Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : December 2005

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 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER

BY PAT YEVICS  

"Kissing a Better Class of Frogs in 2006"
By Pat Yevics

It's that time a year again when we all think about what resolutions to make for the coming year. If you have been a reader of this column for any length of time, you know that I believe in making resolutions or goals. I believe that if you do not plan you will never get to where you want to be in either your professional or personal lives.

For 2006, I think we should focus on new (and improved) clients. I think that we have more control over the type of client we get than we think. The key to getting the type of client we want (as opposed to whoever walks in the door) is planning.

However, we can plan for the future without reviewing the past. Here is some information that you need before you can decide how to proceed in 2006.

Questions You Must Be Able to Answer

You should be able to answer the following questions about your practice regardless of what size firm you have or your years in practice. If you cannot answer these questions, resolve to begin monitoring this information in 2006.

1. How many completely new clients did you get in 2005?

2. Where did each of these clients come from? You should be asking each new client why they chose your firm (or who referred them). There should be a place on your new client or matter form for this information, and this information should be kept in some type of database.

3. Where are your client development dollars being spent? These dollars would be membership dues in associations, lunches with clients and potential clients, gifts for clients, holiday cards, ads in any type of publication and any other money spent to get new clients or serve current clients. Your chart of accounts should be able to tell you exactly where money was spent in 2005.

4. Do you know how much business these dollars are actually producing? (If you joined the Rotary Club to get business, have you gotten business from it?) Resolve to review each of these efforts. Determine which produced business, how much and whether or not to continue with the effort. Keep in mind that there will always be activities in which you choose to participate that may never produce business. There is nothing wrong with this. All we are trying to do is determine how money is being spent and how it is being produced.

5. How many actual hours did you spend "marketing" and what percentage of your gross revenues was spent on marketing efforts? You should be recording this time in your time and billing system. Your goal is to use your time more wisely.

6. How many new matters did you get from existing clients? Since most of your work will be from clients, who is using your services again and again? This may not be an issue for those attorneys who only practice one type of law and will not have recurring matters. However, it will be of great importance to solos or small firms who have a "general" practice. Very often, a client is not even aware of the different types of law that you practice. If you are in a general practice or if you practice in more than one area resolve to inform your clients of all the services you can provide.

7. Where did your other referrals come from? Did the lawyers or other business people to whom you referred work also refer work to you? Not only is it necessary to keep track of where your business came from, it is important to know where you referred business.

Another item you want to track is which clients are referred to you by which source. You want to determine who is referring you the best work. If you find out that you are getting some of your most difficult or least profitable cases from the same referral source, stop taking referrals from that person. The reverse is also true. Find out who is referring you your best clients. Make an effort to get more referrals from this source.

8. Did you solicit input from your clients regarding their satisfaction with the service they received? If you answered yes, did you share the information with everyone in your office?

If any suggestions were made by clients, did you implement them? If you implemented any suggested changes, did you inform your clients? If you have never surveyed your clients or have not done so in the past five years, resolve to send a simple survey to at least some of your clients. [If you would like examples of some surveys, please call me at (410) 685-7878 or (800) 492-1964, ext. 3039, or you can e-mail me your name and mailing address to pyevics@msba.org.]

9. How many clients did you lose in 2005? If you lost any clients, did you ask them why? If they left for what seemed to be legitimate reasons, have you instituted changes in your practice to make certain other clients do not leave for similar reasons?

10. Are there any clients you took this year that you regret taking? If yes, list all of the reasons why and resolve to be more careful in screening clients to avoid the problem in the future.

Resolutions

bullet If you decide to make resolutions, put them in writing, share them with everyone in your office and put them in place so that you can see them every day. You might even decide to give copies to everyone in your office so that they can also assist you in achieving success.
bullet Resolve to attend a luncheon or breakfast meeting of a local community or business association such as a chamber of commerce at least once (preferably twice) a month. It is critical that you participate in business meetings in order to widen your referral network. Go where people who will refer business to you go.
bullet Resolve to have lunch with a client, prospect or any other individual who is in the position to refer you business at least once every other week.
bullet Resolve to laugh at least five times each day, every day. Nothing will make you feel better than laughter, and if you feel better, you will work better. Clients and referral sources want to be around happy people.

Please have a wonderful and happy new year.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: December 2005

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