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Spring (Fall) Cleaning For Law Firms

I see you all enjoyed your vacations. I saw the 175 pictures you posted on Facebook of every single place you went, and now I see you “can’t believe your baby is starting 7th grade.” So now that it’s time to get back to work and figure out what to do about all those clients calling you as a result of seeing you on the first page of Google, I will again offer you life-changing advice for which you come here weekly.

This advice is all real, and in no particular order.

1. If you have an office, or even a desk, take every single thing off the top. I did this the other day. Clean it, and then place everything back, except the stack of papers that belong in a file or the garbage, the magazines and articles you’re never going to read, and the items that do nothing but take up otherwise workable space. This will cost you no money, take about 15-20 minutes, and you will thank me. Well, not all of you…

2. Read a bunch of articles from Lee Rosen’s Divorce Discourse. Particularly read his post from August 18, 2011, on the basics of law firm financing. After you read that, put into play something that will save you money. Maybe things are slow and you can consider dropping off those filings at the courthouse yourself on your way to grab coffee with a referral source, saving yourself some money and finding a way to get outside and meet potential clients as it appears the virtual law firm is not going to be your future.

3. When you’re done reading Lee’s stuff, read this by Dave Lorenzo.

4. Gents, if you actually do meet with those people we call clients, or have a practice that requires you to leave your den, consider an important investment: a shoe shine. (Yes, I just told you to get your shoes shined.) If you’re feeling particularly interested in your appearance, go all out and get a new suit. Throw in a couple shirts and ties. A nice appearance makes you money. If you don’t understand that, find a lawyer that dresses well and ask them why. Then you can do the face palm.

5. Watch Jerry Maguire.

6. Make a list of all your clients, all your cases, all the tasks that need to be done, and which ones you don’t want to do. Can a law student do any of them? I like having law students around. They remind me of why I love being a lawyer.

7. Number 6 does not apply to every law student. Find one or two who actually want to be lawyers.

8. Those business cards in a rubber band you’ve collected over the past year? Find three people and connect with them in person. Throw the rest out. (Here come the “never throw out a business card” crowd.) Throw them out, now.

9. Figure out how to save $1,000.00 to go to an upcoming conference. Sign up for the conference. Not a tech or legal marketing conference, a conference of lawyers or other business professionals who may need your services.

10. Revisit your local bar associations. Would meeting a few more lawyers in your town kill you? You don’t have to be on the board. You can go to a lunch or two, attend a few social events, or pick a project to develop.

11. Revisit your retainer agreements. I’m constantly revising mine, adding in more protective language regarding payment, scope of representation, and other areas where there are occasional disputes.

12. Clean your other desktop. Most of the stuff there was just easy to save on the desktop. Now it looks like your desk. Put Word and PDF files in folders. Delete those icons you never use or never will use.

13. Schedule a meeting with your CPA, financial advisor, and insurance agent. Ask each one of them to review your file or portfolio before the meeting. That one-million-dollar life insurance policy seemed good enough when you didn’t have a decent house and three kids.

14. Start making a list of who’s getting holiday gifts. Remember that we’re not buying cards because they are a complete waste of money. Pick the gift now. Obviously you’ll have a few gifts that need to be special, but for the most part you can pick “the big” and “the small” gift. Someone who gave you a $10,000 case gets a big gift. The person who answered your question that helped you resolve your issue gets the small gift. December 15 is a bad time to do this.

15. Speaking of the holidays, pick the day you “stop” working now. My date this year is December 18. If I can control it, I will not have any court hearings, depositions, or out of town obligations beyond that date through the rest of 2013. I’ll still meet with new clients and work on cases, but foreclosing other obligations gives me the ability to do things on my own time, like holiday shopping and going to school events. If you work for someone, you can’t do this. I have to say that because some of you are so stupid that you’ll actually tell me that you work for someone and can’t tell your boss that after a certain date you’re not doing certain things.

Try one or two of these things. At the least, watch Jerry Maguire. I love that movie.

Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at

(hidden for your protection)

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