Why you need an office handbook even if you don’t have any employees


An office handbook is typically created to provide employees with a set of rules and procedures for handling things like answering the phone, ordering supplies, opening and closing files, and more. If there’s a question about what to do, the staff doesn’t have to ask you or a co-worker, they can look it up.

It’s also a great tool for helping new hires and temps get up to speed.

Every lawyer should have an office handbook, even lawyers without employees.

If you’re making the rules and you’re the only one following them, why bother? No, not “just in case” you do hire someone, although that’s another good reason. You should create an office handbook because the process of doing so will force you to think about the best way to handle all of the bits and pieces of what you do.

As you create a checklist for preparing corporate or estate planning documents, for example, you’ll look for ways to do it more quickly and efficiently and minimize mistakes. You’ll find ways to save time, save money, eliminate duplication and waste, streamline your processes, get better at client relations, and otherwise run a tighter ship.

Writing an office handbook will help you earn more and work less.

When I started practicing and had only a few clients and no employees, I took the time to create intake forms, authorizations, form letters (representation, declining representation, thank you/welcome, etc.)

I also created a checklist for opening a new file. When I interviewed a new client, my forms made sure I asked them everything that needed to be asked and had them sign everything that needed to be signed. I was also able to put a welcome letter in the mail before the new client got to their car in the parking lot.

Without using a computer.

I was able to open and “work” new files without having to think about it because I had already done the thinking. When I eventually hired a secretary, training her was a snap.

If you don’t have an office handbook, you would do well to create one, but don’t try to do everything all at once. Start by taking inventory of the forms and letters you already use or have access to. Pick one and update it; then tackle another.

When you’ve gotten through all of the things you already use, dive in and create the ones you don’t, starting with the most important and valuable. Like a checklist for making sure there’s a fresh pot of coffee brewing first thing every morning.


Creating a walk-away law practice


How do you build a law practice you can one day own but no longer run? It starts with wrapping your mind around the concept that you don’t have to do everything yourself, or even closely supervise everything yourself.

You have to (eventually) delegate all of the work in your office.

If you don’t, you’ll never be able to walk away.

This is very difficult concept for many attorneys. We’re used to being in control. We thrive on micro-managing. Our egos fight against the notion that someone else can do what we do.

We also have a very difficult time dealing with the risk.

The truth is, your employees and outsourcers can get you in a lot of trouble. It is a very real risk. But that’s what errors and omissions insurance is for. That risk, and the insurance premiums we pay to minimize the potential damages therefrom, are a cost of doing business.

Building a business (law practice) is not about the elimination of risk. It’s about the intelligent management of risk. You do the best you can and if things go wrong, you deal with it and move on.

You can either live with this risk and the stress it might cause, or you cannot.

If you’re willing to take these risks, or you’re not sure if you can, dip your toes in the water. Delegate something and see what happens. Then delegate something else. Hire someone if you have to, but get someone else doing some of the things you now do.

The second thing you need to do to ready your practice for a walk-away future is create a detailed operations manual for your office. Everything you do should be memorialized, with forms and checklists and documentation of every process.

Pretend you are going to franchise your practice. Someone is going to open an office and do everything you do. They’re going to pay you to learn how to clone your systems, and then pay you a percentage of their revenue.

Make the effort to document your systems in enough detail that someone else could truly step into your shoes.

When you get this right, it will allow you to open a second office if you want to (or third or fourth). You’ll also have a valuable resource for hiring and training new staff or temps. And, if you’re ready, you can start reducing your work hours at the office. Eventually, you can tip-toe away to semi-retirement.

For more on delegating and creating systems, see The Attorney Marketing Formula