At Krescent, we emphasise the importance of law firm managers thinking like business people in addition to like lawyers. You didn’t get to your position without being good at what you do - that is being a lawyer. However, law firm managers need to also see themselves as business people in order to run a successful legal business. After all, your law firm practice is, and therefore should be run, like a business.
Last week, Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute wrote an article entitled “How to Run Your Law Firm Like a Business.” In it, he outlined 10 major contributing factors to law firm success. While we think his points are all valid, we have created our own list more applicable to African law firms, in particular newer African law firms:
1. Focus on Marketing: Law firms must have a good and implementable marketing plan. Start with what has worked for you in the past and duplicate and magnify that. In addition, reflect upon what’s not working and stop that immediately. Finally, look for new ways to reach target clients. Don’t be afraid to try a variety of things to see what works such as writing articles, speaking at conferences or becoming more active on social media.
2. Increase Sales: It is not enough, however, to have an effective marketing plan. You need to also spend time closing the deal and increasing your number of clients – in other words, converting potential clients into paying clients. One key aspect of this conversion is following-up. Create a potential client follow-up schedule and stick to it.
3. Perform the Services Well: If you’re doing it right, your marketing and sales efforts will lead to an increase in requests for your services. You want to make sure that you perform the requested services to the highest degree of quality possible. Otherwise, those clients will fall prey to other law firms’ marketing and sales efforts. Ask for feedback from your clients to make sure you are getting this one right.
4. Hire the Right People: As your work load increases, you may need to hire more attorneys to do it. That is the situation you want to be in. However, you need to focus on smart hiring. That is hiring attorneys that will contribute positively to your firm’s culture, maintain and enhance your law firm’s brand and eventually enhance the reputation of your firm. These additions should lead, in turn, to a better product to market (i.e. your firm’s services) and increased sales - a virtuous circle. Smart hiring requires a specific plan for identifying and attracting the right individuals. Know your market, create a plan and stick to it for success in this area.
5. Implement Firm Policies and Procedures: Like any business, law firms need policies and procedures to ensure effective and efficient operations and profitability such as hiring, training, client intake and/or collections policies. Not all firms will need every policy. You should choose policies and procedures based on your business’s needs and goals and make sure everyone who works for you has received, understood and bought into them.
6. Find the Right Office Location: You must situate your office and design a space that reflects your brand, but also realistically reflects your financial situation and location of your clients and potential clients. These choices speak volumes about you and your business. Think wisely about your office location.
7. Understand your Finances: This is a factor often missed by attorneys. You need to understand the finances of your law firm business in order to effectively manage your business and to find success. If numbers are not your speciality, hire someone who knows the legal business and can advise you.
8. Understand your Law Firm’s Performance Metrics: You need to gain a full understanding of your firm’s health and profitability, including what’s working and what’s not. Law firm performance metrics are one way to measure these. Key law firm performance metrics for African law firms include:
- Effective hourly rates
- Utilization rates
- Profit margin
- Return on investment
9. Be Forward-Thinking: Assuming that you have followed the above advice, you are now running a successful law firm. However, do not rest on your laurels. As law firm managers, you must always stay in front of change and anticipate new areas for growth and development.
10. Remain Educated: You are your law firm business’s product, so you need to make sure that you are selling the most updated version of that product. In addition to staying active with client work, you should keep yourself up to date with the best, most recent legal knowledge.
To read Stephen Fairley’s article, please go to http://www.therainmakerblog.com/2016/10/articles/law-firm-management-2/how-to-run-your-law-firm-like-a-business/