Managing a small law firm presents numerous challenges and often means cumbersome day-to-day tasks fall onto your shoulders and those of your busy (and multitasking) staff. According to Thomson Reuters’ 2020 State of U.S. Small Law Firms report, the most frequently cited challenge of small firms is acquiring new client business, followed by spending too much time on administrative tasks and not enough time practicing law.
There are several steps you can take to start managing your small law firm more effectively so you can bring in more business and stay focused on what you do best. These steps include optimizing your pricing and payment models, continuously improving your client experience, leveraging technology, building a stronger brand and properly managing your human resources.
1. Optimize Your Payment and Pricing Models
Many clients seek out small law firms because of perceived affordability. However, your existing pricing model may not appear affordable—but maybe that’s OK. Before you start to lower your prices, stop and think about the value your firm offers. Do you provide specific expertise no one else in your service area can match? Is your customer service second-to-none?
Now ask yourself, are you effectively highlighting the value your firm provides to clients? Customers across industries are often willing to pay more when they perceive the value they receive in return is worth more than the price. Highlight your value more effectively, and you may find existing and prospective customers willing to pay. You won’t have to cut into already-thin profit margins or potentially damage your firm’s reputation through discounting and devaluing your own work.
Also, examine whether you can offer your clients value and convenience through new payment options. Because of its variation, the billable hours payment method gives many accounting departments a headache. Offering fixed-fee billing to your clients allows them to budget for your services effectively. Or, you could take it a step further with subscription-based services that enable clients to pay for specific packages of services or unbundled services that let them pay only for what they want.
2. Continuously Improve Your Client Experience
Use the same vigor with which you attack cases to relentlessly improve your clients’ experience as they engage with your firm. Stop and think about each time a client interacts with your firm (which are commonly referred to as touchpoints).
Start with their first visit to your website. Is your website easy to use and navigate? Think about your intake process and how easy (or difficult) it is for a new client to complete. Are you capturing all the information you need, checking for conflicts, obtaining signed fee agreements and onboarding your client effectively? Do you provide an online portal with case-related documents and other important information for newly onboarded clients as well as current clients? Is your staff helpful, engaging and empathetic when they answer the phone?
A bad experience at any stage can cost you clients and result in negative word-of-mouth. Even if your answer to each of these questions is yes, go over each touchpoint again to identify hidden pain points and burgeoning problems.
3. Leverage Technology to Improve Your Performance
There are several cloud-based technologies available that can reduce your administrative workload, freeing you up to spend more time working with and on behalf of clients. For example, Case Management Software (CMS) is designed to support your work on individual cases, while Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are software applications designed to help you manage client relationships. When used effectively, a CMS can reduce administrative work, while a CRM can help you retain existing clients and convert new prospects.
You can also free-up considerable time by using digital tools, such as shared online calendars. CRM calendaring gives you the ability to have clients book appointments, make payments and receive meeting reminders online. Also, integrate digital contracts into your operations to cut down on in-person meetings, postage costs and time spent resolving cases and administrative matters.
4. Strengthen Your Brand
You don’t need a million-dollar ad budget and a six-figure agency on retainer to build or strengthen your firm’s brand. Start with the two C’s: clarity and consistency. Clearly articulate who your firm is, what it stands for and the value you provide. Ensure your branding and marketing messages are straightforward and easy to understand consistently across all of your marketing channels and over time.
When you are consistent, your target audience will recall your firm when they need or are asked about legal services. Moreover, consistency helps build trust. Prospective clients need to trust you to take steps on their behalf that may have tremendous personal or professional consequences, which is why building a trusted brand is critical for converting your prospects into clients.
5. Manage Your Human Resources Effectively
With your team shouldering both legal and nonlegal responsibilities, it’s important to minimize the administrative and non-revenue-generating activity as much as possible, or at least delegate it to certain staff members, so your attorneys and paralegals can focus on clients and their cases. In practice, many smaller firms have one or two office managers to handle nonlegal work. But this is often ineffective in terms of time and overhead cost.
Successfully managing a law firm in today’s legal landscape requires efficiency and streamlining operations. Small law firms must refine their operations to create greater value for clients. This is done by reducing administrative work in favor of client-facing work.
Start reducing your administrative workload by partnering with a legal call center, like Alert Communications. Our highly-trained, empathetic intake specialists help your small law firm remain manageable, competitive and profitable by handling calls and client intake, as well as providing retainer and contract services. Contact us today.