent coffee shop owner:

You're not selling coffee, you're selling relationships

The statement is likely even more true in the professional services business!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Publish an article and send it out

Here's a nuggest I'm following from Trey Ryder:

SECRET #4: Send clients a copy of every published article. This boosts loyalty because clients see you an authority. Clients like to know that you are the respected authority in your field of law.

I just got an article regarding saving clients money in residential real estate transactions published in the ISBA's Real Estate Section Council newsletter. My timing was very intentional...hoping to have it published to concide with the break of spring (i.e. real estate season in Chicago). The piece has been approved and will be published within two weeks.

I'm going to send a copy with a note and some business cards to every potential client and referal source in the real estate area...I haven't finalized the mailing but I'm think it will be 50-100 people; many Realtors. So we'll see how this marketing tip works!

More billing "stuff"...

A nugget from Rjon Robbins over at How to make it rain:

Over & over & over again we see that by establishing some basic routines in small law firms that clients can count on, the volume of repeat and referral business increases and accounts receivables tend to decrease too. Even getting into the habit of sending out a bill each month like clockwork creates a level of predictability that comforts clients. You wouldn't think it works this way - clients feeling more comforted by receiving a bill - but it does, even in contingency firms that don't traditionally issue a fee statement until the end of a case.

I am amazed at the number of small law firms that do NOT send out monthly bills. It leaves me speechles to think of the lost communication opportunity and income opportunity that not sending your client a monthly bill causes. The only clients to whom we do not send monthly bills are residential real estate transaction clients...we'll either get paid at a closing or bill them post-closing.

Fire bad clients

Tom Kane has a good post over at the Legal Marketing blog here. He discusses five categories of clients that you should fire.

Focus drainers (the wrong clients in terms of your core business, or targeted service sectors),

Low-profitability clients (here I might take issue, since in our business it is not always about money (i.e., with pro bono obligations and all), but, of course, one must pay attention to profitability unless they’re a charitable organization),

(those who complain about your work, your staff, your fees; and just don’t appreciate what you do for them),

“Something for nothing” clients
(those who don’t value your services, complain about your fees, and generally are slow in paying reasonable fees), and

Time wasters
(this type doesn’t listen to your advice, and/or take up too much of your time unjustifiably).

In the client generation area, this issue along with the problem of taking on clients who don't pay consistently were absolutely our most troubling problems at start-up. I think the tough one to say no to is the HIGHLY profitable focus-drainer. I'm still finishing up with a few of those from start-up. You need $$, but it's outside your focus area. To be frank, we got good results for many of these, but I think we got out-lawyered on a couple because the cases were outside of our focus area.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Good comment...

I wanted to post a very informative comment from a couple days back regarding international expansion for solos/small firms:

You most certainly should be thinking international. My firm has seven lawyers and about 95% of our practice is international. We have an office in Shanghai and are looking to open one in another country. There is a huge need out there for lawyers to handle the day to day international work that is always coming up and that work most certainly involves family law. We have worked with family lawyers on a number of international divorces, including one that we got thrown out of the US into Poland, where the laws would be much more favorable for our client. We oftentimes help US divorce lawyers here secure documentation from overseas that they need for the courts here. We often get international estate planning calls and we have no expertise in that area and almost nobody does. It goes on and on. Check out our website here: http://www.harrismoure.com/_eng/about.html and our blog here: http://www.chinalawblog.com/ and you will see what I mean. The possibilities for small and solos are just huge.

That's some pretty interesting stuff...interesting use of foreign attorneys and 'Of Counsels.' Also, note that when you go to their front Website, there are five language choices...is there another language that your site should be viewable in?

What are you using Podcast's for...

I'll admit that I'm a Podcast "luddite." My IPod usage is limited to "stealing" my wife's every so often to use when exercising...I haven't even downloaded any music.

But this piece in The Times is quite eye-opening. Here's the site. Long-story short, it's a teacher at a private Long Island high school who has extensive Podcasts available that are lectures regarding different historical periods.

You're telling me there's not a market for...you name it..."how-to (fill-in the blank with any legal proceeding)?" Either selling the Podcasts themselves or selling advertising on the site?

Law firm growth models

Law.com has an interesting piece that overview's Sonnenschein's growth plan through lateral hires. What's your growth plan?

I'll tell you what our's is...aggressive use of 'Of Counsel' relationships to create a "Firm without a Firm." More to come in upcoming months.

The importance of your "billing package"

As you've probably noticed from some of my recent posts, my firm has been doing quite a bit of thinking about billing/collection policy. Actually it's a very thorough re-vamp that I'll speak about more in weeks to come...it's not totally finalized. Let me be frank, our receivables have been too high and we need to be more hard-assed in our billing/collection.

One thing I'm going to change slightly is our billing package that our typical client receives each month. Currently, a typical client of our firm gets their itemized bill with descriptive explanation of all work done on their case and time spent and amount due. We attach a credit card fill-in form for client's that want to pay by credit card and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Nothing too earth shattering and likely fairly similar to most lawyers. The one addition to our billing package is now going to be a transferable coupon for a free legal consultation or 50% off of representation in a residential real estate transaction (the only thing I'm debating is what's the most attractive and feasible discount to provide). Essentially I'm copying what I see in virtually any bills we get...there's always additional advertising enclosed. By making the coupon transferable our current clients can give the coupon to their friends.