While law school did an excellent job teaching you substantive law, note that one thing it probably did not prepare you for is the issues and challenges associated with running a small law firm. You may know that law firm management is no simple task.
You are not only dealing with the changing and rising expectations of demanding clients, but you’re also handling the financial, administrative, and ethical demands of keeping your small law firm up and running. If you are concerned about how to best attract as well as retain clients, or often find yourself spending way too much time and resources on non-billable tasks, then you are not alone.
Let’s take a look at a couple of barriers and problems that stop transitioning law firms.
Problems that Small Law Firms Face
Little Market Knowledge
Note that once your small law office tries to compete with midsize and big law firms, keep in mind that you are competing with better resourced and more experienced law firms that fully understand the local market.
When it comes to small law firm management, the problem is that many lawyers usually target clients merely based on hunches, guts, intuition, and a cursory knowledge of what the market for their various legal services needs and wants.
And it is worth noting that failure to adequately research market dynamics while focusing on niche offerings can make it challenging to successfully transition from a small law firm to a midsize law firm.
Attracting Quality Clients
One of the biggest obstacles in running a small law firm is attracting and retaining quality clients in your specific practice area, such as personal injury law. You may be the best lawyer in the world, but you’ll go nowhere without clients. The good news is that the strategic and savvy use of the Internet can help level the playing field for small law firms.
The foundation of an excellent internet presence is a great website. Note that a great website will let your target audience and clients evaluate you based on case results, reviews, videos, and informative articles and posts that educate the public. And, your website must also be optimized so that you can rank on page one of Google and other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo.
If you aren’t on the first few pages of the search results, your law firm has little likelihood of being found. So, you also have to hire a great webmaster in order to optimize your website so that it stays on the top of SERPs for the key areas of your law practice.
Lack of Team Skills
If your small law firm wants to grow from small to a midsize firm, having a solid and efficient team is important to making the transition. Note that core team members comprise individuals who have specialized expertise and knowledge in sales, management and process development, and customer service.
Unfortunately, because most lawyers managing small law firms are so used to doing everything on their own, they tend to stumble when it is time to put together an excellent team that will help the law firm grow and expand. And usually, they wait until it is too late to create a larger and more skilled team.
How to Manage a Law Firm
There is no doubt that law firm growth requires adequate planning. Note that you will not become successful or grow by simple luck. A majority of clients do not simply walk through the door. So, you will have to establish concrete goals for your law firm and then develop a solid plan for reaching them.
Keep in mind that the most successful law offices have long-term plans for growth and clearly understand the significant challenges and issues that exist within a legal marketplace, which is constantly evolving and changing. Armed with a strategic plan for your law firm, you can easily prepare for possible obstacles and roadblocks, positioning your firm to deal effectively with fluctuations and changes in the industry.
Put Together a Professional Legal Team
Always keep in mind that your law firm is only as good as its people, and this is especially true for a small law practice. A law firm’s main assets are its talented people, as well as the services they render. And you would like to offload legal cases to junior associates who are talented and capable as your legal team grows. You can use Podium Teamchat to increase collaboration between your team members all from one inbox.
Also, having the ability to effectively pass legal cases to savvy and capable team members will allow your small firm to take on more work, and this will help increase revenue. So, do not make the mistake of overlooking the crucial task of carefully vetting all your team members.
Referrals are one of the best ways of finding talented team members. Referrals can come from your current team members or even via other reputable and experienced lawyers.
Effective and Visionary Leadership
There is no doubt that success starts at the top. So, effective leadership is essential to the growth of your firm. Every member of your law firm looks to leadership for direction and guidance on how to best conduct themselves when handling various office matters. Note that as a firm leader, you have to provide a positive example that your lower level attorneys, as well as other staff members, can follow. Whether speaking with clients or heading a staff meeting, firm leaders are often being watched and emulated.
Effective and competent leadership can help overcome problems, such as:
- High staff turnover rates
- Lack of direction
- Poor client relationships
Focus on Marketing
Once you have assembled your team of legal experts, you should concentrate on marketing. Note that having a competent team lined up does not mean much if no one knows about your law firm. So, having a strong and credible online presence nowadays is important for marketing success. A comprehensive and well-rounded marketing plan usually includes a web as well as social media presence, along with conventional marketing tools, such as television. With Podium Webchat, you can connect remotely with your website visitors.
This means that at least, you should have a well-optimized professional website. Your website should also be clear in what your law firm is offering. It should also be professionally designed and regularly updated with relevant and engaging information.
Keep in mind that an informative and updated website not only offers more value to your existing and prospective clients when they search you, but it also helps you rank considerably higher on search engines, such as Google, so your clients can easily find your small firm.
Invest in Software
By investing in law practice management software, you can streamline your daily operations and also manage all aspects of your small law firm, such as client and case records, appointments, documents, schedules, and deadlines, etc.
If you or your legal team is trying to manage all of these things manually or using several programs, having a comprehensive legal software solution can transform how your law firm operates. With everything in one software solution, your staff will know where to look for information without having to contact a coworker to send the file over.
Devise Office Management Policies
Note that this is one of the most effective ways to manage your law office, employees, and your work processes. You have to set and enforce policies that clearly define how you would like the work to be handled, what ethical standards you want to be followed in the office, as well as the efforts and results that you expect from your marketing, social media, billing, and other teams. Also, set clear policies for dealing with the clients, with suitable measures in place if someone breaches any of the policies.