When Should I Hire an Associate for my Solo Law Practice?
There is a time in the life of any growing business where it reaches its current work capacity and looks to whether to hire additional personnel. This is certainly true of a solo law practice. So if you’re starting to feel a strain from having too many clients and not enough time you may be thinking that you need to hire an associate to shoulder some of the load.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should consider these two alternatives before starting to interview candidates.
Take On Fewer Clients
This may seem counterintuitive, especially since you’ve worked so hard to grow your practice and get more clients. However, this growth now gives you the opportunity to be more selective about the work you do. Yes, you’re getting more clients and more work, but are all of the clients ones you really want to work with, or are some of them very demanding and unreasonable, leading you to not wanting to work on their matter and increasing your stress levels?
What if you took this opportunity to fire the bad clients and only take on the ones that you really want to work with? This would certainly lead to reduced stress levels and a better work life balance. You could then be more selective going forward, working with only the good clients, and those are more likely to refer other people to you.
But this will lead to a short term lss in revenue.
Increase Your Fees
The good news here is that getting more work than you can handle means you are more in demand. Raising your rates will result in your making the same amount of money without spending significantly more time to earn it or spending more money to pay someone else to do the work.
Attorneys are often hesitant to raise their fees because they are afraid people will balk at the higher amount and not retain. This is oftentimes not the case, and many attorneys I’ve spoken to that have done this have not noticed a significant drop off in new clients, while making significantly more money.
In addition, you may be charging lower rates to “be competitive,” when you’re in reality not charging what you’re worth. This can be a major barrier to lasting growth and economic success.
You can always test the waters by quoting higher fees to prospective clients to gauge the reaction. If you get little or no pushback,then chances are that the person figured your fee would be higher than what you quoted, and you’re definitely leaving money on the table by offering to work for less. For those that do balk, you might still be able to make a referral fee (if tyour state allows it) by referring that person to someone else.
If you do get consistent pushback on the higher fees, and one of two things is happening. Either you’re charging more then the market will bear, especially compared to your competition, or your marketing is not attracting people who will value your legal services and pay top dollar for it.
Slowing Down to Speed Up
Whether you do one (or both) of the suggestions above, or hire an associate, you will be slowing down to speed up. If you do the former, you will see a temporary decrease in revenue as you drop below capacity, but you will then speed up as you attract and retain a better class of clients.
If you do the latter, you will be slowing down in both time and money before you speed up. Onboarding and supervising the associate will take time away from billing on client work (lowering revenue), and the salary for that associate will eat into your net revenue (even if it allows you to increase gross receipts to the practice).
At some point it may make sense to hire an associate, but only after you have taken these steps first.
Want to Know More?
Do you want to know more about why you may be attracting the wrong leads for your practice that are hindering real growth and keeping you from making the money you deserve? Then click on this link to schedule a no obligation initial call to discuss your situation and set up a free coaching call to get you started.
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Finally, for more comprehensive information on how to transform your solo practice, you can also get a copy of my book, Getting Off the Hamster Wheel.