I’m a young lawyer. I started law school in 2010, which was a scary time to be entering the profession. Jobs had disappeared and a scarcity mindset had taken root. I was relieved when I managed to find work, first as an appellate clerk, and then at several mid-size Seattle firms. But relief and satisfaction are two very different things and, after three years in private practice, I still wasn’t satisfied with my firm job.
So, just last August, I quit and started a solo practice[…]
Post author Mark Tyson found that going solo was the right choice for him. Why?
You can (and will) master the business of law
You’ll have to learn, by necessity, how to write a business plan, develop a marketing strategy, create key performance indicators, track conversion rates, and so much more. You’ll make lots of mistakes and learn from them along the way.
Being a solo allows you to lead with your values
I value organizations devoted to social and cultural enrichment. To support these organizations, I incorporated a sliding-scale fee model into my pricing structure, which allows me to offer reduced rates to those who need services but can’t necessarily pay market rates.
You are free to be creative
Writing interesting and useful content has been the creative outlet I hoped to find as a lawyer… I enjoy writing, so it rarely feels like a chore to blog, especially when a new prospect calls after reading my latest, or when one of my posts hits the first page on Google.
I only help clients I truly care about
When I opened my firm, I got some advice that’s shaped my approach to marketing: “Tell at least one person a day who your ideal client is.” The directive is to be bold, yes, but also targeted in your marketing. You’re not just looking for anyone who’s willing to pay your fee—you want someone who’s a good fit for you.
Mark’s main takeaway: Starting your own firm means battling insecurity every day, but the satisfaction is well worth it.
What if you could improve workflows? Leverage technology and automation to save time? Overcome procrastination? You can with Practical Time Management. This CLE offers over 30 ideas and strategies to help you take control of your workload, manage your busy schedule, focus on your priorities, and make your workday more productive. Accredited by the Oregon State Bar and available in audio and video format here.
Watch each CLE over lunch and earn 1.0 General/Practical Skills MCLE credits. Available now at On Demand CLE..
Get jiggy with eCourt
Understand common eCourt mistakes and master electronic service with eCourt Malpractice Traps and Oregon eService. Topics include: relation back of filings, UTCR amendments, upgrades to Odyssey eFile & Serve software, 12 common eFiling errors, key eCourt resources, using eService, service of process in the eFiling world, identifying eService exceptions, service contact issues, service by email, and courthouse dos and don’ts.
Trust Accounting – basic and advanced
From managing bank charges and avoiding impermissible cushions to reporting overdrafts and addressing client fee disputes, Trust Accounting Fundamentals covers all the basics of how to properly operate your lawyer trust account.
Want to delve deeper into the ethics of IOLTA? Advanced Trust Accounting will show you how to safely manage wire and EFT transfers, use layaway payment plans, collect “first and last month’s rent,” manage evergreen retainers and hybrid fee agreements, receive third party payments, barter legal services, pass on credit card transaction fees, handle unclaimed funds, respond to garnishments and liens, disburse settlement proceeds if your client is missing, and more – believe it or not!
Q: What does my on demand CLE purchase include? A: MP4 (video file), M4a (audio file), written program materials with presentation slides and resources, answers to polling questions addressed during the live CLE, MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits.
Q: How are the video and audio files delivered? A: Digital files are delivered instantly at checkout with your purchase confirmation email (look for the link). Download, stream, save to your Dropbox account, or send files to your mobile device or desktop computer.
Q: How much do CLEs cost? A: On demand CLE programs are $25. The eBook, Tips for Improving Client Relationships, is free. All transactions are handled by Selz and protected with industry standard security, including encryption. The Selz platform is also PCI compliant. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted.
From office system best practices to eService and advanced trust accounting – CLE offerings covered a wide array of topics this year. If you missed a program, don’t despair. Video and audio recordings are available to download from my online store. Here are the details:
Recognizing the objectives and ethical traps of client intake, implementing the 7 key elements of intake forms, automating intake with ease, documenting representation, modernizing the engagement process using forms, brochures, automation, and eSignatures, using technology and staffing to improve workflow, and more.
Represent clients effectively and ethically by applying best practice recommendations for docketing, conflicts, disengagement, and file retention. Includes docketing tips for eCourt practitioners, streamlining conflict checking, limiting liability exposure through proper disengagement, simplifying disengagement, and creating file retention policies, procedures, and checklists.
