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Cost of starting a law firm

samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
I wrote this post on the cost of going
solo <http://lawyerist.com/the-cost-of-starting-a-solo-law-practice-and-kee...>nearly

two years ago. I've been looking it over in preparation for the
seminar this Friday, and I think it's still good, but I thought you guys

might have different ideas.

What costs did you have trouble avoiding while starting your law practice?

More importantly, what things did you end up spending the money on that you
wish you had invested in earlier in your practice?

Anything you want me to talk about during the seminar?

Comments

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    Andy Winchell wrote:

    I won't be on the webinar this week because I am at a conference, but I went solo only a few months ago and can add a little recent feedback. Good stuff I am happy that I am happy about:


     

    --Call Ruby. Seriously, I hope I never have to have a real receptionist. Couple hundred bucks a month and my phones get answered from 8:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night. I never worry about missing a call.


    --MyFax. $12 a month I think? I don't even give my fax number out unless someone asks. But you still have to have a fax number.


    --My computer was nowhere near $1000. I think it was $500-600 for new HP that works pretty well. I would have to be replacing this within a couple years to justify a Mac. I actually use two computers -- a desktop and a netbook. I probably will add a second screen for the desktop soon.


    --Dropbox. I've upgraded to the bigger box now for $100 a year. Totally worth it. I'm even storing music on it now.


    --Constant contact. Something like $12 a month and you can send announcements, newsletters, etc. by email. And you know who opens them.


    I know Sam knew that I wasn't going to be around for the webinar because he opened an email from me about the conference where I am speaking this weekend.


    --Vistaprint. Cheap business cards, labels, checks, etc. Don't pay for expedited shipping. It comes faster than they say it will.


    --Social Media. Stuff like Twitter, blogs and listservs are great and either free or low cost. Little bit of sweat equity to make them work
    for you but you can get going in practice just by networking through them. Lots of free advice and mentors out there too.


    Stuff that was tough to avoid:


    --Substantive law costs. Whether it is online legal research, books you need for your practice area, courses, or substantive software, you have to have the resources you need to take care of your clients. That ended up being a decent amount of money for me.


    --Rent and office furniture. I have friends in my practice area who meet their clients at Panera or do gotomeeting or whatever. But most of my consumer clients prefer to come in and chat with me live. That means space, table, chairs, etc.


    --Malpractice insurance. Just have to have it.


    Stuff I have mixed feelings about:


    --Skype. I'm using it rather than a proper phone and finding it to be a mixed bag. I love the cost but the sound quality isn't always ideal.


    --Clio. It was great when I first started but I have just about replaced every function it has with something better. Soon to be replaced, I think.


    Just my $.02.


    --Andy
  • Andy,


    Here's my two cents to yours.

    Spending a couple of hundred dollars per month to not worry about missing a
    call is a lot of money. I think that in this day and age, voice mail will
    not turn off potential clients; many even prefer it. Assuming you frequently
    check for messages, you shouldn't miss any calls and save a considerable
    amount of money.

    Regards,


    Roy
  • I definitely agree, how and when your phone is answered and the person is

    treated on the other end of the line, is one of the most important pieces of

    your law business. It is your firms "first impression" to prospective

    clients.  I always recommend Call Ruby, have been working with them for

    almost 4 years with a variety of lawyers and practice areas that I work with

    and they are awesome at being that best first impression  for prospective

    clients.  I know personally, (and perhaps I am a snob, and add to that I've

    also been in legal industry for a long time) if I called a lawyer and got

    voicemail during office hours, I would move on to someone who had a live

    person that answers their phone and is pleasant to deal with.  I also do not

    expect the lawyer to answer the phone and that is a whole other story :)

    Laura Lee Sparks
  • I'm certainly one who can be convinced otherwise. But how's this for a
    compromise? Assuming you only get a handful of calls during the day (I would
    not recommend this if the phone is constantly ringing), and much of your
    working day is spent at your desk, why not answer the phone yourself? Then
    only a few will go to VM. I can't argue with the notion that at times, it
    nice to have a live person; I'm just questioning the value when the cost is
    $200 per month.

     

    Regards,


    Roy
  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin
    We pay more like $500-600, but Erica supervises our intake process from the
    initial communication to accepting or declining representation.


    We used to answer our own phones, but we average about two potential client
    contacts per day. Not a ton, but plenty, especially since our marketing is
    fairly well-targeted. Answering, then following up on every call, was
    starting to seriously eat into our days. So we decided we could justify the
    expense--and I am glad we did.


    However, I don't think it is for everyone. I answered my own phone for
    years, and while I was eager to get rid of it as soon as I could, I am not
    sure it makes economic sense for everyone, and certainly not at the outset.
    But it does make sense for some, especially practices with a lot of
    potential clients.
  • I would be curious about others feedback on the use of a receptionist
    service etc.  I answer my own phones. I work in a very small town and most
    people know I am a solo with no staff.  However, I do worry about calls
    going to voice mail particularly with new clients.  I would say that I
    average 1-2 potential contacts per day.  

    I do use phonetag for voicemail transcription as I quickly learned how much
    I hated checking voicemail (and how often I lose my pink message sheets with
    the phone number on it).  It is particularly handy when I am under a
    deadline and don't want to take the time to check voice mail but know that I
    need to just in case the call I was expecting came through or there is
    something else urgent from one of my clients.  I have caller id but when I
    am on the phone, my calls go straight to voicemail so without checking vm, I
    can't find out who called.  The transcription is sometimes not all that
    clear and I use a regular phone service (I need a 320-963-prefix to maintain
    my local small town attorney presence) and so I also pay for bundled long
    distance for each voicemail that I receive.

    However, when I have made calls to other firms, it gets pretty easy to
    figure out who has a true receptionist/assistant and who has a virtual one
    or a shared one who knows nothing about the case, the attorney's schedule,
    etc and can only put me in voicemail.  In that case, I would have rather
    just left my message in the voice mail box to begin with.  

    Rhonda L. Pagel
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