Your law firm is your business

Time to treat it as such.

It was American poet Archibald MacLeish that said – 

“The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life – to reduce it to order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, and even dignity.”

This quote – in our humble opinion – is apt for the topic of the business of law. After all, what are we doing, if not to trying to make sense of how to run a business, of how to practise law more efficiently, of how to be better at everyday responsibilities. 

That’s what this series is about – realising the opportunity your law firm holds, to take it to the next phase and to succeed where others have not. 

Sure, there are other steps you need to take. Steps which we set out in our older series on practice management. Topics we will cover again in the next instalment of this series. But despite these important practical steps, we believe there are still bits and pieces that are lacking when it comes to seeing law firms truly soar. 

We understand that you need to wear multiple hats, which can be a daunting task – especially if you’re just starting out. But the reality is, law firms are not just providing legal advice and legal services anymore. They also need to make a profit at the end of the day to stay afloat. Yes, to do that legal practitioners need to focus on budgets, on invoicing, and on promoting their wares. Yes, law firms need to embrace technology. 

It’s all relevant. And it’s all necessary to ensure that your law firm is being properly managed. But running a successful business takes a little more than just invoicing (as evidenced in last week’s article).

Truly running your law firm like a business

The legal market is changing. We have all witnessed its evolution. This evolution has been driven by the expansion of in-house legal departments, globalisation, technological advances, and the rise of alternative legal service providers (ALSP’s).

There’s been a change in how we’re doing things. But – with all this change – have we stopped to really think about what makes a successful business tick? Have we considered all the options out there?

We think not. Here are some additional considerations – 

Remain humble

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful”John Wooden

No matter how your law firm grows or how many successes you have, always remember where you came from. Remember the arduous work that got you to where you are and seek ways to help others in need. 

After all – we all started out somewhere.

Staying humble is one of those things that you just aren’t taught in Law school. Perhaps it’s because it’s assumed we all know this. But that’s far from true. 

We aren’t saying being humble will make you more successful. We aren’t saying it won’t. But a little humility can go a long way to ensuring certain clients remain loyal. A little humility can also assure that relationships with opposing counsel are – at the very least – civil. 

As Robert Katzberg said in his article Succeeding in the Business of Law: 5 Rules Every Lawyer Should Live By – 

“When your opponent wants something from you, or you are requested by the court to do something, something that doesn’t adversely affect your position, or does so only at the margins, the smart lawyer is gracious in acceding. It costs nothing while allowing you to appear even handed and appropriate, a posture that will serve you well when it comes time for you to make a request.”

Collaborate

In our article The Alternative Legal Solution we spoke about how ALSP’s are simply an option outside of the traditional, standard, law firm model, where lawyers are found working in senior roles alongside legal technologists, analysts and project managers. They’re often seen as “niche specialists” providing high-demand legal services such as, document review, contract management, legal research, litigation support, discovery, and electronic discovery (“e-discovery”).

We spoke about how these ALSP’s have been hailed as reshaping the business of law. And we still believe this to be true. 

In response to this reshaping of the provision of legal services, clients have now come to expect more from their lawyers. Again, asking their lawyers to wear multiple hats, often simultaneously. Lawyers aren’t just providing legal services, they are expected to collaborate with ALSP’s, with analysts, with technologists and with business managers. Lawyers are expected to be able to move interchangeably between varying disciplines and be the “go-to” person coordinating the provision of legal services – especially in in-house roles. 

This expectation has ushered in a change. Lawyers are now agile and flexible, able to move and change with what a specific project or matter requires. They are early adopters of legal tech, working on the forefront of what’s next in the legal space. And with this in mind, legal practitioners are collaborating with other disciplines, with other specialists and with ALSP’s to meet the requirements (and expectations) of their clients. 

It appears that lawyers wont only be wearing multiple hats but will also be juggling multiple balls. 

But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fuelled by the need to be mobile, collaboration promises to grow law firms far beyond the boundaries of their office. 

And growth is the whole point!

Be as mobile as possible!

If we think about it, we have been carrying around powerful mini computers in our pockets for quite a few years now. So much so that we do everything from ordering groceries and food to holding meetings, checking the weather, and reading the news all from a computer that is essentially the size of your palm.

It’s become such a natural part of our day-to-day that the ease with which we are able to orchestrate our lives is often taken for granted – the mobility our mobile phones (and apps) have given us is often taken for granted. 

