By: Micky Deming

Law firms, especially solo practices, operate in a very reactive fashion.

They react to issues as they arise.

They handle cases as they come up.

They take care of their books when it’s tax time, or time to pay the bills.

But there is a huge problem with this approach.

First, it’s extremely stressful. Day-to-day, no lawyer should be juggling a million different things. There is only so much that one person can competently handle.

Second, it’s counter-productive and costly. Jumping from one issue to the next is time-consuming for any lawyer.

At Kahuna Accounting, we see this all the time. We see lawyers who are reacting, playing catch-up and looking backward more than forward.

We see it because this challenge of being reactive is even more on display with how lawyers approach their financials. But this is not just about financial systems, this is about being intentional with your time and your law practice.

To get out of this cycle, it’s necessary to prioritize, set up systems, maximize resources and ultimately have a more effective practice.

What are you prioritizing?

The biggest challenges for today’s law firms are adding more billable work and offloading the tasks of management and operations that have nothing to do with practicing law.

The goal is not to get those done. The goal is to have a healthy, steadily growing practice that has systems in place so you can choose for yourself what you want your firm and your work to be.

As long as you are in reaction-mode, that type of systematic growth will never take place.

So what does this have to do with bookkeeping?

With sights set on systematic growth, we can take a look at how modern bookkeeping helps take a huge jump forward toward a healthy business.

1. GET TIME BACK

I believe the reason it is so difficult to prioritize and systematize is because there are simply not enough hours in the day. Just catching up to the tasks at hand are enough to fill a day, let alone serving clients, marketing, and being strategic about the big picture items in the firm.

So priority number one for any attorney is to get as much time back as possible.

You get time back by creating systems and building a team. Systems happen when things are predictable, trainable and repeatable.

And when I say build a team, I’m not talking the traditional W-2 employee in your office. Outsourcing and virtual help is a new reality that’s cost effective and can provide professional grade value at a fraction of the normal cost.

I had the opportunity to interview Lee Rosen, and he is a strong advocate of using outsourcing to automate the management process.

Here’s what he says about outsourcing accounting:

If you hire a professional bookkeeper like Kahuna, who owns their own business, and packages up this service and clearly defines their deliverable, and you go buy that deliverable. Now you don’t have to manage that employee, they have to manage their employees.

So, the reality is for most lawyers, outsourcing to another business that is able to deliver what they promise is a big step up from the no management approach to most of our employees.”

– LEE ROSEN

This is extremely powerful because it’s not just about getting time back, it’s about getting time back while improving processes.

Bookkeeping is only one process in a business, but most attorneys have the worst of both worlds. They have a poor process, poor visibility AND they waste a lot of time on it.

A better bookkeeping system will have the benefits shared below, but on top of that should open up more time to do things that really matter.

2. DEEPEN BUSINESS INSIGHTS

On a recent webinar with Clio, we asked a poll question for over 250 attorneys in attendance whether they had the ability to produce a profit and loss statement on demand.

The answer came back with 45% saying they could not.

This has a lot of implications related to efficiency and the ability to get advice and taxes done in a timely manner, but something bigger is at stake in this.

Back to the topic of priorities – if your biggest priority is a healthy, thriving business – how can you not have a finger on the pulse of the business?

For many law firms, financial statements are just a thing to hand off to a CPA for taxes. They provide no insight into the health of the business.

If that’s how you view financials, you’re missing a major opportunity. Financial statements hold all you need to understand profitability, where you are spending time, and what can be cut out of the business to get into a healthier position.

With financial statements, you can guide your decision-making process and use real data, rather than guessing.

If the goal is a healthy, systematized business, it’s your responsibility to have an understanding of profitability so you can look forward and make real plans for growth and scaling.

3. REDUCE ANXIETY

Let’s go back to the beginning of this article and think again about our priorities. As I said before, a large source of problems and challenges in life come from a lack of healthy priorities and simply reacting to whatever flies in front of our faces.

I think in a law firm, prioritizing is paramount to success, and it’s necessary to prioritize a healthy business above everything else. Well, not exactly everything.

The one thing more important than a healthy, sustainable business is a healthy sustainable you.

Anxiety is a growing problem in the legal profession and studies abound on this challenge. I won’t get into all the data now, but want to stay focused on this reality that the high-pressure, overloaded environment is anxiety inducing and lays a heavy burden on the shoulders of a solo or small firm lawyer.

I bring this up, because to have a healthy business and to grow it, the first thing to get right is yourself. You need to have a clear and healthy mind and an ability to see the forest for the trees.

At Kahuna Accounting, we follow up with our customers every 90 days just for a quick check-in on how things are going. We also ask for specific feedback about how we’re doing and what the experience has been like so far.

When we ask those questions, these are the phrases we hear again and again:

“Peace of mind.”

“I used to have anxiety.”

“This used to keep me up at night.”

“I have so much clarity.”

“This takes a weight off my shoulders.”

“It’s great to not have to worry about this.”

“It’s so important having a second set of eyes. It gives me peace.”

The theme is gratitude for peace of mind and taking something of anxiety and transforming it into a place of clarity.

As a lawyer, the health of your firm depends on you thriving and thinking clearly. But far too many attorneys have financial systems and operational systems in general that create added pressure and noise in their life.

When thinking of accelerating and growing your firm, what can have a greater return on investment than making any change to reduce anxiety and start to breathe easy.

Maybe it’s financials for you. Maybe it’s something else entirely. But as an attorney, you are already spinning too many plates. It’s probably a good time to reflect and think about the areas in the firm that cause anxiety and stress.

Can they be outsourced?

Can they be eliminated?

Chances are, they can. Those sources of time-waste and added anxiety are doing nothing but holding back your firm from the growth it needs to survive.

It’s time to simplify and prioritize. What do you want your firm to be? If you want it to be healthy and successful, you need to (1.) Get your time back, (2.) Have clarity and (3.) Eliminate unnecessary anxiety.

And bookkeeping is a great place to start to make progress on all 3.

Micky is the Director of Business Development at Kahuna Accounting. Kahuna Accounting is a virtual accounting and bookkeeping company focusing specifically on helping entrepreneurs and fast growing law firms go to the next level. Kahuna is a Xero and Clio Gold Partner and can take the financial headache most lawyers feel and turn it into clarity and insight. Head to www.kahunaaccounting.com/lawyer to go through Kahuna’s proven discovery process to find out the best solution for you firm.