Competition among law firms is fierce, especially here in Florida. Implement these proactive steps to help position your firm for long-term success.
When it comes to running a law firm in hyper-competitive markets like Florida, lawyers must proactively (and constantly) look for ways to gain an edge. It sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Generally, there are no shortcuts to long-term success. To reach a certain level, you’ve just got to put the work in. So what kind of work are you putting into your practice?
There’s a lot that goes into running a law firm aside from the actual practice of law. Start by identifying the different tasks you’re tackling on a daily or weekly basis and segment them accordingly (legal work, bookkeeping, filing, emails, calls, court appearances, etc.). Then ask yourself some follow-up questions.
(1) How much time am I spending each day/week on this task?
(2) Does this task make my practice more productive or profitable?
(3) Any tasks that left you answering “No” to Question 2 – How can I accomplish this task without spending so much time on it?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you need to ask yourself the important one:
What makes me a good lawyer?
Maybe you’re a shrewd negotiator, or you have a keen understanding of complex issues, or maybe you pride yourself on being compassionate and attentive to your clients’ needs. Everybody brings something different to the table and it’s those qualities that will set you apart from your competitors. That means spending more time on work that highlights your strengths and less time on everything else. Here’s how:
Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to automate time-consuming tasks that generate little to no revenue for your practice. First, implement a software platform to help manage your practice. Whether it’s Practice Panther, MyCase or any other platform (there are plenty), this will help you immensely.
These programs have a myriad of features, including (but not limited to), mobile apps if you’re on-the-go, calendar management and reminders, client management tools, document storage, time tracking, etc. With some, you can even text or email your client directly from the platform and the communications will be saved and stored in the system, so (hopefully) nothing slips through the cracks.
Along those lines, implementing an automated accounting program can also be helpful. Many programs are synced to accounts or debit/credit cards and will automatically log and categorize purchases or expenses. Snap pictures of receipts to have them automatically stored for tax season and minimize the need to store physical copies in a file (less clutter). Automate your recurring payments for overhead expenses and other items, so you don’t even have to think about it.
Tools like these will help reduce the time you spend on administrative tasks, significantly. Which is great, because last time I checked, you don’t generate any revenue while you’re paying bills.
One area where many lawyers struggle is time management. Why? Because there are always fires to put out. If you respond to every email as it hits your inbox, or answer every call throughout the day, you sacrifice focus and productivity. It will take you more time to get your big-ticket items done and the quality of work can suffer. One solution to this issue is block scheduling.
Block scheduling takes planning, but a little planning now will save you a lot of time later. Carve out blocks of time each day to tackle different tasks. It is often recommended that you put your most arduous task first, to avoid procrastination. Knock it out first thing, and the rest of your day is gravy – plus, you’ll have a nice sense of accomplishment each day. Be sure to build in flex-time throughout the week to help account for those little fires that will inevitably pop up.
Make the blocks repetitive (i.e., Motion Drafting Monday or Marketing Monday) try to establish a routine and eventually, a habit. If you stick to it, it will become second nature and your productivity will soar. However, the “sticking to it” part is the big challenge here. Using a system like this to ensure that your highest-priority work is given adequate attention throughout the week.
Again, you want to design a system that maximizes the time you spend on your strengths.
3. Delegate (Minimize Overhead, Maximize Profitability)
Which leads to the third step – the importance of delegating. Even if you have the time to spend on administrative tasks or low-level legal work, the fact is, you probably still shouldn’t. If your goal is to take your practice to new heights, you need to be laser-focused on activities that highlight your strengths and generate the most revenue. Ideally, they’ll be the same activities, or at least closely related.
Delegating work to outside services has never been easier or more reliable. There are companies that provide virtual assistants, phone answering services, bookkeeping and of course…on-demand freelance legal support.
There are multiple benefits to this. First, it saves you time and allows you to be much more efficient. Second, it can vastly increase job satisfaction since you avoid the monotonous tasks that consume your day and limit productivity. And finally, the financial impact. By delegating work, you can keep overhead costs to a bare minimum. Using virtual services and freelance support allows you to get the work done without hiring more staff. Employees cost a lot of time and money, between the hiring process, training, salary, benefits, taxes, insurance, equipment, vacations (you get it), they can be a drain on your firm’s vital resources. More importantly, when using services like The Freelance Firm, you can generally add a surcharge when billing your client, meaning you can even profit on the work you delegate!
Taking steps like these will help you build a practice that’s more efficient, more productive and more profitable. Find what works best for your firm and stick to it! You can achieve sustainable growth with low operating costs, making your firm lean and well-positioned for long-term success!
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Obligatory Disclaimer: Consult your applicable Bar Association rules, guidelines, ethics opinions, etc., regarding the use of outside service providers in your jurisdiction.