8 Biggest Challenges of a Small Firm Lawyer [Infographic]

By Law Firm Suites - March 14, 2016
8 Biggest Challenges of a Small Firm Lawyer [Infographic]

We surveyed attorneys about the biggest challenges of small firm practice. Check out our infographic to see their responses.

A few weeks ago, we surveyed attorneys in the Law Firm Suites network to get a sense of their biggest challenges in their small firm practice.

We put together this infographic to share the results of that survey:

small firm lawyer 1.  Getting New Clients

An overwhelming majority of participants said getting new clients was the biggest challenge they faced in their law practice.

Whether you’re a new small firm lawyer or you’ve been running a law practice for years, getting new clients is always a huge concern. As one respondent pointed out, this challenge is not only about getting new clients, it’s about “finding QUALITY clients” who pay their bills and could send referrals.

Another respondent phrased this challenge as “getting new clients while continuing to serve the ones I already have.” For a small firm lawyer, struggling to get new clients puts a strain on the rest of their business. Being on your own can sometimes force you to prioritize finding your next client over everything else that comes with running a law practice because otherwise you won’t have a practice to run.

Being on your own can sometimes force you to prioritize finding your next client over everything Click To Tweet

2.  Time Management

It’s no surprise that time management is at the top of the list at 23% because small firm lawyers have to wear so many hats. They’re forced to balance client work with all the demands of running their own small business.

One respondent phrased it as finding time for the “administrative and technological bumps in the road that must be dealt with but can’t be billed to a client.” Everything falls on their shoulders, which can be a lot to manage. 

3.  Billing and Collections

11% of our participants listed problems related to billing and collections. As one respondent put it, “by far the biggest challenge is getting clients to pay up.” Too often, attorneys perform work for clients who refuse to pay their bills.

This also ties back into the challenge of getting quality clients. One participant said they struggle with collections because they find it difficult to “engage the right clients who can pay their bills.” Sometimes even if you find new business for your firm, you may have a hard time actually getting paid for your work.

Other lawyers struggled with preparing timely invoices and keeping an accurate record of their billable time. This led to clients refusing to pay fees and it damaged attorney-client relationships.

4.  Finding and Managing Staff

According to our survey, 9% of small firm attorneys struggle with finding qualified staff or effectively managing their employees. For the attorneys who are lucky enough to have staff, it can often be difficult to find someone who is helpful and reliable. Small firm lawyers have very little time to dedicate to hiring and training, which makes finding trustworthy staff an even bigger challenge.

Additionally, a lot of lawyers lack strong management skills. They often struggle with developing positive relationships with staff and are unsure how to properly motivate them.

Even if they do hire skilled employees, a small firm lawyer must learn how to delegate tasks in a way that can best optimize their time. They often fail to have systems and procedures in place that will help new staff produce high quality work with less guidance.

5.  Being Persuasive in the Face of Stubbornness (adversaries, coworkers, employees & judges)

Many lawyers spend most of their time negotiating and trying to persuade others, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 6% of participants listed challenges related to persuasion, which means something that is a key part of your job can still be a challenge when you’re dealing with particularly stubborn professionals.

For a small firm lawyer who is persuasive in the courtroom, it can still be a challenge to apply that skill outside the practice of law. Not only do attorneys have to persuade judges and opposing counsel during a case, but they also have to compromise with their law firm partners and staff on day-to-day tasks.

6.  Managing Costs and Financing Growth

4% of participants said they struggled with being able to generate enough revenue to invest more into their firm. Some attorneys want to hire more staff or upgrade from a virtual office to a physical office space. Others want to invest more money into their marketing or purchase client management software.

Not having the cash flow to make your practice more efficient can leave you feeling trapped. Even if you’re able to pay for all the basic necessities of running a small practice, like your rent and malpractice insurance, you have to make sure you’re making enough money to fund the growth you need.

Not having the cash flow to make your practice more efficient can leave you feeling trapped Click To Tweet

7.  Health and Wellness (tied with number 8)

Health-related concerns were a challenge for 2% of participants. It’s easy to neglect your health when you’re working long hours and hustling to bring in new clients.

Who has time to go to the gym when there are back-to-back meetings and networking events to attend? How can a solo get enough sleep when they’re worried about the mountain of client files that need attention and how they will bring in new business when their cases settle?

Without the proper support, there can come a point when the demands of small firm practice can become too much. The stress and lack of time for yourself can really take a toll on your body.

8.  Client Management

To wrap up the list, 2% of our survey participants responded with challenges related to client management.

Keeping clients happy isn’t as simple as producing good work. It requires organized, consistent and thoughtful client management that many attorneys either don’t have time for or lack the skills for.

A key component of client management many attorneys struggle with is maintaining consistent communication with clients. Small firm lawyers balance so much at once that it can be easy to forget to follow up with a client regarding the progress of their case, especially when there isn’t anything new to report.

What about you? What’s your biggest challenge? Leave a comment below.

About Law Firm Suites

Law Firm Suites is the leading NYC shared office space for solo attorneys and small law firms. At Law Firm Suites, attorneys get headache free sublet office space, virtual office rentals and litigation hotel services. Law Firm Suites has two locations in Manhattan, one in White Plains NY, and one in Annapolis MD. Law Firm Suites' community of self-employed lawyers are eager to help colleagues succeed, and routinely exchange over $2.5 million in legal business every year in each LFS business center. Connect with Law Firm Suites on Twitter and .

5 thoughts on “8 Biggest Challenges of a Small Firm Lawyer [Infographic]

  1. It’s good to learn that you have to learn how to manage your time when becoming a small firm lawyer. My brother is wanting to go into law and he was wondering how he could be an effective small firm lawyer. I’ll be sure to tell him that he should learn to manage his time effectively.


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