James e. Brill 2014-11-28 09:01:42
How solos get things done. If it is to be, it is up to me. If you are a solo practitioner, you know the truth of these 10 words because they explain your day-to-day activities. If you are just starting your own practice right out of law school or following many years in a firm, you soon will understand. Solos find themselves not only in charge of production but also responsible for marketing, purchasing, organizing, staffing, accounting, and all of the other non-legal functions of running an office. Things once taken for granted now cut deeply into otherwise productive time. Even assuming that you have a couple of good clients, you can’t rest on your laurels. At some point, they are likely to run out of projects that require your services. If you didn’t know it before, you now recognize the danger of being so dependent on just a few patrons. You have to do something to attract more. You realize that if it is to be, it is up to me. What about all the things you need to outfit and equip an office? Now you’re in charge of purchasing. If you plan to meet clients on a regular basis at your home, don’t forget to review the restrictions. If at another location, then where? Furnished or not? What about access to the Internet and telephone and someone to answer those calls? If it is to be, it is up to me. And then there are the paper clips, stationery, and all of the other things you don’t think of until you need them, as well as the organizing of administrative aspects. Think about opening a restaurant. Among the early activities, a concept is selected and a menu is designed. Once the menu is set, the ingredients must be acquired and the recipes must be standardized. In the kitchen, there is a need for the right pots, pans, utensils, and equipment. Your law practice is pretty much like that restaurant. If you anticipate and plan for each service you will provide, you will identify standardized documents and procedures. Here is your chance to define your services in great detail and to establish fixed fees for those services. Your clients most likely will not be sad that you are not insisting on hourly charges—WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). If you decide to hire support staff, you will be in charge of personnel, payroll, benefits, and all of the reporting to the government. On the other hand, your possibilities are unlimited. You are starting with a blank slate and you have the opportunity to create your own way of doing things. The non-lawyers in your office are a great deal more talented that you can imagine. For starters, they can prepare much of your correspondence and at least first drafts of many documents. They also have ideas for improving “the way things are done around here”—if you will give them a chance. And their cheerful voices can help with your client relations. The potential is limited only by your willingness to delegate. The next thing you know, you will have leveraged your effectiveness while increasing job satisfaction for yourself as well as your staff. There you have it. Not only are you a well-qualified lawyer, you are a Jill- or a Jack-of-All-Trades. You are the one to guide your practice. As you build a meaningful career, don’t ever lose sight of the 10 words. Commit them to memory and live by them. If it is to be, it is up to me. TBJ JAMES E. BRILL is a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate and a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has been the principal author of every edition of the Texas Probate System and is a recipient of the Presidents’ Award from the State Bar of Texas.
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