Learning the law is hard enough, but now you’ve gone ahead and started your own practice.
Congratulations, now you are no longer a lawyer. You are a business owner.

Sure, you will continue to practice law and that education/past experience will come into the forefront every time you speak with a client.

But now you also have to make sure you are acquiring clients, charging clients, following up on debt collections, payroll, scheduling, human resources, and everything else down to make sure you have the right internet plan for your streaming needs.

Yes, it’s great to be your own boss but now you’ve entered a world in which you probably have a true scarcity of experience. It’s time for some more education on top of that law degree you have.

Now’s the time to get a crash course equal to a business degree and I can help you with that.

You're Not Just A Lawyer Anymore: Perfect Your Law Firm Operations Management And Stop Running Your Business Into The Ground

Learning the law is hard enough, but now you’ve gone ahead and started your own practice. Congratulations, now you are no longer a lawyer. You are a business owner. There is a massive difference between the two and we are going to explore how to be the best business owner for your law practice.

With the choice of starting your own firm comes a brand new set of parameters by which you have to operate. You will continue to practice law and your hard-earned education/past experience will come into the forefront every time you speak with a client. On the other hand, however, now you also have to make sure you are acquiring clients, charging clients, following up debt collections, payroll, scheduling, human resources, and everything else down to make sure you have the right internet plan for your streaming needs.

It is great to be your own boss but now you’ve entered a world in which you probably have a true scarcity of experience. It’s time for some more education on top of that law degree you acquired.
Now’s the time to get a crash course equal to a business degree and I can help you with that. Where do we begin? Let’s find a baseline first and, to do that, you need to ask yourself some truly significant questions.

The Top 3 Questions a New Business Owner Should Ask Themselves After Starting A Law Firm

Making the choice to be a law firm owner, in retrospect, can feel like the easiest choice you have made. You wanted more money, more control, and you wanted to enforce your own values so that your vision would not be compromised in any way. While it may have been a large decision, the truly hard aspect of actually running that business now has to come into effect. Any business owner, not just law firms, have to be able to answer the following three questions. If you cannot answer them, then we have to reassess your foundation. Let us, however, assume you can answer these for now:

Do you cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset?

Successful business owners put in the work to get to the bottom of their emotional roadblocks. To become the most effective owner, you must develop and educate yourself on a way of thinking which enables you to overcome challenges, be decisive, and accept responsibility for all of the potential outcomes of your goals, decisions and business practices. Education (not in the law degree sense, but more in terms of your desire to expand your leadership/ownership execution) is vital to your success because you have to make a conscious and constant choice to improve your skills, learn from mistakes, and take continuous action on all ideas. This is what entrepreneurial mindset boils down to: are you ready, willing, and able to do the required work to succeed? Are you ready to commit your life to your success? If you no you cannot fail, what are you are you prepared to do to ensure success

Is your business sustainable?

Let us just assume that you have an entrepreneurial mindset - now we have to assess how much you mean to your business. In other words, can the operations of your firm run without you? Obviously this does not apply to the actual law practice itself - unless of course you have other partners who can appear with, for, and to clients on your behalf. Rather, the specific business on the operations side of your business - scheduling, debt collections, file management etc. - are these tasks dependent on your ongoing presence? This is not to say that your business should be on autopilot, but you should be able to take a vacation without everything falling apart around you.

Do you have a consistent source of revenue?

Profit margins are always important - why else are we here to work unless it is to accumulate wealth, right? But there cannot be any sense of profits until we establish consistent revenue. How much money you make is tied to your profits, but growing a consistent source of revenue is your first step to growing your business and your wealth. From what source is your revenue coming? You need to be able establish a consistent stream to maintain the lifeblood of a working business - which are its employees and its products. There is always some guesswork when it comes to money, the trick is knowing how to increase our accuracy.

The Ultimate & Essential Systems For Your Law Businesses Growth

The nature of running the business of a law firm can be far more intricate than practicing law. Yes, laws can be interpreted and manipulated, but, for the most part, the law is the law. Judges, lawyers, and their clients, all operate within the confines of the written law. The problem for law firm owners, however, is that there is not a written set of laws that dictate how to run a business. You cannot simply point to a case study and say, well, there’s precedent here so this business practice should work for me. You are not just a lawyer anymore, you are a business owner.

