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    July 13th, 2010

    ♬ Your a mean one, Mr. Grinch
    You really are a heel
    Your as cuddly as a cactus
    Your as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch…♬

    Lyrics by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, music by Albert Hague, performed by Thurl Ravenscroft.

    Mr. Grinch by Dr. Seuss

    Mr. Grinch by Dr. Seuss

    Anyone who runs a business knows that it is profitable only if you have funds left over after paying all the bills. This enforces a common-sense mentality in ensuring that your costs don’t get out of control. However, in some offices the principle of saving money is taken to such an extreme that their frugality is actually costing them money. Here are some examples (drawn from the collective experiences of my fellow Practice Management Advisors and myself):

  • A firm was looking for a technician to fix their computer system as it ‘was always crashing’. On inquiry, it is revealed that they were limping along with 10 year old computers.
  • A lawyer wanted his home-grown Excel-based accounting ‘system’ audited to ensure that it met all accounting standards (perhaps he should have gone into accounting rather than practice law?)
  • A lawyer lost all his documents due to a hard-drive crash. He had no backup system (such as a $250 external USB Hard Drive backup).
  • The lawyer who didn’t put names on the file folders so they can be re-used more easily (old file contents get dumped in the pile “over there”). While his assistant sometimes got confused on whether the phone numbers written on the file folders related to this file or one of the earlier ones, he assured us that “he always knew”.
  • The lawyer who only bought file cabinets for closed files as he liked to: “keep the rest handy.” [He had a minimum of 7 piles on the desk and floor: (1) To Do today; (2) To Do earlier this week or so that he didn't get to; (3) Waiting to hear from someone; (4) Thinking about what to do next; (5) Might be ready to close but he needs to check; (6) Ready to close but no room in that file cabinet and, (7) To be sorted in the right pile.].
  • Another lawyer who was the companion in spirit to the fellow noted above. His partner retired 8 years ago and his ex-partner’s files were still sitting in a pile in the hallway waiting for the time to get to them.
  • The law firm that was hit with paying civil penalties as a result of using pirated software.
  • In other cases, there are examples of lawyers putting time into tasks that were much better being delegated to someone else – thereby allowing the lawyer to free-up time to be put into either working on client files or marketing his practice to catch more or better clients. This is a lost-opportunity cost: You are failing to make best use of the time given to you in order not to ‘spend money.’

    Other cases have lawyers in the office after-hours, doing tasks that could be done by others (i.e. by an office administrator). The consequences of this time use range from: bad health (which can result from failing to invest time into getting and staying fit – unfortunately no one has yet found a way to take $$ in the bank to buy back health) to disrupted family relationships (failed marriages and alienated children resulting from too much time in the office and too little time spent with kids and significant others) to the inability to enjoy retirement (either due to a life-long reluctance to spend money or due to not spending any time building hobbies or any other pleasurable activities other than practising law).

    Someone once said that time = money. We can spend time in making money or we can spent time in saving money. Each of us need to find a reasonable balance between how we use the limited (and fixed amount) of time given to us on the twin tasks of producing work and on saving expenses. Hopefully we can recognize that not spending money can in some cases, result in lost time – and the indirect cost of spending too much time being frugal is being a grinch and letting our lives slip away between our fingers.

    (Hat tip to my fellow PMA’s for their assistance in this article).

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 at 7:50 am and is filed under Budgeting, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    One Response to “Can One be Too Frugal?”
    1. Jody Choate Says:

      excellent writing .

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