How to Improve Your Law Practice By Sharpening An Axe

Tom Martin Commentary Leave a Comment

I just talked to a colleague of mine struggling with her growing practice.

She had concerns we all have about how to make her law office run more smoothly and profitably. She’s busy with new business coming in the door but is feeling overwhelmed. How to streamline lead qualification? How to automate client intake? How to make it all work together? How to have more time to have a life outside of the office?

Solos and small firm lawyers all have these concerns.

Yet we all have similar obstacles to making things better.

Lack of time, lack of objectivity and lack of commitment.

The easy (but not inexpensive option) is to hire a consultant and have them consult with you and execute a bespoke solution just for you.

Most of us turn away from that solution when we take a look at the dollar signs on the consultant’s proposal.

We decide to do it ourselves.

But we only have so much time in the day we tell ourselves. So we try to juggle everything on our plate, putting an emphasis on things that seem most important at the time. Today the priority might be getting paid. Tomorrow it might be leaving the office early for a child’s recital.

So implementing business process changes gets pushed to the back burner and we pledge to get to it “someday.”

Then when we do have time to focus on improving our process, we may not have the objectivity to come up with a solution that is optimal because we are too caught up in how things have been done and bad habits we may be holding onto from prior experience.

And even if we have the time and focus to implement a solution today, we may not have the commitment to follow up with tweaks and adjustments along the way to take in lessons learned to optimize the process we’ve created.

I think part of the problem is how we view ourselves.

A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”

Yet, as legal practitioners we invest time in improving our legal skills and education but don’t invest the time to sharpen our business skills and processes in the same way.

Imagine if the woodsman practiced his swing all day but never sharpened his axe. That woodsman would soon be frustrated and out of a job.

The legal robots are sharpening their axes and so should you.

You can start small.

Make a list of the most frustrating aspects of running your law practice as a business. The list might include lead qualification, client intake, client engagement letters, bill payment or something else, but make a list. Try to identify at least 10 issues with room for improvement.

Then, for each issue, give them a score from 1 to 10. 10 being the most painful and frustrating issue you have and 1 for the least worrisome. Remember that doctor chart?

Pick the most painful issue and start with that one. If you have more than one, flip a coin.

But get started. And if you’re stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and colleagues.

Or for inspiration join a Facebook page like Roland Vogl’s CodeX, Nick Rishwain’s LegalTech Community, Neil Tyra’s Law Entrepreneur, or Stevie Ghiassi’s LegalMeets or regularly check in here on LawDroid. 😀

Next month I’ll write about a mind-opening tactic to develop an innovation mindset.

About Tom Martin

@lawdroid Tom is a legal bot advocate, author and speaker. He is a lawyer and founder of LawDroid (a bot development and consulting company for the legal industry). Tom is also co-founder of Vancouver Legal Hackers, advisor to ATJ Tech Fellow Program, member of ARAG Technology Innovation Committee, and Chair of Education for Group Legal Services Association. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Tom now lives in Vancouver, Canada with his wife and two daughters.

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