It might seem impossible, especially at the beginning, to find a healthy balance between earnings and expenses. The first step in becoming a cost-conscious firm is to focus on expenses and spend on the essentials to run your office. Every small firm needs an up-to-date computer system, printer, telephone, and email system.
A quality computer system is the most essential, and a decent system is necessary. Your computer system’s power must be relative to your practice’s needs. For instance, if your clients require you to use a high number of applications at the same time, you may need a higher-end system. However, most firms can function with a computer that has basic hardware, such as 2-3 GHz speed, over 1 GB of RAM, and no less than 500 GB of hard-drive space.
You might find it difficult to purchase this type of system, since this will be the largest expense of all the necessities, but it is an investment. With regular maintenance, this computer system should last (without becoming obsolete) for about five years, possibly more. And, remember to include a compatible printer that will enable you to look professional when you send letters and presentations to clients.
There are several options for email providers for your firm. Free services such as Gmail, or traditional services such as Outlook (now Office365), are solid options. What is important for your firm’s marketing and client relations is creating custom email addresses with your firm’s name included. Seeing a “@gmail.com” address both looks unprofessional and is more likely to get caught in a spam filter. Gmail, along with many other email providers, makes custom addresses easy and relatively inexpensive to incorporate.
Once your computer and communication systems are put into place, it will be time to purchase accounting, practice management, and case management programs. The most important factor in purchasing these systems is not their price. Rather, your focus should be on compatibility. Case and practice management software are used hand-in-hand at every step of handling a case, but not every case and practice management program is compatible with one another. A handy chart is available on the ABA’s website to determine which programs are compatible with one another, and which are compatible with other software on your system (i.e. Microsoft Word, Quickbooks, etc).
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