Running a law firm can be a daunting task, not only because of the amount of work that is required but also because of the high cost of doing business. Many law firms struggle with managing their expenses and finding ways to cut costs effectively without sacrificing the quality of services provided.
In this post, we will discuss some easy ways to reduce overhead at your law firm that don’t involve firing people. By evaluating your office space needs, recurring subscription costs, and other expenditures, you can tighten up your law firm’s budget in smart ways while maintaining your high level of service and professionalism.
Law Firm Overhead
There are many overhead costs that must be taken into account for a law practice beyond just office supplies. Some of the most costly include rent, payroll, utilities, insurance and marketing. Rent for office space can be one of the biggest expenses for a small law firm because it is usually necessary to have an established physical location in order to attract clients. Payroll will also take up a significant chunk of the budget since lawyers must be paid competitively in order to retain their services.
Utilities such as electricity, water and internet access are essential for running any business but especially so for a legal practice where communication with clients is extremely important. Insurance should not be overlooked either as it provides protection against potential lawsuits from dissatisfied customers or other unforeseen circumstances. Finally, marketing costs need to be considered since they play an integral role in bringing new business into the firm’s doors. All of these expenses are part of your firm’s overhead which means expenses that cannot be directly billed to any client as part of work on a case.
Analyze Your Office Space Needs
One of the most significant expenses for any law firm is office space. Finding the perfect location in a high-traffic area can be costly in terms of office rent, which is why you need to evaluate your actual needs. Do you need a large conference room to meet with new clients in person or can you meet them virtually? Do you need individual offices for full-time team members or post-pandemic are the majority of your team enjoying remote work via a virtual office?
The decision of whether or not to have a physical office depends on the preferences and business model of the individual lawyer. While it may be advantageous in certain practice areas, having a physical office is not a prerequisite for delivering high-quality legal services in today’s digital age.
Tune into what your clients want in terms of the client experience. Some clients may still want the traditional experience of meeting in person at the firm’s office. Others may prefer the convenience of virtual meetings via video conferencing tools, particularly those who live far away or have busy schedules and less time to meet face-to-face.
By knowing your specific needs, and being mindful of what your clients’ want, you can find a less expensive location or negotiate better lease terms with the real estate landlord. You may also consider flexible workspace options that could be more efficient for your law firm and more friendly to your bottom line.
Evaluate Your Recurring Subscription Costs
Many law firms rely on various subscription services to help manage their business, from legal research to practice management tools. While these subscriptions can be useful, they can also be expensive and often underutilized. Forgotten or seldomly used subscription services can bog down your profit margin. Make a recurring calendar entry to remind you to review and cut unused subscriptions at least once a year.
Take some time to review your firm’s recurring subscriptions and evaluate which ones are necessary, which ones are redundant, and which ones you can cancel without affecting workflows. With a good edit, you may save significant resources while still maintaining your software suite.
Look at options to pay for the absolutely critical services on an annual rather than monthly basis. You can often get savings of 10%, 20% or more by paying for a year up front rather than paying every month which can free up some cash flow.
When it comes to health insurance, most law firm owners get into the habit of simply renewing their existing plan every year. They simply accept the policy that’s offered by their employer or government plan and never consider shopping around for a better rate. However, occasionally shopping around to compare the cost of your health insurance plan can be a smart way to save money in the long run. With just a few clicks online, you can quickly get an idea of what kind of plans are available and what they might cost you. You may even find that there are more affordable options out there than you originally thought!
Additionally, cost comparing services like phone or internet providers can also help you ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible on these essential services as well. As the business owner when you make time to review your current providers you may even identify new technology options that are more affordable and better meet your team’s needs. Even small cost savings can really add up over the long-run.
Perks vs. Profits
Although it may seem insignificant, amenities are often necessary to keep your team productive. Attorneys and paralegals work long hours. It’s important to keep them comfortable, hydrated and healthy.
Providing high-quality coffee, snacks, and comfortable seating can substantially boost morale and improve the working environment. If you are looking to cut back on some overhead, you could look into more cost-effective ways to provide these conveniences rather than cut them out completely. For example, consider purchasing in bulk or evaluate store-brand coffee blends versus premium varieties.
Often times it’s the little things that make your team happy which in turn helps you retain top talent and cultivate a successful law firm. For more on law firm culture, read this.
Go Paperless and Digital
A paperless and digital environment is not only environmentally conscious but also a great way to reduce overhead at your law firm. Instead of printing hard copies of every document, encourage your team to go digital. With cloud storage and collaboration software, you can make documents easily accessible, with the added benefit of removing the cost of paper, ink, printers, and storage space. This is a win-win for cost savings.
Use Freelancers and Independent Contractors
When you are drowning in work hiring new employees is not always the best solution for your law firm, especially with skyrocketing associate salaries and overhead considerations. However, freelance attorneys and independent contractors can help you out on projects or during peak seasons without having to pay salary, benefits, or office space. By working with outsourced remote attorneys you can get all of the expertise you need without the overhead expenses associated with a full-time hire.
Similarly, you can also find independent contractors who could handle your IT needs, help with accounting, web design, marketing and more. Look for reputable and trustworthy individuals and partner with them for your business needs.
Outsourcing can be an excellent staffing solution both for attorney roles and admin roles.
Take Advantage of Member Benefit Programs
State bar associations offer a wide range of member benefit programs to the legal industry. These benefits are designed to help lawyers save a lot of money and time while providing them with valuable resources that can be used in their practice.
One of the most popular member benefit programs offered by state bar associations is discounted rates on legal services such as malpractice insurance, continuing education courses, and access to online research tools. By taking advantage of these discounts, lawyers can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year on necessary expenses related to running their practices which in turn can boost law firm profitability.
One way that law firms can reduce overhead costs is by taking advantage of legal technology. Technology allows you to automate tasks such as accounting, client intake, or customer service, which helps streamline operations and save time and money in the long run. Automation is a time saver and in this industry, time is money.
Carefully consider your firm’s pain points and bottlenecks. Then invest the time to research providers which offer products to such solve those bottlenecks. For more on the topic of law firm technology, read here.
Taking time away from the practice of law to check in on your business should be a priority for every law firm owner. When considering options to cut overhead be sure to carefully find the right balance by using your resources wisely, without putting too much pressure on your team or your business operations.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to realign your budget, maintain professionalism, and continue to provide quality service to your clients while keeping expenses down. Don’t forget to periodically review your expenses and identify areas that need improvement to continually create a more efficient and profitable law firm.