work smarter not harderThis is the next post in my discussion on building a million dollar law practice. My last article looked at how badly attorneys mismanage their firm’s finances. A hallmark of successful firms is that that they manage their finances and resources well while the less successful firms do an even better job of mismanaging their finances. The former winds up doing well while the latter finds running their business to be a constant struggle. In this article I’m going to stress another important point – the fact that successful firms work smarter while many attorneys choose to work harder. Most lawyers go about handling their cases in an inefficient manner and they also market their firm inefficiently. This drives profitability through the floor.

I speak with attorneys regularly who are concerned with “getting more phone calls.”  The reason why a firm wants to make the phones ring more is obvious – they want to make more money. These attorneys don’t realize, however, that they could greatly improve their profitability with the phone volume they already have. These attorneys choose to work harder rather than smarter and the result is that they don’t make as much money off of each case as they could. They then turn around and spend more money on pay-per-click or other advertising just so they can bring in more cases which, in turn, will also not be as profitable as they would otherwise be. These lawyers, sadly, find themselves running on a hamster wheel for years and years and they never truly get ahead. Let’s look at a hypothetical.

Joe attorney brings in a case for which he charges a $5,000 flat fee. He figures he can get the case resolved in about 25 total hours (including all administrative time). That’s an effective hourly rate of $200 per hour. Now let’s say that Joe currently has fifteen active cases and he can handle up to twenty cases at a time without hiring additional help. This means Joe currently has $75,000 of incoming revenue with which to pay his expenses (15 cases x $5,000).  He wants to make more money. He spends $10,000 on pay per click, which increases his overhead. Now he’s got ten additional cases and he hires a staff person. This staff person costs an extra $30,000 per year. Joe has now increased his available cash by $10,000 ($50,000 in revenue from new cases – $10,000 of pay-per-click – $30,000 in additional salary). Joe now has $85,00 available for paying his other expenses as opposed to the original 75k. Do you know what else he has? An increased work load, longer hours, the headaches that come with managing employees, and other potential problems. In other words, he greatly increased how hard he is working just to pick up another $10,000 of available money. Let’s look at a better way.

Like most attorneys, Joe works very inefficiently. If he made his practice more efficient then he could get that case handled in fifteen hours instead of twenty-five. He has decided to do so. Because he’s working more efficiently Joe can now handle his additional cases without hiring help. This means that when he brings in more cases he doesn’t send all that revenue right back out the door and he’s actually working no more hours than he was originally because he’s more efficient. Joe is now working smarter, not harder, and he has more money as a result of it. Million dollar law firms have procedures and policies in place which make them run efficiently (meaning they work smarter). These articles discuss examples of such polices which you can implement in your firm:

While the above may seem like an obvious point it’s important to understand that most attorneys fall into one of two camps. They either feel they are already efficient. Guess what? Many of them aren’t. The second of these camps is those who feel they need to “get more calls” before worrying about efficiency. Neither of these groups are going to have million dollar firms until they make a change.

Attorneys also work harder, and not smarter, when it comes to their marketing. I’ve gone on, and on, and on, and on, and……….on over the life of this blog why people need to invest in their firms and own their marketing assets instead of relying on things like pay-per-click. When you do this you put your marketing dollars to work for you and marketing the firm takes up far less of your time. Marketing smarter, not harder, is another difference you will find in a truly successful law practice. Here are a few articles on marketing your firm in a smarter and more profitable way.

Want to have a successful law firm? You’ve got to focus on working and marketing smarter rather than harder. This is something that more attorneys could do – they simply don’t.

Why do you think attorneys often focus on phone calls, rather than efficiency, as a way of improving the bottom line? Please chime in through the comment form below.