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Author: Denise Gamez

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What we say: There's never enough hours in the day. What we mean: I’m really poor at managing my time. Time management is one of the pillars of creating and sustaining a profitable law practice, but controlling the work clock isn't an innate human skill. Babies and toddlers and young children have no sense of time, and that's true of millions and millions of adults, too. Distractions are everywhere. The phone, the computer, the shiny thing over in the corner. Our days are filled with distractions, and we often find ourselves switching from one distraction to another while what we should be focusing on is ignored. Here at Atticus we know how hard it can be to stay on task, but there are things you can do to make you a better time manager. When you get into the office each morning, make it a point to get your email inbox to zero. Think of it as triage and use the "Four D" approach: do, delay, delegate or delete. If it's something that needs to be done today, do it. If time isn't of the essence, delay it. If someone else can do it, delegate it. And if it's an offer for the latest gadget...

Unless you’re independently wealthy and focus exclusively on pro bono legal work (in which case, congratulations!), you’re working to make a difference in your clients’ lives and make a profit while doing so. A profit, not just a living. Taking profit from your practice shouldn’t be treated as a bonus, it should be part of your operating principles. At Atticus, we teach our clients to take 35 percent of total revenues off the top as profit, with the remaining 65 percent for everything else, including your market-rate salary. Pay yourself a salary that reflects the work you do, no matter whether that’s $75,000 or $500,000. You pay your staff and associates (if any) a good wage, and you have to take one, too. That 35 percent before expenses is more time with family and friends, more and longer vacations, more satisfaction from the work you’ve chosen. To get there, you might need to break old habits and adopt new ones. As a solo or small practice attorney, you’re responsible for nearly everything that goes on in your firm — but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. In fact, trying to do too much can stunt your growth and profits by taking time...

If you want your solo or small practice to grow and thrive — and who doesn't? — there's no magical elixir to get you where you want to be. It takes some effort on your part, and perhaps a new way of thinking about your firm, but the formula for success can be yours. If you're stuck in a pay-the-rent mode, taking in any client who will pay a bill so you can keep the lights on, you’re on a path to burnout. You work late each night and on the weekends, running yourself ragged just to keep your firm afloat. You have no time for friends or family, a seldom-seen ghost in your own household. The clients you get? They're all pretty marginal — at best — right? To turn your practice around, you need to focus on the "A" and "B" clients and divest yourself from the "C" and "D" clients. The latter monopolize your time, have unreasonable demands and as often as not they don't pay on time or at all. They're vampires, sucking the life blood from your firm. When you focus on obtaining and keeping "A" and "B" clients — but especially "A" — your practice will be...

A good staff is the backbone of any successful law firm, and the difference between a good staff and a poor one can make or break your practice. But a good staff doesn’t happen by accident. From vetting to hiring, from training to empowerment, a good staff is built carefully with people who embrace your values and vision. When you finally have your optimal team in place, your office runs smoothly, efficiently and, we hope, profitably. A good staff, especially one that's been intact for a considerable amount of time, combines unique strengths from its members. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. A study in Harvard Business Review found "familiarity was a better predictor of performance than the individual experience of team members or project managers." Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt; it breeds competency. That said, however, turnover is the one universal truth among any workplace or organization — your law firm included. The challenge is to keep your team as intact as possible, and here’s where incentives play a part. A good, competitive salary is a must. People want to feel like they’re valued, and often they equate that to the dollars on their paychecks. But beyond salary are...

As a solo or small practice attorney, the holiday season can be stressful, and things that normally occupy your attention can get overlooked or put on the back burner. It's a time to connect with family and friends, but it’s also a time to connect with marketing contacts and referrals. You market all year to improve or build your client list, sure, but what is marketing at its essence? It's connections — human connections. The heart of those connections is truth, is authenticity, is honesty. Clients come and go, but good referral sources built on genuine emotion can turn into good friends. During the holiday season I urge you to reach out to those marketing contacts. Send them a card or a note to let them know you’re thinking of them. Thank them for their friendship, professional and personal. We know one attorney who has made it a tradition to send specialty sweet treats each holiday season. Cards can get lost or just ignored once they’re opened, but his contacts look forward all year to seeing the treats box in the mail. It reinforces their connections and makes him stand out. It’s his niche. If your firm has the means, why not try sending...