July 12, 2013
Shahrina Ankhi-Krol is a an attorney in the New York/New Jersey area, and joins the Legal Solutions Blog to answer a few questions about practice mangement. Like all small firm attorneys, Shahrina continually balances her legal practice with the administration of her firm, including such non-lawyerly skills as marketing, accounting, personnel management, and project (case) leadership.
Do you set aside time for firm management, distinct from the practice of law?
The luxury of owning a small law firm is that, in the beginning, there is a lot of down time. Yes, I meant to say “luxury,” because this will be the only time you will ever have to tend solely to the management of your firm.
While it is easy to dwell in negativity due to the lack of business, it is essential to utilize this free time to lay down the organizational foundation of your practice. It is the perfect time to develop or improve organizational skills by setting up essentials, such as folders, forms, draft letters, etc. in an easy-to-maintain system. With a solid foundation, you can devote your time and attention to practicing law when business picks up without figuring out administrative details.
The earlier you can form good management and organizational skills, the easier it will be to adapt to future challenges as your business grows.
I have discovered that practicing law and managing my own law firm go hand-in-hand. Ignoring or neglecting either for long may lead to the demise of the entire business. Ideally, there would be time set aside for just managing your firm and just practicing law. Realistically, that does not happen often and the ability to effectively juggle both is a necessity.
When do you bring in a consultant for non-legal tasks (accounting, marketing, etc.)?
Lawyers are problem solvers by nature. I am no different. I like challenges and like to dive into problems to find solutions. However, humility and humbleness are just as necessary in the legal profession as are confidence and zeal. Accordingly, know your limits. You need to understand that there are tasks – such as, accounting and taxes – which you may not, cannot, and/or have no interest in mastering. Therefore, do not hesitate to consult professionals in the pertinent fields when necessary.
Because I settle for nothing short of perfection, unless I either understand, want to understand or enjoy a task, I consult those who do.
“Owning” a case/project: How to delegate within a small business
In a small law firm, attorney-client trust is everything. More often than not, small law firms attract individuals and small business owners who expect a close relationship with their lawyer. They want and expect their lawyer to personally handle every aspect of their case. In large firms, such personal attention is not often offered to or expected by all clients.
I enjoy the fact that my clients want me to not only personally provide quality legal service but to also help them make some of the biggest decisions of their lives. A certain level of this form of professional intimacy is lost when work is delegated to others in the firm. Therefore, I only delegate tasks, such as routine office work, when doing so frees up time for me to do something more productive. However, I would not delegate client interaction when a client expects personal service.
I embrace the trust and relationships I build with my clients, even if that means taking less cases to focus on the ones I do accept. Just as I am my clients’ lawyer, my clients, too, are my clients. I strive to provide excellent personalized legal services to my clients because, lets face it, if we don’t provide the personalized service clients expect, another lawyer will.
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