How to Grow Your Solo Law Firm
Crossing the bridge from solo law firm to small law practice means prioritizing activities that contribute to growth—an idea that often seems more like a dream than a viable reality.
You’re one person doing the work of many, and finding time to expand your practice means adding more tasks to your to-do list. You need to upgrade your private office space and hire help, but you also need time to adequately serve your clients.
Growth is most certainly a paradox: you need people to grow, but building a team costs money. It’s not a straight and easy path, but these nine tips can help you better manage the two-steps-forward-one-step-back financial dance to make your efforts worthwhile:
#1 – Separate Your Business from Your Personal Life
When you’re practicing law solo, the line between your business and personal life blurs. You’re spending most of your waking time serving clients, marketing your services, balancing books, and the other responsibilities that come with solo enterprises.
However, remember that you didn’t become a lawyer to have it consume your life. You’re the lifeblood of the practice, but the inverse of this statement isn’t true.
Focus on separating your practice from your private life. This not only helps to maintain your mental sanity, but it also adds to your scalability when you bring new lawyers into your firm. They should be able to start practicing with minimal training when processes are clearly defined.
#2 – Prioritize Client Service
One of the most important aspects of keeping your law firm healthy during growth is ensuring client care doesn’t fall by the wayside. From your meeting room to the courtroom, customers shouldn’t have to suffer from lack of service while you’re focused on growth activities.
Whether you’re expanding your private office, hiring new employees, or upgrading your website, make sure the transitions are seamless.
To do this, you might consider using a PO box or virtual office services instead of a physical address so mail always arrives even if you move. Keep your old website up and running while building your new one so customers always have a way of contacting you. Maintain the same phone number and business hours for consistency.
Seamless transitions might make clients none the wiser about your growth phase. But minor nuisances like a wrong phone number or email address could send them straight to your competitors.
#3 – Review Your Firm’s Client Capacity
Industry statistics paint a nice picture. Law firm revenue is expected in to increase 2.2% annually over the next five years, reaching a pinnacle of $331.4 billion each year.
Are you ready to take your share of this growth? To find out, consider your solo firm’s client capacity as it stands without making changes. Most solo firms can serve no more than 6-8 clients per month, and that’s working more than 40 hours per week.
Before you start growing, you need to know your numbers:
- How much will it cost to take on new staff (secretary, paralegal, attorney, practice manager, marketer, etc)?
- How much private office space do you need to accommodate your team?
- How many clients can you attract with your current marketing (speaking events, networking events, etc.)?
- How many clients do you need each month to satisfy the financial obligations of expansion?
Knowing your numbers can help you to make informed decisions regarding your law firm’s growth and ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
#4 – Offload Your Least Favorite Tasks
Starting with your least favorite tasks can be a step in the right direction. Offloading time-consuming, manually intensive tasks can free up your time to focus on growth activities.
For example, if you find that speaking engagements are viable sources to find clients, hire someone that will get on the phone and book those events for you.
In addition, getting rid of the tasks you loathe can be an easy way to get your feet wet in growing your practice. You get a taste for what expansion feels like, even though you’re only assigning small responsibilities. Expenses are minimal and risks are low, giving you a successful stepping stone to your larger goals.
#5 – Find the Right Private Office to Accommodate Growth
Growing your law practice means expanding your space to accommodate new staff and a larger client load. But many solo lawyers make the mistake of investing in a bigger office before having the workers or clients to justify the expense.
Granted, it makes sense that a nice office can attract quality candidates and new clients. But in the meantime, you’ll have to pay for space you’re hoping to use in the future, along with all the furnishings, utilities, and equipment that come with growing your practice.
Save your overhead expenses for staff, not space. Co-working spaces are becoming hot spots for lawyers as they make the leap from solo law office to a small law firm.
A shared workspace helps to keep overhead costs low by providing furniture, utilities, and other amenities in a flat monthly rate. As your law practice grows, you can change your private office accommodations to match your needs.
#6 – Focus on Functions that Make You Money
Growth is often two steps forward and one step back. You’re bringing in more revenue, but you also have more expenses to satisfy before you see a profit. Prioritize the tasks that make you the most money to offset your rising overhead.
As a lawyer, these tasks usually fall into three categories: meeting with clients, building strategic business partnerships, and speaking opportunities.
Any responsibilities outside of these categories can usually be delegated to someone else that can do them for less than you could do yourself.
#7 – Embrace Technology and Automation
As your practice grows, scaling your processes will become essential. Technology and automation can streamline your work by removing many of the manual functions from the equation. Invoicing, dictation, document preparation, and even marketing can benefit from technology and automation.
You’ll need to spend some time with your technology solutions to set up and test processes and workflows. But once you flip the switch, you can rest easy knowing you don’t have to micromanage these aspects of your business.
#8 – Set Aside Growth Capital
If growth is anywhere in your future, you should start setting aside funds to accommodate expenses. Using your own money helps you avoid taking out a costly loan and ensures you have the means to grow when you’re ready.
#9 – Commit to Your Vision
Growth starts with a vision. Think about where you see your law firm in next year, five years, or further into the future. Consider the steps you need to take to realize that vision, then commit to making it happen.
As a solo law firm, you’re the only one that can decide when to grow and how big to take your practice. You’re also in charge of building the bridge to becoming a small law office and then crossing it. Keep the end goal in mind and work backward to ensure you’re hitting the right milestones.
Preparing Your Solo Law Practice for Growing Pains
Growing your law practice can be a difficult hurdle to clear, but it’s better than the alternative of not growing. Until you’re able to expand your services and clientele, you’re limiting your income potential.
Doing things on your own isn’t healthy for your finances, plus it can wreak havoc on your mental well-being.
Keeping costs low and prioritizing growth will ensure the rest of your responsibilities are fulfilled. Find a private office space that can grow with you. Set aside funds to finance your first hire. Plan for future needs, but don’t act on them until you absolutely need to do so.
This way, you can watch the magic unfold before your eyes and enjoy the results without stressing about them.
To find your ideal private office space, simply find the Office Evolution location nearest you.