Today more than ever, managing a law firm can be challenging. Amidst our rapidly changing legal landscape, good practice management requires a growth mindset and the ability to juggle many moving pieces (like marketing, client relations, and office management)—but it doesn’t have to be hard, or take too much time away from practicing law.
By implementing practice management systems, you can set your law firm up for success. The following tips can help you better manage your legal practice—under any circumstances.
1. Create a law firm business plan
A formal law firm business plan is essential. Your plan should clearly outline your goals, financial plans, and law firm budget, as well as how your firm differs from the competition, and how you plan to market that difference. (Note: If building a business plan isn’t your strength, ask someone with financial or marketing expertise for help.)
Compensation should also factor in. Whether it’s determining partner and associate compensation structures or whether you’re a solo lawyer, consider how you’ll pay yourself and others at your firm.
2. Create a law office procedures manual
Consistency and efficiency are key to successful legal practice management. Creating (or updating) your manual can communicate how things should be done, standardize procedures, and create a more productive workday for everyone.
The manual could include:
- Client intake procedures
- Billing processes
- Filing and matter numbering conventions
- Best practices for time tracking and productivity
- Your collections process
- Systems for running a paperless law firm
When creating your office manual, enlist staff to leverage their expertise. For example, your receptionist may have good ideas about your new client intake process, while your accounting department will be experts on your collections process.
Remember that—when it comes to law firm processes—the simpler, the better. Look for ways to use technology to make your processes more efficient. Clio Manage’s legal practice management software, for example, streamlines law office procedures by automating tasks, minimizing paperwork, and reducing redundancies.
3. Invest in law firm marketing and branding
Law firm marketing is essential to managing a legal practice. Your brand plays a big part in determining how you stand out to clients from the competition (You can learn about how to create an effective law firm brand from expert Katy Goshtasbi.) The key is to know who you are, what makes your firm different, and what you offer to clients—and then communicate that as clearly as possible.
Don’t forget to measure your marketing efforts. If you don’t track your marketing, you could be pouring effort into channels that aren’t driving new clients for your firm. A client relationship management (CRM) tool like Clio Grow can help here.
4. Invest in developing your team
Your team is your firm’s future. While you should strive to hire the best lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants, and staff, that’s not enough to help your firm thrive in the long term—you also need to help them grow.
Setting your team up for success means planning for and investing in professional development. Try having regular 1:1 meetings with more senior firm members, providing funding for courses, or sending employees to conferences.
It also means actively supporting employee health and wellness. This can be difficult in a profession where burnout and anxiety are rampant. However, if you can combat these challenges while still offering professional development, you can attract top talent.
5. Know how your firm is performing
Knowing how your firm is performing ensures you stay on top of issues and opportunities for development. Then, you can take action to help your firm succeed.
While there are many possible approaches to tracking firm performance (for example, here’s how one lawyer tracks productivity at her firm), the secret is to keep tracking manageable. Decide on firm key performance indicators (KPIs) to track (such as revenue, billable hours, or new cases) and check them at regular intervals to stay accountable. Start small with tracking one or two KPIs, and grow from there.
Tools like Clio’s Law Firm Insights Dashboard can also help. The Dashboard presents key metrics for your firm at a glance—like billable hours, revenue, and collection rates—so you can more easily and regularly stay on top of your firm’s performance.
6. Set a high standard for client service
Client service is more important than ever before, with companies like Uber, Netflix, and Amazon raising client expectations in all industries—including legal.
To deliver a high level of client service, you need to be aware of your clients’ journey (i.e., the entirety of their legal experience), know what they want, and deliver that in a way that makes it effortless for them.
Don’t assume you know what clients want—talk to them. Ask questions, read between the lines, and get clear on their problems. Then, think outside of the box about how you can best solve them.
You can learn more about exceptional client service in The Client-Centered Law Firm, a bestselling book by legal industry expert and Clio CEO Jack Newton.
7. Be ready to lead your law firm through change
The legal industry is changing constantly, so not innovating is not an option. Change could look like rapid growth at your firm, or suddenly adapting to a virtual practice model due to a global pandemic, or something else entirely. Either way, as your firm’s leader, you must cultivate confidence and stay open and adaptable.
Seek expert help when you need it, and leverage technology to your firm’s advantage. As the industry evolves, turning to practice management technology can help your firm stay more efficient, competitive, and profitable—while making practice management simpler.