Hiring Professionals

You spent three years and law school and all your waking hours learning how to be a lawyer.  You’re probably a pretty good one at this point.  But I have learned that being a good attorney is only part of the equation.  There are more skills you need to master.  I have previously written about the need to develop clients.  But more than that, you need to know how to run a law firm as a business.  This month, I would like to talk about some of the types of professionals I have used over the years.

First, you should hire a good accountant as soon as you can.  What follows is my financial history.  Where on this timeline do you fall?  When I started, I handwrote all of my business checks and manually balanced my checkbook each month when I received my bank statement.  Next, I continued to hand write my checks, but also typed the checks into a checkbook computer program. The next big step was when I purchased Quickbooks.  I entered the check in Quickbooks and then printed it on pre-printed checks.  I still manually balanced the checking account each month.  

Finally, I hired an accountant.  First, he showed me how to download my bank statement and automatically balance (“reconcile”) my checkbook with my bank account.  What used to take an hour now took 30 seconds.  He also showed me how to properly set up my Quickbooks into the proper categories.  What this allowed me to do was track client expenses for each individual client.  No photocopying each check and placing it in a red folder and handwriting the expenses on the settlement sheet.  Quickbooks did all of this for me thanks to my accountant.

The final thing the accountant was able to do for me was enable me to create a budget.  I was shocked at how much I was spending each month on certain categories of business expenses.  My budget now tells me how much my fixed monthly costs are as well as what other costs, such as client expenses, cost each month.  It really has put things into perspective.

I am not writing this column to praise Quickbooks or proper financial bookkeeping, but to stress the importance of an accountant.  I would still be handwriting checks and manually reconciling my account each month without having an accountant.  After all, balancing my checkbook is what I had always done in my personal life.  Your personal life is not preparation for running a law practice.  My accountant has helped in tax planning, explaining to me the best time to make capital expenditures and when to hold off on taking deductions.  Trust me, these decisions make a difference.  Hire someone who can guide you through this process.

I have previously written about the internet.  You need to hire someone who knows how to maximize your presence on the internet.  Simply putting up a web page is not going to generate business.  There is so much more than that.  A good SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization/Search Engine Marketing) individual is necessary to drive internet traffic to your web site, and more importantly, get those people to contact you.  You can have a lot of traffic to your web site, but you need to get them to call you or e-mail you or their presence at your site will be irrelevant.  Internet marketing is not something you should do yourself, but hire someone who knows what they are doing.

On two occasions, I have hired Law Office Consultants.  They have come into the office, spoke to the staff and analyzed how we provide our legal services.  You have to be ready to look hard into the mirror and be prepared to listen and act on their advice.  There will be things which will come as a surprise and there will be things which you will disagree.  But, the point of hiring these consultants is to improve your practice.  On both occasions, my practice has benefited enormously by hiring consultants to analyze my practice.  

My point of this article is that you cannot be the master of all trades.  Spend your time being the best lawyer you can be and hire people who know how to run your business.  I could easily add a graphic artist, computer (IT) person and a content writer for web posts to the list of important people who help your practice run better while you practice law.  Spend time doing what you enjoy and what you went to school for rather than on these areas which others can do it better than you.  I haven’t listed the names of any of the people I use, but I am more than happy to provide a recommendation for any one of them, so feel free to contact me.

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