A sole practitioner asks, “How do I know when I can afford to hire my first employee?”
That depends. If you think like a lawyer, you’ll wait until you have so much work piled up you can’t keep up with it. Hiring your first, or your next employee will be a matter of necessity.
But you’re not just a lawyer. You’re also a business owner and if you think like a business owner, you will invest in the future of your business (practice).
You won’t wait until it’s obvious you need help. You will imagine the future of your practice the way you want it to be and make sure you get there ahead of time.
In other words, you’ll hire staff before you absolutely need them.
I did this. I hired people when I didn’t yet have enough work to keep them busy. I expected my practice to grow and I wanted to be ready.
I did the same thing with office space. I got bigger space before I needed it. I was nervous about signing a long term lease, but I filled the space every time.
Don’t dwell on where you, imagine where you want to be. Buy some big boy pants and know that you will grow into them.
I was once in the real estate business with another lawyer who thought even bigger than I did. He wanted us to lease the penthouse suite in a building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The rent was gag-inducing. He also wanted us to hire several secretaries and buy new computers, and the business was barely getting started.
We did it. We invested in the future we expected to create and our investment paid off.
Of course we were also motivated by a tremendous fear of loss. We had huge overhead and had to make it work.
We charged higher fees, took out bigger ads, and worked out tails off. In less than a year, we were paying all of our expenses, had leased top of the line Mercedes, and took home six-figure draws, and this was in the 80’s when six-figures meant something.
If you expect your practice to grow, invest in that growth. Take on bigger space before you need it. Hire more people before you have enough work to keep them busy.
Start with employees, because they are scalable. Unlike a lease, if the work doesn’t materialize, you can easily downsize.
If you’re still not sure, start with temps or part time help. If you share space with another attorney, talk to them about sharing a secretary.
Don’t be reckless, of course. But don’t play it safe, either.
If you wait until you’re sure, you’ve probably waited too long.