With the start of another new year, most business owners are likely to be setting goals for their businesses. Oftentimes these goals consist of improving operations, increasing revenue, and growing the business. But as your daily to-do list and other distractions start to pile up, those lofty goals tend to fade away and be forgotten. That’s why it is so important to create a proper growth plan upfront. In this post, we lay out the most important tips you should implement into your law firm growth strategy to get you on track for success. Here are 4 ways to grow your law firm in 2016.
1. Use Software to Organize Your Leads and Cases
Proper organization of data is absolutely imperative for law firm growth. Maintaining an organized file for all your clients and cases is at the very core of your operations. When you don’t have a strong foundation in place, it’s nearly impossible to build something on top of it.
If you haven’t already invested in case management and lead tracking software, now would be a good time to do so.
Lead management is all about keeping tabs on your potential clients and ensuring that the proper follow up processes are implemented to maximize your conversion rate, as well as track your referrals.
Case management, on the other hand, is mostly focused on managing your calendar & appointments, storing documents, tracking your billable time, and generating bills and invoices.
It is highly recommended that you utilize separate systems for lead and case management – learn why in this post.
For lead management you should implement a good law firm CRM (customer relationship management) system. And no, we are not talking about an Excel sheet. Adopting a real CRM will ensure that no potential revenue slips through the cracks and that you are optimizing your sales process for success.
For instance, Lexicata offers a law firm CRM that is combined with online client intake solutions. Not only do we help you manage your prospective clients, we also help you collect information and get retainer agreements signed with minimal friction.
There are other good CRMs in the market as well, e.g. Avvo Ignite, although it does not offer the intake tools.
For case management, we advise adopting a cloud based solution, as they tend to be significantly more cost effective than desktop software or maintaining your own servers. Because you can login online, cloud software is accessible from anywhere and on any device (including phones and tablets).
We wrote a previous post about the best case management software options for lawyers to help you find a good solution for your firm. Clio tends to be a very popular option with small and medium firms, and it also integrates with Lexicata and many other popular software products, which is an added benefit.
2. Implement Alternative Billing Methods
The numbers are in, and law firms that implement alternative fee structures are pulling ahead of the pack. In fact, during the past year, 75% of law firms that implemented a more strategic approach to pricing saw an increase in profitability, compared to only 66% of firms that did not alter their billing approach.
We have written at length about how the age-old business model of the legal industry is dying. Hourly billing no longer makes sense for law firms or their clients.
Why Hourly Billing Is Dying
On the law firm side, the problem is that getting paid by the hour doesn’t scale. When every unit of time is exchanged for an equal unit of value, the potential value that can be generated is limited because time is a finite resource.
Hourly billing is even worse for clients, because it actually rewards inefficiency on the law firm’s part. This drastically reduces the value of legal services for clients and makes low-cost, alternative legal services a lot more appealing.
It’s time for law firms to innovate and adapt their business model to meet the changing needs of their clients. Billing on a flat fee basis per project incentivizes law firms to work more efficiently and gives clients predictability and peace of mind. There are quite a few other alternative billing methods to consider as well.
Law firms in the future will continue shifting toward a more product-oriented approach to selling legal services. It’s pretty clear that this is what consumers want. But in order to do so, law firms must take steps now to maximize their efficiency and improve their operations.
3. Ramp Up Your Online Marketing
Aside from word of mouth referrals, the web is probably the single most important means for prospective clients to discover your law firm.
These days, people rely heavily on the internet to discover and purchase products and services. If you don’t already have a strong presence online, this would be one of the most important ways to grow your law firm in 2016.
Below are the primary areas to focus your online marketing efforts on. You may also want to check out our complete online marketing guide for law firms.
Website & Blog
A good website and/or blog is probably the most important component of your online marketing strategy. Even clients who are referred by word of mouth are likely to Google your name and look at your website to get more information.
It’s essential that your website is user friendly and accessible on mobile devices. You want your website to come across as professional and create a good first impression, just like you would want for a new prospect that walks into your office.
Social media is another major part of an online marketing strategy. Not only do social media sites provide discovery platforms where clients can find you, but they also enable you to interact directly with prospects, share content with them, and establish their trust.
You should create a business profile on all the major social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. Be sure to include professional headshots and photos, and post status updates frequently so your page does not appear lifeless. We recommend using a tool like Buffer to automatically schedule your posts in advance.
