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How to Grow a Law Firm: Best Strategies and Practices to Implement

updated
August 19, 2022
18 min
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Management

Have you been scouring the internet in search of answers to questions like "how to grow my legal business" or "how to grow a small law firm"? If so, then you know that the world wide web is filled with opinions and ideas for fueling your law firm growth strategy.

There is just one problem — most of these resources provide nuggets of wisdom, not an all-inclusive guide to building a legal practice. We wanted to change all that, which is why we created this roadmap to growing law firms. As you will see in a moment, we left no stone unturned.

Our team covers everything from the basics of how to set goals for law firm growth to more advanced topics such as optimizing your law firm's business structure. We even dive into relevant ethical issues and discuss the pros and cons of freelance lawyers.

Whether you run a small law firm or are in charge of a large, multi-location law firm organization, this guide will be a valuable resource as you pursue rapid growth.

Creating a Law Firm Growth Plan

Many search results generated by querying the phrase "grow my legal business" will emphasize the importance of creating a law firm growth plan. These suggestions are right on the money, as you will never be able to make your law firm grow without a comprehensive law firm marketing strategy.

Growth plans are much like business plans. They should address many of the same topics and leverage relevant market data to guide your growth strategy. If you don't already have a law firm business plan, it is well past time to create one. According to recent data, companies with business plans have a 30% greater chance of achieving their growth goals.

Even if you already have a business plan, now would be a great time to revisit it, especially if it is several years old. As you experience business development, your goals, needs, and market position will change.

If your plan is not updated to reflect those changes, you could lose your competitive advantage. Conversely, updating your business plan at least once a year will help you maintain or even increase your competitive advantage.

A great business/growth plan should:

  • identify your target market,
  • provide insights into current client satisfaction levels,
  • lay out a strategy for acquiring new clients, and
  • outline your short and long-term business development goals.

In case you were wondering— yes, small law firms need growth/business development plans too.

Setting Goals for Law Firm Growth

Before you start working out the fine details of your business development plan, you need to first set clear goals for your law practice.

Small law firm owners tend to favor a more informal approach, whereas larger law firms prefer to write a comprehensive executive summary. Do not limit yourself based on the size of your law firm. Instead, choose the route that best aligns with your personal preferences and needs.

Regardless of your chosen method, you must select a good mix of short and long-term goals.

Short-term goals are objectives you can accomplish in the next quarter or six-month period. On the other hand, long-term goals may take you one, three, or even five years to accomplish. When setting long-term goals, break them down into smaller milestones so that you can monitor your progress toward achieving them.

Most goals should involve soft deadlines. When you are approaching a deadline, conduct a self-assessment and analyze your law firm's growth. Determine whether you have achieved your goals or if you have at least made meaningful progress towards them.

If you have not achieved them, but are progressing, reevaluate your strategy and make necessary adjustments. You may consider bringing in an outside partner, but more on that in an upcoming segment.

Additionally, you must be willing to alter or modify your goals over time, especially the multi-year objectives. As you navigate your business development journey, new opportunities may shift your focus towards new goals. This shift is perfectly fine so long as you are satisfied with the direction of your law firm and are making money to fuel future growth objectives.

Analyzing Your Law Firm Growth Opportunities

Once you have created your law firm's goals, you need to analyze your target market to identify opportunities for achieving said goals. A comprehensive analysis will not only shed light on opportunities but obstacles and challenges as well.

When conducting research, you must obtain a high-level overview of the market in which you operate. This data must include the locations you plan to target and demographic information about the various audience segments within those areas.

Regardless of which growth goals you choose for your law firm, you will not be able to achieve them unless you can obtain more clients. Therefore, your market analysis should look in-depth at potential clients in your target regions.

It would be best to determine whether you plan to target similar clientele in new regions or new clients in the same geographic areas where you are currently operating.

Perhaps most importantly, you should determine your current market share and how much you could reasonably expand that share using well-designed growth tactics. From there, you can create a pricing model that will attract potential clients without preventing you from making money.

Invest in Your Law Firm's Digital Marketing

online marketing efforts

Now that you have created a plan and conducted a thorough market analysis, you are ready to invest in law firm marketing. When engaging in law firm marketing, we suggest that you:

Leverage the Power of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your law firm's website more visible on search engine results pages (SERPs) on platforms such as Google. If you are not sure where to begin when it comes to SEO, you should partner with a firm that offers SEO services for lawyers. Such a firm will know exactly how to get you noticed online.

