Attorneys squeezing savings

Michael W. Hoskins
January 7, 2009
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Economic Impact


Turning away from the traditional way he conducted legal research has saved Indianapolis attorney Steve Terrell about $400 a month.

Instead, he’s using an Indiana State Bar Association program that offers the same resources as a benefit of his yearly membership without having to pay any monthly fees.

That money-saving move can be thrown into the mix with discounts on office supplies and insurance, all ways that attorneys can help cut costs and save their pennies during tough economic times. Bar associations offer some ways to squeeze the most out of money spent and keep more for savings.

“When you’re talking about savings, it’s important to know what’s available out there,” Terrell said. “It’s amazing the wealth of information that’s out there you can tap into to save money.”

For example, Terrell says he’s more seriously looking at ending his subscription for a major legal research service because the ISBA’s Case Maker program continues to improve and offers those services at a lower expense. He knows of many other attorneys considering the same.

By only having to pay his annual dues, Terrell is able to get the same level of service from Case Maker that he currently gets for about $400 a month â?? something that wasn’t available a few years ago, he said.

Aside from using regular networking and bar association discounts, Terrell also uses the Internet to find deals through Listservs and other attorneys. When his printer recently died, he sent out an e-mail on a Listserv, looking for suggestions on good models. He’d recently switched to a Mac, and he tracked down a compatible printer through that e-mail that allowed him to find a great deal. That was on top of the couple hundred dollars he’d already saved after being told about a deal on Microsoft Office for Mac.

In the past, particularly during his time chairing the ISBA’s solo and small firm section, he’d learned about savings on legal education and insurance.

“You need to keep that in mind in your practice... that in tough times you want to be frugal but not cheap,” he said. “Make sure you’re getting the most for your dollar and not being cheap, because that doesn’t end up saving any money in the long run.”

The Indianapolis Bar Association â?? like most throughout the state â?? offers various tools to help attorneys save money. In financially difficult times, spokeswoman Sherri Massa said the most beneficial item might be discounted CLE, free videos each month, and the Lawyer Referral Service.

As health insurance premiums jump and the economy struggles, an increasing number of small business owners and individuals without job-based insurance are trying to find ways to save money on that coverage. Bar associations are one option where premiums can be cheaper and the benefits better than purchasing coverage on your own, since the association may have greater marketing clout with insurers.

The ISBA offers group and individual insurance for health, dental, life, home, and auto. About 1,000 individual attorneys and 81 law firms carry insurance through the agency, according to figures provided. Meanwhile, other bar associations are investigating the possibility of offering insurance in some way to members as a cost-saving option. The IBA has formed a committee to investigate offering insurance and other member benefits. That group â?? like the Evansville Bar Association â?? used to offer a health insurance plan but discontinued it and one isn’t currently offered.

Current ISBA president Bill Jonas said he’d gotten auto and home insurance through the bar association’s agency, the Indiana Insurance Agency. He saved about 20 percent after making the switch about three years ago, Jonas said.

“We can all see from the activities in large firms, that it’s no stretch of imagination that smaller firms and solo practitioners are looking at individual practices and situations to improve bottom lines,” he said. “We can all look at the littlest things for some fairly significant savings.”

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