10 big firm principles to support your small law firm

Use these time-honored tactics to help you grow your small law firm based on strategic planning goals used by big-box law firms.

Just because your firm is small, doesn’t mean you can’t strategize operationally the way that big business law firms do. When you’re equipped with the right tools, you can set your firm up for unprecedented success.

In this case, when we say small, we mean profit. Many attorneys are great at litigation and their duties on the legal side of things, but when it comes to the business of law, there is much to be desired. As you move toward mastering the business side of things, take into account these three foundational strategic tenets for large firms:

Revenue: as your top priority, you should always be tracking, building, and improving the way that this area of your firm is operating in order to create room for growth.

Profitability: as your next priority, you should be asking yourself questions like if you’re using the right pricing model, alternative fee arrangements, or using hourly rates, for your firm to see growth.

Talent acquisition & retention: sustainable growth for your firm is dependent upon the people you employ to support it, are you creating an environment where staff wants to stay—or do you have a revolving door.

Now, understanding those foundational points in your firm’s strategic plan, prioritize these strategies as you seek more opportunities for growth:

#1: Perfect the lead generation process

When you don’t have someone fully dedicated to developing your marketing plan, your process of client acquisition could be severely lacking. Details like how quickly your web page loads when a prospect visits, or how well your branding reflects your pricing can make a major impact on your bottom line. Spend more time, resources, and research on developing, reaching, and maintaining your connection with your target audience. Also, identify places where you can tap into niche areas of practice and provisions to your client base.

Lead generation for law firms, especially as it relates to digital marketing, requires skills like optimizing your web pages for conversions and creating campaigns that contain lead magnets. Invest in hiring talent that has honed lead generation skills as well as experience in growing legal firms.

#2: Spend more time honing the client experience

Typically, law firms receive constant inquiries about their services from prospecting clients. However, the true gift is being able to convert these prospects increasingly and consistently into actual billable clients. A survey by the American Bar Association showed 57% of respondents faced a legal problem in the past two years, and either ignored the issue or dealt with it themselves outside of the legal system. Further, 68% of respondents spoke with, and 58% had a formal consultation with, a lawyer they chose not to hire. This means that somewhere along the line, these conversations are deterring clients, rather than attracting them.

Take the time to enter different law firms as a prospective customer and to notice the correlation between their fees and the atmosphere they provide for their clients. From the moment a prospect comes into contact with your brand, you should be making an impactful impression that will help them ultimately choose you to support them with their legal needs.

#3: Automate and optimize your case management workflow

In the departments where your firm can allow technology to do most of the work, please do! Investing in software that supports legal workflow automation can be major for firms looking to see scalable growth. Employing automation to handle tasks like calendaring and client management can give you more availability to focus on client acquisition.

Automation is best used for those high volume, low-touch legal tasks that clients can pretty much handle self-service. Implementing automation can also help in identifying bottlenecks in your workflows—both improving efficiency and your profit margin.

Choosing automation software can be another strategic process within itself. Depending on your current budget, with some workflows, you can enact automation using the tools you have available. Whatever you choose—your client intake, eFiling, document management, and other pertinent processes will truly be transformed by the performance power these tools offer.

#4: Include sustainability in your strategic plan

Sustainability can easily fall out of view, but keep it in sight by positioning your firm to be an ecosystem that creates exponentially more than it consumes. In today’s legal world, strategy in sustainability is about investing in the right tools that will create and maintain growth and deliver flawless support. Include tactics like event sponsorships that get you closer to your target audience or taking the time to create a map of your processes to develop more efficiency.

A survey by the Law Firm Sustainability Network reported that the majority of law firms, said they have seen positive effects from their sustainability practices. Some 74% said having these programs increased employee morale—22% said that they had seen a positive effect on revenue after implementing sustainability projects.

#5: Don’t skip the metrics

Measuring data such as the number of walk-ins during the week, or how many potential clients contacted you via e-mail can help you bring in more paying clients.  You should be consistently measuring data points that help you assess the longevity of your firm. Even if you hire someone else to handle this area of your firm, there are KPIs (key performance indicators) you’ll need to gauge the success of their strategy and execution of your plan.

Being able to see your growth in numbers and implementing strategies to positively affect those figures is how a business-minded attorney sees the metrics. Identifying and monitoring KPIs contribute to significant improvement in managing the performance of your firm.

#6: Train future leaders within your firm

Leadership sets the tone for how things will be handled, based on experience, expertise, and overall understanding of how the firm should be run. Being an effective leader in a law firm means being able to lead by example and use training and mentoring as your go-to strategy in support staff and attorney professional development. Use annual reviews as a time to give feedback and hone leadership skills in your team that you can employ later.

Set an example in leadership that aspiring leaders can admire and incorporate into their style. Stay informed of the needs of your team by creating a follow-up process that opens the door to objective feedback that is useful and actionable.

#7: Hire that new employee before you need them

Instead of allowing a workflow to suffer from low-quality output, be proactive by hiring an employee to handle it before the demand gets out of hand. Sometimes, knowing exactly when to hire that new employee can be tricky, but it definitely should be well before you become overwhelmed. If your timeline for hiring a new employee is contingent upon your budget, hiring a contractor or temporary employee can help until you can produce more revenue to support the new position.

Your firm may not have the same profit margin or manpower as a big box firm, but it can certainly begin to compete. The bottom line is that big firms are making the investment in technology, time, and training necessary to perfect their operations. With a strategy supported by technology, your firm can be similarly empowered toward a higher level of service and financial growth.

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