Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How can lawyers leverage their time?

Most lawyers earn a living by setting their hourly rate and then charging for the number of hours (or fractions thereof) that they work. The biggest challenge for lawyers, particularly solo practitioners, is how to leverage their time. No matter how much a lawyer increases his or her hourly rate, the lawyer can never earn more than the amount of time he or she puts in. For example, if a solo practitioner doesn’t show up for work tomorrow, that lawyer won’t make any money. And even if the lawyer does show up for work tomorrow, he or she will only earn the amount of money based on multiplying the number of hours worked by their fixed billing rate.

So, how can lawyers leverage their time?

Not by increasing their hourly rate. Even if you charge $1000 per hour, you can only get paid for the number of hours that you work. And if the competition in your geographical area is only charging $200 per hour, raising your rate will only earn you more free time, not more money. So what opportunities does a lawyer have to leverage their time and make more money without having to work harder? I would suggest that there are four things lawyers can leverage: (1) other people’s time, (2) knowledge (information), (3) technology, and (4) packaged services.

In building the law firm of the future, I have started thinking about how to leverage these four things. I will describe my thoughts in more detail later. In what ways do you leverage your time? Care to share any examples?