Create an Optimized Law Firm Website

Next, you will need to optimize the website for your law firm. Professional web design services for attorneys will be your best ally here; these technical creatives will be able to provide you with a captivating, high-performance website that potential clients will love.

Build a Recognizable Brand

Combining a great website and quality share-worthy attorney website content will help you build a recognizable brand that resonates with prospective clients. However, keep in mind that building a powerful brand takes time, commitment, and consistency.

Develop a Consistent Lead Generation Process

Speaking of consistency, you must develop a consistent attorney lead generation process if you want to have a steady stream of new clients every month. While not all leads will be converted into paying clients, each of these prospects provides you with an opportunity to make money and achieve growth goals.

Law Firm Management Structure

Law Firm Management Structure

As your law practice grows, scaling will put your management structure to the test. A poorly designed, disorganized, or top-heavy management structure will crumble under pressure.

Top-heavy management structures are one of the most common factors undermining law firms' rapid growth trajectories. Such a structure is characterized by too many attorneys and insufficient support staff.

If you want your law firm to realize its true growth potential, start preparing your management structure to handle the stresses of this evolution now. There are a few fundamentals every law firm CEO must know. Specifically, you should divide your law firm management structure into the following categories:

Legal

Most of your staff will fall into this category when operating a small law firm. This category includes attorneys and paralegals only. You can use a unified legal department when your business is in its infancy. However, as you grow, you will need to subdivide your staff into smaller teams based on areas of expertise.

Everyone should know who they are to report to, their responsibilities, and the resources available to them. Your management structure lacks clarity and should be refined if they do not.

Non-Legal

Non-legal staff are employees who handle auxiliary aspects of managing a law firm. Unless you are experiencing explosive growth from the moment your law firm opens its doors, you may not need full-time support staff for quite some time.

Instead, delegating support tasks to your paralegals and attorneys will be more pragmatic. You can also manage some of these responsibilities yourself. A few examples of things you may want to oversee directly include payroll and business development.

However, once your firm grows, you must strategically hire non-legal staff. Don't rush this process — taking on too many support staff too fast can hinder your long-term growth.

Office Manager

When you have decided that it is time to bring in non-legal staff, one of your first hires should be an office manager. An experienced office manager should be a jack of all trades when you initially bring them on. However, as you grow your law firm, you can relegate them to a supervisory role that focuses on managing non-legal and support staff.

Office managers should also play a key role in hiring and training non-legal personnel in the future. After all, your manager will be tasked with managing these individuals, so anyone in this position should have some say in which candidates you choose to bring on board.

Additionally, an office manager can take on human resources responsibilities until you have the financial leeway to hire an HR specialist. The manager can also oversee patrolling, records management, and compliance-related tasks.

HR Manager

Small law firms can get by without hiring a dedicated human resources manager. However, larger law firms will need to bring in an HR expert who understands things such as fair hiring and labor practices, managing conflicts, insurance claim management, compliance, and employee discipline.

While devoting time and resources to hiring an HR manager might not seem a priority when your law firm finally hits its growth stride, neglecting to do so can have serious repercussions for your business.

If you inadvertently engage in unfair hiring practices, you could expose your law firm to some serious civil liability. In addition to incurring hefty fines, you could permanently damage your firm's reputation. Good luck finding top-tier talent if you are found liable in an unfair hiring practices suit.

In light of that possibility, make hiring an HR manager part of your growth strategy. If your law firm makes compliance a priority from the outset, you will never lose sight of the importance of bringing in an HR manager.

Ultimately, this will help you protect yourself and your law firm from the significant amount of civil liability associated with mishandling important HR issues.

Outside Freelance Workers

As a business owner, there will come points in your growth journey where you need to access certain expertise but do not have the resources to hire a full-time employee.

When these situations arise, you should consider hiring freelance lawyers. As their title implies, freelance lawyers take on short-term work to bolster their primary source of income. Some freelance lawyers do not have their own firms but rely entirely on short-term contracts.

If you plan to use freelance lawyers, make sure that your management structure clearly outlines who is responsible for managing these individuals. Otherwise, your law firm will encounter patrolling mishaps and classification issues.

Legal Accounting

One of the most complex facets of managing your own law practice is keeping up with your finances.

Law firms must precisely track a much broader array of financial data than other types of businesses. In addition to keeping records of basic patrolling information, your law firm will need to track settlement amounts, retainer fees, billable hours, and many other data points.

