Law Practice Management: Starting with the Basics

by John J. Brandt, Esquire
(703) 659-6567

  1. Be pleasant and courteous to office staff, clients, and adversaries. It's contagious.
  2. Use the comprehensive online legal research tool, Fastcase, a $1,900 annual value that is free to Bar members. Access through your VSB Portal.
  3. Use engagement letters in your representations, understanding that this creates a written contract with a five-year statute of limitations.
  4. Carefully evaluate a potential client on the first visit just as you would have the client evaluate you. Remember, you do not have to accept the representation of every potential client you meet.
  5. Never accept a representation which is beyond your own expertise; do not be afraid to refer the potential client to other lawyers or consider associating yourself with an attorney who does have the necessary expertise.
  6. Communication. ­Communication. ­Communication. Year after year, one of the most common Bar complaints in Virginia is failure to communicate. Return telephone calls as soon as possible; give a potential client information about yourself, on the first visit, in the form of a brochure or simply a curriculum vitae. The first visit with a potential client is a great marketing opportunity,­ so take advantage of it.
  7. Since trust accounting is so important in your law practice, and unfortunately trust account rule violations serve as the basis for many disciplinary complaints, keep abreast of the rules governing trust accounts.
  8. When referring clients or potential clients to other lawyers or third-party service providers, attempt to present a selection of two or three, if possible, and document your referral advice in writing.
  9. Beware of conflicts of interest and create a "conflicts database" or a manual "conflicts check system" of some kind.
  10. Join your local bar association; it is a marvelous way to meet wonderful lawyers like you, form mentoring relationships, and begin to market yourself.
  11. If you are a sole proprietor or in a small law firm, there are numerous online resources to help you, as well as one stop small businesses like yourself that can assist with websites, SEO, social media, logo design, and other necessities for smaller law firms.
  12. Seriously consider what will happen to your clients in case of your death or disability, particularly if you are a solo practitioner; and then consult the publication "Planning Ahead: Protecting Your Client's Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death."
  13. The American Bar Association maintains a comprehensive list of resources for practice management that may be found here.
  14. Questions? That's what I am here for, and it's FREE and CONFIDENTIAL.
Updated: Jun 08, 2021