Learn how to manage a law firm – after all, running your law firm like a business isn’t taught in law school
Law school teaches us legal theory and how to think like a lawyer. When we get out of law school, many of us focus on becoming a proficient practicing attorney. Managing clients, multi-tasking, depositions, and court appearances, how to handle clients. Very quickly, you were writing briefs in your sleep. The rules for court appearances were static and the occasional CLE course kept you apprised of the latest variations in case law. Settling into a regular routine was beneficial and natural. But learning how to manage a law firm and running it like a business is a whole new juggling act.
Now, as a manager, there’s a lot more on your plate. Suddenly, superior knowledge of the law is no longer the only thing required of you. Decisions need to be made in order to guide and grow your firm. Money has to be allocated and preserved. Staff must be trained and supervised. Marketing data is crowding out everything else on your desk. How to manage a law practice is now a primary concern — which they didn’t really cover in Torts class.
With so much change accelerated by technology, guidance can be difficult to come by. The bad news is that the profession’s cornerstones of tradition and precedent are not useful here. The good news is that there are tools, tips, and strategies on how to manage a law firm that you can implement in order to effectively run your law firm more like a business. Read on for some advice on best practices in how to manage a law firm as you continue to navigate the transition from skilled attorney to business mogul.
- Don’t go with your gut: Most of us remember the days when family road trips relied on paper maps and educated guesses. Hunches led to “shortcuts” and shortcuts led to aimless detours. Detours can be a nice surprise on vacation, but not as much on the way to work. If you really want to get somewhere these days in an optimal way, you’re not going to wing it or print out directions from MapQuest. Instead, you’ll use GPS with real-time traffic updates and software that recalculates a new route after you take a wrong turn. The same exact principles apply when deciding how to manage your law firm. Cutting-edge technology and sophisticated automated processes are your new friends. These are the building blocks for leading change and being a transformational law firm.
- Have a budget: This is especially important if you’re a smaller firm. When evaluating how to manage your law practice, you want to be constantly returning to hard numbers and objective figures. Underestimating your costs can be a catastrophe; similarly, overly ambitious income and intake projections can torpedo your firm’s success. Past patterns, current competition, and future trends must be incorporated into responsible budgeting and sales forecasting. Of course, a budget is not worth much if you don’t stick to it. Budget review and adjustments should be a consistent and meticulous part of your business management process.
- Upgrade your legal case management: If you’re planning on adhering to recommended and best practices in your law firm management, it is imperative to use software you can count on. There’s a happy medium between micromanagement and malpractice, and choosing the right case management software is it. You, your employees, and your clients all want the same thing: streamlined and reliable case management and oversight. Solutions such as GrowPath’s all-in-one platform let you access documents, review cases, and communicate with clients through a single, secure, cloud-based hub.
- Stop wasting time: How does your firm currently convert leads into clients? If you’re like most firms, you operate in stages: a preliminary client intake process by a non-attorney that needs to be followed up on and authorized by an attorney for the firm. That is the outdated way of doing things. A better solution is to have the intake representative able to make the eright decision how to handle the potential lead on the spot. With a customized lead-scoring tool to guide your intake employees, leads can be handled and converted in a much more efficient and timely manner.
- Stop wasting money: Easier said than done, certainly, but a crucial consideration in how to manage your law practice. Delegate your stress and put artificial intelligence and algorithms to work for you. You might have a general sense of what’s working and what’s not working in your business model. A general sense is fine for a lawyer but insufficient for a businessperson. To use your budget in a systematic and coherent way, you need to utilize first-rate analytical tools (such as GrowPath’s). Imagine proactively spotting potential issues before they become sunk finances. Imagine monitoring your marketing spend by time of day and then quickly generating a detailed report on paralegal and lawyer productivity in your firm. Imagine getting dynamic updates on languishing cases that are costing you money. As a business magnate, you can and should strive to do better — for your sake, and for the sake of your firm’s bottom line.
Law Firm Client Care
One final thing, last but not least: Best practices in law firm management require a commitment to your clients. This may seem obvious, but client feelings can end up pretty far down on the list for managing partners. You’re incredibly busy, of that there’s little doubt. But customer service and business profits are a time-tested pair.
According to Strategic Advisor Roy Ginsburg, J.D., it’s the simplest details that count the most in creating a superb client experience. His recent blog post on this topic is short but sweet, and a useful reminder of just how important this facet of business management is. His thoughts apply to all industries, but typically get overlooked by many law firms.
Do you want to know how to manage a law firm? Make your clients feel valued. Quick search capabilities and real-time charts are good — if you use them to let your clients know that you’re on top of their case. You want your case management software to provide you with firm analytics from the big picture to the tiniest detail — so that you can engage clients most effectively. All the precise strategy and all the best practices of law firm management in the world won’t amount to much if you don’t return that client’s call in a timely manner. Have you secured cloud-based document management through GrowPath? Mobile lawyering is essential for properly catering to customers. After all, a lot of your new clients are millennials with different expectations regarding work hours and accessibility.
Just as a budget you don’t stick to or a GPS you don’t listen to doesn’t provide much value, the tips, tools, and technologies discussed above need to be funneled through a business mindset to have the greatest impact. Don’t ignore the beating heart of your operation, client relations. When it comes to the question of how to manage a law practice, remember this: lawyers just worry about how to not get sued; business magnates know how to get pursued.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy Superior Law Firm Management. In the end, learning how to manage a law firm and running your law firm like a business will combine to decrease your stress and increase your earnings.
Jim Farrin is CEO of GrowPath. He is also Founder and President of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. His law firm has recovered more than $1 billion in gross for over 43,000 clients over the last 20 years.