Once again, small law firms might be able to handle these responsibilities in-house. However, if your law firm employs multiple attorneys and juggles a large caseload, you should hire a legal accountant. You can hire a full-time legal accountant if your budget allows or outsource these responsibilities to a third-party provider that serves the legal industry.

Suppose the accounting team you hire is unfamiliar with specific legal industry regulations. In that case, they may not be able to help you remain compliant with the American Bar Association or other governing entities.

Therefore, you should carefully vet any potential outsourcing partner before hiring them. Remember, outsourcing is not a risk-free proposition, as your law firm is ultimately responsible for ensuring that your financial records are properly maintained.

Marketing and Web Department

If you are looking for a way to save money, you might want to manage your law firm's website design and marketing strategy yourself. However, your law firm will not grow if you have a bland, antiquated website and disjointed marketing plan.

Many law firms outsource these responsibilities to avoid the hassle of managing any campaigns in-house. Outsourcing allows legal professionals to effectively grow their law firms without having to hire full-time marketing pros. This form of outsourcing is not only cost-effective but can also maximize the efficacy of your law firm's marketing strategy.

Whether you outsource or handle marketing in-house, you must decide who will oversee this aspect of your growth strategy.

If you are going to run your own marketing campaign, put together a team of your most creative staff members and work with them to create a great brand-building plan. If you outsource, designate someone as the point of contact to communicate directly with your marketing firm.

Law Firm Organization Tips

law firm organization tips

As you reshuffle your law firm hierarchy, the tips below will help you implement effective changes and deploy your growth strategy.

Delegate If Necessary

It is unrealistic to believe that you can handle everything yourself. While you certainly want to be involved in making important decisions for your law firm, you must also be willing to delegate tasks whenever necessary.

When delegating tasks, the goal is to distribute the workload as evenly as possible. Otherwise, you will overburden some staff members, whereas others have an abundance of downtime.

While you will probably be unable to delegate any of your core legal work to others, you can ask your support staff to take on administrative tasks. This assistance will give you and your fellow attorneys more time to complete essential legal work like reviewing case files, prepping for trial, and meeting new clients.

When delegating administrative tasks, be clear about your expectations and provide your staff with definitive deadlines. Communication is key to effectively delegating responsibilities to your support staff.

Efficiency Is the Key to Productivity

If you want your law firm to achieve meaningful growth, you must find ways to optimize efficiency. One approach involves adopting leading-edge legal technology to help your staff fulfill their job responsibilities faster. However, putting the right technology in place is only part of the equation — but more on that in the next section.

Additionally, you should constantly be exploring ways to streamline business processes. Track relevant performance metrics and meet with your team to analyze this data monthly.

Look for concerning trends, celebrate efficiency improvements, and proactively seek input from your team. You never know which staff member might have a great idea for increasing your business efficiency.

Recruit More Staff

To truly drive efficiency, you must also be willing to bring in more staff when appropriate. Do not delay hiring staff until your need for additional employees has become dire. When you realize you need to expand your team and have the budget, start your search for talented new additions immediately.

Also, keep in mind that hiring freelancers can be a short-term solution if you are not ready to hire more full-time staff. Freelancers can tackle projects, augment your in-house resources, and help you navigate temporary upticks in new clients without making a long-term financial commitment.

With that being said, there is no substitute for having a dedicated and passionate team of permanent employees. When you are ready to expand your team, develop a recruiting strategy. Emphasize the qualities that make your law firm great to attract top talent and prepare for your next growth phase.

If you struggle to recruit and efficiently vet candidates, you may also consider investing in skills testing. This testing takes the guesswork out of hiring and can provide quantifiable data regarding a candidate's skills and abilities.

The last thing you want to do is hire the wrong candidate and ruin your law firm's growth momentum. Skills testing can help you avoid this headache altogether and hire better-quality candidates. It is also a strong defense against discriminatory hiring practice complaints.

Feel Free to Outsource

You should also be mindful that outsourcing can be valuable to your growth strategy. A third-party provider can assist with things like marketing, managing your digital assets, and overseeing payroll. Leverage outsourcing opportunities to transform areas of weakness into organizational strengths.

When deciding whether to outsource, you should consider two questions. First, ask yourself if the outsourced partner can do a better job than your in-house staff. Secondly, can you save money by outsourcing? If you can save money and access higher-quality support, outsourcing that particular set of responsibilities is a no-brainer.