So, the question is – are we using our smart phones to their full potential? 

In our article on Mobile Apps we set out how on-the-go access to legal IT systems is not only convenient, but also productive, efficient, cost effective and it allows for freedom of movement – being able to work from anywhere, at any time of day on any device. 

The legal profession is one which speaks to the ideology that “time is money”. Whether we are referring to billable hours or the amount of time spent at the office (which is often the same thing), a lawyer makes their money from the time they spend on something. 

So, if there’s a way to save time (or better manage time), allowing lawyers to do much more in their workday, resulting in the writing of 10 X more fees, then whatever that device and app is, it’s going to be an immediate hit.

In the article 10 Recurring Themes in the Business of Law and Legal Technology, they echo our sentiment – 

“Mobility enables a lawyer to pull up a matter or budget status on a tablet computer in an offsite meeting with a client. It allows billing partners to review, edit, or approve invoices from their home on a Saturday morning – rather than driving an hour to the office. Mobility is the foundation on which law firm leaders can develop and implement flexible work policies that support the recruiting and retention of talent.

As we concluded in a legal business report – How to Put Mobility to Work for Law Firms:

“Mobility has become a part of our culture to the extent the capabilities that come with it have shaped expectations of law firms. Lawyers and staff want the productivity that comes with mobility, while clients demand efficiency. More importantly, the business of law stands to benefit from both. There’s certainly no need for an associate to make an hour-long drive to the office on a Saturday to turn a dial, pull a lever, or push an approval button for any legal business process.”

The importance of mobile apps – of being truly mobile – cannot be underestimated. Not only does it help the user save time, enabling them to be more productive, but it also reduces stress, reduces risk, and enables an easy work-from-anywhere option. This is especially true for professionals, like lawyers, who can remain productive and on top of things even if they don’t have access to their laptops. 

If you aren’t already mobile – get mobile. And if you are, stay that way. 

It’s the future!

Keep your promises!

This may sound a little like kindergarten but how do you feel when someone lets you down? Pretty awful right? Now imagine that’s the person who is representing you in a legal matter. You would probably run for the hills. 

And that isn’t what we’re trying to do here – we are seeking to attract clients and create success – not repel it. 

There’s an adage that says, “under promise and over deliver”. There’s a reason for that. Not only does it ensure you save face, but it also ensures you don’t let anyone down. A reputation is a tricky thing to build up once it’s been tarnished by not keeping a promise – or better said by not meeting the results you promised.

Never promise what you are not – absolutely sure – you can deliver.

Your credibility, your reputation is everything. It’s why clients come to you (and remain with you), it’s why other lawyers respect you, it’s why you have a good rapport with judges and magistrates. Your credibility, your reputation is too valuable to you (and your business) to lose to ego, guile, or posturing.

As Robert Katzberg said in his article Succeeding in the Business of Law: 5 Rules Every Lawyer Should Live By – 

“however the legal community adapts to better reflect and serve the general population; however we ultimately integrate technology into the practice of law; however legal education is modified to better suit new challenges, one thing is certain: Human nature will remain a dominate factor in career outcomes.

As a consequence, how you deal with others, and how others view you, will be the key to success or failure in the business of law. In short, interpersonal skills are as important as technical skills, personal connections, professional experience, educational background, or anything else.”

And we couldn’t agree more. 

The above points may not be entirely new or particularly groundbreaking, but they do help you see your law firm a little differently. 

As legal practitioners you are taught to remain professional, not to tout for business. Not to bring the legal profession into disrepute. But the natural effect of that is becoming over-cautious. Not seeing opportunity. Sticking to colouring inside the lines. Which is fair enough.

But what often happens, is some legal practitioners and some law firms don’t reach their full potential. 

By embracing the above, you give yourself space, you become open to what is around you and in that ”space” and openness you give yourself potential. The possibilities are endless.

We will be chatting about the business of law again next week. Keep an eye out.

If you have any questions regarding the information we have set out above or if you have any queries relating to legal tech and how you can incorporate it into your practice, get-in-touch and let’s see how we can take your software solution from good to phenomenal. If you don’t have any software supporting your legal practice yet, it’s not a problem. We are here to help you from scratch too. 

AJS – as always – has your back!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

thirteen + two =