December 11, 2018

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Legal Business: 10 Steps To Take To Avoid A Law Firm Failure

An attorney is trained to practice law. This doesn’t mean that they don’t make for great business-minded individuals, but it does mean that their postgraduate collegiate career was more than likely not focused on business administration. During law school and their first outing into the practice of law, it’s imperative that attorneys who aspire to entrepreneurship take care to remain optimistic. Risk aversion can be instrumental in maintaining any business or career, but if it progresses to the extent that it cancels out an entrepreneur’s willingness to take risks, it can quickly become detrimental. And if successful businesspeople need anything above all else, it’s optimism and the belief that everything will work out fantastically. You just have to have a great idea and then take that chance while keeping potential consequences in mind, hence why you’re reading about how to avoid a law firm failure.

But if an attorney really wants to break out and start her own firm, there is hope, of course. To get you past the first growing pains and become the proprietor of a successful, growing law firm, there are a number of mistakes to avoid in proper law firm management. Or you may already own a law firm, but it may not be doing as well as you believe it should be.

Preventing A Law Firm Failure

  1. Don’t skimp on technology. Initially, an attorney may be able to get away with very little except a phone, laptop, desk, and calendar. As the firm grows, however, you’ll become busier as you get in more clients. Start adopting new technology as the business grows. A sampling of technology includes tools that allow for transcription service, video conferencing along with practice management software such as PracticePanther (which includes a client portal), and eDiscovery software. You also want to get your hardware up to date. Eventually, as you add more staff and attorneys (think BIG), you will want collaboration tools. This is a minimal list of law firm management tools that are available.
  2. Draw up an extensive business plan. Without a map of where you need to be, you will wind up someplace else, and you don’t want that someplace else to be a dark road leading straight into law firm oblivion. Again, don’t become just another law firm failure.
  3. You will also need a specific plan for marketing. Marketing is critical and there are several schools of thought about the best way to market a law firm. Explore your many avenues and don’t skimp here either. Whichever marketing avenue you choose, be consistent.
  4. Learn to think like an entrepreneur. Forbes lists five ways an attorney can do this:
    1. Get Passionate
    2. Be Bothered by Inefficiency
    3. Take on More Risk
    4. Brainstorm More
    5. Don’t Limit Your Dreams
  5. In law firm management, you’ve got to build a solid team and then manage that team. Business school graduates undergo many hours of management training. It’s important to learn how to manage people so that your business runs smoothly with well-trained, productive, and happy staff members. If needed, get help from a mentor or take a few management courses from your local school.
  6. Excite your potential clients with possibilities. Make sure they remember your name after they’ve interviewed with other law firms. Also, be sure to follow through with further contact on the issues you addressed.
  7. Build relationships with your clients so that they don’t become one-offs. Become a client’s attorney for matters large and small. Become that person that first comes to mind when they run across a problem that an attorney can help solve.
  8. Focus on the client in terms of making them feel valued and appreciated. Too often, attorneys will treat clients as products rather than people. An attorney won’t return a phone call because they’re too busy or figure there’s nothing new to tell, so why bother talking to the client? While the underappreciated client might not tell you he’s feeling slighted, he’s more than likely happy to share his insights with others. The result is a slow law firm failure.
  9. Budget for experiments. In law firm management, if you’re not moving forward then you’re moving backward, writes Lee Rosen, and ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Famer. Try new technology, new practice areas, or try a different pricing structure.
  10. Again, when you need help, ask for it. Find a mentor – someone who has been in your shoes and has already made the mistakes that you want to avoid.

Conclusion

You may not have been trained as a businessperson or entrepreneur, but with a few adaptations, you can learn to run a successful law firm and not become another law firm failure. Have faith and take a leap (after you’ve thoroughly developed your business and marketing plans).

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About this Author

Jaliz Maldonado, Practice Panther Miami Legal Marketing and Law Office Management author

Jaliz Maldonado is an eight-year Army Veteran and is currently in graduate school at the University of Miami where she is studying for her MBA. When she's not working at PracticePanther as the Operations Manager or studying, she's hanging out with her English Bulldog named Dumbell, painting, or reading. Jaliz is also strong with the force and belongs to House Slytherin. Make sure to connect with her via Linkedin and follow her on twitter @JalizMaldonado.

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