A Founder’s Advice on Starting a Law Firm from $0 to $1 Million Firm

For many lawyers, the goal is to get established in their industry and open their own law firm. Unfortunately, there’s little overlap in the skills necessary to run a law firm successfully and the skills necessary to practice law successfully, leaving law firm founders pulled in a million directions.

When all is said and done, a law firm is a business. When lawyers begin, they think they’ll be able to practice law with more freedom and control, neglecting to realize all that goes into the day to day of the business. They have to worry about budgeting, marketing, operations, accounting, etc., all of which pulls them away from their passion – law.

Worse yet, this can leave important tasks unfinished, rushed work filled with errors, or burnout.

Taking a law firm from $0 to $1 million is a big challenge, but it can be done with the right business acumen.

Learn to Delegate

Many lawyers start their law firms and don’t realize how much of the work they’ll take on themselves. Whether it’s lack of help or a need for control, trying to balance all of the tasks of the business pulls time away from the main goal – practicing law – and can affect the overall profitability and success of the firm.

Lawyers don’t typically have expert skills in marketing and accounting. Instead of trying to take on those tasks, too, hire a team to do these things for you. This will allow you to focus on the tasks only you can do, such as billable hours, but also ensures that you’re prepared when the firm begins to grow.

If the budget simply isn’t there, don’t stress over hiring a full-time employee. Instead, consider your outsourcing options. Firms can sign on as needed to cover some of your tasks, so you can save some time and get the work done when you need.

Explore Available Technology

Outsourcing isn’t always an option, or it may not be enough to cover all the necessary tasks. If you find that you’ve looked into outsourcing and hiring, but you don’t have the budget or there’s still too much work, technology can relieve some of the burden.

Tools like practice management solutions and legal management solutions can streamline and automate many tasks, including the client intake process, time keeping, and routine payments, freeing up yours and your staff’s time.

Plenty of technology solutions are available, so be sure to explore your options. Ideally, look for a solution that has the tools and functionality you need right now, as well as options for the future. As you scale, you may find that some of the features are beneficial to you and you can put workflow processes in place to keep everything running smoothly.

Design and Develop Systems

No business can scale successfully unless there are systems in place. Systemizing your firm gives you the processes to keep everything running smoothly and more profitability.

As the founder, it falls on you to create and develop systems that assign repeatable tasks to the appropriate staff. If these are done correctly, you can focus on the high-value tasks that only you can do, and your system will be prepared as you scale.

As an example, many aspects of legal cases have repeatable, predictable patterns, including transactions and litigation. If your firm has a narrow focus, such as family law, this is more likely. Once you determine which of these patterns can be systemized, you can develop a system to complete the tasks efficiently and anticipate any snags along the way.

Developing a Marketing and Client Acquisition Strategy

Identifying the Problem

Like any other client, prospective legal clients find lawyers and law firms by seeking out solutions to their problems. They may already know they need a lawyer, or they may just be exploring options and determining if a lawyer is the right choice. Maybe they don’t even have a case yet.

Whatever it may be, they’ll likely go online and search for information related to their problem or situation. Maybe they’ll look for information on “who’s liable for an injury on my property” or “do I need a child support lawyer?”

If information from your law firm is what they come across first and they get the answers and value they’re looking for, it creates a sense of trust and confidence. They may look for more information on your site (which is why you need a lot of content!) or move directly to the consultation.

Offering Your Firm as the Solution

As mentioned, the client is looking for solutions to their problem. Legal problems are often complex and stressful, so how much they’ll search before making a decision differs.

They may look up different law firms in the practice area they need, or they may seek general information about the case. They may have seen a billboard, television commercial, or ad and remember the name of the firm. Most people gather information online now, but that’s still an opportunity to get in front of your audience with ads and content.

Choosing an attorney is a big decision with a lot of potential risk, but to the client’s wellbeing and their financial health. The outcome of the case rests on you and your law firm, and they need confidence to sign on. Many of these prospective clients will look for reviews, testimonials, content, and competitors before making a decision, which is why it’s so important for you to present your firm in the best possible light.

Nurturing the Long-Term Relationship

If everything goes well, the client browses your content and site, then calls for a consultation. They have a good experience and get the outcome they want from the case. All the hard work is done.

Not quite yet. Once the case is resolved, your client is still in your funnel. This is the retention stage, the last stage. In many cases, businesses “drop the ball” on the retention phase.

If your client has a good experience, even after the case, the outcome won’t matter. Their experience, the confidence they had in your firm, and the way you treated them are what will matter. When they know of someone who needs a lawyer, your firm will likely be the one they refer. They may also leave a positive review online.

That’s if the experience was good. If it wasn’t, you could be dealing with negative reviews, a bad reputation, and a permanently dissatisfied client. This is why it’s so important to engage with the client after the case, get feedback, and keep the relationship open for future referrals.

Key Takeaways

Bringing a law firm from $0 to $1 million is a big undertaking, but the right strategy, systems, processes, and perspective can make it happen. You just have to think like a business owner more than a lawyer.

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