If you’re in charge of a small law firm, there’s a good chance that running your own practice is one of your lifelong goals. But providing legal services without the backing of a large, corporate firm is no small task. To run a successful law firm, you need solutions that meet small law firms’ unique challenges and obstacles.
It’s true that small law firm management can come with big challenges. But fortunately, there’s no shortage of tips, tools, and strategies that can help you streamline your procedures, optimize your team’s performance, exceed the expectations of your clients, and grow your firm.
Are you wondering how to manage a small law firm better? Here are six tips to get you started.
#1 Start with a Solid Business Plan
Whether you’re starting from scratch with a brand-new firm or implementing strategies to breathe new life into your existing practice, a solid business plan is a necessary component. A comprehensive business plan can ensure that everyone at your firm is on the same page concerning your business goals, operational procedures, and other important aspects of your practice. If you don’t have a business plan in place, now is the time to start crafting one.
The best business plans clearly outline some of the most important details of your firm. Yours should include the following elements:1
- An executive summary – Your business plan should begin with an executive summary that introduces and summarizes the document. It should include a mission statement and a description of your firm’s core values. It should also include your Unique Selling Proposition, which describes the key attributes that distinguish your small law firm from its competition.
- Description of the company – This section should re-emphasize your mission statement and extrapolate on your core values. You should also include a brief history of your firm, introduce the ownership team, define the legal structure you’ve chosen for your firm, and list your company’s location and the areas where you provide legal services.
- An analysis of the market – In this section, be sure to include an overview of the industry or field that your firm specializes in, such as business, family, or corporate law. Here, you can also identify your target audience, analyze your competitors, and define your business projections.
- Organization and management – This section should describe the management hierarchy of your firm and offer more detail on those with ownership stakes.
- A description of company services – In this section, define the specific legal services your firm offers. What problems should potential clients bring to you and how will you solve them?
- An outline of your marketing strategy – Use this section to detail how you’ll position your firm in your chosen market. Be sure to include information on how you’ll promote your firm and how you’ll determine pricing.
- A description of your financials – Finally, be sure to include a section that describes your sales projections (budgeting) and cash-flow analysis (forecasting).
#2 Hire Top Talent in Every Role
Having talented and dedicated team members is an essential aspect of running a productive and profitable law firm. Therefore, you must hire top talent for every role in your company.
It may be tempting to focus all your energy and resources on hiring skilled and experienced lawyers, but other positions are equally important, such as:2
- Law clerks
Finding the best team members could mean actively recruiting talent, offering competitive pay and desirable benefits, or hiring people with histories you can personally verify, such as former colleagues.
Once your dream team is in place, invest in growing and retaining them. Taking the time to train each employee thoroughly, supporting their personal goals and ambitions, and being realistic about your expectations are a few ways of ensuring a winning legal team.
#3 Streamline Your Company Organization
Carefully considering how to organize your company’s internal structure is a key step for how to manage a small law firm. Doing so can be as simple as prioritizing responsibilities, clearly defining procedural operations, and making sure your processes are streamlined and succinct.
Once you’ve fine-tuned your company organization, you can further improve your small law firm management by:
- Delegating responsibilities – Delegation can ensure that your attorneys aren’t overwhelmed with caseloads and your other employees aren’t drowning in their own responsibilities. Identify non-billable tasks that may be time-consuming but are easily delegated, such as administrative tasks or answering calls. There may also be tasks you can delegate after conducting some training, such as drafting legal documents, filing record requests, and so on.
- Hiring with specific tasks in mind – Another way to ensure that each of your practice’s responsibilities is adequately met is to hire employees who are qualified for specific tasks. When you do, you’ll ensure that office tasks fall to the people who are most prepared to complete them.
- Outsourcing when you’re able to – Small law firms are often busy work environments where each team member is deeply engaged in their work. But a great tip for how to manage a small law firm is to outsource certain positions. For example, hiring an outside accountant can minimize in-office bookkeeping responsibilities that may otherwise fall to your attorneys or junior lawyers. Likewise, by outsourcing some of your communications to a law firm answering service, you can avoid assigning non-billable work, like answering phones and scheduling meetings, to your law clerks or legal aides. You may want to familiarize yourself with the differences between a legal virtual assistant and a virtual receptionist to ensure you are hiring the right members for your firm.
