Posted by Jay Kamlet on Mar 14, 2018
If you want your solo or small firm to join the ranks of successful law firms, consider these characteristics
Independent lawyers who run solo practices or small law firms might not want to operate in the world of “big law,” but they want to achieve success. Often that means success on their own terms and forging their own path – rather than doing things the traditional, big law way. Still, big or small, there are traits that all successful law firms share.
Some of these traits include:
Excellent client service tops the list for law firms of all sizes, but this element of success carries extra importance for small firms. Big firms can lose a client or two and not worry much about the effects. For a small firm, one unhappy client can have a ripple effect on your firm’s reputation and ability to attract new clients.
On the flip side, excellent client service can have a tremendous positive effect. Happy clients will refer friends, family and colleagues to your firm and help it grow in an organic way. Do not underestimate the power of that referral business: Make sure you have fans out there who are happy to talk about their positive experience with your firm.
In an interview with the American Bar Association, Catherine Sanders Reach of the Chicago Bar Association noted three behaviors that inhibit law firm growth:
“I have witnessed three common behaviors, namely: risk avoidance to the point of stagnation; focusing on profit to the detriment of investing in people, processes and improvements; and top-down management with little or no cross-firm input.”
“Risk avoidance to the point of stagnation” bears repeating. A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of articles on how risk avoidance hinders business growth. In law practice, we’re logical thinkers who can have a tendency to stick to precedent (right?).
In business, however, the biggest growth can often come from challenging the status quo. As a small firm owner, you can break the mold of what it means to manage a law firm. You don’t have to do things the way your old, big firm did. You don’t even have to do things the way you did them in your practice last year.
Take time to assess what’s working and what’s not. Have the courage to let go of what’s not working, whether that’s a particular software system or a practice area that no longer fits your firm’s mission. Focus your energy on what is working and find ways to grow that or add to it.
Big law firms run on a vast, built-in support structure of administrative staff, investment in technology, association memberships and much more. As an independent lawyer, you might not have the budget for staff or legacy software systems. However, you can develop a strong support structure.
How? Stay connected with fellow lawyers and business owners with whom you can exchange ideas and leads. In some cases, these relationships can even lead to collaboration on client work. Attend industry and business events. Meet new people and have interesting conversations to stay abreast of what’s happening in your community and/or practice area.
Finally, you can work alongside fellow entrepreneurs in a co-working environment that fosters support and collaboration.
Especially as an independent lawyer, you must focus on effective use of your time. You need to focus on activities that bring in revenue, and that means more time working on law. However, As a business owner, you can’t ignore the day-to-day responsibilities of running the business. That’s where processes come in: You need to organize your business for efficiency, using technology and standardized processes.
According to Aaron George, writing for Lexicata:
“The key to sustainable law firm growth is to deliver legal services profitably, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult due to downward price pressure in the market. For this reason, operational efficiency is of the utmost importance.
Operational efficiency is what enables you to maximize the amount of time you can bill for, and earn more revenue per unit of time you spend working.”
These processes will become even more important as you hire staff or on-board other attorneys to help build your firm. Set up your firm for organizational success early so the transition to hiring staff can happen more seamlessly.
So, what does success mean to you? If you are hoping to define success on your own terms and grow your law practice in Denver, contact us. We offer a collaborative environment for lawyers at two locations in Denver.