I am fortunate to speak to at least 20 or 30 lawyers each week, if not more, and many of them ask how they can take their practice “to the next level.” Often, this means that the voice on the other end of the telephone is a solo practitioner or a small firm partner looking to grow their practice in a financially healthy way. Other times, the caller may work at a firm with a good book of institutional business, but has never undertaken digital marketing. Many lawyers want to know if they should “bring marketing in-house” and hire a marketing director, but are concerned that they will wind up with someone who doesn’t understand their industry.
Whatever your situation, or whatever your “next level” may be, there are a few standard guidelines that you should follow to keep your law firm profitable.
Get your technological infrastructure in order
Growing business demands place serious pressure on lawyers and support staff, and your law firm’s processes and systems can quickly become completely outdated technologically and because you have not stayed on top of industry trends. Lack of proper case management software and necessary hardware can run your business into the ground. Your “small firm” protocols and procedures will also need to be overhauled.
Make sure you have the right people working with you
Once a company is really growing quickly, the quality of the people you hire becomes a big issue. You want to hire the right people. The culture of a company is very important. You have these culture points that made you successful, and as you grow quickly, you want to keep some those intact to the best of your ability. In order to do that, it’s very important that you hire the right people.
How can you make sure you are hiring the right folks? Invest time in the process of finding them. In my own business I have learned that while resumes are generally meaningless, phone interviews help screen out a large portion of the dreck. While you may feel like you don’t have enough time to devote to a well thought out, detailed search, the cost of hiring the wrong person should be motivation enough. Before you set out to recruit your next employee, make sure that you understand which character traits you can’t live without. Start your hiring process by writing down the common traits of your best employees, past and present, and find the right way to see if your job candidates have those traits.
Have clear goals, measure your progress, and watch your finances
"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Edward Abbey
When your business is smaller, you probably have a good command of your numbers. You’re able to watch your cash and know quickly how expenses are stacking up to sales. But once you get to a certain sales range, above $5 million or so, it’s very hard to keep track of your financials in your head. That’s why it’s so important for business owners to consult their accountants at more than just tax time. Accountants have tons of financial data about your business and other businesses like yours. Because of that insight, a good accountant can often very quickly point out strengths or weaknesses of your business to help you better manage your business.
Do You Feel Law Firm Growing Pains?
If your business grows too quickly, things can get out of control, and your overhead/expenses will exceed your revenue. If you start to get more customer complaints and reduced customer retention, and your employees look tired, haggard, and unhappy, you may want to consider that you have taken on too much. It might be time for a law firm business audit or a case management software cleanup. If you would like to talk about how to get your law firm ready to move on up to the next level, contact Stacey Burke today.