Advice For Starting & Growing a Law Firm From Adam Brittle

Our Customers / March 11, 2015 / Kristie

Starting your own law firm can seem both exciting and daunting. You want to gain all the benefits that come with being your own boss such as the ability to control your own schedule and decide on the areas of law that you want to practice. At the same time, you may be nervous about cash flow and how to maintain a steady stream of clients coming through the door.

Adam Brittle, managing partner at Brittle & Brittle PC, experienced both these exciting and nervous feelings when he and his wife opened their own law practice in Portland, Oregon. Adam and his wife practice family law, estate planning, litigation, divorce and child custody issues. After tackling the hurdles that come with starting up a law firm they have been able to grow their practice and enjoy all the perks that come with being their own boss. We interviewed Adam to learn about the obstacles he faced when he started his practice, and how he’s been able to grow his business.

adam brittleThe Motivation Behind Starting My Own Firm
The freedom to control my own schedule was the biggest motivating factor. I started off solo and after four months my wife joined the practice. We wanted to be able to control where and when we wanted to practice, as well as what areas of law. Rather that trying to find a firm that fit both our needs, we decided to go out on our own.

Challenges with Starting a Business
The most challenging part of starting a business is figuring out how you’re going to get started. How do you find clients? How do you pay the bills when you don’t have clients yet? Whether you make it or not is dependant on whether you have savings and clients in the beginning that you can take with you to rely on paying the bills.

Advice For Anyone Starting a Law Firm
The advice I would give to anyone starting out is that you need to recognize that you won’t start out of the gate with 100 clients (unless you already have them in your portfolio to work with). When starting fresh, it’s important to minimize all costs. Bring your practice down to the bare necessities. This is made a whole lot easier with today’s virtual capabilities including voice over IP phones, digital fax machines, and virtual office sharing arrangements. You don’t need to rent a $5000 a month building space and buy furniture in the beginning. You can start off inexpensively with nothing but an office room, a phone line, and a laptop.

Finding The Right Tool To Manage My Business
When I started the practice I had been programming my own web-based system in PHP. I was really getting somewhere but found that all my time was spent in developing and not enough time went into practicing law. I enjoyed the project of programming the system but wanted to look around for an alternative solution to fill the gap. That’s when I found Daylite. I started using it and quickly realized that it did everything I wanted my app to do, so I thought “Perfect, I’ll just use this!”

Requirements for The Right Tool
I always had 5 key requirements that I needed a solution to be able to do:

1. Manage Contacts

2. Handle Projects (Matters)

3. Manage Tasks (To Dos)

4. Manage Notes

5. Manage Calendars

These were the things I needed my own programmed solution to be able to do and I compared a lot of other solutions to Daylite but found that Daylite was the only solution that had the granulated level linking capability. With Daylite, I can take any calendar event and link it to a contact and link it all to a single matter. This makes it very easy for us to pull up a single matter and see everything associated with it (all the emails, notes from a phone call, upcoming tasks, and upcoming court dates). It also allows me to filter for what I’m looking for. I can pull up a case and see what upcoming court dates I have by filtering by appointments and court dates specifically. Right away I can see that I have appointments 3 months from now, which makes it very easy to sift through that data and also easy for our team members to digest what’s going on in any case they haven’t been involved in.

Sharing Information as a Team
I am a managing partner and we have other associates so I don’t have my hand in every single case. I may get a call about another case and with Daylite I can pull up that case and see everything happening with it. I can see all the related emails and upcoming court dates. Without Daylite, I would have to pull up the file and shuffle through people’s handwritten notes and try to piece together an idea of what’s going on. Daylite provides a consistent and easy way to be brought up to speed on a case without leaving my desk. I can take a phone call with someone I’ve never spoken to before and while taking, bring myself up to date without putting them on hold. This definitely helps the cohesiveness of information between our attorneys.

adam and jill brittle

Better Organization, Better Customer Service
Our overall organization has gotten better with Daylite and this creates a better client experience. I can quickly pull up a case file and also quickly filter though cases that haven’t been addressed or clients that haven’t been contacted and then create a task for myself. We use Daylite in a biweekly status check meeting to go through each open matter (Project) and add what is necessary to move it forward. This way we always make sure no files are slipping between the cracks. We have an active reminder system now with Daylite, rather than the standard paper files which just sit there.

Working from an iPad in Court
With Daylite on my iPad, I can bring it with me to court and easily schedule court dates. If the court throws out a date, I can easily check if I am available. It’s also nice to have a list of clients on my iPad so that way if a client is running late I can pull them up on my iPad and give them a call from the court house.

Improvements In Daylite 5
With the introduction of Daylite 5, I feel like Daylite has gotten much faster. I know for sure that the database optimization has reduced the size of our database to 10% of what it was, which makes things substantially faster. I really like the Timeline view in Daylite 5 as well. I can click on a matter and see all the history and events in a timeline marker, which visually gives me a good indicator of what’s been done and how old the case is. The overall usability is better and faster. It looks more refined and is more responsive. The addition of the search bar to look through everything is wonderful. I use the search at least 50 times a day. I can pull up a case number easily just from knowing the county it is in and type in the first 3 letters of the last name. I can find information much faster, but the real power behind Daylite is the linking capability. The ability to dive in and see everything related to a person- the cases related and everything associated with the case allows me to do internal research very quickly.

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