How to Manage a Small Law Firm
There are many differences between managing a small law firm in comparison to a large law firm. Larger law firms often come with many employees and departments to run day-to-day administrative tasks, billing, marketing and more. At small law firms, the staff is typically required to wear many hats out of necessity.
Though managing a small law firm is not everyone’s ideal work environment, it does present exciting challenges for legal professionals that are looking to be involved in all aspects of operating a law firm and enjoy juggling many tasks. With the landscape of the legal industry shifting and more firms adopting legal technology to manage their practice, attorneys have greater opportunities to run a successful small law firm.
Building a strong team
The foundation of your law firm should start with a solid team. For a small law firm, you’ll want to think more strategically about the people you choose to hire. You’ll want to consider people with diverse skill sets who can easily manage multiple tasks. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure they all have outstanding people skills. It’s not uncommon for staff in a small law firm to have more interaction with your clients and prospects than at a larger firm.
Since your staff is limited, you’ll want to be mindful of delegating administrative tasks and billable time to not overwhelm their workload. This is achieved through creating efficient processes and workflows that limits or automates non-billable time so your team can stay productive.
You may also want to consider hiring third-party or outside consultants who can perform administrative or non-billable work. Instead of relying on a single staff member to handle marketing, billing, client relations, you could hire a virtual assistant who can complete these tasks at an hourly rate. The goal is to make the best use of your team’s time and resources while maintaining productivity.
Utilizing technology to manage small law firms
The legal industry has grown exponentially with advancement in legal technology. More and more law firms have transitioned away from traditional practices and adopted modern legal technology to run their business more efficiently. Here are a few ways technology will help streamline your small law firm.
Consider having a virtual law firm
As many businesses were forced to adopt remote work during the pandemic, they realized some of the benefits they had been missing out on. Of course, there were some hiccups in the beginning, but many businesses found that their offices stayed operational. Productivity was high with many employees still reaching or exceeding their goals, and customers even enjoyed the increased accessibility.
For small law firms, having a physical office may not be the best route anymore. Maintenance cost, janitorial staff, and rent can easily become a pain-point in your budget. A virtual law firm is a great option for a small law firm because it requires less overhead costs, offers flexibility in your work schedule, and allows you to access a variety of new clients.
Of course, remote or virtual work isn’t a viable option for all small law firms. You’ll want to evaluate your client base, staff, and workload to determine if a virtual office will be a good fit for you. Some small law firms have hybrid work options meaning they’re in the office or utilize a shared working space on occasion and work remotely the rest of the time.
How to choose the right tools
If you’re leaning towards having a virtual law firm then you’ll want to make sure you have the right tools. As previously mentioned, legal technology has grown exponentially. So much so, law firms can operate from a single platform online.
Choosing the right practice management software for your law firm is essential in the way you plan to run your business. Since small law firms typically have limited staff, so a practice management tool can help relieve them of time-consuming administrative or non-billable tasks.
Here a few things you should look for in practice management software:
CRM or client relationship management
A good CRM keeps track of any communication or documentation related to your clients in a clean and easy to use format. This database can help reduce non-billable hours by automating the client intake process and limiting human errors with manual entry.
For small law firms it can get overwhelming juggling multiple cases at a time. Case management allows you to easily locate a specific client’s case and monitor its progress. Traditionally, law firms would keep tracks of this information with paper files. Having this information ready digitally allows you to better maintain and prepare for cases.
Time tracking and billing
Managing your time in an excel spreadsheet or paper can quickly lead to problems with billing and result in revenue leakage. For a small law firm, this can be detrimental to your bottom line. The best way to accurately capture your time is by using a system that automates time tracking and billing. You’ll spend less time wondering how long you spent working on a case and more time practicing the law.
Your firm may be no stranger to online payments, but it’s important to know the difference between third-party and built-in payments processing. Third parties can be expensive with high transaction and monthly fees and may not be compliant for legal use. On the other hand, a built-in processor like PantherPayments, is ABA and IOLTA compliant and offers transparent, industry-low transaction fees. ePayments will also get you paid faster and your clients will enjoy the added convenience.
Security and the cloud
Law firms store mass amounts of sensitive data and it’s important to have the best security to protect it. Unlike a server that may charge for vital updates, cloud-based software automatically performs updates for free.
Consider your client experience
Whether you’re considering a virtual or office-based firm, the client experience should always be top of mind. This is where implementing automated processes will come in handy to support your customer service. Automated features like client intake, billing, ePayments, client portals, are services that enhance your clients experience by allowing them to access information easily and on their own time. Your clients will enjoy the convenience and you’ll enjoy having more time to work on your caseload.
There has never been a better time to manage a small law firm. As the legal industry continues to evolve and adopts more modern technology, law firms will be able to support their clients in non-traditional ways that allow them to work more efficiently.