April 21, 2016
Thomson Reuters recently conducted a study among small law firms which yielded fascinating results on just how much time attorneys are spending on tasks other then the practice of law. I was shocked to see that attorneys in a “full service” law firm spend 44% of their time managing and marketing the firm. Most attorneys in a full service law firm are expected to bill around 1600 hours a year, but with only 56% of their time devoted to the practice of law, their required workload would exceed 55 hours a week.
But even more shocking was a clear outlier in the survey; attorneys who practice in a “business boutique” firm report spending only 17% of their time managing and marketing the firm. Why is this?
Does the nature of business work require less marketing and client development? I practiced in a “business boutique” firm for seven years, and I spent a considerable amount of that time attending community events, meetings, fundraisers, and other non-billable activities in order to stir up new business. However, the nature of business law in itself is somewhat perpetual, in that once you assist an entrepreneur with her company’s organizing documents, she will likely come back to you with leases, contracts, and employment matters; reducing your need to continuously market yourself. Still, marketing and client development only accounted for 4 of the 17%.
So why would attorneys in business boutique firms spend considerably less time managing their practice? In my own experience, as I grew my business practice, interacted with clients, and learned how they operated their own enterprises, I picked up on efficiencies they employed and adopted them for my own business. I used automated billing software to free up time tracking and reporting, required retainer fees up front to reduce the time spent “reminding” clients their bill was overdue, hired a young and eager clerking staff, and outsourced web-development, marketing, and social media management to those who could handle it far better than I. All of these steps allowed me to focus on taking on additional work and billing for more hours.