How to grow your law firm

How to grow your law firm

Growing a law firm is no small task. There are plenty of obstacles that can prevent growth, such as the struggle to attract new clients, the battle to retain old clients, inability to innovate, failure to meet demands, absence of strategy, aversion to legal tech solutions, and so on.

The list of obstacles to growing a law firm might seem endless. But, with the right legal research and strategy, with effort from lawyers and will of the organisation, growing a law firm is achievable.

Stasis – the opposite and the absence of growth – will taint any law firm. Stasis is the first immovable step towards failure. Law firms of the future need to innovate. Firms need to strategise to expand business, use marketing to attract new clients, employ legal tech to beat the competition, and use all of the above to increase revenue. Basically, in order to grow, law firms need to be bold.

 

How to expand your law firm

 

Set a strategy

There are myriad directions of growth, each of which depends on the desires of each firm. The first step towards growth is deciding on the best direction. Some law firms, for example, wish to recruit more staff, while others want to attract new clients or simply focus on net profitability.

Defining direction of growth is the first step towards expanding business. Law firms need to establish clear goals and objectives, which should always depend on an understanding of their current position in the market. Firms need to understand where they are at present and define where they want to go.

Objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed. Once the objectives are set and the strategy is defined, firms can start to consider the ways in which they will achieve such goals

 

Expand practice area niche

One way to expand business is by expanding practice area niche. As the legal sector changes, as competition increases, law firms often consider greater specialisation or generalisation.

The latter can help to grow a law firm. The reasons are simple. Generalisation increases demand, in theory at least. By expanding the niche, law firms naturally have a wider potential pool of clients. The expansion can also help cross-sell or up-sell – firms can take on more of their client’s work – which in-turn increases client retention and satisfaction – because firms can meet additional client demands.

Another benefit of expanding practice area niche is mitigation of risk. Dependency on a small client base can leave law firms vulnerable, particularly during volatile market conditions. The generalisation of practice area provides a wider safety net, which is especially necessary for smaller firms.

Expanding practice area niche does come with risks. By directing expenditure towards expanding the niche, for example, law firms risk alienating existing clients. They also risk entering markets that are saturated, which means the expenditure may prove wasteful and counter-productive.

 

Hire new people...or outsource

A law firm is just a group of people working together towards a shared goal. If firms want to expand their business, they might want to expand their business quite literally.

When hiring, firms should evaluate demand. Firms should grow alongside an increasing client base, ensuring all client needs are met and high levels of client satisfaction are maintained. But firms need to confirm that increased client demands are consistent and long-term rather than simply fluctuating.

If client demand is fluctuating, law firms might grow through outsourcing. Outsourcing tasks can help deal with momentary increases in demand. Firms should outsource time-consuming, low-value work to free up time for lawyers to use expertise and skills, which in turn will reduce the cost of outsourcing.

 

How law firms can find more clients

 

Establish a brand

Once firms have set a strategy and considered expanding niche, they need to attract more clients. Law firms of the future should enter the brave new worlds of social media, email marketing, and so on.

Such forms of marketing are often misunderstood. Law firms too often throw money into marketing, without having direction. Law firms need to get marketing right, which means doing legal research, expanding reach, and converting their audience.

Firms should start by establishing a brand. A company’s brand is its first impression. Firms need to make sure that potential clients remember the branding in the crowded world of the internet.

Consider how firms wish to be perceived. The aesthetics and design of law firm branding should match the ethos of the firm, reflecting culture and values. Perhaps traditional, no-nonsense firms will opt for simplicity, while more progressive firms will opt for something chic or even experimental.

Firms should ensure colour schemes, fonts, and logos reflect their ethos and maintain consistency for brand recognition, using the same branding across all socials, websites, emails, and so on.

Create a user friendly website

 

According to recent research, it takes just 0.05 seconds for consumers to form an opinion about a website. It’s essential, therefore, that a law firm’s website is inviting, easy-to-navigate, and clear.

Law firms should not aim to include all information, which will make the user experience clunky, complex, and frustrating. Instead, only include essential elements, showcasing any main achievements and ensuring the most important information is the first thing the user encounters.

Details of services should be easy to find and easy to access. Clients may have found the law firm’s site through marketing or search engines, both of which demonstrate an initial interest in service. If unable to find the required information, however, potential clients will turn to lost clients.

An essential element of web design is mobile optimisation. According to Statista, more than 50% of website traffic now comes from mobile phones. And, according to London Economic, M-commerce (commercial transactions with the use of smartphones) has increased by more than 40% since 2017.

Simply put, law firms cannot neglect the mobile, so ensure the website works well on smartphones.

 

Fine-tune comms

Law firms do not need to hire a copywriter, but they do need to consider copy. Any written information on their website should be presented in a style that is readable and welcoming. Law firm copy should be persuasive, too, showing off all that the firm has achieved and is able to achieve.

Written copy should contain no grammatical errors. There are plenty of business solutions to help with that process, such as Grammarly and Hemingway, and firms that depend on more written content should consider a style guide. There are plenty of style guides online that will make writing consistent. The Guardian and Observer Style Guide is a popular choice, but there are more accessible options.

 

How law firms can stay competitive

 

Embrace automation

Legal automation can sometimes feel overtly complex, particularly when trying to figure out where to start. But automation in the legal sector is simpler than perceived, often meaning only small-scale changes to repetitive tasks, usually involving billing and payments, document automation, legal document management, legal contract automation, broad data entry processes, and so on.

Automation helps firms to grow by boosting competitiveness. Automation simplifies and streamlines, shifting tedious tasks from humans to machines, allowing lawyers to focus on more valuable work, client-facing work, the sort of work that helps firms stand out from the crowd.

Automation has a myriad of other benefits that give firms an edge, such as reduced costs on low-value work, improved accuracy, increased client satisfaction, and better retention. In simple terms, law firms of the future – particularly smaller firms – need to embrace automation to remain competitive.

For more information, check out our article on How to automate your law firm.

 

Partner with a lawtech provider

Firms that are less confident with legal tech should consider partnering with a lawtech provider. Lawtech providers specialise in delivering legal-specific advice and training to help firms take advantage of the latest technology and meet the demands of businesses and society.

Lawtech providers are particularly important for small firms that want to embrace innovation, perhaps even legal automation, but do not have the required knowledge to take early steps. Partnering with a lawtech provider will allow firms to create a work programme that can easily support growth.

 

How to increase law firm revenue

 

To increase revenue, law firms need to indulge all of the above. They need to expand the business and attract new clients, which allows a more diverse pool from which to generate revenue. They need to stay competitive, which means more revenue through greater market share. And they need to embrace legal tech, which will free up more time for lawyers to perform revenue-generating tasks.

At the beginning of the article, we stressed the importance of strategy, but the initial strategy is just the beginning when it comes to growing a law firm. From that initial strategy, firms must review, engage in data analytics, draw logical conclusions, and start the process of strategising again.

Successful law firms are ever-evolving entities. They are constantly assessing and re-assessing, researching and planning, learning from mistakes and building on accomplishments, and always moving forward. Growing a law firm depends on constant inquiry and developing strategies, consistent effort and buy-in from employees, and the sheer determination of all involved. 

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About the author:

Ioan Marc Jones writes on law, politics, and economics for The Independent, openDemocracy, Economy, The Huffington Post, LexisNexis, and many other publications.