If you run your own law firm or are thinking of starting one, you face a difficult task. Firm owners must simultaneously run a business and practice law.
Building a successful law firm takes several crucial factors. Getting these right improves your chances of overall success. It can also lead to a more balanced workload and less stress.
From business planning to marketing your firm, a lot goes into making your firm work. Here are the key elements to consider as you set out to grow.
Start with a Business Plan that Defines Your Vision
One of the most important components of starting any business is solid planning. Having a clear and thorough understanding of your goals and objectives goes a long way.
Law firms are not an exception.
Download your copy of our law firm business plan template here:
Your business plan breaks out the 30,000-foot view of your law firm. It includes necessary details like services, pricing, and how you'll market to potential clients.
Even if you're already running a law firm, you can still review your business plan to see if it fits with your vision.
Get a Grip on Financial Management
It's hard to implement the long-term vision for your law firm without a strong grip on finances from day one.
Of course, your financial plans and expenses may shift slightly as you grow. The best way to get to those growth goals is by staying in touch with your finances.
Build a comprehensive financial strategy as part of your law firm business plan.
Consider both your fixed expenses and variable expenses. Fixed expenses may include things such as software, staff pay, or office space. Variable expenses to account for include utilities, travel, marketing budgets and more.
Knowing these expenses can help you create your law firm's payment fees and structure. That will help set you up for profit and good cash flow.
Choose the Right Partners
Who you choose to work with at your law firm has a big impact on how quickly you can scale. It also impacts how you'll address challenges and successes along the way.
Setting clear roles and responsibilities for your law firm's leadership team is vital.
Selecting the wrong partners presents many problems for an attorney. It can lead to disagreements and a lack of traction toward law firm goals. It can even lead to legal issues like partnership disputes in the worst cases.
Each partner should be on the same page about the law firm's vision, mission, and values. All leaders should understand the value proposition, client service approach, and fee structures.
Spend time getting to know potential partners' vision for a thriving business and the best ways to manage a law firm. Finding common ground with someone with a good work ethic and a like-minded approach goes a long way.
Potential partners' approaches to having difficult conversations are equally important. Conflicts will arise no matter what. It's best to feel confident that you can bring up and discuss these concerns when it happens.
Hire the Right People
If you want to grow and scale your law firm, you can't do it alone. A work culture with the right people in the right seats allows you to focus on representing clients.
Employee turnover is very expensive and frustrating for a law firm. The loss of good employees and lawyers is a major issue in the legal industry. Employee turnover puts a strain on other workers by decreasing morale and productivity.
To hire the right people, you need to know a few things:
- What values the law firm stands for with clients and staff
- What personality traits and skills are required for the role at hand
- How you'll plan for diversity and inclusion
Business expert Pat Lencioni says that the best employees are hungry, humble, and smart. These ideal team players take pride in their own tasks but also contribute as members of the group.
Legal staff members, from administrators to paralegals and beyond, are in high demand. A work culture that fosters communication, growth, and achieving team goals makes your firm appealing to those people.
If you’re looking for tactics to find new hires, check out our list of the best law firm management books.
Develop Processes and Procedures
If you feel like you're on a hamster wheel, it could be that your law firm lacks clear processes and procedures.
Documenting workflows doesn't just relieve stress and give you some of your time back. It also creates consistency throughout the firm. It means the client intake experience is the same every time, and each case filing follows the same steps.
With standard processes documented, it's easier for everyone on the team to do their job more effectively. You'll be able to complete routine work and scale your team as you grow.
Here are some examples of standard processes a law firm might want to document:
- Handling incoming calls or Following up on completed "contact us" forms
- Gathering information from new clients
- Proofreading briefs and other paperwork before submission
Get everyone on the same page by keeping repeatable processes simple.
Invest in Culture and Professional Development
A lawyer should always invest in their own personal and professional growth. Your team needs that, too. If you want to retain staff, develop talent, and grow your bottom line, invest in the firm's culture and the development of all team members.
Professional development can show up in many different ways. The entire team could read a book or listen to the same podcast. Then meet together to discuss it. It can also take the form of individual efforts to learn new soft and hard skills on the job.
For example, you could start junior attorneys on your staff off with some books every lawyer should read.
Many employees want to grow in their roles. Making professional development a cornerstone of your law firm increases their loyalty to the firm, too.
Think of Yourself as a Business Owner, Not Just a Lawyer
Law school prepared you for the practice of law but maybe didn't give you enough (or any!) support for what it takes to win as a business owner. Most lead lawyers never even think of themselves as CEOs or entrepreneurs.
Instead of focusing on outward-looking issues like partners and employees, try focusing inward. How can you be a better lawyer and business owner?
You're also a manager and leader in your firm, and you are responsible for setting that tone.
A successful law firm owner also has:
- Financial literacy skills
- Management skills
- Team building skills
- A high level of self-awareness
- A willingness to invest in their own growth
As a law firm owner, it pays to know what's working for others in operations, management, hiring, finances, and client service. Set aside time to look at the best books for lawyers or top podcasts for lawyers so you're always on the cutting edge.
Focus on Client Service
Firms that focus on a great client experience have a greater chance of success than firms that do not.
One of the best sources of new business for your law firm comes through referrals and word of mouth. When you deliver a great experience to a current client, you can get more business. There's a higher chance they wil refer you to someone or write a great review on your Google Business Profile.
Not sure where to start? Here are three ways to improve client service in your firm:
- Use client-first language in your marketing copy, making the client the hero
- Make consultations and onboarding hassle-free using a CRM
- Stay in contact with your clients throughout their case
When your clients are front and center of the entire experience, you're more likely to build your business by drawing in new clients based on reviews, testimonials, and referrals.
Invest in Marketing Your Firm
Marketing your law firm is one of the fastest ways to scale the acquisition of new law firm clients. You need a marketing strategy and a marketing plan that reinforce your overall business plan.
There are many different components of a marketing plan. The factors may depend on your individual practice area, budget, and goals. One thing is certain, though, all law firms benefit from a website. Your website is the central place you'll drive traffic to and share information about your firm.
For a new law firm, advertising can kick-start the engine. It can help you lay the foundation while you move into more long-term sustainable channels and tactics like attorney SEO and social media.
If your firm is not new and you want to get more traction, SEO can be an effective first step. Knowing who to work with on marketing strategies is key since you need someone with experience and knowledge in the legal industry.
Utilize Technology Effectively
There are many different tools that can help attorneys cut time, effort, and waste in their law firms. Choosing the right set of legal technology tools can streamline operations and improve efficiency.
Some of the basic tools all lawyers may benefit from include:
It's easy to get overwhelmed by all of the technology options out there. It's important to recognize that not every tool is required for a successful law firm. You can start small and add others in the future as needed.
Choose the law firm tools that your business needs To get things done. Consider who will be using the tools so that you can select something user-friendly and helpful. It's also helpful to use tools with good customer support or onboarding so you can set them up for your firm.
Prepare Your Law Firm to Scale
As a lawyer, your best efforts to succeed are directed toward working with clients. You can't do everything on your own. You may spread yourself too thin by trying to take on everything it takes to run a successful law firm.
The expert law firm marketing team at Rankings.io can help you take the stress out of bringing in new clients. With a little help, you'll relieve your workload and capitalize on best practices. Contact us today to see how you can take your law firm marketing to the next level.