Part of this interpretation is having a grasp on the finer aspects which define the gray area of business ownership. As the owner, you must understand where the money is coming from, how to remove tasks from your plate and feed them to the correct people so you can grow your business, and how to systemize your law business and get off the operations rollercoaster. That is to say, fine-tune your business to run with machine-like precision even when you are not there.

Develop A Financial System To Keep Your Law Firm In The Black Instead Of Red

Budgeting is not glamorous, and I will not even try to convince you otherwise. Here is the truth though: budgeting is essential. You MUST know what is coming in, and what is going out, and you MUST be able to know that information at any given time. Put together a list of expenses that accounts for short and long-term needs, as well as planning for growth i.e: larger expenses, what ROI you can expect.

Forecasting your income (here comes some of that guesswork I mentioned earlier) or revenues from clients is also a necessity because it gives you a track of where you are going and how to plan for any dips in your revenue. This plan can allow you to more accurately track and contrast expected revenue and expenses vs. actual revenue and expenses. This tracking proves very handy when you need to review your budget each year to design, as well as implement procedures for automated operations in the future like purchasing and/or the spending approval process.

Drop The Communication Confusion: 3 Must-Have Policies To Simplify Your Law Firm's Messaging For Clients And Employees

Any business thrives on communication. The CEO, COO, employees, HR, product services, (any division you can think of really) must all be in sync with each other, but they must also be in lockstep with your clients. How do we do that? There are three major facets you need:


The Framework For Proper Documentation

While documentation may seem tedious at first it can be rewarding to put your ideas on paper and create your firm's operational framework from scratch.

For instance, what kind of culture do you want to create for your firm and employees? Let your general policies communicate what your firm stands for, why your staff should be proud members of the team, and where your firm is headed! Your word is your representation and it should be reflective of your carefully curated culture.

To support that culture, you must design a workflow for your culture that identifies which internal roles are interdependent and how those roles need to collaborate. Documenting internal workflows sets your firm up for success by creating efficiency, establishing consistency, and training guidelines.

Drop Your Ego: Your Law Firm Will Fail If You Are The Only Person Guiding It

Here’s a fact: Your business needs more than you alone. To succeed you must hire the right people or agencies to do the jobs at which you are not most naturally gifted. This effort to “let go” is inherently difficult for an attorney simply because “lawyering” is an inherently adversarial system. It usually means our side vs. the other side. If our side loses that means our client loses. So much of our success depends on how much research or hard-working hour we put into the case at hand. But, the ownership position of a law firm is far from operating by that metric.
Expanding from a practice owner to a business owner means you will have to realize you need expertise beyond yourself and that no amount of hours you put in can be as efficient as an expert doing what they are intended to do. As such, when you want to grow your ego must go. We can recognize that we can hire good people while still believing that we're better than them at certain things.

"You Are Not The Problem, The Problem Is The Problem" -- Why Negative Feedback Is Actually A Good Tool For Your Employees

Admittedly, the above statement does feel somewhat antithetical but, within the right context, it is a very effective tool. As an owner, you must actively provide people with your perspective on how they are doing on a consistent, ongoing basis. No, do not does rant at your employees on a regular basis. Discuss your expectations for the business, their position within your business, and where they stand within the confines of your expectations. For the most part, the person is never the problem. The issue is either a miscommunication or a simple misunderstanding that results in the problem. So remember, the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.

This could also mean that you are part of the problems as well. Perhaps you are not communicating as well as you think you are? It might hurt to admit, but it could be true. In turn, you must willingly challenge the beliefs which make you resist negative feedback. Recognize, in all cases, that it is the behavior you are addressing, not the person. Negative feedback is ultimately rewarding when framed the right way so it is imperative you know the right questions that will frame your feedback positively.

How You Can Help Your Employees Who Suffer From Law Firm PTSD And Make The Most Of Their Natural Talents

It is obvious that your new hire is really jumpy or defensive because they were mistreated by another law firm. That’s ok – we can fix it:

First: If you answer yes to any of these questions regarding your behavior as a manager, then you need a better system:

Do you get triggered when another person is clearly upset by your actions? Do you become anxious when you meet with employees that are extremely sensitive? Do you tone down your message or alter what you have to say? Do you shy away from giving negative feedback?
Second, if you did say yes, that’s ok too. Here’s what you do:
Give your hire time to adapt and to heal.
Any employee, regardless of age or experience will view themselves as the “new kid on the block”. For at least the first three months, they will willingly come into an environment where everyone around them is far more established in your business, and they are going to feel the need to prove themselves. All the time.

