Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Time to respond to unimportant questions

Been solo for 2.5 years. As the practice grows, so do the ne ginganinja03/15/17
Do you have a paralegal? attorneyinct03/15/17
1) requests for opposing counsel - take your time, just not dingbat03/15/17
I worked for a solo for 8 years who outright said my positio qdllc03/16/17
Manage client communications and expectations from the start isthisit03/16/17
Running a solo practice on a shoestring budget was one of th adamb03/16/17
Opposing counsel: depends on urgency. I try to get back to t anothernjlawyer03/16/17
2nd the point above about hiring older people: I got a part bigbossman03/17/17
Templates, brah. captain03/17/17
Agree about hiring an older person. First - it can add a bit notiers03/19/17
If it's a real problem, you probably wound up with too many jeffm03/19/17
ginganinja (Mar 15, 2017 - 9:44 pm)

Been solo for 2.5 years. As the practice grows, so do the never ending onslaught of calls and emails. Clients want unremarkable updates all the time. Opposing counsel asks for picky info all the time. In my old firm as an employee, these talks were delegated to a paralegal. As a solo, they can swamp your day and keep you from getting real work done. What's the acceptable time frame to return inquiries that are unimportant to getting real work done, but that are a necessary pain in the butt like these? I generally try to do within 24 hours at most, but this is taking a toll as a solo. And I see opposing counsel get away with a week or two with my questions, and I don't mind. Enlighten someone with like me, who is very busy, but doesn't want to be a jerk?

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attorneyinct (Mar 15, 2017 - 9:47 pm)

Do you have a paralegal?

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dingbat (Mar 15, 2017 - 10:20 pm)

1) requests for opposing counsel - take your time, just not unreasonably long. And remember that if you need something from them, how quickly they respond is directly correlated to how quickly you responded to them

2) if it's a client, it's your job to manage their expectations. You set the tone for what they can expect, and it may be helpful to explain what your response time is. But if you don't manage it properly, or if your idea of reasonable is completely different from theirs, they may look for a new attorney. On the other hand, if you bill by the fractional hour, f*ck it, just bill them for the time it takes to respons

3) as soon as you possibly can afford one, hire a paralegal

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qdllc (Mar 16, 2017 - 7:57 am)

I worked for a solo for 8 years who outright said my position was a "necessary evil."

Without me, he'd spend all of his billable time doing administrative duties and never getting to cases.

The problem he had (as will you), is that a person who you can afford likely won't stick around for what you can pay...unless you find an older person looking to keep busy and have some income. There are organizations that try to do job placement for elderly men and women with skills that are looking for something meaningful to do with their time rather than sit at home all day.

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isthisit (Mar 16, 2017 - 8:29 am)

Manage client communications and expectations from the start. If not they'll get upset when you don't respond to their 3 a.m. text on a Saturday morning.

Hire a paralegal as soon as you can afford it to handle the practice minutiae. You don't want to waste time with it.

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adamb (Mar 16, 2017 - 8:32 am)

Running a solo practice on a shoestring budget was one of the top reasons I wanted to leave. I had no other life.

Tip: for the worst offenders, send them a polite, concise set of guidelines. Don't contact me daily about updates. Put all your questions into one email or message. Repetitive communications asking for updates or predictions, etc. will not be answered each time. (Keep the repetitive emails or whatever to cover yourself.)

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anothernjlawyer (Mar 16, 2017 - 12:23 pm)

Opposing counsel: depends on urgency. I try to get back to them within 24-48 hours if possible, or, if the issue is more involved, give them a timeframe for when they can expect a substantive response.

Clients:

Manage expectations.

Also your retainer agreement should have minimum charges for various things like calls, texts, emails, letters, etc..

Bill every single one. When your client gets a $20.00 bill for a text that says "no updates yet" they'll start to get the message.

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bigbossman (Mar 17, 2017 - 1:48 pm)

2nd the point above about hiring older people: I got a part-time secretary/paralegal I hired who is older with tons of experience. She was working at "AARP" for minimum wage in some program where she was supposed to look for another job as well. She was happy to get a slight raise and I got part time help that was experienced and interested in doing a good job. She has repeatedly said the money is nice but she mostly just wants to stay productive.

Therefore if you have a local AARP branch reach out and try them, was a great resource for me (she initially responded to my craigslist ad so you could try that also).

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captain (Mar 17, 2017 - 2:58 pm)

Templates, brah.

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notiers (Mar 19, 2017 - 8:35 am)

Agree about hiring an older person. First - it can add a bit of legitimacy to your operation. And if you find the right person that wants to stick around for a few years because you treat them well - the relationship can really work. A revolving door of 20-somethings is not what you need.

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jeffm (Mar 19, 2017 - 10:02 am)

If it's a real problem, you probably wound up with too many clients not paying enough. As long as you keep your plate full of PAYING clients, you will be asked to waste your time a lot less often. Also, don't procrastinate (not that you do, but people who procrastinate a lot seem to always complain they have too much to do and no time to get it done).

Learn how to manage your case-load more effectively by passing on cases you know you will come to regret taking. You likely know which ones those are by looking at your current case-load. Learn from those and try to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over.

There is no way you need a paralegal. A 40-hour work-week is 2,000 hours a year. If you bill at $200/hour, you ought to make $400k a year. If you work a mere half-time, that's $200k a year. You likely aren't even working half-time. Think about that for a second.

Paralegals are people who you put to work on crappy cases that don't pay. They do the work you don't want to do. They cost you money, and still, the clients aren't paying what they should. It's a lose/lose. For most solos, hiring a paralegal is a way to avoid the truth that you don't know how to control your case load and maximize your own earning potential. Instead, you go looking for a way to increase your costs. It's a totally backwards way of thinking.

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