9 min read
law firm strategic planning

Proven Growth Strategies for Law Firms and the Importance of Strategic Planning

Being an attorney requires a lot of learning and years of focusing on trying to interpret and understanding the fine intricacies of the law. But how do you grow your business once you’ve passed the bar? Where will your clients come from?

Putting together a growth strategy requires a completely different set of skills and oftentimes, legal professionals don’t even know where to begin when it comes to the strategic planning of their marketing and growth efforts.

The legal field is also hyper-competitive and law firms are constantly looking for ways to beat out and rise above the ever-growing competition. While obviously keeping up with regulatory and other legal trends and changes is a constant need, lawyers need to also make sure they are ready to meet the rapidly-evolving needs of their clients in order to avoid being left behind.

If you’re looking to grow your practice in a healthy and sustainable way, that growth needs to come from a solid foundation of strategic planning; and that foundation should be based on in-depth research and realistic estimations of your current processes and where you can stand to improve. It’s easy to become attached to outdated business strategies that might have worked for the lawyers that learned from, but in today’s quickly-changing legal environment, you’ll need to keep up with trends in order to correctly allocate your efforts and resources. 

Every law firm should develop and follow a specific, customized blueprint for their business development. Keep in mind that your firm’s areas of practice, expertise, capacities as well as culture, should all be taken into account when mapping out possible growth strategies.

Let’s take a look at several key steps and pillars or a quality growth strategy that any modern law firm should focus on to ensure steady growth.

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Focus On Gathering Data

Technology can provide your marketing department, attorneys, clerks, and other employees with the tools they need to transform a massive pile of client details into measurable data. Practice management software such as Clio can help you improve communication between attorneys and clients, as well as attorneys themselves, and save your firm massive amounts of time and money. Tracking engagement and activity data across your company will help you keep up productivity levels and improve employee collaboration. 

Having access to exhaustive, detailed information on every client, and the way this data connects to each potential market and/or client will do wonders for your client engagement. With more personal, fact-based data on their hands, it will be easier for your teams to handle every specific case in the best possible way.

Practice management tools will help you single out the most effective (and thus most profitable) client engagement processes. This way, only the best processes will remain in use, advancing the overall client-attorney relationships in your firm. Even as time passes and you are met with new challenges, it will be easier for you to update those processes to make sure that you have access to the most effective solutions systematically and consistently.

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Set Specific KPIs

In order to know if what you’re doing to grow your law business is working, you need to know what success looks like. The best way to do this is to define your key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will be able to measure as you begin implementing your growth strategies. Only you will know which KPIs are important for your business.

While revenue is the most obvious starting point, setting smaller goals such as planned growth in specific markets, the number of new clients, the number of returning clients, fees billed, and fees collected will help you compartmentalize and isolate your successes, allowing you to replicate the results more easily when you can clearly see which strategies are working and which are not.

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Use Digital Marketing

Law is inherently an “old school” industry, which means that younger lawyers should be utilizing modern channels of promotion in order to stay ahead of the curve. Digital marketing is a channel that most law firms are under-utilizing (just look at the old-fashioned way most smaller legal business websites are designed). So let’s talk a little about some of the digital marketing techniques and strategies that law firms can use to transform their client acquisition processes:

Leverage Content Marketing 

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that consists of businesses creating and distributing content that provides real value to their target audiences, enabling them to attract and convert new clients through content such as blog posts, infographics, surveys, and much more.

Content marketing will help you build visibility and authority among existing and future clients. When it comes to visibility, a successful content strategy can help you become a popular choice for potential clients googling legal assistance. With organically and unintrusively placed keywords across your homepage, blog posts, and other website content, you can attract organic traffic by having a website that’s optimized for better search engine performance, meaning that you won’t have to pay for ads in order to get people to see your website.

As for building authority, your firm’s image will be strengthened through content that offers frequently updated and trustworthy advice which demonstrates your expertise in your particular field of law. Finally, quality content is also easily shareable and can help you gain a wider audience on social networks through readers sharing with others what they have learned from your content. 

Leverage Social Media

Before starting to throw money at social media and paying for sponsored posts do your research and get to know your audience and what type of approach is best to take. What is your target demographic’s average age, gender, time spent online, and preferred social network? What is your competition doing on social media? What appears to be working best for them?

Once you have that figured out, create accounts on the social networks that best fit your business and work on presenting your business to the public in the best possible light. Social media is also the perfect place to share the quality content that you have been creating.

Make sure to include links to your website, contact information, addresses, and any other vital information on your social media profiles. Law matters are usually pretty sensitive, so there’s a good chance that most potential clients won’t want to discuss their issues online.

