“When I first started out, I was the secretary, cleaned the bathroom and was the runner,” she says.
Now she owns the building that houses her office near the state and federal courthouses in Lubbock, has a full-time nonlawyer employee and rents an office in her building to another criminal-defense lawyer.
In the spring, she’ll teach a class on law office management as an adjunct professor at Texas Tech University School of Law.
“I’ve been told a majority of the students [who take the course] want to be solo practitioners,” she says. “I’m going to try to give them practical insight into what happens here.”
That practical insight includes talking about where to locate an office, time management techniques, incorporating a firm, selecting software for billing and credit card use, hiring employees, and offering employee benefits such as medical coverage and paid vacation time.
Of course, an important question is how to get clients to come in the door, she says. Key notes that, when she started out, she participated in and networked at local and state bar association events.
“I was amazed at how many referrals I got from knowing people in those bar associations,” she says.
Key is still involved in some of her firm’s nonlegal tasks, such as using accounting software to manage firm finances, but she plans to hire a bookkeeper soon to handle the accounts.
“Another thing I hope to get across to the students is that, as a lawyer, my time is worth money,” she says. “If I can pay somebody else to do some of this office stuff, it is usually worth it, because my time is valuable. At least these days it is.”
— Jeanne Graham