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How to think bigger about law firm growth

by Smokeball 

Growing your law firm requires careful planning and strategizing. If you started your firm as a solo practitioner, you may already have completed some of these exercises, but now it’s time to think bigger about growth. 

Each firm will find a unique path forward to success, but these steps will help ease your law firm’s growing pains. 

Develop a growth strategy 
Before you take any steps forward, create a clear plan that outlines your law firm’s goals for the next one, five, and 10 years, as well as the resources needed to implement those changes. Because they’re so busy with the daily work of practicing law, many firms don’t take time to strategize for the future. But a plan that features guiding principles and goals sets the foundation for how your business decisions should be made; without it, strategic growth is nearly impossible. 

Include a detailed organizational chart while forming your strategy. This document forecasts each department’s development and expansion, as well as the number of projected employees needed for it. Correlate each stage of law firm growth with the necessary resources and budget. 

Build a successful culture
Before adding new staff, establish a positive, supportive work culture for existing employees that reflects your firm’s values. A written mission statement is an important first step. Then lay the groundwork for a culture that engenders pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm. Focus on work-life balance and workplace equality, the two issues employees most often report as lacking. Make sure to regularly reevaluate your culture and adjust your policies and processes at every stage of your firm’s growth to support a business that works for everyone. 

Bring business skills and tools to the table 
Because lawyers are not typically trained as businesspeople, formal learning and development will also help your firm grow as a business. Look to continuing legal education programs, as well as formal business management courses for your partners and senior lawyers. 

To be most effective, this business acumen must be paired with the technology and tools to run your firm like a business. These include: 

  • Time tracking and billing: Adopting a system that records every action taken within your software not only reduces time spent on manual billing and time tracking, but also churns out valuable metrics that inform your growth. Unless your hours are accurately recorded and billed, your progress will be stymied. 
  • Task management: As your firm grows, automating workflows and assigning tasks to appropriate staff ensures your firm can improve efficiency. Streamlined collaboration leverages employees’ skills and improves performance across the board. Delegation becomes not only easy, but second nature, when tasks, deadlines, and reminders are mechanized. 

Hire strategically
Rely on your growth strategy to determine which positions to fill so hiring is balanced across your organization. Seek people who are not only qualified for your positions, but those who want to advance within your firm. 

If you don’t already employ non-legal staff, start with an office manager who coordinates and implements your strategy across the firm. You also need human resources support via an internal HR position or an outsourced contract position. HR handles office conflicts, disciplinary proceedings, compliance, insurance, and policies covering discrimination, diversity, and harassment. A good HR team will also provide employee training and implement your firm’s policies, including creating an employee handbook. 

Focus on existing clients
Client retention is crucial to law firm growth — otherwise your firm will constantly be focused on replacing them. Identify your most profitable cases and clients, evaluate their needs, and plan to support them as you grow. This may include:  

  • Providing consistent communication with clients 
  • Offering convenient online payment options and administrative processes 
  • Keeping a friendly, hospitable in-person experience 

Develop new clients
With your existing clients securely in place, it’s time to attract new ones. Apply metrics captured by your legal practice’s management software to calculate the percentage of leads who make appointments, appear for appointments, and sign with your firm. Then, isolate your most effective demographics to make your marketing more targeted and effective.  

Identify the types of new clients your firm wishes to attract to focus your growth. Many firms focus on increasing the number of overall clients, but don’t overlook a strategy that concentrates on fewer clients with bigger projects. 

Utilize marketing and branding 
Once your firm has identified your ideal marketing segments, focus on the features that make your firm unique, including your services and reputation. Use those characteristics as a springboard for your marketing program. Hire professional marketing and branding assistance to build an effective website, digital marketing, social media, SEO, and content marketing. While these services come at a price, they also give your firm a professional polish, helping you generate more leads and firmly establish your firm’s long-term market success.  

With a clear growth plan, the right hires, and the implementation of efficient technological tools and processes, your law firm can expand and profit for many years to come. 

Through The Missouri Bar, Missouri lawyers receive a 10% discount from Smokeball in the member benefits program. The Missouri Bar also has resources available for members interested in building their practice. Members also have no-cost access to the experts at Affinity Consulting through email or unlimited 30-minute virtual visits. Reprinted with permission of Smokeball. Originally published here