Did you know that you could be under?estimating your billable hours by 30%.. 20%.. up to 50%? One hundred attorneys we surveyed in the summer of 2009 estimated they were only capturing and billing for 67% of their legitimate billable time, on average. This means that a firm with $1 million in gross billings could be losing as much as a half of a million dollars a year for work they performed but never billed the client for. The effective use and capture of your time is the single most important factor in making your law office more profitable. By following the tips in this paper, you’ll be able to increase your billings significantly, without working one second more.
In addition, this will free you up for the most important of all long term activities – business development. As an entrepreneurial attorney, you probably appreciate the importance of this activity, yet likely struggle to make as much time for it as you’d like amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday fire drills.
Read on, and we’ll explore five things you can start doing today to make your practice more profitable…
Tip 1 – Make Time for Business Development
You’re a hardworking attorney. You do excellent work and are in demand, but you aren’t building your book of business as quickly as you’d like. Even though bringing in new clients is crucial to your future success, you haven’t been able to find time to focus on business development. Your daily schedule is endlessly clogged with time?sensitive client demands, partner requirements, and committee meetings.
Cramming in “biz dev” seems impossible, even though it should be a high priority. Of course, when there’s too much work to fit into the day, no amount of “time management” will help – no magic can turn five minutes into six. But using a system to organize your work and manage your commitments can ensure that you won’t lose sight of what’s really important to your career – and it can enable you to dramatically increase the time you devote to developing new business.
Attorneys agree that business development is vital. Yet at their offices their biz dev files are invisible, completely buried beneath piles of client matter. New prospects lie dormant among existing client demands. Even when lawyers try to begin biz dev they lose focus, as the relevant information molders beneath mounds of other documents.
The solution? Create a filing architecture that separates “working” client and business development files from lower value, reference material. Note the 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of the work is done with 20 percent of the paper. Keep the important 20 percent – the working files – close at hand. Move the rest to a file cabinet or a drawer farther away. Clearing away junk and lower?value documents makes working biz dev files more visible, improves your ability to focus on that activity, and eliminates time lost searching for needed information. (As a bonus, the discipline of personal organization will help you delegate work to others.)
You should explicitly define biz dev’s core actions?internal networking, external networking, activities that raise your visibility – and then put them on the calendar. Make lists of prospective clients and create recurring calendar appointments to stay in touch. Schedule time to write and edit articles for journals. Identify conferences to speak at, set specific times to contact the organizers with proposals, and connect with your associates to develop the presentations. The steady accretion of these activities will result in more biz dev activity – and it will result in winning new clients.
Dan Markovitz and Brett Owens