As a law firm owner, you have to balance practicing the law and running the business behind the firm. This can be a challenge, but it’s easier knowing what elements go into each side.
Law school prepares you for the practice of law. Discover what else is required to build a firm that provides outstanding client experiences, tracks to goals, and is a great place to work by following these tips.
Define Your Firm’s Focus and Goals
You can’t determine if you’re getting where you want without naming that destination upfront. Along with defining your firm’s mission, vision, and values, you must set goals that excite the entire team.
Having a clear vision before you start your own law firm makes it possible to create smaller goals that break down into weekly and daily tasks.
To refine your firm focus and objectives, start by brainstorming around these three questions:
- Who will we serve?
- Where will we play?
- How will we win?
If you’re new to setting strategy, an essential law firm management book to read is Playing to Win. It’s a soup-to-nuts approach for establishing your focus and targets as a business owner.
When you know your practice areas, how you’ll reach ideal clients in those practice areas, and the unique value proposition of your law firm, you stand a much better chance of hitting your milestones.
Having a general idea of these concepts also sets you up to write a clear business plan.
Create a Business Plan
Running a law firm requires a plan and roadmap. Your law firm business plan outlines your focus, goals, and strategy. The business plan also sets up the foundation of your marketing plan.
If you’re looking for a way to craft your law firm with strategic operations in mind, check out the book Traction by Gino Wickman. It’s an excellent resource you can use to build a team and stay on track with the goals you name in your business plan.
Here’s a brief overview of what goes into a business plan for a law firm:
- Executive summary
- Description of the firm
- Analysis of the local legal market
- Details on firm management and organization
- Service details
- Your marketing plan
- Your financial plan
- Your launch budget
Prioritize Client Service
Research shows that 80% of consumers believe the experience provided by a company is just as important as the services or products it provides. Your prospective clients have a choice about who they work with, and prioritizing your client’s needs is the best way to grow your firm.
The more you focus on the experience you give to your clients, the higher the chances they’ll make referrals, leave reviews, and give you opportunities to expand your practice. The social proof generated by someone who had a good experience can pay off in spades.
With everything you do in your firm, ask the question, “How does this benefit clients?” From setting rates for legal services to communication guidelines, your clients should be front and center of every experience you create.
Here are a few ways to manage your law firm with client experience in mind:
- Build relationships with new clients intentionally
- Maintain relationships with former clients by staying in touch
- Review reviews and feedback to make changes as needed
- Keep communication, results, and responsiveness top of mind
Get the Right People in the Right Seats
To create a great place to work, you need to set some goals around work culture. Workers should feel excited, engaged, and hopeful about the work culture you’re building together.
Mentoring and developing associates and staff, as well as being open to getting feedback from your team, is the best way to tell if your work culture is strong.
Even for a small company like a law firm, it can cost thousands of dollars to replace an employee who gets fired or quits. Getting the right people in the right seats is vital for ongoing firm success, but also in reducing the amount of time and money you spend on turnover issues.
A thriving law firm comprises support staff and attorneys in positions that capitalize on each person’s strengths.
To grow your firm, you need other staff members to take over tasks. Knowing how and when to delegate are vital skills for any lawyer. But it all starts with hiring the right person. Beyond attracting the right people to work at your firm, you also need to think about how you’ll engage and keep that person on board with the team.
Do I Need a Law Office Manager?
One of the first major hires you might consider as a law firm owner is whether or not you need someone in an administrative or management role.
It might be time to hire a law office manager if you’re spending hours each week working on things like:
- Client intake
- Answering the phones or responding to general emails
- Ordering supplies or handling other admin
- Posting job ads and screening applicants
An office manager frees up your time so you can work on the two most important aspects of running a law firm: serving clients and business development.
As your firm grows, you need to evolve into the role of firm leader rather than the doer of all tasks. If a law office manager could save you hours each week, it’s time to take those items off your to-do list.
Set KPIs to Stay On Top of Your Business
How do you know you’re hitting the targets you set up in your business plan and marketing plan?
By determining key performance indicators and regularly checking in on them.
Keeping track of your KPIs gives you a pulse on your firm’s performance so that you can pivot and make adjustments as needed.
KPIs are things that move the needle in your business and are not just vanity metrics. For example, setting a KPI around the number of followers on Facebook is meaningless to track unless you’re actively getting clients when you add new followers.
Instead, be intentional about what you track. This keeps you and your employees accountable while also avoiding KPI overwhelm.
