The Clio 2017 Legal Trends Report shows that small firms need help

If you ever need to know how “BigLaw,” the Amlaw 200, is doing it’s easy to find out: just check the annual AmLaw 100 and 200 surveys.  But if you are looking to find out more about the vast majority of lawyers who work in small firms or as solos, you have been out of luck.  Until now that is, because Clio, the Cloud-based practice management software provider for small firms and solos, has analyzed the (anonymized) billable hour reporting of over 60,000 of its customers and released that analysis in its 2017 Legal Trends Report. What the Report shows is fascinating . . . but also, we have to warn you, more than a bit disturbing too.

The (in)famous legal news site Above The Law has provided some good summary coverage of the Report, so that you don’t have to read through all 49 pages of it (plus, we will cover it further as well).  One of the things that Above The Law has highlighted is the list of average case size for small firms/solos in some common practice areas, with the average mean and (median) values for each area of practice:

  • Criminal: $1,482 ($750)

  • Family: $3,165 ($1,538)

  • Immigration: $1,492 ($950)

  • Personal injury: $3,334 ($1,500)

  • Real estate: $1,537 ($595)

  • Traffic offenses: $708 ($300)

  • Wills & estates: $1,461 ($750)

Those are pretty small numbers – kind of scary small numbers actually.  Moreover, since the median values show that the majority of matters are smaller, sometimes less than half of the mean, it must be just a few bigger matters that keep small firm/solo practitioners afloat.  If those are the numbers that you are working with, we don’t have to tell you how important it is that you do everything that you can to improve them.

Above the Law offered four ideas for small firms/solos to improve their numbers – we’ll summarize those here, as they are (mostly) pretty good ideas:

  1. Make sure that you aren’t charging too little (by comparing your matters against the report)

  2. Decide how much you should spend on marketing to acquire new cases (though, considering the low numbers above, there’s not much room here for marketing spend)

  3. Make sure that you aren’t charging too little – for alternative fee arrangements (this seems a bit, well, derivative of #1, admittedly, but it’s still a good idea)

  4. Calculate how many cases you will need to be profitable (another good idea, if somewhat basic)

We think that there is one, very important idea that Above the Law left out: maximize your efficiency. 

If your median case value is worth $1,500 or less you really only have two choices about how efficiency: be ruthless about it, or go broke.  And that includes your documents – all of your documents! 

Craft every pleading, motion, discovery request or response and the like from scratch?  No. 

Make every contract, proposal or letter a bespoke work of art?  Nope. 

Start your document generation process by spending hours searching through your hard drive for a prior example to cut and paste into?  Put the keyboard down and please, just listen.

When every minute that you spend counts – yes, minute, not hour – you need to be able to systematize your work as much as possible. 

Spend a few minutes now to save yourself those hours later.  That’s where we can help.  You can use Woodpecker in just minutes to save yourself those hours – our system is that easy to learn, that easy to use.  You can start with one of our pre-made templates (available here) or make your own.  Woodpecker even teaches you how to do so, again, in just minutes.

For our next blog post, we will dive more into the gory details of the Clio 2017 Annual Trends Report.  We will also dive into some of the not-at-all-gory details of how to save yourself hours with Woodpecker - and maybe save your practice too.

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