Reflections Of A Lawyer Set Free
I am finally feeling settled in my new firm at my new location. Some things that come to mind about my journey thus far ...
- The hourly billing model is like dirt under your fingernails. It is hard to get the old dirt out even with a good scrubbing. I am still trying to get my head on straight in my new life. Too often, my brain unconsciously starts doing hourly calculations. I keep reminding myself to avoid thinking time and instead think value.
- The Greatest Sin. There is a latent stress which comes when I am not 'billing hours,' which of course would have been a cardinal sin at a firm strictly devoted to the hourly billing system. Old habits die hard. One of the evils of hourly billing model is the effect it has on an attorney's brain. The good news is that I can feel the hourly grip loosening each and every day.
- I love technology! One of the best parts of my new life is being able to evaluate and integrate technology on the fly, without having to worry about obtaining partner consensus or having to train a bunch of people. I wonder whether big firms will ever be able to compete when they are stuck in low gear when it comes to new technologies?
- The money part works out. You can spend a lot time worrying about bills and revenue. I have concluded that if you deliver quality legal services, the bills get paid and it all works out fine each month.
- Receivables won't be a problem if you deliver value. I have not requested that my clients pay within any specific time frame and had planned on a diligent yet reasonable approach to receivables. To my surprise, my clients have been paying within 5 days of bill receipt. These are the same clients that took 45 days to pay when I worked at my old firm. I think they are actually excited to pay their bill and can only conclude that they are rooting for me to succeed.
- Forget the way you did it before. I constantly have to remind myself to scrutinize every policy, act and omission at my new firm. You get so programmed to do things a certain way when you work for an hourly firm, you stop asking the question "why?" Always challenge your own thinking and only do what makes sense under your own unique business model.
- Make new friends with your local bar. When you work for an hourly firm, you run in certain circles. People develop attitudes and stereotypes about you because of where you work. When you start your new firm, you need to extend yourself to the larger bar community and re-create yourself with them. After all, they are the ones who are potentially your best referral source. And they may view you different now that you are on your own.