Solo Practice University Review Part 3: Marketing and Management Courses
This is part 3 of my Solo Practice University Review and covers the marketing and management courses I took. Even though this list is quite long, it doesn’t cover every course available. If you take all the courses listed below you will find a ton of useful information.
Introduction to Billing and Accounting – Caren Schwartz
Ms. Schwartz’ class on accounting provides the overview necessary for solo attorneys who have never taken a course in accounting. She covers basic concepts and terms that you will likely encounter if you hire an accountant. Just as we attorneys sometimes have difficulty speaking English when communicating with clients, you may hire an accountant who assumes you have a basic knowledge of accounting terms. As educated individuals, taking the time to learn these concepts can benefit you greatly. It should be noted that many of the common billing woes discussed in this course can be avoided through proper implementation of value pricing as discussed by Jay Shepherd and Ron Baker in their courses.
Jay Shepherd worked as an employment lawyer for Shepherd Law Group for many years although he states in his last lesson that he has decided to shut down his law practice to focus on consulting with attorneys on how to get rid of the billable hour and properly price value rather than time. His consulting company is called PrefixLLC. Jay Shepherd’s blog Timelessly was originally called The Client Revolution and covers issues relating to understanding value pricing.
The value of accessing Mr. Shepherd’s courses on SPU prior to starting a practice cannot be overstated. While his lessons could be more focused and tend to be repetitive, for many attorneys who are stuck in the rut of the billable hour this repetition is necessary. The lessons provide a number of examples to convince you that pricing for value is important and good for you and your clients. Mr. Shepherd also lays out his 14 step process for pricing your services, helping you to consider the factors that affect your ability to charge the client certain fees.
After absorbing Jay Shepherd’s lessons, jumping right in to Ron Baker’s material makes it even more powerful. The lessons focus initially on explaining the billable hour model and why it is inefficient and bad for the client. Much of the first lesson is theoretical but necessary to fully appreciate the importance of his message. By the time you are through the three part lesson on value pricing, you will be converted to his way of thinking. I was so completely convinced by the end of the value pricing lessons that the billable hour was a bad idea that I did not watch his final lesson on tearing down the billable hour.
For the self-starter looking for ideas about how to be successful in marketing, Mr. Merenda’s lessons provide everything you would need. Most valuable in his lessons is his insight on how attorneys often do things wrong, whether it comes to pricing or designing their web site. The lessons available cover every conceivable subject you may find helpful to your marketing. These lessons separate themselves by focusing on the psychology behind marketing techniques.
The lessons cover the majority of key points between lesson 1 and lesson 13. If you need a shorter introduction, many of the key points are covered in lesson 14 and the smarttalk podcasts. After going through the initial lessons, you have the option of additional videos of Mr. Merenda interviewing solo attorneys he coached about their experiences. These videos are very useful because they provide input from attorneys that confirms that the advice Mr. Merenda provides works.
James’ lessons cut right to the point about client perceptions of attorneys and law firms. The lessons provide useful tips for making the most out of your web site with fewer words and simple vocabulary. The lessons give useful tips on the importance of a client-focused brand that is different from the rest of the pack. All the lessons are short and written. Each one is a short blog post that zeroes in on the important issues. This lesson works great as a stand-alone or in conjunction with Mark Merenda’s marketing lessons to drive home the point that clients chose attorneys using criteria that may not be intuitive.
HTML, WordPress and More – David Carson
(Developer and Technical Director for Solo Practice University)
David’s class gives you a step-by-step guide to getting wordpress installed on your own server. This is a valuable lesson that can get you started blogging on your own free-standing site. It covers the initial steps like setting up hosting and registering a domain. Later lessons focus on important steps of setting up backups and customizing the look of your blog. The lessons are clear and easy to follow no matter your technical level. Even if you got your blog set up by someone else, taking control of your blog is important. These lessons give you the tools you need to do that.
Productivity Bootcamp: Time Management for Lawyers – Bill Jawitz (Attorney coach)
Bill Jawitz’ course on time management covers everything you will need to help you productively manage your practice. The course includes information on daily planning, how to decide when to delegate tasks, and managing your time effectively. The lesson on setting up to-do lists covers a useful way to separate your tasks by categories. Bill Jawitz also suggests a number of books on business and management to help attorneys think about solo practice like running a business not just practicing law for your own clients.