AdvisorPool aspires to help lawyers optimize their practice and develop deeper relationships with their clients.  To understand how we could best deliver this value, we engaged over 100 private practice attorneys in a research study.  Many common challenges surfaced which we plan to tackle and address on this site.  However, we also discovered what successful lawyers are doing despite these challenges in order to sustain a thriving practice.  We thought it best to share these findings as well so that you can learn from fellow lawyers and implement applicable strategies to improve your practice.

Common Challenges Facing Law Firms of All Sizes

Lawyers, from solo to large firm practitioners, wrestle with many of the same top challenges:

  • Marketing and finding new business
  • Convincing price-sensitive clients to treat legal advice as an investment, not a cost
  • Getting clients to proactively engage legal counsel
  • Tracking hours, billing disputes, and collections

While many lawyers continue to struggle with these issues, thriving practices prioritize the following three practice management approaches to combat these challenges.

1) Nurture Relationships

Lawyers who place a focus on nurturing ongoing relationships seem to be better positioned to overcome the challenges facing today’s law firm.  While this may sound like common sense and an easy task, our research found that most lawyers don’t have routines in place to develop and grow relationships after a matter or project is completed.

Why is this the case… especially since most lawyers sincerely aspire to be regarded as a trusted advisor?  In our observations, lawyers are busy juggling multiple client matters at once while also handling the administrative tasks required to run a practice.  Unknowingly, client development and relationship building efforts fall by the wayside letting their established relationships go cold.

 Action Step:

Prioritize relationship building as part of your routine to secure more business from existing relationships and referrals.  Make it a habit and invest the time to connect with clients and referral partners by penciling it into your calendar daily, weekly, or monthly.

2) Understand and Communicate Value

Effective lawyers understand their market and communicate their value in a clear and compelling way – winning new business and setting the foundation for a long-term relationship.  Most people find legal service offerings complicated and confusing.  As a result, they tend to feel intimidated and may shy away from seeking legal advice.  Furthermore, in today’s digital world, more are inclined to first try to solve matters on their own since legal information is only a Google search away.

What is it about legal services that give people pause, especially among those using a lawyer for the first time?  In our experience, it’s mostly attributed to how people are accustomed to everyday commerce where a tangible good or service is exchanged for a flat price.  Legal pricing is often an estimate of billable hours where at the end of a matter, value is often delivered in the form of advice or legal risk avoidance… but in the eyes of the client, all they see is a document or legal bill.

Action Step:

Reflect on your firm’s strengths and identify what differentiates you from your competition.  Highlight these key strengths and be consistent across all your marketing and client development efforts.  Use client testimonials to support your value statements.  Welcome your clients to engage in an active dialogue where they can share their fears and concerns so that you can best address them.  Furthermore, constantly reiterate your value at the beginning, middle, and end of an engagement – in terms of not only the successful outcome but also the risk or misstep they avoided.

3) Constantly Refine Marketing and Client Development Activities

Thriving practices embrace change and look for ways to better reach new clients.  They often monitor business best practices and adopt applicable tactics into their law practice.  Due to advances in technology and the Internet, we now live in a world where people expect to get answers fast from anywhere, anytime.

Ten years ago, cutting edge lawyers established an online presence by building a Website, dabbling in search engine marketing, and sending out a law firm email newsletter.  Now, it’s become the norm and is almost a requirement to survive in today’s legal environment – making it difficult to differentiate a practice on these digital tactics alone.

Action Step:

Learn from great customer experiences in your life and apply them to your dealings with clients.  Embrace advances in technology and integrate social media into your client development activities.  Encourage clients to rate and comment about your services on online review sites like Yelp.  While a significant number of your clients are probably using social media (73% of online adults use Facebook according to Pew Research report in September 2013), social media marketing capabilities enable lawyers to efficiently engage with clients in a personal, substantive way.  Use these media to conduct a dialogue and seek feedback on how you can continuously improve your practice.

Action Guide Summary

The following actions will help you be a more effective, efficient lawyer and successfully grow your practice.

  1. Invest time in nurturing establish relationship with clients and referral partners
  2. Ease client fears and clearly communicate your differentiating value
  3. Constantly refine your marketing tactics to effectively reach clients

What practice management strategies and tactics do you employ to combat the challenges facing law firms today?  Share them in the comments below!