The fundamentals of success in legal and other industries are the same – high-quality offerings and a commitment to business development. However, the intricacies of law firm growth are a complex balance of efficient and thoughtful counsel, dynamic technological advancements, and aggressive expansion.
Without attending to each facet, new legal firms will get out-muscled and overpowered in a no-prisoners field of competition.
Let’s take a deeper look at what law practices need to do to achieve success.
1) Love the Law
Law is not a career where you can skate through without having an ingrained love for the profession. While this may be a more nature rather than nurture characteristic, a lawyer cannot hope to succeed without passion.
Having a love for the law is what whets the appetite for research, compels attorneys to work overtime, and imbues the confidence to grow into uncharted territories. Passion helps lawyers discover prodigious legal recruits, pioneering small law firm software and old case law for precedent.
Love for the law is what empowers attorneys to strive for excellence above all else.
2) Start with One Niche and Build from There
Starting out as a legal practice poses a challenge of where the focus should lie. Smaller firms love to take on every client to grow quickly but they cannot be all things to all people. The best advice is to focus on the area of expertise and when expansion becomes undeniable, shift into related areas.
For example, starting out by becoming an authority in corporate law can eventually Segway to bankruptcy, tax, labor, or IP law. However, focusing on all of these areas weakens the opportunity to become a recognized authority in any.
3) Offer Impeccable Customer Service
Being a legal expert is only half of the role for any lawyer, the other half is customer service. The problem with growing as a law firm is that despite having expensive degrees and ABA membership adorning the walls, clients rarely see visible expertise. They see a person they are asking for help in times of intensity.
Take the time to understand their needs. Respond efficiently and thoughtfully. Keep clients consistently updated on the progress and show them their value to the firm.
Treating everyone with respect has consequences as each client is a reference.
4) Be Efficient
New firms operate in a price-sensitive market. While big law is rewarded by corporations and government contracts for inefficiency, it can be the demise of small firms. Clients will jump ship if they feel they are being overcharged or experience slow response rates.
Furthermore, inefficiency stands in the way of growth. Many growing firms forego significant amounts of billable hours to doing outsourceable non-billable work. Shedding tasks to new hires frees up money-making time. Efficiency should be prioritized by any growing firm.
5) Plan a Financial Future
Hand in hand with efficiency is financial planning. Optimized and tracked in-house practices help save and earn money but a plan is required for growth. Many firms fail because of poor budgeting and little capital reserves.
Create a plan that incorporates a financial injection. Most often the options come down to growth by sales or financing. The former is a slow burn but allows the building of reputation while early capital investment allows greater growth prospects early. Either way, planning, tracking, and strategizing for the future is essential.
6) Do Not Neglect Business Development
One of the few common mistakes legal firms are guilty of is overlooking business development. Having a burning passion for the law is a huge asset but does not guarantee increasing client lists.
Dedicating time to building a business is crucial and relying on word of mouth is not enough. Procuring sales may not be desirable but ultimately it accounts for growth. Leverage clients for visible online reviews and references but go further. Create and align branding that is synonymous with quality. Set meetings with prospective clients and attend networking events.
7) Keep Flawless Accessible Records
Keeping records is essential to growing firms and extends from finances to case files.
From a financial perspective, small firms always need to know where they stand. Careful records inform stakeholders whether they can make investments when the time arises but more importantly, they are required when applying for loans or financing. In addition, clear records ease the friction of client payments that new firms experience.
For filing, creating intuitive, agreed-upon systems. There is nothing more painful than fumbling through disorganized records and files to find critical information.
8) Hire Early, Diverse, and Hire Smart
Recruitment is a funny business for new law firms. For small start-up practices, the first hire will often be administrative to enable task shedding. The priority should always be to free up billable-hours and business development time.
After a period of growth, hiring smart and diverse legal professionals is the future. The idea isn’t to satisfy a quota, it is to expand perspectives. A diverse team has a broader range of experience and aligns relatedly with society.
9) Build a Network
Building a network is a crucial part of the sales strategy but the benefits extend way further. Every so often a case will come along where a co-counsel is required. By building partnerships, firms strengthen their standing in the legal community while also opens the door to repaying the favor.
10) Move with the Times
Law has long been a major resistor of technological infusion and general change. However, with Covid-19 forcing digital offices upon us, technology is nigh. Every day the ABA approves ground-breaking big and small law firm software accelerating the capabilities. Any firm looking to remain competitive has no choice but to incorporate advances in their planning or risk being left behind. The earliest adopters always get the cream.
Running any start-up, even a legal practice, risks failure but it is the underscoring passion that drives the pursuit. When this love of the law is aided and abetted by diligent, customer-centric practices, willing technological adoption, and intuitive time management, success is rarely far behind.
Legal law concept -DepositPhotos