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Surviving – and thriving – in the current economy

Boston — At a recent webinar hosted by the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section, several experts discussed “50 Financial Tips to Help You and Your Firm Survive and Thrive in a Down Economy.”

Panelists provided tips for each stage of work at a law office, from starting off on the right foot to working smart, collecting bills and helping your practice evolve.

The goal is for lawyers to learn how to “gain and maintain control of their firm economics,” explained moderator George Leloudis, the firm administrator at McGuire, Wood & Bissette in Asheville, N.C.

Rodney Dowell, the director of the Law Office Management Assistance Program in Boston, emphasized the importance of retainer agreements, which can ensure adequate cash flow. He also suggested being flexible with billing rates to remain competitive.

Arthur Greene, principal at Boyer, Greene in Bedford, N.H., advised lawyers to record their time on a daily basis.

“The longer it takes you to record your work, the less time you will remember,” he said, noting that lawyers who wait too long to reconstruct their work can lose up to 50 percent of their hours.

Dowell urged practitioners — especially solos and small firm lawyers — to outsource appropriate tasks, such as bookkeeping or IT work.

“Solos and small firm lawyers want to do everything on their own,” he said. But outsourcing can save money and actually eliminate problems down the line, if an attorney makes a bookkeeping mistake, for example.

To increase the odds of getting paid, Edward Poll, the founder of LawBiz Management Co. in Venice, Calif., recommended that lawyers send bills after a favorable event occurs — like a successful summary judgment motion – because a client may be more disposed to pay while happy.

And Poll instructed attorneys that “no check is too small” to merit a trip to the bank — lawyers should deposit all payments before something bad happens.

Dowell also reminded attorneys, especially sole practitioners and those in small firms, that even in a down economy it’s important to look to the future and plan ahead for continued growth.

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