Hanging Out Your Shingle — Think About It As A Business
I have always looked at the practice of law as any other business. One with income, expenses, customers, and a product to sell. I have always looked at my solo practice as a business, too, and tried to manage every aspect of it with a business mindset.
The first tenent of my business philosophy is to bring value to the client. Anything that adds value to the client, perceived or real, keeps them around for future business. Anything that takes away from the client’s experience, jeopardizes my future income because the client may leave.
I have several clients who complained that their previous patent counsel would call them up out of the blue, check in with them to see how they were doing, and send them a bill at the end of the month for the conversation.
This type of behavior may put a dollar in the coffers this month, but will send the client somewhere else forever. This is not good business judgment.
One of the most important aspects of starting my solo practice for me was to be able to try to do things in the way I wanted to. I wanted to handle clients with a higher degree of respect and promptness that was not a part of the culture for my previous firm. Part of that was to switch to fixed fee billing, but it also included the day to day client contact. Also, I wanted to try some different things for everything from advertising to billing and filing.
To some degree, I like setting up the processes that make the business function, and I do think of this as a business that needs to be properly managed. When I find myself doing the same thing over and over, I try to streamline it so that the process makes sense. It can be anything from building a template for transmittal sheets to placing the fax machine in a more convenient location.
Making the mundane and routine chores less painful is a cost that I am willing to pay so that my time is not wasted in the future. Each of the honed processes and procedures is a business asset, one that enables me to do the business more efficiently and effectively.
That means I can concentrate on bringing value to my clients more effectively.