16. Take time to think about your cases.
Be innovative. Think about how to present the facts to win. Theme your case. Recognize that time to think about one’s cases is often the first thing to be put aside during a busy time. This “thinking time” is often critical to the success of a case. Don’t become overwhelmed with busy work to the exclusion of thinking time. Plot a strategy for each case. Develop a theme. Have a plan, including a schedule of discovery. Fit the plan into your case time line. Include early experts in the difficult case. Recognize those cases which should be referred.
17. Live within yourself.
Find a comfort zone and live within it. Lease your equipment if you cannot afford to buy it. Purchase repair agreements to keep your office operating. Factor in your rent, phones, personnel and overhead when you do your time lines. Give yourself a regular draw and live within it. Put the rest into a war chest and your pension plan.
18. Establish a war chest.
Larger cases require significant amounts of money to effectively prosecute. Having an adequate war chest will allow you to make the correct decisions in hiring experts early, building models, creating courtroom drawings, and deposing key witnesses. An adequate war chest allows you to compete against large defendants and win. If you don’t have a war chest and you have a case that needs it, associate another law firm. An undercapitalized case is a case that you are going to lose. You need to have the power to attack. There are vendors at this convention that will finance the bigger cases. Seek them out and use them if necessary. Remember any referral is governed by Rule 2-200.
19. Keep a money control person.
Keeping track of your costs and overhead is a time consuming and tedious job. A money control person is critical to the operation of a successful business. At least a part time person is needed to keep track of costs and office administration. It is also crucial for tax planning. Know when your taxes are due and use the time lines to plan accordingly. Establish a retirement plan now. That means this year. Pay into the retirement plan every year, even when it hurts.
20. Try cases.
There are certain cases that must be tried. To regularly add value to your cases, one must be prepared to try the case. The defense keeps track of those lawyers that try cases, and pays those lawyers more for the cases they settle. Those attorneys that are afraid to try cases end up with a lot less for their clients because the defense knows the case will never be tried. Discuss with every client the potential of a trial. Prepare every case as if it were going to be tried and then pick several cases per year to try. Factor in the risk to the clients and potential return.
Lastly, have fun. You are not alone out there. If you need help, ask a fellow CAOC member. In my career, they have never failed to offer help and advice when asked.
Photo Courtesy of Bulliver