If you’re a legal professional wondering how to effectively manage a small law firm, you’re not alone. Small firms come with unique challenges compared to larger ones, where administrative tasks are often handled by staff members. In smaller firms, attorneys and paralegals must take on these tasks themselves, which can take valuable time away from billable client work. Managing a small law firm has become even more challenging in the wake of the events of 2020. This article will provide insights on managing a small law firm effectively by focusing on key aspects such as staff, client experience, financials, technology, and brand.
Rethink your pricing and payment models
When considering how to manage a small law firm, it’s crucial to reassess your pricing and payment models. According to the 2020 Legal Trends Report, clients prioritize affordability. In fact, a staggering 78% of consumers believe that lawyers should adopt pricing and payment models that make legal services more accessible. However, affordability goes beyond the price tag. Clients also consider the value they receive for the price they pay. Offering excellent customer service can justify higher prices, just as receiving subpar service can devalue lower-priced services. For example, a personal experience with an optometrist demonstrated the importance of excellent service, even if it meant paying a bit more.
Go beyond reducing prices or offering discounts
While reducing prices or offering discounts may seem like a quick fix, it is not a sustainable solution. Engaging in price competition is challenging when larger firms with more resources and profit margins can offer lower prices. It can also condition clients to expect or demand discounts continually. As Seth Godin eloquently put it, “The reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” Competing on price alone can devalue your work and diminish your clients’ perception of its worth.
Hire the right staff with the right roles to improve productivity
In a small law firm, every team member can have a significant impact. However, many small firms make the mistake of hiring staff with poor people skills, including receptionists who do not provide friendly service. These team members should be the “Director of First Impressions” and should share the firm’s vision. Delegating administrative and non-billable work is also essential to optimize your most precious resource: time. By allowing attorneys and paralegals to focus on client work without distractions, interruptions, and menial tasks, their productivity and profitability increase. Moreover, having specialized staff members for specific tasks can often result in more efficient work at a lower cost.
Focus on relentlessly improving the client experience
To effectively manage a small law firm, it is crucial to prioritize enhancing the client experience. As the 2020 Legal Trends Report suggests, clients expect the ability to interact with their lawyers online. This shift towards a cloud-based environment for client experience has become even more pronounced due to the changes brought about by the pandemic. Providing clients with clear, engaging websites, seamless client intake processes, e-signing options, and online access to case-related information can significantly enhance their experience.
Streamline your small law firm’s billing process
Improving your law firm’s billing process is vital to avoid surprises and maintain client satisfaction. Clearly outlining the billing process at the beginning of the client engagement is essential. Providing easily understood and timely invoices while managing client expectations ensures transparency and prevents any unpleasant billing surprises. Additionally, consider adopting evergreen retainers to avoid shocking clients with unexpected bills. Maintaining open communication throughout the process will enhance the overall client experience.
Get a grip on your firm’s financials
Understanding and managing your small law firm’s financials is essential for making informed decisions. While law schools often focus on teaching the law rather than financial management, having a grasp on key metrics is crucial. Tracking metrics such as Work In Progress, Accounts Receivable, and Collectible hours can help you assess billing potential, identify outstanding payments, and maintain cash flow. Regularly reviewing financials enables you to address issues proactively and optimize your firm’s financial health.
Leverage cloud-based legal practice management software for virtual operations
As remote work becomes more prevalent, cloud-based legal practice management software has seen significant growth. This technology allows small law firms to operate and serve clients effectively, even during crises such as pandemics or natural disasters. By adopting cloud-based software, firms can focus on problem-solving for clients while automating time-consuming administrative tasks.
Grow your client base with cloud-based client intake tools
Implementing legal client intake tools like Clio Grow can streamline your intake process and help you run your law firm more efficiently. These tools allow you to seamlessly guide clients from intake to engagement, ensuring timely follow-ups and efficient organization. By leveraging these tools, you can market your services to an interested audience and increase your client base.
Organize your small law firm efficiently
In addition to the strategies mentioned above, effectively managing a small law firm requires efficient organization and team management. Prioritizing what matters, creating procedures for routine tasks, streamlining processes through technology, and investing in team training are all essential. By emphasizing the bigger picture and critical details, you can consistently deliver exceptional service to your clients.
Managing a small law firm presents unique challenges and advantages. By focusing on key aspects such as pricing, staff management, client experience, financials, technology adoption, and efficient organization, you can effectively navigate these challenges and nurture the growth of your firm. Implementing these strategies will help you not only manage your small law firm effectively but also stay ahead in an ever-evolving legal landscape.
For more information on effective small firm management, visit Garrity Traina.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney for specific legal concerns.