I read an article earlier this year written by Jennifer Brandt, Co-Chair of Cozen O’Connor’s Family Law Department, which shared 10 tips on how to revive your law practice in 2016. Almost half of the year is behind us and perhaps now is a good time to review where you and your practice stand against the 10 items mentioned in Ms. Brandt’s article.
Before we dive into the 10 tips, let’s discuss the importance of a plan and the efficacy of New Year’s resolutions. I think we can all agree that having a plan is beneficial for any endeavor. The importance of a plan gains potency when talking about running a business, specifically a law practice. Managing a law firm can be a daunting task. Breaking that task into two broad categories – the practice of law & the business of a law practice – helps to better understand what topics a plan for a law firm need to address. The practice of law is covered, as attorneys spend three years in Law School focusing on the skill set necessary to practice law. The business of a law practice is an area where most attorneys are not quite as skilled. So, the necessity of creating, and sticking to, a business plan is even more imperative.
Every January 1st, we all spend a few minutes to a few hours, creating a plan for the New Year. Unfortunately, only 64% of those people who make resolutions are still on pace to meet those resolutions after one month and that number drops to below 50% between one and six months into the New Year.
With the above two points in mind, let’s review the 10 tips and see if anything can be integrated into your 2016 business plan…..if you are still eyeing your plan.
Take time to organize – Have you spent any time this year organizing your client files or case files? Are you managing your trust accounts properly? Do you have file folders spread out all over your office floor? Now is a good time to take account of all your existing record keeping systems and make changes where necessary. Delegate certain responsibilities to your staff and take on the remaining responsibilities yourself. Set aside time to review and improve your record keeping system.
Assess what doesn’t work and change it – How efficient is your staff? Could certain responsibilities be managed by another staff member? Review all policies and procedures in and around your office. Focus on those procedures dealing with clients and make changes where necessary.
Review your billing and collecting practices – This is an element that fits squarely into the business of running a law practice and is often at the center of many firm failures. Now is a great time to review your billing procedures to make certain you are accurately capturing every minute of time dedicated to a client matter, limiting non-billable hours and that bills are being sent & paid in a timely manner.
Renew and refresh your attitude – We all can get frustrated by our chosen professions and lose sight of what matters most in our professional lives. A question that needs to be asked, and asked often, “What can I do to improve my relationship with my customers?” Customers or clients are the lifeblood of any law firm. Without them, a law firm ceases to exist. If you find yourself getting frustrated by the somewhat unreasonable demands of your clients, take a few minutes to remind yourself that your clients are your source of revenue. Keep them happy.
Create and use a marketing plan – Marketing a law firm used to be blasphemy. But, today, if you are not aggressively marketing your law firm, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant and taking the clients that your competitors have already cast aside. If you’ve already created a marketing plan, now is a good time to review it, tweak it, make sure it is delivering results. If you are working with a marketing resource outside your firm, get their input. Make sure you understand your plan and its goals. If you haven’t created a marketing plan….what are you waiting for? If you can dedicate the time yourself, get to it. If not, find a viable and trusted resource to partner with. They can help you put your thoughts and ideas for your firm into an actionable marketing plan.
Update web bio and social media presence – Maintaining a presence on the many social media channels available today is an absolute necessity for any law firm that expects to be relevant on the internet. Focusing on the top social media sites (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), as well as the top local and legal directories, is the best way for most firms to accomplish that task. But, if don’t actively manage your profiles, keeping them current, you are presenting outdated information to potential clients.
Pump up your staff – Have you challenged your staff lately? Sharing your vision with your staff and challenging them to help you reach your goals is an absolute necessity if you plan to build a successful law firm. Keep them excited. Entrust them with responsibilities that help ease your administrative workload. This will allow you to focus on business development and the practice of law.
Learn to use the technology you have – Admit it, almost everyone wants the latest and greatest widget. The newest laptop, the latest smart phone, the best tablet. We invest time to research the new gadget that will do everything we need, we shop the best price, and we buy the widget, only to use a fraction of it features. Now is a great time to review the technology in your office to make sure you are taking advantage of every feature that could help you and your practice become more effective.
Spruce up your leadership skills – It can be tough to treat others well when you work in a stressful, deadline heavy world. Filing deadlines, juggling clients and diverse legal issues, a potential malpractice suit around every corner, are just a few of the stressful aspects of life as an attorney. Even with these challenges, it is important that you treat your staff with respect. Your staff, if they believe in you and the firm’s mission, can help you manage the things that create the stressful work environment. Ask yourself, are effectively leading your troops?
Take time to breathe – Most law firms generate revenue one way – billable hours. If you are not working, the firm is not generating revenue. But, it is ridiculous to think that you can manage your business without a break. There are countless studies that prove taking a break from the everyday grind of work and relaxing away from the office, can help make you more effective in your work environment. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, we are almost half through the year. Have you taken any time off? Planned a vacation? If not, do it today.
Each of the 10 tips above can help you become a better attorney and help you run a more effective law firm. Follow these 10 tips and it can lead to more clients, higher profits, happier employees and a better quality of life. Get started on these tips today. If you need any help with any of these items, specifically your online marketing, give Sundown Legal Marketing a call at (800) 649-1764.