AVBucks4239 wrote:(1) In a firm, you cannot please all your bosses. As a solo, you cannot please all your clients. You obviously need to do your best, but there's a line you need to draw in the sand.Anonesq wrote:AvBucks- Few more questions:
1) How do you handle the stress of solo practice? Sometimes I feel like the stress of pleasing everyone can become overwhelming. How do you handle it?
2) How do you handle clients who try to take advantage of your time (as in going outside of your engagement agreement). Has this ever happened to you? I had to send a client a firm email recently that we need a separate engagement letter for additional matters re: xyz.
3) Trying to get more clients....still seems like a difficult task. My goal is to try to get 1 new client a month. I had a few people express interest and some potential referrals but it is difficult converting to a signed engagement agreement. Anything else I should be doing to get more clients? I guess I just need to try to remain patient?
Best practices are to always take your client's calls (unless you are in a meeting/court/depos); even if you can't talk, take it and tell them you will call them tomorrow morning. Second, send them everything you file. They like seeing that progress. Third, make your invoices super detailed, and always, always, always put an "update on your file" memo in their invoice. It lets them know the train is moving forward. Bottom line, just be available and communicate well.
That said, I personally end every consultation with a "here's how I do things" speech. I tell them I will respond to emails within 24 hours; I will not take phone calls before 9:00, after 5:00, or on weekends; and I tell them that any project requiring more than an hour needs a week's notice. This eases the pressure.
In terms of productivity, I only do administrative tasks on Saturday mornings. Go to the bank, run my mileage, organize Quickbooks, etc. I call it my Saturday morning bullshit routine. But it allows me to focus on clients during the week, which means I'm getting more work done.
Lastly, the best advice I ever got was to fire your worst five clients every year. I'm up to six already this year. As soon as they piss me off for being an ungrateful ass, they're out. These people will suck your time and mental energy. Tell them to find another lawyer.
(2) This is not a problem -- it's the dream! It means they trust you with their first matter and want more advice. Handle it with gratitude.
I do not think you need a new fee agreement. Check your local rules, but if you already have a fee agreement that says X rate, you can charge X rate for other matters as a continuing business relationship.
I personally just ask, politely, "Do you want me to open a new matter or just put all of this on one invoice?" They know your advice isn't free.
If they are contingency fee clients, maybe do it on a discount. Charge 60% of your rate or something. Put your full rate on the invoice and show the discount.
(3) Hard for me to guess what this is, but if you are bringing them in for consultations and not executing, that's on you. You need to do TONS of research for these. I've spent 2-3 hours preparing for consultations. The client knows if you don't know what you're talking about -- you can't let that happen.
Just recently I had a big commercial real estate client whose partner screwed up the 1031 exchange deadline. What's a 1031 exchange? I don't even remember, but I knew it damn well when I was in that meeting.
If you are not getting them into your office, that's a different story. From the time you get the lead to the time they are in your office should not be more than 24 hours. 48 hours max.
Think about them as you would an online shopper. I spent 2-3 hours looking at golf clubs last night. I might go today. But if someone told the local golf pro, "Hey, AVB is looking for golf clubs, give him a call," then I got a call, then I was in doing a custom fitting the next day ... I'd be buying clubs. Instead I'm sitting here typing on an internet forum.
Legal clients are no different. You need to strike when the iron is hot.
In terms of sealing the deal, I always end consultations with something like this -- "Last thing: just remember that your legal fee is not about me writing boring paperwork or filing papers; you are paying me to inherit your problem entirely. You do not need to worry about this anymore. This is my problem now." Clients will get out their checkbooks.
Lastly, if you are struggling for leads, yes, be patient. I would meet up with 2-3 lawyers a week until you don't have the time to do that anymore.
Thanks so much for your response. If I only knew you personally I would buy you lunch, lol.
With regard to your answer to #2, my client has been paying me a flat fee every week to handle certain matters on a continuous basis. He sometimes gets very arrogant and was expecting that if I handle anything outside of the engagement agreement that it will be covered. He was pretty shocked to hear that I would need to charge him to handle a different matter. But he is my only paying client right now so I am trying to handle it calmly but it isn't easy.
With regard to new clients, should I send an email to them thanking them for their call and to let me know if they would like me to prepare an engagement agreement for their review? In other words should I be more proactive to seal the deal?