Planning For Success: How To Start Working On The Things That Matter For Your Law Firm
Every entrepreneur knows that there’s a distinct difference between working in your business and working on your business.
Working in your business simply means you’re still an employee. You may have started the company, you may be the acting manager, but you’re not free to come and go as you please.
Working in your law firm means that it’s in a place where it’s not quite stable yet. One or two hard hits and the whole thing could topple—ergo, you’re working in it to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Every business owner is expected to work in their business—particularly at the beginning, when things are still new and there may not be enough team members yet to cover all processes. However, if they don’t stop working in and start working on their business, they do more harm than good. They’ll make it so that the business is completely dependent on them, and this dependence means they physically cannot take time off for themselves, less they risk the business failing.
Consequently, this fosters stress and resentment in the business owner, which subsequently can limit the growth prospects of the firm.
Working on your law firm means that the foundations are solid. You can afford to take one or two days off without fear of a crash-and-burn situation. You’re in a stable place both financially, logistically, and operationally to start improving on what you currently have.
Once you hit that sweet spot, there are three things you should begin working on right away to guarantee continued success.
Employment Lawyer Branigan Robertson’s advice for people starting their own law firm is to pick only one area of law. He emphasizes how generalizing your law practice can make it difficult to master a specific legal branch. He also points out that this jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none approach will establish you as a competitor to every other law firm, making it difficult to build business relationships for a referral network.
In other words, once you pick one or two (never more) areas of specialization, start strengthening your knowledge and expertise in that area. Look for potential mentors, review cases, read your books (again) if you have to … do whatever you can solidify your chosen expertise. This way, even if you’re still a fairly new law firm, you’ll have enough confidence in your knowledge to pull off your first few contracts smoothly.
Your Referral Network
Earlier, we mentioned looking for potential mentors to help you in your chosen area of law. We also mentioned picking just one or two areas so as not to create too many competitors. As a fresh law firm, you can’t afford to alienate yourself. With barely any experience and no known credibility to your name, you’re going to need recommendations, referrals, and resources outside of your firm’s current team.
This is where your business relationships will come in. Once your rapport with them is solid, you can ask them to send potential clients (in the case of non-competitors) or potential staff/partners your way. If your jurisdiction permits it and it’s in compliance with the State Bar’s ethics, you can also incentivize them via a reasonable referral fee.
In the case of potential staff/partners, hiring people from your business relationships assures you that these are men and women who more or less understand what working in a law firm entails. Drawing from their own unique experience and knowledge, they can help you create and implement on-boarding processes that can easily and extensively orient new hires whether or not you’re present for their initiation.
Qualified Support Staff
Building your team is something you definitely want to start working on once your firm is stable. Whether they’re your average bookkeeper or law school intern, you need to surround yourself with capable, competent people who can handle administrative, professional, and even menial day-to-day tasks even when you’re not around.
You should also train your support staff on what to do and how to operate without your direct supervision. This ensures that they can work seamlessly together as a fully-functional law firm even in spite of your absences.
Similar to what was mentioned in the previous section, qualified support staff—once trained—can also help you come up with business systems and processes to train newcomers on what to do and how to operate when you’re out of the office.
There are certain expectations and responsibilities that naturally fall to you as the head and founder of your law firm. However, if your workforce is entirely dependent on you, you won’t have much freedom or leeway to live a life outside of your firm. Remember; the quality of your staff is directly proportional to the quality of service you can afford your clients.