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How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times

The final version of a new book just landed on my desk this morning. How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times by Sharon Nelson, Jim Calloway and Ross Kodner is a must-read for any lawyer who has seen his or her business decline during the recession or, even worse, lost a job. But more than that, it’s also a treasure-trove of bite-sized ideas and information for lawyers who would like to take steps to boost their bottom line, during bad times and good. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek this summer, and the final version was well worth the wait.

The book is broken into three main sections. The first part, Afraid of Losing Your Job? Lost it Already? contains several chapters that will help the reader assess his or her current situation and chart a course to a more profitable future. The short, often humorous and very readable chapters cover issues such as taking stock of what you currently have to offer, assessing other practice areas less affected – or even enhanced – by the downside of the business cycle, how to move successfully into solo practice no matter how big a firm you’re coming from, how to make the most of all your client development opportunities, and how to maintain a good attitude no matter what comes your way. Most end with either a simple exercise that will help you define your new goals or a list of resources for reaching those goals once they’re defined.

Part II is entitled Managing and Marketing Your Law Firm in a Down Economy. It’s chapters contain sage advice on issues such as tightening your client/case screening policies, effectively dealing with collections and slow paying clients, assessing your current staffing situation and alternatives to full time staff, instituting checks to prevent employee theft, improving client services, reducing expenses, and how to use your free time most profitably when business drops off.

The final part, Do it Better, Faster, Cheaper with Technology – Using Technology to Boost the Bottom Line, contains innovative ideas that will change how you think about your “time bucket,” which the authors define as your total available time, and how you allocate what’s in that time bucket to billable and non-billable administrative time. There are some interesting charts that will give you information on the anticipated return on investment (ROI) you can hope to obtain from various technology investments, a good discussion on how to re-configure your workflows to become more paper LESS (as opposed to paperless) and a chapter on Tightwad Technology for Tough and Trying Times: 25 Tips for Buying Right, Buying Free, Spending Smart.

For a small book you can go through in an afternoon, the ideas are almost limitless.