I think it’s safe to presume that no matter how successful our practice is, we’d all like to find ways to make more money. In fact, if you’re a small firm or solo practitioner you’re probably always on the lookout for new business and better ways to grow your network. However, as a solo attorney and small business owner, I’ve discovered that some of the best ways to increase my profitability don’t necessarily involve new business. Here are three tips for increasing the profitability of your practice without spending more money or gaining new business.
Cut Your Costs
Since starting my own business I’ve found that some of the biggest game changers have involved finding little ways to cut costs. Cutting enough of these “small expenses” can add up to big savings at the end of the year. That is not to suggest you need to operate on a shoe string budget or cut out the little luxuries you enjoy. However, I believe it is worth documenting each of your firm’s expenses in a given month/year/etc. Take a look at how much money you spend on certain activities and then determine whether there are ways to cut your costs.
For example, legal research is a huge expense for many law firms. I’d recommend evaluating how much money you spend on legal research in addition to how much time you spend performing that work. You can save a lot of money by beginning your research utilizing free legal research solutions such as FastCase and Google Scholar. Then use Lexis and Westlaw only to double check your work if you are in doubt.
If you really consider your expenses, you’ll probably find many opportunities to cut costs in other areas as well. Can you save money by purchasing office supplies online? Are you using a printer that burns through expensive ink cartridges? Consider getting a higher yield printer. Chances are there are many ways you can save a little bit here and there. Those savings can add up to hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of dollars at the end of the year.
Be More Efficient
Sometimes the biggest problem I face as a solo practitioner is actually just not having enough time to complete all the work in front of me. I’ll gotten so backed up that I’ve considered passing up new business opportunities. As a result, tools that help buy me more time and increase my efficiency actually increase the overall profitability of my practice.
A few of the best tools I’ve discovered for this purpose include a smart phone and/or tablet, Practice Management Software (such as Clio, MyCase, Total Attorneys, and Rocket Matter), Freshbooks (for quickly tracking expenses online), and Evernote (for keeping myself sane and organized).
It’s definitely worth evaluating the ways you use your time. Once you have a sense of what projects take up most of your time, determine whether there might be ways you can perform that work more efficiently. Saving just a little time here and there can add up. Buying yourself some extra time in this way will free you up to work on other business or, even better, to do some of those things you’d rather be doing with your time.
Increase Engagement With Current Clients
As important as it is to get new clients, it’s maybe even more important to retain the clients you do have now. After all, they’ve already trusted you to handle their work. Not only that, your clients are in the best position to refer new business to you through their friends, colleagues, and family. As a result, it’s always a good use of time to increase your engagement with your clients. Connect with them on social networks; “like” their updates on Facebook; retweet their posts on Twitter; and email them occasionally to see how they are doing or to share relevant updates with them. Maintaining the clients you have now will help you earn more money down the road.
Have you found any creative ways to save money, increase efficiency, and/or retain clients? Let us know in the comments!