As many lawyers realize when they enter private practice, law school doesn’t exactly prepare you for the real world. Sure, you are well equipped to analyze the issues of a legal matter, but that’s only a small part of your job as an attorney, especially if you run your own firm. Law firms are service businesses, no different than a web design agency or landscaping company. But unfortunately, many lawyers don’t run their practices like business owners. They run them like lawyers. If your law firm is struggling to grow, it’s likely due to a failure in one of the two most critical business processes, neither of which is taught in law school. In this post, we’ll identify these two key business skills, explain why lawyers need to master them, and provide helpful tips to get you on the right track for success.
Two Skills Every Lawyer Needs to Learn
Running a business is simple, at least on a conceptual level.
Just bring in more money than you spend, and you’ll be on track for success. If you spend more than you make, you’ll be out of business in a hurry (unless you’re a high growth tech company with millions in funding).
This fundamental principle remains true, regardless of whether you’re selling food, clothing, houses, gardening services, websites, or estate plans. But the actual steps to make it happen are not always straightforward.
A business can be broken down into three core areas of operation, or pillars, as explained below. The ways that different businesses perform these operations may vary drastically, but each pillar is equally critical toward longterm success.
Three Pillars of a Successful Business
- Product or Service: the actual thing of value which you produce and provide to customers in exchange for money
- Marketing: the process of creating awareness for your products/services amongst prospective customers
- Sales: the transactional process where you convince someone to buy your product/service and collect payment from them
Law firms tend to be pretty good at producing and delivering legal services for their clients. However, providing the product or service is only one pillar of success.
There are two other fundamental pillars which you must incorporate into your business plan, and this is where most law firms fall short.
Lawyers Need to Learn Marketing and Sales
Lawyers tend to brush off marketing and sales, as if they somehow don’t apply to law firms.
These skills are not taught in law school, so most lawyers fail to recognize how important they are toward building a successful law practice.
How will clients find out about your firm without marketing? And even if a few people do happen to stumble across you, how will you convince them to hire you if you aren’t good at selling your services?
If your law firm has plateaued and is struggling to grow, chances are it comes down to your marketing and sales processes. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to improve in each of these areas.
You just need to come to terms with the fact that your law firm is a business, and spend some time developing your marketing and sales skills.
Below are some tips about what lawyers need to learn about the other two other pillars of a successful business to help you grow your firm into a thriving practice.
What Lawyers Need to Know about Marketing
Of the three pillars, marketing tends to be the biggest “needle mover.” It’s the fastest path to growth, if done correctly. But it can also be a money pit if you don’t know what you’re doing.
There are a ton of different law firm marketing strategies. It can be overwhelming to wrap your head around them all, which is probably why many lawyers fail at marketing or make these common marketing mistakes.
Luckily, it’s not necessary to develop an in-depth understanding of every marketing approach or to spend thousands of dollars on consultants, agencies, or ads.
The most important thing you need to know about marketing is which marketing method will work best for your practice. That’s it. Once you figure that out, you can invest your resources intelligently into that marketing strategy and acquire new clients on a steady basis.
How to Determine Which Marketing Strategy to Use
The best marketing strategy for your firm will depend on two things:
- Your practice area
- The types of clients you work with
It’s critical to have a clear understanding of your clientele and what kinds of services they need in order to design a marketing campaign that will resonate with them.
Think about the types of people who hire you, how they discover and learn about their legal issues, and how your services can help them. After going through this exercise, you should start to see a connection between your clients and your marketing strategy.
The goal of marketing is to be present right at the moment when a prospective client takes action and decides to seek help from an attorney. This might mean already having a personal connection with them, having a personal connection with someone else that they work with, having a memorable brand that they heard on a radio advertisement, or being listed at the top of the Google search results.
It all depends on who your clients are and where they are most likely to turn for legal help. But you should design your marketing strategy with this singular goal in mind: to be there when they need you.
Also, while it may seem tempting to open a general practice and offer any kind of legal services to anyone who needs them, this is actually not recommended from a marketing standpoint. You’ll have a much easier time with marketing when you serve a specific type of clients who have a specific type of legal issue.
For more information, see our post about the best marketing strategy for every type of law practice.
What Lawyers Need to Know about Sales
Sales is sometimes seen as a dirty word. It’s somewhat of a foreign concept in the legal industry. But no matter how great of a lawyer you are, and no matter how good you are at marketing, if you can’t seal the deal and sign a client, you are bound to fail.
In order to grow your law firm, you need to get rid of every preconceived notion you may have about sales. You don’t have to be a pushy salesperson. But you do need to convert prospects into paying clients, and that’s what sales is all about.
Law firm sales is simply the series of steps you go through to sign up a new client. That might include conducting a consultation, following up and checking in, filling out intake forms, generating documents, signing fee agreements, collecting payments, and more.
These are the steps of the legal sales process, and it can get complicated. In order to sell legal services effectively, you need to implement a systematic approach for handling the entire transaction.
The more methodical and efficient you are, the less likely things will slip through the cracks and the higher your conversion rate will be. This is the most important thing for lawyers to know about sales.
How to Create a Sales Process
A good sales process is standardized and formulaic. At most law firms, it’s just the opposite. Many firms rely on a system of sticky notes, unread emails, or spreadsheets, but this makes it nearly impossible to track everything.
A proper sales process is designed around a customer relationship management system, or CRM. This is the place where you keep track of all your potential clients. It helps ensure that everyone is followed up with so that no potential business slips through the cracks.
In today’s world, CRMs are typically cloud based software programs, as made popular by Salesforce, which is now an $80 billion company.
Everyone from mom and pop shops to the Fortune 500 relies on this kind of software to organize their sales process. But somehow, many law firms have still haven’t adopted a CRM. Perhaps that explains why they are so bad at sales!
Law firms can benefit tremendously from implementing a software solution to manage their leads and streamline client intake. It not only helps prevent potential revenue from slipping away due to a lack of follow up. But it also makes the transaction more efficient and easier on clients.
A streamlined sales process means you will get hired faster and waste less time on non-billable admin tasks. This increases conversions and frees up more hours in your day to be a lawyer, which is what you were actually trained to do after all.