Email marketing is an excellent way of keeping in touch with all your contacts, whether they are clients, potential clients, attorneys, or anyone else. When people hear from you frequently, you stay top of mind. As a result, these people will be more likely to contact you for help or refer business to you in the future.
To get started, sign up for some basic email marketing software like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Then you will want to come up with a strategy about how you will organize your email lists, what types of emails you will send, and how frequently you will send them.
We recommend having a separate email list for each core group (e.g. leads, current clients, other professionals) and sending emails to each list at least once per month.
You might send out helpful content from your blog or website, updates about your firm, industry news, the latest case you won, etc. Adjust your strategy according to what information is most relevant and useful to each group of people.
Every email should also include a call to action – for example “Contact Us With Questions,” or “Read Our Blog Post,” or “Get In Touch.” Let them know that you are eager to work with them or help them with their legal needs.
Here’s another post with more info about creating an email marketing strategy for law firms.
SEO & PPC
SEO, or search engine optimization, is how you get your website or blogposts to show up in organic search results. PPC stands for “pay per click” and is a paid search engine advertising strategy.
Together, SEO and PPC are among the most powerful online marketing strategies for a law firm. People’s queries into search engines tend to be highly targeted to what they need. So if you are the one showing up at the top of the list, there is a good chance they’ll contact you.
Neither of these are overnight approaches however. It can take years to build up enough content and incoming links to get your website to rank on Google organically. And PPC can get really expensive, so it’s crucial that you are measuring data and getting a positive ROI from it.
Most law firms will outsource SEO and PPC work to an agency. But before you do, make sure to read this post about the three things you should do before paying for marketing. Also, here’s another post where you can read about the latest SEO trends for law firms.
Review Sites, Marketplaces & Directories
Finally, there are review sites, marketplaces, and lawyer directories. Some of the big names are Yelp, Avvo, UpCounsel, Nolo, Lawyers.com, SuperLawyers, etc.
It’s worthwhile to join as many of these as possible, and particularly the ones that are free. Each place you are listed is just another potential way for a client to discover you. And most of them will allow you to input links back to your website, which helps drive traffic and improves your SEO rankings.
Most importantly, social proof is a very powerful driver of new business, so we definitely recommend creating a good Yelp page and Avvo profile. You should encourage your satisfied clients to leave positive testimonials on your Yelp and/or Avvo page, and you may also want to incorporate those reviews into your website.
4. Be More Systematic to Increase Profitability
Law firm growth does not automatically result from making more money. It’s equally, if not more important, to increase your profitability at the same time. [Profits = Revenue – Overhead]
In other words, you must grow your revenue while maintaining a steady level of overhead. This is what will create the profits you need to reinvest into marketing, hiring, and other drivers of growth in the future.
Improving operational efficiency is the key, because when waste is eliminated, more time can be spent creating value for clients and earning money for it.
Use Checklists for Process Management
Creating a checklist of steps for each matter is an excellent way to keep track of all the major milestones and ensure that each task is completed. Checklists help organize your workflows and keep everyone at the firm on task and up to date.
For example, Lexicata offers a powerful, interactive checklist tool. It not only lets you build custom checklists and assign them to your matters, but also allows you to take action directly from a checklist item (such as sending out an email, filling out a form, drafting a document, etc.).
Leverage The Power of Automation
Think about all the time spent drafting client communications via email, entering data, or preparing agreements and engagement letters. All of these tasks are things that law firms do everyday, and they take up considerable amounts of valuable time.
However, because they are repeatable, these tasks lend themselves perfectly to automation. There are a number of useful software tools that can automate these processes, but here’s specifically what Lexicata has to offer:
- Create custom email templates to enable client communications to be drafted instantly
- Create engagement letter templates that can be automatically customized for a particular client and matter (learn more about our document automation feature here)
- Automatically capture client data into online forms, and export it into Clio or other formats to reduce or eliminate data entry
- Schedule and send out automatic reminder emails to clients if forms are unsubmitted, documents are unsigned, and appointments are upcoming.
We hope this guide on 4 ways to grow your law firm has helped you come up with a growth strategy for your law firm this year. The biggest gains will be made by simply taking action.
Don’t be afraid to break free from any old, outdated, and inefficient processes that might be holding you back. Make this the year that you let go of them, and strive to find new ways for getting work done that are more efficient, cost-effective, and client-friendly.
To learn more about Lexicata and how we can help your firm grow, feel free to schedule a free product demo using the green button at the top of the screen. Cheers to your success in 2016!