Trade In Old Habits for Good Ones

Ava Chisling
May 15, 2017
Small Law

When moving from a big firm to a solo or boutique practice, amnesia is not a bad thing to have

Way back when, lawyers had the answers to everything. Because of their authority, expertise and the idea that they embodied justice and fairness, few people challenged their strategies or their cost. From the top of their towers, they ruled over the four corners of the law.

By most accounts, those days are over. Clients are more educated, more sophisticated and more demanding than ever. With the propagation of the internet, efficient legal tools, as well as the increased presence of in-house counsel and alternate solutions, clients now have vast resources at their fingertips, more options, and their legal knowledge is broader. Clients are challenging their legal suppliers about hourly rates, time spent on their case, choice of methods, the involvement of other professionals, slow response times, and the handling of their file in general. Like other aspects of business, clients want to save money and they want their service providers to be more creative and competitive so that their own businesses can be more creative and competitive.

“You need to be inventive, visionary, and flexible. You have to innovate and evolve. And make your services affordable to regular human beings.”

So, if you’re thinking about starting your own legal practice — solo or with a few others — don’t replicate what you learned at a big firm, or worse, what you learned in law school. What you know may already be out of date; large firms themselves are scrambling to adapt to what many perceive as a new reality. You need to be inventive, visionary, and flexible. You have to innovate and evolve. Listen to each client and create a tailored solution for his or her specific needs. And make your services affordable to regular human beings.

Keith Lee, lawyer and founder/editor of Associate’s Mind, a very popular legal blog about how to be a better lawyer, has this advice for newly solo lawyers: “Don’t fall into ‘paralysis by analysis.’ If you’ve been in a big firm, you’ve likely had people make all sorts of decisions for you — what research tools to use, what software, business cards, office space, etc. You’re suddenly going to be faced with dozens of options for each. It can be overwhelming and lawyers often fall into the trap of spending inordinate amounts of time trying to pick the perfect option.”

Lee agrees that the best way to reduce your overhead is not by working from home. “It doesn’t matter if it’s somewhere you’re leasing (don’t go for Class A space), a short-term executive office suite, or a spare office in an established law firm (likely the best option) — you need a real place to meet with clients and it’s not Starbucks.” As for the tech tools at your disposal, there are a lot of choices to make your life easier. Things to consider: Clio for practice management, an interactive client portal on your website, file-sharing, process mapping software, secure video-conferencing like Legaler, and of course, there’s our own ROSS Intelligence for research and drafting documents.

About ROSS, Luis Salazar of Salazar Jackson recently said in Daily Business Review: “When it rolled out into the market, I didn’t want to wait for the tidal wave to hit. I want to leverage it as a tool early.” Says Lee: “Unlike being in a big firm, you are solely responsible for every single part of your law firm: you’re the lawyer, IT person, HR, accountant, manager, and more.” It’s time to pave your own way.

Ava Chisling

Ava is an award-winning lawyer and editor who counsels creative types, writes about pop culture/tech+law and sometimes creates ad campaigns. She is Quebec counsel for Momentum Law.