It starts with wanting to. I am startled by the number of law firms I have encountered that are mired in bad habits, dysfunctional people, incomplete data, and poor processes that don’t seem to want to get better. The good news is that their apathy creates a great competitive opportunity for those who are willing to do what it takes to build and run a great law firm.
My firm has 50+ attorneys and 150+ staff members. Last year, the Triangle Business Journal recognized us as the #1 “Best Place to Work” in the Large Company category of North Carolina’s Research Triangle region based on employee surveys. And for the sixth consecutive year, my firm was named to the 2021 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” list based on client and lawyer evaluations. I mention these distinctions not to brag, but to give creditability to what I propose to be the four important pillars of building and maintaining a superior law firm:
- Build being run like a business into your culture.
- Get the right talent, and keep them motivated.
- Get the right data to identify and solve problems and maximize opportunities.
- Use the right technology to facilitate it all.
Your Law Firm Is a Business
Embrace it. Don’t apologize for it. Being well run and highly profitable doesn’t undermine quality legal work, it enables it. A disorganized, chaotic environment doesn’t enhance client results, employee satisfaction, or firm profits, but a well-structured law firm that adheres to business principles does.
Good businesses have clear goals, efficient processes, and key information at management’s fingertips so that problems can be quickly solved, and successes can be easily identified and built upon. And they also have talented people across the enterprise who are happy, motivated and “buy in” to the firm’s overall purpose.
My firm embraces the “Lean” management philosophy which focuses on the firm as a system and prioritizes waste elimination, client focus, and continuous process improvement. By doing this, we are able to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and efficiently move cases from intake to disbursal without sacrificing quality. This improves client satisfaction and employee engagement and results in increased firm profits. To learn more about this, read this article: How to Tighten Your Law Firm’s Processes & Lean” Into Increased Income in 4 Simple Steps.
By creating a culture that embraces solid business principles, you can drive success. Make sure that everyone understands that shining a light on processes that can be improved and work that is backing up are positive, proactive measures. Get your employees believing that objectively measuring performance is a good thing.
Get the Right Talent, and Keep Them Motivated
We are only as good as the people who work for us. I want my attorneys and staff to be better at their jobs than our competitors are. That means that they have to be skilled at what they do and work effectively through our processes. Lone rangers aren’t good for a well-run business; we want talented people who value, or at least respect, our processes. And remember, getting the right talent sometimes means taking the wrong talent off the field.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful force. Once I have the right people in place, I do all I can to build them up and get the most out of them. My attorneys and legal staff deal with our clients day-in and day-out, and I want, and need, them to provide our clients with superior legal service. I have found that one of the best ways to ensure this is to give them frequent positive feedback.
I also rely on our case management software to show people how much they have been able to get done. This is motivating, especially for high performers. In addition, I depend on our case management software to show managers exactly what everyone on their team is getting done. This alerts them to opportunities to praise individual and team performance and to celebrate successes.
I have identified 29 key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to track attorney and paralegal productivity. Monitoring the right KPIs for your firm will help you gain meaningful insight into employee and team productivity. Use this knowledge to recognize and further motivate stellar performance.
Get the Right Data, and Use It
The world, and conditions, change constantly. What was working last month may not be working now. Spotting problems early makes them easier to solve and prevents them from getting worse. And seeing smoothly running processes and positive results leads to peace of mind, occasions for more positive reinforcement, and chances to allocate resources to build on opportunities.
I want to have better data than my competitors. And to me, better data means the information I want to track, delivered seamlessly and in real time, in a form that I can easily understand.
My firm uses software which has interactive dashboards, proactive matter trackers, powerful search capabilities, and automated reports that work together to keep my entire team up-to-date and on track. At a glance, my managers can see how many open cases their teams have and what stage each case is in, who’s working on what, which marketing sources are bringing in the high value cases, and much more. Individual employees can identify languishing cases and important to dos, as well as check out where they stand on their own KPIs. And I can look at bigger picture items, such as anticipated cash flow and revenue streams for the upcoming months, and final settlement and initial offer comparisons. The right data – at each level.
The Right Technology Enhances It All
Outdated technology can hold you back by creating unnecessary steps which slows work down, demotivates staff, leaves key information in hard-to-find places, and obscures data needed to manage optimally. Mediocre, run-of-the-mill software does what you would expect – not much – and certainly not much more than the competition.
To build a great law firm, I want great technology – cutting edge software that promotes efficiency, quality legal work, accountability, and provides the right data by which to manage.
So, we built that software. GrowPath is cloud-based law firm management software that ensures:
- Better intakes through patented technology for lead scoring and keyword alerts, conversion simplification, and powerful search capabilities
- Streamlined case management with intelligent reminders, accessible electronic document management, and seamless, single platform communication
- Superior analytical tools for marketing spend and customizable business intelligence dashboards
If you want to build and run a superior law firm, take a hard look at your people, your data, and your technology … and recognize that combined, they are a business. And treat them that way.
James S. Farrin is the Owner and Advisor of GrowPath. He is also the Founder and President of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. His law firm has recovered more than $1.2 billion total for over 50,000 clients since 1997.