Growing Law Firm: Let Clients Fuel Your Digital Growth

growing law firm

If you want to grow your digital presence and your law firm, use client relationships as your fuel. To do this, we suggest that you:

Try to "Be There"

When you want to connect with prospective clients, you must be available in their time of need. This availability means putting yourself out there by marketing your services and promptly responding when a client reaches out to your law firm.

Remember, many prospective clients may not even know that your law firm exists or understand what sort of services you provide. Therefore, you must proactively work to make them aware of your brand while educating them in a friendly, approachable manner. Only then will you be able to set yourself apart from your competitors and achieve growth goals.

Ask People for Reviews

Accumulating reviews will help you strengthen your law firm's reputation management within your city or region. Positive reviews will also encourage potential clients to reach out to your law firm rather than one of your competitors.

With that being said, most past clients will not leave reviews unless you ask them to. When asking for reviews, be tactful, not pushy. Also, make sure to gauge a client's overall level of satisfaction before you ask them to post a review for all the world to see. If a client seems happy with their experience with your law firm, ask for a review.

Be Willing to Help

Volunteering a few minutes of your time to help potential or past clients is a great way of nurturing relationships and opening the door for future interactions.

You can accomplish this by calling leads or previous clients. Be cordial and talk to them about the challenges they are currently facing. If appropriate, offer suggestions or advice to help them navigate those challenges.

The next time that they need some guidance, your firm will be top of mind. Who knows — they may even be so grateful for your assistance that they will refer other clients to your firm in the future.

Over time, proactively reaching out to lend a helping hand will alter how your clients view you. Instead of perceiving you as just another law firm, they will begin to view you as their reliable resource for addressing legal issues. This mental evolution will lead them to develop feelings of loyalty towards you and your firm.

Be Available

Want to let a great lead fall by the wayside? If so, ignore their calls, emails, texts, or other outreach attempts for days.

However, if you are serious about acquiring new clients and obtaining more legal work, then be responsive and available. While no one expects you to return calls instantaneously, providing a same-day response is an attainable goal.

If you hire a few legal assistants, you can decrease your response times even further and capitalize on every opportunity to obtain a new client.

Empathize

Showing empathy is one of the most often overlooked aspects of the legal profession. While potential clients contact you for your legal expertise, they also want to feel you care about their concerns. If you fail to show empathy, you will struggle to develop meaningful relationships with your clients.

When speaking with clients, make sure to demonstrate some level of empathy. Take the time to listen to their concerns, fears, and needs. This focus will not only lead to a better client experience, but it will also help you more effectively serve them.

Do Attorneys Need Business Training?

business training for lawyers

When you are hiring additional staff, these new employees must have a good business sense. However, finding such candidates can be quite hard. According to some experts, the legal industry is entering a talent shortage that has the potential to last for years.

Naturally, you cannot just institute a hiring freeze until better candidates are available. However, you can circumvent some of the challenges this shortage creates by investing in business training for your attorneys and support staff. You can go about this in several ways.

One approach involves attending a training course or seminar yourself. You can then share what you learned with your team members to increase their skill sets.

Alternatively, you can invest in in-house training. There are plenty of great resources out there for upskilling your staff. You can implement your training program gradually so as to not overload your staff. When using this approach, prioritize the skills that are most critical to the ongoing growth of your business and branch out from there.

Managing Growth with a Large-Scale Strategy

Running a successful law firm involves much more than simply practicing law. To achieve sustained success in your practice area, you must develop a cohesive growth strategy, create meaningful content, increase your visibility in the online marketplace, and forge meaningful relationships with clients.

Cumulatively, these efforts will facilitate your firm's expansion and continued growth.

While implementing a large-scale strategy might seem like a monumental undertaking, the good news is that you do not have to go it alone. Instead, you can partner with an experienced law firm digital marketing agency like Grow Law Firm. Our team of experts specializes in helping law firms like yours achieve their growth goals.

If you would like to learn more about our suite of services and how we can be a valuable asset to your business, contact Grow Law Firm today.

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Top techniques for busy lawyers to bring in more clients in 2022
  • Easy steps you can take to bring in more clients and up this year’s revenue
  • The top website and marketing mistakes holding your law firm back
October, 31st
1 pm CT60 minutes
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    Sasha Berson is a legal marketing expert

    Sasha serves as Managing Partner for Grow Law Firm, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency focused solely on specialized growth strategies for attorneys and their practices.

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