How to Manage a Law Firm
While lawyers are highly-trained individuals, two areas in which they often lack training are business management and marketing. This can be a serious hurdle for many lawyers, particularly those who intend to start their own law firm. There is, of course, something to be said for your work speaking for itself, but effective business management and marketing strategies are vital to get your business off the ground, and to keep it running smoothly.
Although there is an incredible amount of work that goes into the management of any business — many of which depend on the unique needs of each business — there are some basic steps almost any growing law firm can take to start off on the right foot.
It is important to start thinking about your new law firm’s marketing strategy early. By the time you open your doors, people should already be able to easily find you, and acquire basic information about your services. Ideally, your marketing efforts should be a constantly ongoing process that can build upon itself over time. Each part of your marketing strategy should be thought of as just that — part of a greater web of a marketing plan, rather than unrelated, one-off initiatives.
If you are unsure where to start when it comes to building your marketing plan, it will be helpful to first establish your goals. Just make sure they are specific and realistic. For example, if you are starting out in general practice, but would like to eventually specialize in handling civil rights cases, you will want to focus much of your marketing efforts on associating your brand with civil rights law.
However, it is also vital to prioritize your goals carefully, especially when your business is just getting off the ground and marketing funds are limited. Take the previous example of building a reputation as a civil rights law firm. While such a long-term goal is very helpful, you may still want to put more marketing resources and budget into legal lead generation than brand association with civil rights suits, as the former is more immediately tied to revenue and may even yield referrals over time.
The organization of business projects is an essential part of operations. How your projects are managed will largely depend on the individual business, but there are a few basic components of an effective project management strategy, including the following:
- Setting Goals: Set realistic, specific goals for both the short and long term.
- Creating Timelines: Set not only final deadlines, but milestones on the way to the final deadline.
- Assigning Responsibility: Specifically designate who should be in charge of each phase of the project.
- Recapping, Revisiting, and Revising: Monitor progress, and assess whether any changes to your goals or workflow strategy may improve your project management approach.
What paperwork management entails has changed significantly in recent years as digital storage and document management have become not only the norm, but the expectation. In fact, it has become very common for many businesses, including law firms, to operate remotely. However, this change does not make “paperwork” management any less important, especially when dealing with important and confidential client files. Proper document management is an ongoing process which includes the following steps:
- Choosing your document storage methods/software;
- Receiving, processing, and sending out documents;
- Deletion of non-pertinent documents;
- Filing private documents separately;
- Tracking documents;
- Tracking dates.
Productivity and Time Management
Time management is a vital component of business management for any company, but especially for a business like a law firm, which is highly reliant on meeting deadlines. The following factors should be taken into consideration when dealing with productivity and time management:
- Goals: Set realistic productivity goals.
- Prioritization: Ensure that projects are dealt with in an order determined by deadlines and urgency.
- Creation of a List, Timeline, and Process: Detail what tasks need to be taken care of, what their deadlines are, and what needs to be done in order to complete them.
- Following Through With Your Plan: Stick to the plan as much as possible. If it becomes apparent that the plan is inefficient, use that information to inform future time management plans.
Employees are the backbone of your business, and therefore it is important to manage them and their needs effectively. An employment management strategy should begin at the hiring stage. The hiring and onboarding process should not only operate to assess the employee, but also give them all of the tools they need to succeed
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of office management is the balance between structure and flexibility, which is an especially apparent need when it comes to employee management. Structure is needed to maintain order, but an overly structured environment may become stifling. Therefore, while it is important to have things such as office policies, performance reviews, and check-ins, it is also important to constantly re-assess the efficacy of these measures and to make sure that they are implemented in a way that is very positive for the success of the business, and the wellbeing of the employees.
Client management can be a trickier aspect of business management, as you can only control the interaction on your end. Therefore, it is all the more important that client relationships are handled very carefully. The following components should be in place in order to manage client interactions effectively:
- A client onboarding process;
- Client file management procedures;
- Time table management (meetings, check-ins, deadlines, etc.)
Security management is very important for any business, but it is especially so for businesses like law firms that deal with sensitive client information. Therefore, law firms should have extensive procedures in place for the security of physical and digital documentation. These procedures will depend on the individual business, but they should include measures for secure access to files, as well as accountability policies to encourage caution with sensitive information.
Although business management is an ongoing process that requires much trial-and-error, these foundational aspects are a great starting point for law firms or other businesses just getting their sea legs.
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