Here are some example KPIs to evaluate for your law firm as a starting point:
- New client intake calls per month
- Number of website visits per month
- Average call-to-conversion ratio for prospective clients
- Number of new leads received vs. ad spend for those leads
- How many people complete forms on your website each month
Invest in Technology and Innovation
Investing in the right tools can save your law firm time and money while also making you more efficient each day.
You can always add more law firm tools as you grow but focus on the basics first. Taking on too many bells and whistles just overcomplicates things, especially if your staff has to spend extra time on a learning curve for complex software.
At a base level, you’ll need at least one tool for each of the following:
- Internal communication
- External communication
- Project management or practice management
- Document management and/or automation
- Client intake
- Legal citations and research
- Discovery tools
- Contact management, such as a law firm CRM
These are the minimum tools a law firm needs to keep on top of deadlines, client service, and ongoing tasks.
Overall, your technology should help you, not hurt you. If something isn’t streamlining workflows and improving efficiency, re-evaluate whether you need it in the first place. Come back to your technology once or twice a year to ensure you’re keeping up to date with advancements and that your tools are working.
Develop Standard Operating Procedures
Much like with tools, standard operating procedures (SOPs) produce more consistent work from one case to the next and make your firm more efficient. This also makes it simpler to train new staff members and avoid costly mistakes, which is key for reducing risks across the board.
With clear policies and procedures, you’ll improve the work experience for all of your staff and make clients happy, too.
As your firm grows, keep track of typical processes that repeat. For example, each new prospective client should undergo the same intake procedure with multiple touchpoints. You can get as detailed as you want with operating procedures. Create documents and workflows that show how each thing is done.
Whenever you can, automate part of that process. If you just wrapped up a case, you could set up an automation that sends a link to your Google My Business profile in a canned email asking for a review.
Even within your software, you can establish standard procedures around goals. Perhaps you want each case to be reviewed weekly, so you can train your staff to review and leave notes in your practice management or case management tool. This decreases the chances that someone drops the ball and misses a deadline or leaves a client hanging.
Emphasize Continual Professional Development
It’s not enough to build systems and processes that make things easier for you now. You must also stay on top of legal industry changes beyond your required annual continuing ed courses.
Make a plan for your professional development and support your team members on topics like leadership, communication, project management, and more.
As a law firm owner, you can’t afford to ignore opportunities to stay sharp with your own business acumen and leadership skills. You’re managing a team, so make sure you know what it takes to attract, support, and grow with your law firm staff. What it means to run a business evolves quickly, and you need to know that you’re always at the top of your game.
From attending workshops to following top blogs or even downloading books every lawyer should read, it’s easy to stay on top of what’s trending in a way that works for you.
Here’s a shortlist of some excellent books for lawyers to check out:
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
- E-Myth Attorney by Michael Gerber
- Building a Client-Centered Law Firm by Jack Newton
Draft a Clear Marketing Strategy
Law firm marketing is essential if you want to attract and convert the right clients. Marketing communicates who you are and who you help in the channels where your clients spend time.
With law firm marketing, your goal is to help clients travel down a marketing funnel. At the top of the funnel, those clients may not fully understand their legal issues, and they don’t know who you are. As they learn more about you and their legal concerns, you’re building trust with that person.
Over time, the prospective client travels down to the middle or the bottom of the funnel, where they’re more prepared to decide. In your marketing plan, you lay out how you’ll reach these people and move them through the funnel by naming specific channels and tactics.
There are many ways that lawyers can market their law firm services, including:
- Traditional advertising
- Digital advertising like PPC ads or Facebook ads
- Content marketing or search engine optimization (SEO)
- Business development and networking
One of the biggest reasons that many law firms get confused by marketing is that they’re not sure where to start. Feeling pulled in too many directions can dilute your marketing results.
Plenty of leading law firms resolve this issue by hiring a trusted marketing partner who can help them identify and then execute marketing initiatives.
Get Support Executing in Your Firm
There’s a lot to look at and make decisions about when managing a small law firm. But the good news is this: you’re not in it alone.
You can partner with others to help execute and fine-tune each aspect of your operations. From hiring a law office manager to handle the admin to finding a qualified legal marketing partner to implement campaigns for you, you can leverage your own time effectively.
If you’re ready to make your marketing come alive, contact Rankings.io to create a winning SEO strategy to put your firm on the map.
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