Another way to take advantage of social media is asking your clients for reviews on your Facebook page. Getting positive reviews from real people you have helped and displaying their reviews on your social media channels is a great way to attract new clients and build a reputation within the community.

Build Email Lists

An e-mail list of potential clients is an important asset for any modern law firm and can be a keep aspect of a law firm’s digital marketing strategy. Make sure to store the emails of all clients and potential clients that you have come in contact because email campaigns can be valuable marketing tools.

The fact is that many of these people might not have needed your legal services at the time of your engagement, however, that doesn’t mean that they won’t need your services in the future. Make sure that you are staying fresh in their minds by sending them regular newsletters and email correspondences so that when the times comes for them to seek the services of a law firm, they will hopefully think of your firm first.

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Create Personalized Client Experiences

Client satisfaction is an important metric for achieving sustainable growth. If you have repeat business, that means that’s you are making money without having to spend more money to acquire new customers. It also means that your law firm enjoys a good reputation, which is why so many clients choose to come back to whenever they need legal help.

Knowing that, it’s hard to believe that there are still so many law firms who don’t understand the importance of treating their clients well, something that can be seen from looking at these staggering statistics:

  • Over 90% of potential clients don’t even get to talk to lawyers
  • 42% of lawyers don’t bother to answer an email, a message, or a voicemail from a lead within 3 days of initial contact

If you get your customer service and client experience right, you’ll stand out immediately. Not sure where to start in that regard? Here are some tips on how law firms can improve customer service:

  • Regardless of how the client or prospect has contacted you, respond within 24 hours. 
  • Go through the basics of what your services entail the first time a prospect contacts you to prevent miscommunication. 
  • Listen. Clients want lawyers who are going to listen to their issues and understand what the client wishes to achieve. Make sure that to listen attentively and take notes when they are speaking about their needs and concerns.

Not listening to your clients, keeping vital information from them, or refusing to contact them in circumstances in which contact with them would have been warranted are all behaviors that can lead to legal malpractice claims being filed against you.

Insure Your Firm

Nothing can derail your growth as quickly as an unexpected and expensive legal malpractice claim. Even with the highest standards of professional care, such claims are a stressful reality that most law firms have to be prepared to face. Having the right legal malpractice insurance in place will help cover legal costs associated with these claims, as well as damages and settlements that can potentially be awarded against your firm.

However, malpractice lawsuits are not the only risks law firms have to worry about. Like any other business that serves clients and has employees, they face a wide variety of risks that can be managed with insurance. Two basic coverages that most businesses should carry are general liability insurance or a business owner’s policy (which combines general liability, commercial property insurance, and business interruption insurance into one consumer-friendly bundle.

General liability and BOPs are staple policies that will provide coverage for claims of injury and property damages to third parties that occur in your office.

Also, if you have employees, then you are going to need workers compensation insurance as well to protect your staff and provide coverage for workplace-related injuries (like slip and fall accidents) if they do occur.

Workers comp will respond to cover lost wages and medical care if your employees are injured or get sick while carrying out tasks related to their jobs. Luckily for law firms, insurers see them as a low-risk business for this type of insurance so the cost of workers comp insurance shouldn’t be that significant.

Lawsuits over employment-related issues, such as claims of harassment, discrimination, failure to promote, and wrongful termination are on the rise and they are getting more and more expensive to resolve. Having the right EPLI policy in place will help mitigate these risks. This coverage is especially important for law firms with a higher number of employees or with a high turnover rate.

Additionally, law firms store huge amounts of sensitive client information. This information is very valuable to cybercriminals who are ready to go to great lengths to steal it. Modern law firms will have to be ready to face cyberattacks, and having the right cyber insurance policy is a key step in this fight. A cyber policy will cover costs such as computer forensics, victim notification, credit monitoring, and PR expenses. The policy will also protect you against third-party lawsuits brought by those who have suffered damages from the cybercrime that targeted your law firm.

Creating the right risk management plan is crucial for the success and growth of your law firm. Doing your due diligence and having a good understanding of your insurance policies is important, so make sure that you are in contact with expert brokers who understand the ins and outs of lawyers’ professional liability and associated risks when putting together your coverage.

The Takeaway

Implementing these strategies will require unprecedented cooperation and strategic planning within your company, across all levels. Commit to in-depth analysis of previous and current successes, customer data, and win/loss strategies you’ve used so far. This will help you identify the pain points that need improvement and make sure taking steps to remedy your previous shortcomings as a law firm. 

If all these changes seem too much to handle at once, don’t worry. Take it slowly and make sure you are not rushing your growth or trying to do too much a once. A good way to implement these strategies more smoothly is hiring new people that are more in touch with technology trends, as well as outsourcing critical roles to trainers, management experts or outside consultants to facilitate the implementation of new growth strategies in your business.