Money-Saving Tips for Solos and Small Firms
Starting your own law firm can be exhilarating. Helping clients obtain justice can be rewarding. But at the end of the day, a law firm is a business and running a business costs money. To succeed, solos and smalls must manage their funds. This post provides money-saving tips for solos and small firms.
All law firms must carefully control their finances. But African American attorneys must be particularly careful. Though African Americans are more likely to enter solo practice than other races, because of the generational wealth gap, they often have less money to spend than their white peers. The tips below should help attorneys of all backgrounds operate successful practices while saving money.
Use Free and Low-Cost Resources
Saving money is essential for smaller firms. Luckily, finding free and low-cost resources is not difficult. Here are some obvious ways – and some surprising ways – to be a barrister on a budget.
- Use free legal research services. Law schools teach students to research using WestLaw and Lexis. But law schools pay for these services. As a result, many lawyers are shocked to learn the true costs of these search engines. Fortunately, free alternatives exist. Many law school libraries provide lists of free legal search engines. (Here’s the list from Georgetown Law.) Also, don’t forget that Google Scholar offers thousands of cases and law review articles for free.
- Use your bar membership. Bar fees seem to increase each year. On the positive side, bars provide lawyers with a variety of resources. Many bars offer their members access to free resources, including research. Moreover, they often provide deep discounts on software, services, and other tools that lawyers need. Visit your bar’s website to find deals and savings.
- Contact your law school. While lawyers are generally resourceful, many lawyers overlook law schools as a resource. Law schools provide recent – and not-so-recent – grads with a variety of career supports. Many law schools allow their alums to borrow books, use online search tools, reserve rooms, or use other law school resources.
Money-Saving Tips for Solos and Small Firms
Unfortunately, your firm cannot survive on free resources alone. Nevertheless, there are ways to save money while providing quality legal counsel. Here are a few money-saving tips for solos and small firms.
- Go paperless. While some expenses are obvious, others sneak up on you. Paper may seem cheap, but because lawyers use so much of it, over time, the cost adds up. Yesterday’s lawyers needed paper because there were no alternatives. Today, e-mail, e-filing, scanning, and other tools make paperless necessary. Consider how much paper you use. Look for ways to eliminate unnecessary paper use. In time, the savings will multiply. (Added bonus: less paper means less time looking for or organizing files and more time spent billing.
- Consider a barter. As a business, your law firm will need to keep excellent books. You will also need to file taxes. However, hiring a bookkeeper or accountant would break your budget. Some attorneys have considered an old-school remedy to this problem: bartering. Today, more and more attorneys are bartering their services in exchange for goods and services. Bartering can be a creative way to get things your firm needs. (NOTE: Though most states allow attorneys to barter, check your bar’s rules and requirements before entering into an agreement.)
- Share office space. While you may dream of an elegant office in an upscale neighborhood, most solos can’t afford that luxury. Office space is one of the largest business expenses. To reduce this expense, consider sharing office space. You can share space with a solo, with a small firm, or other businesses. Many large cities also have co-working spaces that can be rented by the day or hour for client meetings. (Added bonus: Sharing space with other attorneys will broaden your professional network.)
Running your own firm can be challenging. Hopefully, these money-saving tips for solos and small firms will help. For more advice on working as a solo practitioner or small firm lawyer, follow The African American Attorney Network. The Network is committed to helping African American attorneys succeed in the legal profession.