How to Make Money as a Solo Lawyer

Wondering how to make money as a solo lawyer, and if outsourcing drafting or hiring support will help you reach your goals?

One of the lawyers in our New Law Business Model coaching program recently asked us to help her decide between 4 different potential business plans for her law practice. She wanted to know how much money she could make if she were working five days a week under the following scenarios:

  1. Just the lawyer at the firm handling everything, including drafting documents.
  2. Just the lawyer at the firm handling everything, but outsourcing drafting documents.
  3. Lawyer and one support staff person handling everything, including drafting documents.
  4. Lawyer and one support staff person handling everything, except outsourcing the drafting of documents.

I am sharing my answer with you so you can see how simple (with the right systems) it is to make $20,000 or more per month in your law practice and be on your way to optimizing how to make money as a solo lawyer—and, how easily that could go up to $60,000/mo if you choose.

My Answer and Initial Analysis

Let's begin with the presupposition that you have a 100% engagement and an average fee of $4,000. (That's the engagement rate and average fee for many of the lawyers who go through our Life & Legacy Planning Program and apply what they learn in their practice for serving estate planning clients.)

In that case, to get to $20,000/mo, you'll need to engage five clients per month. And, just in case your engagement rate isn't 100%, I would recommend that you have space on your calendar for 6-8 Family Wealth Planning Sessions*.

*A Family Wealth Planning Session (FWPS) is the 2-hour initial meeting that we teach our lawyers to conduct, which almost always results in the client engaging at an average fee of $4,000 (less for a will-based plan and more for a fully-funded plan). 

In this case, with 6-8 Family Wealth Planning Sessions on the books each month, you'll probably exceed your goal of $20,000 per month.

How it All Adds Up

Now, if you are handling everything yourself, then you'd add up the total number of hours for the three meetings required to engage the client and deliver on the plan (should be 4 hours per client, 2 hours for the FWPS, 1 hour for the signing ceremony, and 1 hour for the legacy meeting).

Then, add in the number of hours you would put into hunting down missing info from the clients, drafting, reviewing, printing, binding, making the asset spreadsheet, the diagram, and generally preparing the plan for signing in a 4-week time frame after the engagement.

If you are handling all that yourself (could be 5-15 hours per plan, depending on what kind of systems you have in place), and then add in time for educating your community to generate those 6-8 appointments + time to send a newsletter, follow up campaigns (so that could be another 10-40 hours/month, again, depending on the automation systems you have in place).

So, if you add all that up, on the basis of let's say 6 FWPS, because your engagement rate and average fee are good, then you're at 24 hours (meetings) + 90 hours (assuming max hours for each plan) + 40 hours (max time for marketing, and assuming you use our content to network + follow up, plus do 1 speaking engagement a month that converts, which we provide + follow up content, plus send out your weekly newsletter and make a monthly offer), all on the high end of the range assuming minimal to no automation systems.

That's a total of 154 hours/mo if you are doing it all yourself, with manual systems, but no automated systems, and engaging clients at close to 100%. And that would be $24,000/mo in revenue.

And while that's good for a "normal" lawyer, maybe. It doesn't leave any time for managing your financials, continuing education, or vacation time for you. And, we know you can do a lot better than that from an awesome life and law practice perspective.

So, let's look at those 4 scenarios for how to make money as a solo lawyer and what they would mean for you:

1. Solo lawyer handling everything, including drafting documents

As indicated in the analysis above, you would be able to engage and serve a maximum of 6 new clients per month and bring in up to $24,000/mo. However, given that you are trying to do everything yourself, that number is more likely to be $16,000 - $20,000/mo., and you are working major full time.

In this scenario, you're doing many things that are not a good use of your time to do. And, this assumes you do not have to spend any time creating marketing materials, presentations, newsletter content, but instead that you would be leveraging what we already have created. If not, you could put in another 20 hours per month on just that.

2. Solo lawyer, but outsourcing document drafting

In this case, you are probably still at a max of 6 new clients per month because the document drafting isn't what takes that much time, though it is an energy drain and easy to outsource. A considerable amount of the time is prepping prospects for the FWPS so they come in ready to engage, prepping the attorney folder prior to the FWPS, scanning docs after FWPS, inputting data into multiple databases (unfortunately), getting missing information from the clients, printing docs, binding docs, making edits, creating family wealth inventory, creating ID cards, creating fiduciary letters, scheduling appointments, tracking metrics, etc. and none of that needs to be done by you. So, this is not a good option.

In scenarios 3 and 4, we are going to look at what happens if you hire and train a Client Services Director (CSD) in our systems, and automate.

Note: Don't try to hire cheap. Hiring someone at $15/hour isn't going to be a good investment for you. Instead, given that you know you can engage clients at an average fee of $4,000 each and you are providing a high-quality service, hire someone who reflects that, and who will focus on creating a WOW experience for your clients. Moreover, make sure this person has technology skills because when you do your law practice right, automation is a vital part of the puzzle.

3. Solo Lawyer + 1 support staff person handling everything, including drafting documents

In this case, I don't love that your Client Services Director (CSD) would be drafting documents, though it's possible if you have the right CSD. I tend to want my CSD to stay focused on client service and outsourcing what can be outsourced to people who know what they are doing in this area, rather than me having to train this person up. Also, that way, if anything happens to your CSD, they are easier to replace.

4. Solo Lawyer + 1 support staff person handling everything, but outsourcing drafting documents

This is the sweet spot for up to 10 clients/month and generating on average $40,000/mo in revenue.

In this case, with the right CSD who is handling follow up from networking and presentations + client intake, FWPS prep, coming in at end of FWPS to finish the meeting, taking payment, getting signed engagement letter, scheduling signing, scanning all docs, handling all communication between FWPS and signing to gather missing info, making Family Wealth Inventory, etc. (see list under #2)... and, if your CSD can also handle most of the signing and all of the legacy meeting, now you are really starting to free up your time.

With automation of your follow up systems, you could probably handle up to 12 clients with one really great CSD and no assistant.

However, at that point, you may want to bring in an assistant for your CSD to do scanning, answer phones, track metrics, print docs, create binders and let CSD focus on communications with prospects and clients instead of the more task-oriented work.

You may also want to be running a monthly direct mail campaign to a presentation (live) + have a monthly online presentation running to generate those 12 clients, so maybe you want someone who will handle the direct mail campaigns, part-time unless you like to do that yourself. But by then, you are generating on average $48,000/mo in revenue, so you can afford to outsource the outreach coordination.

Now, if your CSD is handling signings and legacy meetings, and you bring on an assistant for your CSD to handle the file clerk type stuff, and you have automation systems in place, you could probably see as many as 15-16 new clients per month.

And, again assuming you have a high engagement rate, you are now at $60,000/mo and have optimized how to make money as a solo lawyer.

In this scenario, you're paying a full-time CSD, a part-time file clerk, or maybe a full-time file clerk who also helps with your direct mail campaigns and does phone backup, and you've got automation support services.

Here's the most beautiful part of this whole thing: with the right CSD, trained in our systems, and well-structured automation to handle your marketing follow up, and keep you top of mind with everyone you meet, and 1-2 presentations a month that convert (all of which we provide in our programs), you could be earning $60,000/mo in revenue with 15-16 new clients a month and working just 2-3 days a week in your office. Yes, it can be that good.

With the right systems and support, optimizing how to make money as a solo lawyer and achieving your financial goals is within reach.

If you'd like to explore the exact steps that you can take to reach your financial goals as a solo lawyer, based on your unique situation, click here to schedule a call and discover if the New Law Business Model is the right practice model to help you reach your personal and professional goals.

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