The Business of ‘Minding Your Business’

by Cassandra Netzke on July 24, 2012

It took some urging, but a fellow solo finally convinced me to borrow a copy of Ann Guinn’s “Minding Your Own Business: The Solo and Small Firm Lawyer’s Guide to a Profitable Practice” from the CBA Lending Library.  I have already read several expensive, boring, and ultimately useless books on the subject and wasn’t that eager to take on yet another know-it-all book from someone who doesn’t know me at all. But my friend is persuasive. And so is this book.

I found it refreshing that Guinn dealt exclusively with issues we face as solos and small firms.  I’m sure many of the discussed principles apply in other business contexts as well (and to larger firms), but unlike the vast amounts of generalized information out there that are barely relevant, this book was written seemingly just for me.

It is a practical guide to running your law business, nothing more and nothing less.  It doesn’t attempt to tell you how to practice law or set up a firm, whether you should go paperless or move into the penthouse.  Its sole focus is to improve your understanding and application of business management principles as they pertain to the business of law.

Guinn covers several basic concepts like “realization rates” and “liquidity ratios.” She explains what they are and why we need them. Then she explains how to calculate and implement them. Her advice is simple, targeted, and relevant.

Take for example her bit of wisdom about marketing budgets: Guinn writes that marketing for five hours per week and spending 2.5 percent of your revenues on marketing activities are reasonable parameters.  Brilliant.  I’ve been in business for myself for more than a year, I’ve worked with several different consultants, I’ve read hundreds of articles about marketing, and no where have I been given such straightforward advice tailored specifically to the realities of a law firm. Her “25 Ways to Improve Profitability” (No. 2 – Get Fees Right; No. 7 – Improve Your Realization Rate; No. 17 – Charge for Consultations) is another example of her narrowly tailored focus on issues to which solos and small firms can relate.

This isn’t a book for someone just starting a law firm.  For that, stick with some standbys like “Solo By Choice” by Carolyn Elefant or Jay G. Foonberg’s “How to Start and Build a Law Practice.” Lawyers who want to improve their bottom line, or increase their productivity, will get a lot more out of “Minding Your Own Business” than lawyers who are still on the fence.

This is a useful guide that will no doubt come in handy over and over again. I will make a reread of “Minding Your Own Business” a requirement at my annual retreat.  And if you’re wondering, yes, I think Guinn’s suggestion to take a two-day annual retreat at least 50 miles from your office is perhaps her most brilliant piece of advice.


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Barb Cashman July 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

This is a great post Casie – folks who are looking to attend the August Hanging Your Shingle CLE would be well-advised to borrow this book from our lending library. Your review is right on with the author’s practical and down to earth advice.

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