The bigger the practice, the greater the reward – or so we’ve been led to believe. The reality, however, is that the micro-practice is making a return, and for good reason. Proclaimed as the ‘leaner’ way to be a lawyer, the term ‘micro-practice’ is gaining significant traction as lawyers are doing more and outsourcing less.
Lawyering no longer requires an abundance of support staff to undertake bookkeeping, scheduling or even marketing. Surely though, if a lawyer is taking up these tasks, they’re losing valuable time that could be better spent on billable work? This is where the very appeal of the micro-practice lies.
Traditionally, running a micro-practice required lawyers to juggle endless roles to not only practise law, but to also run a business. Lawyers would waste countless hours sending and chasing invoices or replying to client queries. On the other hand, they’d focus solely on practising, thereby letting monotonous tasks like these fall to the wayside, risking their cash flow entirely.
From managing day-to-day payments, invoicing and receipting, account reconciliation, scheduling, and managing intake forms or client queries, practising within a micro-practice has never been easier to do. This once overwhelming list of non-billable tasks has been seamlessly reconciled by legal technology in recent times. This technology is exactly what you need to embrace the micro-practice. Adopting such an efficient and cost-effective method of lawyering is not only a great way to minimise your practice’s operating costs, but to improve the service you give your clients and of course, maximise your billable time.
Self service technology is technology that allows your clients, or prospective clients to access your services without the immediate involvement of yourself or support staff. The benefit of this technology is that it makes your services accessible to clients at a time that is convenient to them. This extends the period of time that they can book appointments or pay bills for example, without requiring any further time commitment from you. This frees you up to focus on billable work without missing any prospective clients.
A prime example of self service technology for lawyers is the Web Portal. Essentially, a Web Portal is a 24 hour assistant for your firm. Providing far greater functionality than a standard website, a web portal lets your clients schedule appointments with you, complete intake forms online, access their documents and even pay invoices online. The greatest benefit to you is that all of this information is perfectly organised in your firm’s personal Enquiries Hub. The Hub acts as a great client relationship management tool (CRM) by notifying you of any client action as well as letting you view the status of their matter by logging calls, sending automatic e-mails or appointment confirmations and flagging them for follow up where necessary.
The Web Portal really demonstrates its value when you integrate it with LEAP. When your client completes an intake form online via your web portal, all this information can be imported straight into a LEAP matter. Not only is the time taken to set up a matter near eliminated, but the integrity of the data is maintained – something that is not guaranteed with manual data entry.
Long gone are the days of employing a full-time bookkeeper. While you may already be automating some processes like invoices and receipts to a degree, the level of automation available for these processes is now unparalleled.
Imagine that your only role in the billing process was generating an invoice in the LEAP matter. By integrating LEAP with RapidPay, you don’t even need to be in contact with your client for them to pay their bill. When your client receives their invoice, they are able to make payment by EFTPOS, credit card or BPay online, directly into your firm’s secure and branded online payment portal. This payment is then automatically processed in LEAP against the matter’s ledger and a receipt automatically generated.
There are no doubt times, however, where you may need to reach out to clients to politely prompt them to pay an overdue invoice. This is where automated bookkeeping becomes invaluable. Using automated payment reminders can save you countless hours of invoice chasing. Imagine being able to send your clients scheduled reminders via text or e-mail with a link to pay their invoice from any device. The time saved chasing invoices means any micro-practice can continue with billable work while ensuring their cash flow isn’t disrupted by unpaid invoices.
While you may have previously required a bookkeeper to undertake your account reconciliation and end-of-month reporting, you can now quickly and easily do this yourself. Each month, RapidPay will automatically match your account transactions against your transactions in LEAP and highlight any that require attention. This gives you the confidence to complete your own end-of-month process without an extensive time commitment.
A flexible mindset and approach to your work is what will give your micro-practice its operational advantage. By employing only lawyers, or very minimal support staff, the role of the lawyer is naturally expanded. However, the time dedicated to non-billable work is not equally increased.
A micro-practice affords you the freedom to build a practice around your lifestyle. More often than not, this will be at an advantage to your clients. By reducing your practice’s outsourcing, you also reduce the number of formal structures your firm functions by – for example, nine to five operating hours. Taking this example, operating during non-traditional hours may benefit clients who would otherwise struggle to make an appointment with you. Operating flexibly in this sense becomes a valuable point of differentiation for your practice.
Ultimately, being in control of all aspects of your practice means your service can truly be tailored to the needs of your clients. By managing your firm’s finances and client relationships alongside the legal services your provide, a micro-practice gives you the freedom to not only build a business around your lifestyle, but also around your clients’. Although the experience gained from traditional firm structures is not to be overlooked, the micro-practice is providing an increasingly desirable alternative for entrepreneurial lawyers looking to reduce their overheads and adopt a more flexible lifestyle.