Are You Failing to Plan for Growth in Your Law Firm?
- October 18, 2023
As a successful legal professional, be it a Senior Partner, Managing Partner, or on the Board, you are a primary driver of success for your law firm, determining its growth. Ultimately, you are pivotal in creating your firm’s story and building a pathway to its goals. Hopefully, you are experiencing current success and business is doing well – but don’t fall into the trap of overlooking areas where you could improve. It’s easy to become complacent, and before you know it, you will start to slip backwards. So how can you ensure you don’t fail to grow? In the current climate with market forces, as they are, you must strive to remain successful – and the key to that lies in planning.
Sometimes it’s natural to overlook areas where you could make improvements if the firm is experiencing overall success. It’s easy to miss opportunities to progress. Alternatively, you may feel that your business is suffering due to market forces out of your control and you’re unable to take a step forward in the current climate.
However, there are always ways to improve and move forward – and that involves taking a step back, first of all, to review your law firm holistically; its customers, systems, processes, and people to reassess your goals and ensure you are making the most of your business.
Talk To Your Clients:
It doesn’t matter how qualified your employees are or what specialist services you provide if you don’t focus on customer service first. Customers define your firm, so your priority is to ensure you understand their needs (and indeed challenges).
You can do this by conducting surveys and research – both quantitative and qualitative – to gain valuable insight. Just ensure that your surveys facilitate honest feedback, or you’re wasting your time, and theirs. Having a spotlight on your customers’ thoughts about your service will allow you to leverage the elements that you’re already doing well, as well as focus on any hot spots where you need to reflect and make improvements. It’s essential to take the extra step to make your customers feel valued and unique, so make sure you talk to them and listen to (and address) any problems they have. That way, you will inspire loyalty – and loyal consumers won’t just come back to you – they will recommend their friends and colleagues to you too.
Come Out Of The Bubble:
In a volatile market – where the economy is impacting all facets of running a business, one of the quickest ways for a firm to stunt its growth and cripple its potential is to conduct business blindly. By that, we mean lacking awareness of what your clients’ needs are, how they have changed over time, and how your competitors have responded to such needs to stay ahead of the curve. It can be tempting to get wrapped up in the business-as-usual of today, respond to immediate needs, and push anything deemed important but not urgent – however this can have disastrous consequences for your firm. Opportunities to capitalise on market changes, strike deals with highly after clients or scale business operations can pass you by if you fail to pay attention to how your competitors are conducting their business in the market. Coming out of your ‘bubble’ to look at other firms in your practice area and/or region can really impact how you trade competitively. As the saying goes, ‘no man is an island’ and if you’re looking to increase market share, you need to fully understand where and with whom that market is buying from.
This makes the presence of a regularly updated and detailed target persona an absolute must in your business strategy as it will ensure you have a Unique Selling Point that is consistent. A target persona consists of who your clients are, where their interests lie, what pain points they have, what they want from your services, and much more. Having this level of insight into your target market enables you to not only address their problems at the right time, but it also allows you to make your marketing and specifically your branding effective by communicating your USP at every touchpoint of the buyer cycle. This helps to create a strong brand that utilises both its position and performance in the marketplace to develop a reputation for being an excellent firm to do business with.
Lack of an EVP:
Going back to red flag number one, a firm’s culture, people strategy, and EVP (Employee Value Proposition) live or dies by its values as that forms the foundation for its competence in attracting, retaining, and developing top legal talent. As legal professionals are now becoming increasingly demanding in their search for the ideal employer, one of the biggest mistakes any firm can make in today’s market is failing to consider the priorities and preferences of its employees or jobseekers they are looking to attract. Without such a foundation, it is incredibly easy for a firm to slip into reactive mode and allow external factors such as economic pressures, market changes, and consequently, business performance to dictate how it treats its employees.
And even though you will hopefully have ironed out your values as a business at this point, it does not guarantee immunity from making such blunders. The key to a strong EVP is the ability to create and sustain a positive, productive workforce, and that is only made possible through a regular, honest, and thorough review of your people strategy, to ensure your firm culture and environment remain the focus of it, and not the business goals – no matter the external or internal situation at hand.