For experts and novices alike – an opportunity to polish eService/eCourt skills and apply tips straight from the courthouse – or understand eService from the ground up. Includes how to eServe in four easy steps, six compelling reasons to use eService, identifying eService exceptions, responding to service contact issues, pursuing sanctions under UTCR 1.090(2), eService vs. service by email, courthouse dos and don’ts, and proper Certificates of Service.
From managing bank charges and avoiding impermissible cushions to reporting overdrafts and addressing client fee disputes – this program will provide a fundamental understanding of how to operate your lawyer trust account.
Delve deeper into the more advanced issues of trust accounting, including how to safely manage wire and EFT transfers, using layaway payment plans, collecting “first and last month’s rent,” managing evergreen retainers and hybrid fee agreements, receiving third party payments, bartering legal services, passing on credit card transaction fees, what to do with unclaimed funds, responding to garnishments and liens, how to disburse settlement proceeds if your client is missing, and more.
Your on demand CLE purchase includes
MP4 download (combined audio and video file)
M4a download (audio only)
Written program materials, including presentation slides and resources
Answers to polling questions asked during the live CLE
MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits
Instant digital delivery with options to save to the cloud or your mobile device
Links to digital files are delivered instantly at checkout with your purchase confirmation email. Download, stream, save to your Dropbox account, or send files to your mobile device or desktop computer.
All transactions are handled by Selz and protected with industry standard security, including encryption and SSL secure. The Selz platform is also PCI compliant. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted.
From a big picture perspective, all three choices are valid. What they lack is a reasonable chance of success.
You can greatly improve the odds of achieving your goals by taking these three simple steps:
Create measurable goals
Write your goals down!
Have I written about this before? Yes, indeed. But a reminder never hurts!
Create Measurable Goals
If your goals and objectives aren’t measurable, how will you know if you succeeded? It’s easy to say “I want to grow my client base,” because this statement can mean so many different things: you want to increase revenue, open more client files, or start taking on clients in a new area of law. Perhaps keeping your goals fuzzy is a way of feeding a tendency to procrastinate or avoid identifiable failure ….
If you want to grow your client base, start by articulating what this means to you.
Let’s say your goal is to increase new client retention by 10%. Start by assessing your success in converting clients (new clients interviewed vs. new clients who retain you as their lawyer). If your conversion rate is less than 75%, it is time for introspection and some retooling. What issues are you facing?
Do you need to bolster your confidence? Finding support through peer groups or counseling may make a big difference.
Perhaps you need to learn more about a specific area of law so clients are assured of your knowledge. Contact the Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund. Access OSB BarBooks, download PLF Forms, attend CLEs, join Bar Sections, and read pertinent publications.
Maybe you can benefit from polishing your client interviewing skills or learning more about client needs? Find a mentor, reach out to colleagues, search this blog for posts on client relations and marketing – there are a ton of resources available in this area if you ask. It may be as simple as observing your mentor or asking her to sit in on your client interviews (screen for conflicts; get client permission).
Identify the challenges – there may be several – then dial down. Create a series of measurable steps to help you achieve your goal of increasing client retention by 10%. Be concrete and set time limitations. Here are examples from a prior post.
Continue developing additional specific, measurable steps you can take to improve client retention.
Putting pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) is an inescapable part of making your goals more real, concrete, and achievable. You can improve your chances even more by keeping your goals visible: a sheet kept on your desk, a series of post-its on a bathroom mirror, or saving a screen grab to your desktop or mobile device.
So if I write a text or send an email to a friend,
“Hi Sheila, I’m setting goals for my law practice this year. One of my objectives is to read the OSB Family Law BarBook cover-to-cover by June 1. I need you to hold me accountable for getting this done. Can I send you weekly progress reports?”
and my friend holds me to my promise of sending weekly progress reports, there is a 76% likelihood I will follow through? I’m on board! Naturally you can buddy-up on this idea: find a colleague with whom you can exchange goals and weekly progress reports. You will both benefit by holding the other accountable.
Get underway with the process of goal setting, marketing plans, and business development by accessing the great resources available on the PLF website. Choose Practice Management, then Forms. Under “filter by category,” select “Marketing.”
You can make this happen. Commitment and follow through make all the difference.