#4 Prioritize Client Experience
For obvious reasons, the success of any law firm rests in large part on the strength of its client list. Your marketing strategy is important here, as it’s an essential way to advertise your services and reach the people who need them. It’s perhaps the most impactful way to grow your law firm.
But once you’ve recruited clients, it’s equally important to focus on retaining them by making sure they have a top-notch experience with your firm. Offering world-class customer service is the first step, so make sure every member of your team—from your receptionist to your attorneys themselves—is prepared to provide it. The benefits of providing excellent customer service can also help recruit clients through referrals and guarantee clients to return, so they don’t trail off to competitors.
Additionally, small law firms should understand the needs and expectations of their clients, then rise to meet them. But what is it exactly that clients are looking for from a law firm?
Obviously, they want top-notch legal services. If you’ve put in the effort to hire top talent, your clients are more likely to receive the best legal assistance available.
But keep in mind that modern clients also expect modern services and solutions that make obtaining legal services easy for them, even when they’re working with small law firms. That means being prepared to offer your client web-based options for:3
- Communicating with your firm
- Meeting with attorneys
- Accessing information about their case
- Paying for services
#5 Take Advantage of Modern Technology
Of course, harnessing the power of the internet and other digital solutions doesn’t just benefit your clients. Going digital with your client services and internal operations can help keep your practice running efficiently, optimize productivity, and boost your profits. That’s why staying up-to-date on the available technology is among the top solutions for small law firm success.
For modern firms, numerous digital solutions are available to help streamline your business operations. Some of the top tools include the following:4
- Cloud-based intake software and management tools
- Mobile or “smart” timekeeping systems
- Online calendars your whole team can access
- Electronic signature tools
- Cloud-based document management systems
#6 Optimize Your Pricing and Payment Strategies
One of the surest tips for how to manage a small law firm successfully is to review your pricing and payment models and implement solutions that attract and please clients. As you do so, be sure to consider the following:
- Affordability – It can be difficult for the average legal client to accurately gauge the affordability of legal services, as individual client needs are rarely translatable into the standard billable hour format that most law firms use for pricing.5 But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to offer lower rates than competing firms. Instead, focus on maximizing the value and flexibility of your services, such as by offering:6
- Infallible customer service
- Flexible service options
- Varied pricing options, like hourly rates, subscription rates, or flat fees
- Transparent and accessible billing processes – As mentioned above, offering your clients online payment methods can make it easier for them to pay for services. But you can further optimize your billing system by clearly explaining your billing practices to clients at the beginning of your relationship and providing detailed invoices regularly.
- Staying on top of company financials – When you’re managing a small law firm, it’s important to take an active role in managing the financial aspects of your practice, so be sure to keep an eye on billed but uncollected invoices, captured work, realization rates, and more. Implementing a comprehensive financial plan that addresses your yearly and monthly revenue goals, projections, budgets, and cash flow can help simplify this task.6
Enhance Your Practice With Abby Connect
A virtual receptionist can make a real difference in the success of your small law firm. But not just any virtual receptionist will do. For the greatest impact, turn to Abby Connect.
Our company began as a family business, so we understand that the success of your small practice isn’t just important—it’s personal. That’s why our teams of live receptionists are extensively trained to provide exceptional customer service to you and your clients. We become experts at how you do business to help you answer and manage calls 24/7 so your firm never misses a connection. Your team of dedicated remote receptionists is so good they’ll sound like they’re in your office.
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- Lawyerist. How to Write Your Law Firm Business Plan. https://lawyerist.com/news/law-firm-business-plan-template/
- LinkedIn. Creating a high performance legal team: How to build your dream team. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/creating-high-performance-legal-team-how-build-your-dream-joshua-cole
- National Law Review. 9 Ways to Create an Effortless Legal Client Experience. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/9-ways-to-create-effortless-legal-client-experience
- Law Clerk. 5 Tools for Small Law Firms. https://www.lawclerk.legal/blog/5-tools-for-small-law-firms/
- Chicago Bar Foundation. How Did Legal Services Get So Unaffordable, and What Are We Going to Do About It? https://chicagobarfoundation.org/blog/how-did-legal-services-get-so-unaffordable-and-what-are-we-going-to-do-about-it/
- On The Map. How to Manage a Small Law Firm in 2023. https://www.onthemap.com/blog/how-to-manage-a-small-law-firm/