You’ve established a rhythm, your staff are content, and revenue is steady. Things are going well, but there’s a voice in your head telling you they could be better. Is it time to grow your law firm?
Operating a successful law firm requires you to find a balance between practicing law and managing your business. How much time do you devote to practicing law and working for your clients, and how much time do you devote to administrative tasks or business development? Striking the right balance is difficult for any attorney, and it can be especially problematic for solo attorneys or small practices who are looking to grow.
There are a number of challenges that can hinder your practice’s development beyond difficulty acquiring new clients and stiff competition with other firms—simply having no time to focus on business growth can be a major obstacle to your law firm’s continued growth.
When you’re busy providing top-notch legal services to your clients, it can be difficult to spot the signs that it’s time to grow your business, and even more difficult to find the time to actually do the things that will help you expand. If you’re thinking about growing your law firm but aren’t sure if now is the right time, here are 6 signs to look out for:
1. You’re too busy to respond to potential clients
If you’re a solo attorney or the head of a small firm, there’s a good chance you’re doing work that doesn’t actually need to be done by you. Instead of letting requests from potential new clients go ignored for days as you catch up on existing work, delegating tasks to other team members or hiring support staff can help free up your time so you can focus on cultivating new relationships.
Before you start a new task, ask yourself whether someone else in your office can adequately complete the task. Could they complete it faster than you? How much will it cost for you to complete that task vs. another team member? Are there any ethical concerns with delegating that particular task? These questions can help you decide which tasks to delegate and to whom.
Any task that is outside your core competency is a candidate for delegation. Tasks that are ideal for delegation include:
- Customer service: Hiring someone to handle simple inquiries like case status updates or questions about dates and timelines will free up time so you and your attorneys can focus on expense work or business development. It also provides a better customer service experience for clients, which in turn increases your chances of gaining new referral business.
- Accounting: Whether you hire someone or invest in accounting technology, finding simpler ways to manage invoicing, bill collection, and payroll can significantly reduce valuable time spent on day-to-day bookkeeping.
- Visitor management: Simplifying the process of signing visitors in and out and managing deliveries and other drop-bys will make it easier for your front desk staff to manage more foot traffic as your business grows.
- Case management: Specialized software can help you manage case documents, notes, schedules, expenses, time tracking, and client communications all in one place.
- IT: Hiring or contracting out to a dedicated IT firm can save you a lot of time and headache trying to troubleshoot tech issues on your own.
You may also wish to consider outsourcing some legal tasks like document review and scanning to other experts such as freelance lawyers or other qualified professionals so that you and your staff can focus on higher priority work.
3. You don’t have time to devote to marketing your practice
It’s hard to acquire new clients when no one knows you exist! Client referrals and word of mouth marketing can only take your firm so far. Eventually, you’ll need to invest in marketing if you want to grow your practice.
Competition is high, and carving out a niche is an effective way to differentiate your firm. But many busy law firm owners simply don’t have the time to invest in branding and positioning their practice and establishing marketing strategies to help bring in new clients.
Marketing is an ideal task to outsource, whether you hire a marketing firm or a dedicated in-house marketing officer. Experienced marketing professionals can help you:
- Create a visual brand that sets your firm apart from the competition.
- Develop a precise understanding of your target audience so you can create content that will help solve their problems and more effectively generate the right leads.
- Build a client-centered website that is easy to find online and functions simply. It should be easy to understand with clear navigation, understandable service descriptions, and easy ways to contact your firm.
- Create targeted online advertising campaigns to expose your firm to the right potential customers.
- Identify community outreach opportunities such as event sponsorship.
Boosting your firm’s marketing is a powerful way to kickstart your practice’s growth, but it requires an up-front investment of capital that may take some time to return. If you don’t have the cash on hand to support a new marketing plan but are confident that your strategies will bring in new clients and more revenue, a non-loan form of financing such as a merchant cash advance can help provide the working capital you need to get started.
4. Your tech is straight out of the stone age
According to Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report, firms that use online credit card payments, client portals, and client intake solutions together consistently earned over 20% more in revenue per lawyer each month compared to firms without those technologies.
Up-to-date technology shows clients that you’re a modern firm that isn’t stuck with one foot in the past. People want to do more online now, including legal tasks, and the trend will only continue to grow as we weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Investing in new tech to streamline client communication will help future-proof your firm and set you apart from competitors who lag behind.
Updated technology can also help you streamline workflows to make client intake and case management easier, while also holding your team accountable and helping the firm to run more efficiently.
5. You have well mapped-out processes
Clearly mapping out business processes like onboarding new hires, billing, filing, and other aspects of your workflow such as scheduling meetings and signing in visitors, creates a strong and sustainable structure that will make it easier for your firm to grow.
Structuring these processes enables work to happen quickly and easily and ensures that your business can operate smoothly when you’re not there. Adding structure can be difficult when you’ve already got a larger team to re-train, but if it’s baked into your company culture from the start, it will be easier to encourage buy-in from new staff as your team grows.
Establishing standard processes can also be an expensive undertaking—sometimes you need to invest in new tech, and sometimes it’s a matter of retraining your team and accounting for lost time as everyone gets used to the new system. Working capital funding can help you purchase new tech or fill in the gaps as your team adjusts.
6. You’re running out of office space
“Growth” doesn’t mean simply hiring more staff and taking on more clients! It can also mean growing into a larger space or moving to a new neighborhood, especially if you’re also expanding your team.
Moving to a larger office or expanding your practice to a second location gives you an opportunity to grow the size of your team, reach new locales, and connect with an entirely new audience of potential clients, further boosting your firm’s growth. Multiple types of small business funding exist to help you acquire new real estate. Read our Law Firm Funding Guide to learn more.
Guide your growth by setting goals
Law firm growth can take many forms, from expanding your team, moving to a larger office, or opening a new location to taking on more cases or focusing on cases with bigger payouts.
The first step to growing your firm is to set goals for what you want to achieve. With a clearly defined goal, you can work backwards to determine the steps you need to take to get where you want to be. Once you’ve determined your goals, you can set realistic and timely deadlines to keep your growth on track, as well as identify what resources you may need to acquire and how to measure your success along the way.
Fuel your growth with law firm funding
Activities that will help grow your firm and increase your revenue in the long-term may require a financial investment that you may not have on hand when you’re ready to get started. Law firm funding can provide the working capital you need to kickstart your growth.
If hiring a new attorney, for example, will help you bring in more business in the long run, but you don’t have cash on hand to cover their salary till they bring in that business, law firm funding can help you access the working capital you need to fill in the gaps till business picks up. A working capital loan can also supply the cash you need to kickstart your marketing, invest in technology to help your team work smarter and increase billable hours, or grow into a larger space to support your future growth.
Alternative lenders like Greenbox Capital® offer a number of different types of attorney loans to fuel your growth, such as real estate collateral loans, alternative small business loans, and small business lines of credit online, as well as non-loan financing such as merchant cash advances and online invoice factoring. Read our Law Firm Funding Guide to learn more.
- “The Complete Guide to Growing a Law Firm.” Sharon Miki. Clio. Last updated December 9, 2020.
- “How to Grow a Law Practice Sustainably.” Teresa Matich. Clio. August 6, 2020.
- “3 Tips to Grow Your Small Law Firm.” The Receptionist.