I am an attorney in Chicago. I am the sole owner of an estate planning practice consisting of 4 other attorneys, 4 paralegals, and 2 administrative support staff members. We have reached a size where I am having problems handling and balancing the demands of serving my clients and managing my firm. It seems I am working day and night and have no time for anything but work. I am frustrated and it is driving my crazy? I would appreciate any thoughts that you may have.
You are not alone. This is a common problem in law and other professional service firms. I have similar problems in my own firm – it is very difficult to serve two masters – serving your clients and managing your firm. Eventually you have to pick one – client service (doing legal work) or managing and running your business – as the area that receives your primary focus. This is not to say that you should not do both – but you select the primary area that you are going to focus on and get help with the other area.
A question that I typically ask my new law firm clients – what do you want to be or do – be a business person or a lawyer. The answer to the question often provides a hint to how you should structure your firm. If you want to be more of a business person – hire legal talent to help with serving clients and performing legal work and spend more time working on your firm rather than in it. If you want to be more of a lawyer and do legal work and serve clients hire a legal administrator or business manager (this is more than an office manager) to manage and run your firm.
I have more and more owners of small law firms that are managing their law businesses and not practicing law. I believe the appropriate direction is what makes you happy and what type of work you enjoy doing. You practice should support and fulfill your personal goals, what you want out of life and what makes you happy. If that is managing – then manage. If that is doing legal work – do legal work.
Two great books on this subject are – The E-Myth Revisited and The E-Myth Attorney – available on Amazon. The theme of both of these books is:
Small business owners often spend too much time being the technician (i.e. lawyering) and not enough time managing and innovating.
Think about where you want place the priority of your focus – working on firm (business) or in it.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC