If you’re focused on building a successful and growing law practice, there will come a point when your progress stalls.
It’s inevitable, especially if it’s just you responsible for driving that progress.
But before you can un-stick your progress, you’ve got to be able to recognize that you are stalled.
So here’s a simple question you should be able to answer:
When you’ve finished working 50-60 hours a week, do you still feel you’re not done running your law firm?
If your answer to that question is a resounding “Yes” – then you need to hire somebody to help you.
The question is whether you should hire an office manager or go one step further and hire an administrator for your law firm. It all depends on what your needs are right now.
The Law Firm As A Business
A successful law firm needs to be run as a business. You’ve got to market your practice cost effectively, manage cases efficiently and make payroll each month. Of course there’s more to it than that, but it’s a lot easier when you treat your law practice just like any other entrepreneur runs a business.
The problem you have is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. And if you’re struggling to find time for business-building activities, you’re going to struggle to achieve growth.
But are you making the best use of your valuable time? Are you wasting time on things that you could delegate to somebody else?
For example, are you the person ordering the stationery, or trying to fix the office copier?
Unless you have a CEO or COO, only YOU can make those important business decisions that affect the growth of your law practice. If you don’t have time for that stuff, it isn’t going to happen.
You can start to free up time for yourself by delegating those low level activities like ordering stationery and fixing the copier.
Hire An Office Manager
You could hire an office manager to take care of this stuff for you. As well as ordering stationery and getting the copier fixed, they could also take care of other things, like running the payroll or ensuring document filings are made within deadlines.
If you have an in-house paralegal you depend on, who’s already taking care of stuff like this, hiring an office manager frees up your paralegal to work on cases, which is what you hired them for in the first place.
Marilyn Beasley became my office manager and it was great for me because there was a whole heap of stuff she took off my desk, freeing me up to spend more time working on the business.
So if you can hand off stuff to people under your direction, then start off with hiring an office manager.
My law firm’s Administrator, Cheryl Leone, says that the office manager is like the plant manager. They manage facilities of the firm and take some responsibilities off the owner’s plate.
On the other hand, Cheryl says that a law firm administrator is more like a CEO.
Law Firm Administrator
A law firm administrator will develop the firm’s the strategy in coordination with the firm owner. Together they determine the plan for growth and development.
An administrator might be given a line of purchase authority up to $25k, as well as authority for hiring & firing. They’d be authorized to negotiate a million dollar line of credit with the bank. They’ll take care of purchasing & vendors. The administrator is the person in charge of the strategic plan.
Those are all things you need to have happen in a growing and successful law practice. If you don’t have the time to make them happen, that’s when you need a law firm administrator to make that happen for you.
Office Manager or Law Firm Administrator?
The difference between an office manager and a law firm administrator is the degree of knowledge and experience of the person you hire. For example, your administrator should have experience with strategic growth, marketing and high level corporate decisions.
This is somebody you have to trust to deliver your dream law firm for you. The smartest person in the world hires people who are smarter than they are.
A successful law firm owner needs an ego – but they also need humility. You have to let people help you and be able to recognize their experience.
If you find that your law firm grows a little but then you’re back to juggling everything again, it means you need an administrator to take on the COO mantle.
But you don’t have to let go of so much if you only need an office manager. They might be responsible for keeping the office running smoothly, but they still answer to you, the owner, every single day. An office manager won’t be making big decisions like an administrator would.
Do You Need To Hire?
Don’t fool yourself by insisting that you don’t need to hire anybody to help you.
Instead, do this simple exercise to actually calculate how much somebody could help you.
- Make a list of things that are the business of law – write down everything you do, not related to handling a client’s case.
- Do it over a period of time, say 2-3 weeks. Determine how much of your time is being spent on the business, whether you or somebody else needs to do it.
- Divide out how much time it’s taking you per day
- Determine whether you can pay somebody less to do that than you can bill for the same period of time
Remember, your time is valuable and limited. Your time is worth more than what you’d spend to get most tasks performed by somebody else.
As Cheryl said to me, “If you’re too busy fixing the copier to take a $5k case, your priorities are all screwed up.”
Does that sound like you?
If you calculated that you could delegate activities that take up 20 hours of your week or more – then you could hire an office manager or even a law practice administrator to help you focus on building the business.
Take control of your law practice with just ONE decisive action - register for our Management Mastery Workshop.
Ken Hardison and Cheryl Leone, Ken's former law firm administrator, will walk you through creating the management systems you need for a smooth-running and growing law practice.
With both the law firm owner and the designated Law Firm Administrator/Office Manager together at the Workshop, you’ll be taught how to find and lay out the true vision of the law firm, expectations, authority levels, and develop a management implementation plan.