Dorothy Secol, CLA
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Independent Paralegal Services for Attorneys



When asked what your New Years resolution is for the new year 2002, did you say "to lose weight" and mean "to make more money"? Practicing law has become one of the most difficult ways to make a living for sole practitioners and small law firms. Aside from practicing law, attorneys must be budget-conscious business managers who can deal with issues ranging from human resources to technology. Here are a few ideas to earmark in your business management notebooks. 

1. Find the right mix of people to staff your firm. Think about the money you spend on finding and training new people, hiring the wrong people, and how expensive it is to fix the problem. Our suggestion is to hire talent as high up on the scale as possible, hire fewer people, and offer incentives such as health insurance, retirement plans, and continuing education.

2. Outsource creatively. Perhaps money is better spent on typing large projects such as briefs, by an outside typing service than tying up a legal secretary who can be more productive and profitable doing other work. Outsource substantive work to qualified legal assistants who can do the work you would otherwise do. This allows for more than one job being done at a time.

3. Be sensitive to your clients’ needs. Create strategies for getting the jobs done the best and most efficient way. Try to anticipate what your clients will need in the future.

4. Get business from other attorneys by becoming known in your field. Write, speak and participate in bar activities. Strive to do exceptional work. Be fair in your fees and be timely. Try hard to be well respected and liked. Send handwritten thank you notes to those who send you work. Never forget a referral fee.

5. Foster the sense that everyone in your firm, from the file clerk to your partner, has something to do with your commitment to take care of clients.

6. Track and analyze the cost of producing legal services. Track your costs from quarter to quarter and find ways to cut costs in each area, i.e. if e-mail or fax can be used instead of a long distance call; if computer programs cut out "reinventing the wheel" for certain projects; if covering an employee only with health benefits when his or her spouse has benefits available through their own employment.

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