Among the many things I learned from the first lawyer I worked for, was, “keep your overhead low.” I find myself repeating this advice to young attorneys, even as I struggle to do so myself. Let’s face it, expenses of running a law firm continue to escalate. There is always some new technology (see my column on cloud computing) or the need for more staff (see my column about when to hire staff).
Recently, I went through an audit with my accountant to see where I could cut back and save money. The results were quite eye opening. Just when I thought I knew everywhere I could pinch pennies, I asked my staff their thoughts on where we could cut back and save money. they came up with entirely different list. What follows are a few of the areas I have cut back on in the recent month.
Third Party Vendors
Take a close look at all the people and companies you pay in relation to your office. We’ve been doing business with some companies for over 20 years. Now, I am not advocating changing everyone you deal with, but shop around for prices. You may be surprised you are overpaying for services. Armed with price quotes, contact your suppliers and see if they can match (or beat) their competitors.
Here are a few contractors and suppliers I reviewed to see if I could save any money:
Court reporting agency
Garbage and trash removal
Special process server
Bigger savings to come
I was amazed at home much I was overpaying for cell phone service. I had signed a contract some time ago, but the time period had long since expired. I was able to cut my cell phone bill in half simply by calling and “threatening” to change cell phone providers. Cellular service has become so competitive, the major companies fight for your business. On a different note, you should call your cable company at your house and see what better deal you can get.
There was a lot of money to saved here. We all go through our share of office supplies, from paper to toner cartridge, office supplies cost a lot of money. We were able to save $6 per case on paper by shopping around. You should not be paying for shipping or delivery charges for office supplies, even if ordering 10 boxes of paper at a time. Laser printers are pretty cheap, where they get you is on the toner. Invest the money in a heavy duty printer ($500 or so) and it will more than make up for its price in saved toner costs. For our desktop printers, we were spending $75 for toner which lasted 1500 sheets. Now we pay $125 for cartridges which print 8500 sheets. Another major savings realized was in file folders. For years, we purchased custom printed file jackets, from when we used to write all the case info on the jacket. Everything we do now is computerized, so we switched to generic, blank (read cheap) file folders.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water
Cost savings can only go so far. I pay for pop and coffee for the office, which is not small expense. Likewise, I would have a revolt on my hands if I ever switched to cheap toilet paper. But the point is, I examined all the recurring costs I had at the office and looked for places to save money. It may only add up to a hundred dollars here and there, but it does make a difference. I refuse accept the rationale, “because that’s what we always do” or “because we have always bought it from them.”
Whether you write the check for the bills in your office or delegate the responsibility to someone else, it is worthwhile to look at where you spend your money and whether there can be any savings. It may be as simple as asking your current supplier if they can offer a better deal. You may be surprised at what you find.