New employees will try to find their way to what you, as their manager, wants. and since they’re new, what you want is still an enigma to them. So, they’re likely to see any task through the lens of “this is an opportunity for me to screw up.” Realize that, for many people, starting a new job triggers dysfunctional needs that can develop in states of distress.

Don’t take anything personally.
I cannot stress this enough. Do not take anything your employees, clients, or partners say personally. Unless they are a toxic employee, they are, more than likely, trying to improve your business. Someone may quit - don’t take it personally. Someone may not like your communication method - don’t take it personally. Once you start intertwining your personal feelings with the outcome of your business, you have instantly lost the grip of being an objective leader.

Coordinate and accommodate your response.
When you see someone who is more nervous than you think they should be, or they open up to you about some past experience (“My old boss got on to me for XYZ”), remember that your response has to be the anchor for this person. This person will take your response and reframe it to fit the narrative they want to employ. This does not mean you have to arrange a new personality for every employee, but it does mean that you have to understand who you are dealing with and what puts them in the best position to succeed at all times.

3 Key Employee Retention Strategies To Ensure The Top Performers Stay In YOUR Law Firm

The last thing you want to hear is that one of your valued employees is resigning and allow that to put you in a reactive mode.

  • Onboarding Plan
    Have an onboarding plan that acclimates new staff members to your firm's culture. Taking it a step further, however, is that the “onboarding” process does not simply stop once an employee has joined the team. As the leader, supporting and refining an employee's goals does not stop once onboarding is complete. A mutually beneficial existence between employer and employee can come to fruituation when the job is about each side investing in the other. A good onboarding process can make new employees feel welcome, communicate that they will be supported in reaching their goals and overcoming challenges in their work, let them know how they will be a valued contributor, and set the overall tone for their professional relationship with your firm.

  • Telecommuting and flexible work options:
    People have lives outside of work and the current business climate is showing that the workforce is placing more emphasis on work-life balance than ever. You must also show that your firm values work-life balance and treating employees as people with lives outside of the office goes a long way.

    COVID has changed everything for the workforce and people now expect an opportunity to work from home. We can debate whether or not this is beneficial for the work environment, but it is nevertheless true. Per that standard, offering telecommuting options a few days a week for those who have a longer commute into the office can help alleviate stress and travel expenses.

    There are even some models that companies are now adapting to a shorter workweek. To attract a better quality member, it might be in your best interest to offer a week which consists of between three or four days with longer hours per day. While it may not appeal to you, most people are willing to work a little longer each day to earn another day off aside from the weekend.

    Furthermore, it is vital to let employees know that taking an accrued vacation or personal time off is encouraged and the norm, rather than promoting working at all costs. Again, placing legitimate emphasis on work-life balance helps send the message that employees’ personal and mental health is valued and that you are there to support them and not simply take advantage of their skills.

  • Recognition
    Paying market or above market wages and offering a solid benefits program is the bare minimum for retaining today’s talented employees. It may be different from how we came up the ranks, but there is also an importance placed on recognizing staff members when they do a good job, reach a professional milestone, or work hard on a new case or one of your firm’s initiatives. As such, be sure to express your appreciation often and take the time to check in with each of your staff members periodically to see how they’re doing and if they need help or additional resources. Get to know your staff as people first and workers second.

Establish Your Vision For The Law Firm And Create A Highly Collaborative Culture Around That Vision

All of the aforementioned efforts lead to one outcome: a more positively charged culture of collaboration. In a recent study, it is found that organizations with collaborative cultures are 5.5x more likely to be high-performing than those that do not.

Achieve great collaboration by establishing a clear vision for your firm. To do this, you need to encourage and practice frequent and open communication and establish team projects as learning opportunities. Locate the right people for the right job and play an active role in Interviewing and onboarding new employees. Once brought on the team, you must facilitate a culture of positive reinforcement through the likes of team building activities, anonymous culture surveys, and constant retraining, in addition to being open to the possibility of negative feedback.

If you complete all of these tasks, you will have begun your journey to a positively managed, efficiently functioning operation for your law firm.