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Author Archives: Ed Poll

A three-dimensional view of small firm success

The legal profession has reached a point where upheaval is the “new normal.” Certainly large law firms are changing in response to recession, technology and client demands; those firms that don’t change quickly enough, like Dewey & LeBoeuf, are doomed to swift failure. Some wonder if the sole and small firm practitioner will survive this kind of turmoil. The answer is that although big law firms serve the “1 percent” of the corporate world, there is enormous potential for solos and small firms to thrive by serving the “99 percent” of our society.

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What the small firm lawyer can – and should – guarantee

Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, guaranteeing a client a certain result in a legal matter has some limitations. However, lawyers and law firms can promise a level of effort and standards of service without violating any professional rules because exerting effort on a client’s case involves factors within the lawyer’s control. Here are tactics within the control of every lawyer and law firm to help do just that.

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Pro bono mandate problematic for lawyers

The chief judge of New York’s highest court recently announced a pro bono requirement to gain admission to the state bar. Under this requirement, every new lawyer will have to prove their performance of 50 hours of pro bono practice before being admitted. Lawyers USA columnist Ed Poll explains why such a requirement is built on faulty premises of the nature of the profession.

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If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a chance

It’s no secret that lawyers tend to be individualistic (and thus reluctant to give up personal control or direction), reactive (believing they must be flexible to accommodate variables that can’t be anticipated) and short-term (focusing on the contract, case or negotiation they have today). These traits undermine a successful planning process. However, planning must be done if a firm wants to thrive. Those firms without a plan merely hop from one paycheck to another. If they’re successful, it is quite by accident.

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Devoting energy to payment collections is time well spent

For too many lawyers, the marketing and production sides outweigh collections. They equate financial success with work done, measured in billable hours. But a lawyer’s inventory is not billable hours – it is the amount of cash that is realized from the billable hours outstanding.

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Using financial metrics

Lawyers who understand financial benchmarking can explore operating efficiencies in the firm, gauge the firm’s performance relative to its financial goals and better assess and reflect value to clients in their bills.

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