Recently, I met with a client I have been working with for several years. He registered surprise at the new corporate style digs I’d moved into on the top floor of a downtown office building that includes sweeping views from the conference room. He continued “…and you share it with other solo attorneys?” I replied, that I, indeed, shared it with other solos. He seemed to relax with this knowledge.
It was an interesting exchange with my client. He is a successful entrepreneur, who holds an MBA from Cal, and has several decades of business experience under his belt. He is looking for top notch legal advice, but not big firm trappings with their corresponding expenses.
My client seemed disconcerted for a minute which made me consider, once again, the rapidly changing legal profession. When I first considered the legal profession as a career, many years ago, I joined a large firm with many attorneys and even more staff. Each attorney, and some paralegals, had a window office. There were teams of paralegals and secretaries, clerks and other support staff. There were large file rooms, copy rooms, break rooms. Of course, that still exists, but to a growing extent, it is a thing of the past.
Today, my practice looks very different than that first impression. I am a solo attorney that relies heavily on technology. This not only makes me more efficient, but saves space and time. For example, my files are saved and backed up in the cloud. This allows me to easily work remotely, but also allows me to easily share access to documents with my clients and consultants. My clients like this, because they can have immediate access to copies of documents without many emails, faxes, or snail mail. I can provide clients with documents in an organized, efficient manner.
My billing and timekeeping software is also on-line. My billable hours are accounted for in real time, and I can produce a draft invoice in a moment’s notice if requested. My invoices are reviewed online and even emailed directly to the client. No stuffing envelopes, stamps or waiting for mail delivery. And even, better, my clients can pay their bills with the click of a mouse, by linking to a secure payment portal.
And as for research, I find it a novelty to head to the library these days. Most of my research is done online without ever leaving my desk. You will find few practice guides or books sitting behind my desk.
All of these changes allow me to efficiently and cost effectively provide services to clients. But it is not just the efficiency that appeals to my clients. With my focused practice, and limited support staff, many of whom work remotely, my clients know that they will be working very closely with me. I am the one they will talk to about contracts, revisions and negotiations. I know their businesses, their goals, and personalities. So in a real way, not a virtual way, I am able to connect with clients. I love this part of being a solo. And, I think, this is the way I can compete with online providers of legal services. The personal touch.
If there is a downside to this lean, solo practice, it is simply that it is easy to become isolated in a solo world. I start the day at my desk reviewing email. I spend hours working on projects, before sending a few emails and heading home. It is so easy to forget to connect with colleagues, to share ideas and keep up to date in my practice area. For this, I am thankful for the CCCBA that keeps me connected, in a real way, to other practitioners, both solos and from firms — not just to learn about changes to the law, but technology updates, and best practices for law offices.
I’d love to hear how your practice has changed over the years, or hasn’t, and how the CCCBA has helped support your practice. Drop me a line and stay in touch.
Elva D. Harding is a real estate and business attorney and founder of Harding Legal, dedicated to providing efficient and effective legal service to individuals and small, mid-sized and family-owned businesses. Elva currently serves as CCCBA’s Board President. Contact Elva Harding at (925) 215-4577, email@example.com or visit www.edhlegal.com.