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Adversity brings opportunity: Thriving in a down economy

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Corny, but true: adversity brings opportunity. In these economic times, business owners have a greater motivation to assess return on investment, personnel performance, capital improvements, market share, lease eaters and cash positions. Fear clarifies. With clarity, small law firms cannot help but thrive if they are willing to embrace the risk on practical terms. What does this mean?

First, there are seven components to your business: management, administration, finance, production, marketing, sales and quality control. As lawyers, we typically focus on two or three of these components -- production, finance and/or quality. Now, it is essential to focus on all seven.

Management

Management is planning. How much time do you spend per week planning? Each lawyer is a business in and of themselves, and planning is essential. You need clear, uninterrupted calendar time to plan: no e-mail, no phone calls. At Brown Law Group (BLG), many of the lawyers begin their day with two hours of uninterrupted focus time. Yes, there are "Do Not Disturb" signs on the door. Nice, pretty signs.

Administration

Admin is all about return on investment. Are you getting it? Is everyone in your organization committed to the overall success of the firm? If not, then now is the time to make changes in performance and in personnel. At BLG, we are hiring and looking to bring on lawyers and staff in San Diego and Los Angeles. There is a lot of talent looking for jobs -- and there is always room for great talent.

Finance

Cash remains king. Account receivables are nice. Cash is better. Small firms can't afford not to collect at any time, especially not during tougher times. Some clients want to pay more slowly, but small firms can't allow a client's cash flow problem to become the firm's cash flow problem. Schedule collection weekly. Also, right now is the best time to purchase equipment and renegotiate services and leases. BLG is expanding its office space in San Diego and Los Angeles. We are buying new computer equipment, and redesigning our Web site and marketing efforts. We seek to expand our market share in a downturn -- unconventional thinking and calculated risk.

Production

Make hay while the sun shines. Also, express gratitude for your clients and vendors. There are a lot of options, and the personal touch combined with delivery of excellent product is necessary. We thank our clients for the opportunity to represent them repeatedly.

Marketing

For the most effective marketing approach, daily systems are the most effective. At BLG, coaches assist the lawyers to get clarity on what their goals are and how best to implement day-to-day tasks to achieve those goals. Our coach, Stephanie Chick, is relentless is bringing out the best in people. For this economy, focused marketing is the best kind.

Sales

Sales are new clients and new matters. By doing the other steps, business will come.

Production

Production is the work product, the "lawyering." There are no exceptions to excellent work, period. Clients do not have much tolerance for anything else. Right now, there are a lot of lawyers competing for business. Small firms typically do better on price than larger firms and have more personalized service. Those advantages are truly valuable.

Quality control

Now is the time to examine all of your processes and procedures. Do you have the most up-to-date efficiencies in place? Are you proud of the quality of your work? You must be.


Brown is owner and founder of Brown Law Group.

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