Law Firm Business Strategies: 4 Keys to Breaking the 7-Figure Barrier (Part 1 of 4)
It’s no surprise when laid-off lawyers or law school grads who can’t find a job hang out their own shingles, but there are even more attorneys heeding the siren call to start up their own firm in order to achieve a better work-life balance (if that even exists).
You may feel at times that starting a law firm is counterintuitive when it comes to finding balance in your life. However, if you build it right, running your own firm can be a highly satisfying way to employ yourself and serve clients the way you’ve always wanted.
I have personally trained over 18,000 lawyers on how to manage and market their firms more efficiently and effectively. I have probably helped more attorneys break the seven-figure barrier in revenues than anyone else. I’m not telling you this to brag, but to share with you the keys to breaking the seven-figure barrier based on my experiences.
Key #1: Run your law firm like a business.
You studied the law as a noble profession, but to break the seven-figure barrier, you must run your law firm like a business. As a solo practitioner or the owner of a small law firm, your primary focus – after gaining competency as an attorney – is to understand and apply the key principles of business development, operations, management and law firm marketing every single day. There are 10 major parts every successful law firm owner must focus on – in this order:
Marketing: The purpose of marketing is to generate leads. There are a wide variety of ways to do this. All of them work, but they are not always suited for all situations, practice areas or attorneys. Find three-five different ways that work for you and use them frequently. Not every attorney will be a top Rainmaker, but everyone can do something to grow and market his or her practice.
Sales: The purpose of sales is to close the deal or sign up the client. Once you start generating leads, you must become better at getting prospects to become paying clients.
Services: Once you have become proficient at generating leads and closing the deal, you must perform the services for the client. When you fix your marketing, then you have a sales problem. When you fix your sales problem, then you have a services problem. See how this works?
Staff: When you become successful at marketing and sales, eventually you will also need more staff to do the work. You cannot hire just any staff; they must be the right staff for you. What kind of culture do you want your firm to have? Who will best fit that culture? Develop a list of qualities and characteristics you need your team members to have.
Systems: Policies, procedures and systems allow you to scale to the next level. Without written systems you cannot scale your business. You will hit a breaking point. It may be at half a million or more, but eventually you will experience a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering because you didn’t invest in creating written policies, procedures and systems for your law firm. You need written systems for every major part of your business. From marketing and intake to money and metrics, it all must be logically written down so even a brand new team member who knows nothing about your business can follow it.
Space: After you start hiring the right staff because you have more clients to serve, eventually you will need more office space to house them. Far too many attorneys get caught up in renting a much bigger or nicer space than they can afford in an attempt to “keep up with the Joneses” or give off the appearance of being more successful than they are. The pleasure you may gain from a fancy office is nothing compared with the worry of making those big payments every month. Don’t strap yourself with too many financial obligations and be careful about signing longterm agreements, especially when you’re just starting off.
Money: Very few attorneys went to school to become a bookkeeper or an accountant, but to manage a growing business you must know how to manage your money. You need to know the basics of finances for small business, from reading a profit and loss statement to analyzing your cash flow. Being an owner means other people are depending on you to manage the money wisely.
Metrics: To consistently break a million dollars per year in revenues, there are over a dozen numbers you must be monitoring and measuring consistently. Here are a few of them – unique website visitors each month, leads per month, average cost per lead by marketing channel (PPC, SEO, TV, radio, print, etc), appointments your team sets per month, show up rate to your appointments, conversion rate for initial consultation by attorney, average cost per client acquisition by marketing channel, cost of goods sold (COGS) per practice area and profit margin per practice area. This is not a comprehensive list, but if you know, measure and track each of those metrics every month, you’re on your way to comprehensively monitoring your business.
Strategy: While having a great strategy is necessary, most attorneys spend too much time developing a strategy and too little time implementing the strategy! Get some leads in the door. Make the sale. Collect the money. Do great work. Obtain some referrals. Wash, rinse and repeat! Then work on your next level strategy.
Self: Upgrading yourself is the last, but most important step. You need to read business growth books or take classes or seminars if that fits your style of learning better. Hang around other successful business owners. Join a mastermind group of successful attorneys. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You will never build a multimillion-dollar law firm by staying inside your comfort zone.