According to Brett Minchington, who coined the phrase Employee Value Proposition in the first place, this comes down to largely five elements:
Personal development and growth
Meaningful work, making a contribution
Working with friendly colleagues
Your work environment should have employees feeling valued, respected, and motivated and should regularly facilitate open communication, effective collaboration, and a healthy work-life balance. We have seen a big shift in the market in recent years towards flexibility, hybrid working, and employee satisfaction so ensure that your EVP focuses on these areas while remaining aligned with your goals for business growth.
Consider Your Leadership Contingent – Are They Suitable For That Role?
The last few years have been challenging for the legal sector. Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic, increased workload, and the impact of overworking on employees’ well-being means that many firms also now need to uplevel their leadership skills alongside recruiting new lawyers into their teams to lead their firm moving forward.
In turbulent times, everyone looks to great leaders for guidance. Leadership resonates throughout a business, and the quality of your leadership can be the difference between your firm’s ultimate success or failure.
A successful law firm requires leadership that is transparent, emotionally intelligent, resilient, empathetic, focused, and inspiring.
If you believe your leadership could develop in some of these areas further, take steps now. Training in personal development and upskilling where needed will enable you to lead from the front. Failure to invest in leadership will result in good ideas coming to nothing, so start at the top.
Invest In Building A Top Team
A high-performing team is what any employer would want. A high-performing team of solicitors that is efficient, drives profits and gets results is no doubt the utopia that business leaders strive for, which requires excellent leadership, support in their development, and constant engagement (even before any recruits join the firm).
Developing a high-performing team that works collaboratively will enable your law firm to achieve its goals, both short and long-term. It will create a positive mindset and ethos of encouragement and positivity that will allow your firm to excel and grow, keeping you ahead of the pack in the competitive legal marketplace and making your law firm attractive to further top talent.
As part of this, professional development should play a significant role in ensuring your team keeps ahead of trends. Training and development of both hard and soft skills will not only instill a sense of pride in specialist knowledge and ability but also make employees feel valued by the firm. This, in turn, will lead to better staff retention saving you the costs of hiring and onboarding new employees. Additionally, happy staff are more productive, so you will see positive developments in the bottom line. In a working environment where individuals are part of a capable team, the quality of an individual’s sense of purpose in understanding big goals is enhanced. They feel ‘included’ in decisions, and their ideas and concerns are listened to and acted on.
Keep On Top Of (And Ahead) Of Tech
The legal sector is growing at a rapid pace. If you’re standing still in terms of digital ability, then you might as well be going backwards. Using digital strategies to grow your law firm allows you to reach a much larger number of potential clients than ever before. As well as building your client base, if you regularly post industry articles online, you will develop a reputation as being an authority in your specialist areas – attracting both top talent to want to work for you as well as establishing you as a credible law firm in the eyes of competitors. Your website should also reflect your forward-thinking by embracing new technology. Refining your online platform will make it more responsive, and maximizing your SEO will enable you to reach more viewers online, as well as offer you the opportunity to connect and network with others – crucial in moving forward. Additionally, a social media strategy will enable you to reach more clients, develop relationships and strengthen existing ones, gain insight into competitors, and demonstrate your industry knowledge.
Plan For Headcount Growth Early
As firms consider their strategy and business objectives, whether that’s on a quarterly basis as a checkpoint, or a typical 1-, 3- and 5-year plan, any kind of compound growth inevitably goes hand in hand with the need to increase headcount and upskill where required.
Firms may have their own Hiring Managers whose remit is to attract new talent to the firm, or this may fall to HR or even practising Solicitors and Partners in some cases. Either way, reaching out to a specialist legal recruiter as those strategic discussions are taking place will undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run to get a true birds-eye view of the market, your competitors, the movement of talent (and scarcity which may impact your plans) – invaluable insight that you can readily tap in to.
Ultimately, a strategic plan is the tool that will enable you to move forward and grow your legal firm. Using your knowledge of what has worked well previously, you can build a pathway to achieve your ultimate goals, avoiding strategies that have failed in the past. A good plan will move you from where you are now to where you want to be. Including milestones, and achievements will keep you focused on the end goals and provide you and your team with motivation along the way. Make your strategic plan achievable (but aspirational) and timely – and don’t be afraid to amend it as you progress if your law firm’s requirements change.
About Clayton Legal
Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.
If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.