While very different, in many ways legal firms are like any other business. At some point, you will be just starting out and need to find ways to grow your clientèle and your reputation. You must have a marketing strategy, good client relations and customer service, useful software and technology, and not an insignificant amount of luck to start seeing success. This guide will go into detail regarding some strategies that have proven to be effective in growing a small law firm.
Use Specialized Legal Software
Software is key for a firm operating on a much smaller scale than big firms to reduce paperwork, easily track billable time and to keep various information and materials organized. There is specialized software for law offices, as well as many more general options, such as HR software, that can help a small firm stay on top of things. Having technology to simplify regular office tasks usually results in your legal assistants, attorneys and office staff having more billable time. Why have your paralegals spend the time to go to and search through physical law libraries when they can use an online database instead? Don’t forget that some less popular products might prove to be a helpful asset to your firm. For example, while many law firms are switching over to Microsoft Office, many more still use Word Perfect because of its longstanding connection with the legal industry and the law firm-friendly features it has.
Accounting software is of particular importance. One way you can help grow your small firm is by beginning to automate accounting. A solid invoicing system will help you send out invoices more efficiently to clients and contractors. The ability to accept electronic payments online will also ensure that you get paid faster and make it less likely your clients will forget to pay. You will also want a program that can easily track billable time for each client, because your legal firm likely charges by the hour, or at least should be able to offer that option.
Focus On Client Relations
Like most small businesses, legal firms generate most of their new business due to referrals. This means that your firm must dedicate sufficient resources to client relations and provide good customer service at all times. See to it that all new hires get the proper training, and do not neglect the development of a training program to ensure all employees know what is expected of them when interacting with clients. When clients are pleased with your service, they will recommend your firm to others.
A relationship with an attorney is a personal one, and in many cases people come seeking lawyers because something traumatic and stressful has happened to them. Like medical personnel, attorneys and their staff must have excellent bedside manners. If your attorneys and staff are professional, helpful and knowledgeable while still being compassionate, your clients are likely to be impressed with your service and recommend you to others.
Take Care With Marketing and Have An Online Presence
Marketing is trickier for legal firms than it is for any other business. Marketing materials and advertisements are controlled with strict regulations to remain ethically compliant. Personal injury firms tend to have the most leeway for advertising, but firms in other areas of law can find ways to make it work for them as well. Giving away free resources to your community, or supporting charitable events, are other good ways to get your name out there and associated with a positive image.
It cannot be overstated how important an online presence is for a small law firm today. Potential clients will likely be Googling law firms with your specialty in their area, and you want to show up on that list. Make sure all content is keyword optimized so your firm will appear higher on the results page. Content marketing is useful for law firms, as it is for most businesses, because it gives you a chance to showcase your professional knowledge about a subject. Interesting, helpful and intriguing content will impress potential clients and make them want to contact you for a consultation. The information should be for a general purpose only, and potential clients should be encouraged to contact you for specialized legal advice about their specific situation.
Create Your Brand
Legal firms should focus on their branding efforts too, just like many other businesses. Your brand is who you are – what people associate with your firm. One way to do this is to find your niche. Most firms focus on just a handful or even one area of law to practice, but it is usually advantageous to be known for catering to a specific type of client. For example, you may focus on discrimination suits within employment law. Having a niche makes it easier to attract your ideal clients and a strong brand will make potential clients think of you when they realize they need legal representation or advice.
Winning prominent cases, when they come your way, should of course be the goal of every small law firm. A prominent case can be just what your firm needs to get your name out there and begin establishing your reputation as consummate legal professionals. It is important to never guarantee or imply you will win a client’s case, but a good history of success for your clients will reflect well on you and more clients will likely seek you out. Consider your brand and values when selecting cases. You are a private firm and can turn down cases you don’t think will be of benefit to your image. This can be difficult for a firm starting out, but it can be hard to attract the clients you want if you build a history of representing the opposite side. For example, if your history becomes filled with representing landlords, it can be harder to convince tenant clients you will be able to meet their needs.
At some point, all firms were small law firms just starting out. It will take time and a significant amount of effort to grow your legal firm, but following the advice above will get you off to the right start. Be sure that all growth strategies you pursue are legally ethical, or your firm could run into serious trouble. You can also seek advice from established firms or attorneys you are on good terms with. Professional legal organizations can steer you in the right direction as well – they offer numerous resources for their members.