In response to yesterday’s post about taking the day off, a subscriber asked, “So how does a sole practitioner disconnect on vacation and turn off the phone? I haven’t had a real vacation in 15 years”.
Of course the short answer is you just do it. You have someone else answer the phone, something you should always do, and you have some else talk to clients and prospective clients and take care of the office.
In other words, you have people.
Being a sole practitioner means not having partners. It does not mean doing everything yourself. You have employees or virtual employees or assistants and outside lawyers who handle appearances and other things only lawyers can do.
Yes, this does add a layer of complexity to your practice. You have to supervise your people, or supervise people who supervise your people, and you have to be comfortable with delegating work. But this complexity gives you something even better in return. It gives you freedom. You can take vacations. You can sleep late. You can go to the movies in the middle of the day.
Having people also allows you to earn more money. If you do things right, you earn enough additional income to pay your people and have more net income after you do.
But there are a couple of additional things you need to do to make this work.
First, you need to specialize. You can’t expect to be good at “everything”. Nor can you make a compelling case to prospective clients as to why they should hire you instead of someone who specializes in what they need.
The email I received asking the question at the top of this post ends with a list of the attorney’s practice areas, to wit:
** Residential Closings
** Commercial Closings
** Short Sales
** Loan Modifications
** Reverse Mortgages
** Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
** 1031 Exchange
** Escrow services
** Property Tax Appeals
** Foreclosure Defense
** Motions to vacate foreclosure sales
** Mortgage Reinstatements
** Landlord Tenant
** Civil Suits
** Business Incorporations
** Debt Settlement
** Child Support
** Modification of Settlement Agreements
** Federal/State Defense
** Traffic Tickets
** License Suspension
It’s too much. No wonder she hasn’t taken a vacation.
Pick one practice area. Clients prefer to hire lawyers who specializes. They’re also willing to pay them higher fees because lawyers who specialize are perceived as being better, and they usually are. When you do lots of one thing, you tend to get better at it.
You also find it easier to keep up with changes in the law, new forms, and best practices. You spend less time (and money) on “compliance,” which gives you more time (and money) to invest in doing things that lead to more profits and growth.
Yes, you have to give up work that isn’t in your specialty. But you can refer that to other lawyers who send you business that’s outside of their specialty.
In addition, marketing is easier and more effective for lawyers who specialize. Which leads me to the last point. If you want to be able to take vacations, earn more and work less, you have to get good at marketing. Not great, necessarily. Good enough is good enough, as long as you do something on a regular basis.
Specialize, delegate as much as possible, and get good at marketing. Those were the three things that allowed me to go from being overworked and overwhelmed to quadrupling my income and reducing my work week to three days. You can do the same thing.
Learn more: The Attorney Marketing Formula