Growing your law firm from small or mid-sized to a larger firm requires careful planning and strategizing. If you started your firm as a solo attorney, you may already have completed some of these exercises, but now it’s time to think bigger about law firm growth.
Each firm will find a unique path forward to success, but these important steps will help ease your law firm’s growing pains.
Develop a Growth Strategy
Before you take any steps forward, create a clear growth plan that outlines your law firm’s growth goals for the next year, five years, 10 years and beyond, as well as the related resources. Because they’re so busy with the daily work of practicing law, many firms don’t take time to strategize. But this plan sets the foundation for your business decisions should be made; without guiding principles or goals, strategic growth is nearly impossible.
Include a detailed, projected organizational chart while developing your strategy. This document forecasts each department’s development and expansion, as well as the number of projected employees in each. Correlate each stage of law firm growth with the necessary resources and budget.
Build a Successful Culture
Before adding new staff, establish a positive, focused, supportive work culture for existing employees that reflects your firm’s values. A written firm 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 law firm employees most often report as lacking in their employment. Regularly reevaluate your culture and adjust your policies and processes at every stage of your law firm growth to continuously support a business that works for everyone.
Bring Business Skills and Tools to the Table
Because lawyers are not typically trained as businesspeople, formal training and development will also help your growing firm as a business. Look to legal continuing education programs, as well as formal business management courses for your partners and senior attorneys.
Naturally, 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, it also churns out valuable metrics that inform your growth. Unless your valuable hours are accurately recorded and billed, your growth will be stymied.
- Task management: As your firm grows, automating workflow and assigning tasks to appropriate staff ensures your firm can build 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.
Rely on your growth strategy to determine which positions to fill and in what order so hiring is balanced across your organizational chart. Seek people who not only are immediately qualified for your open 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 board. 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, as well as training and policy implementation, including 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 make a plan to support them as you grow, including:
Develop New Clients
With your existing clients securely in place, it’s time to attract new ones. Apply metrics captured by your legal practices management software to calculate the percent of leads who make appointments, appear for appointments and sign with your firm. Then, isolate your most effective leads and demographics to more effectively target your marketing.
Identify the types of new clients your firm wishes to attract to feed your growth strategy. Many firms focus on increasing the number of overall clients, but don’t overlook a strategy that concentrates on fewer clients with bigger projects to scale growth.
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. Engage 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 segment.
With a law firm growth plan, the right hires and implementation of efficient tech tools and processes, your firm can expand and realize profit for many years to come.