Successful law firms share many common characteristics. There is no single, magic formula for success. Every firm is different and their service offerings and markets can vary widely. That said, there do seem to be overriding principles which, when put into place in a firm, yield results.
Create a clear business strategy.
This is probably the most critical characteristic. Armed with both a clearly defined service proposition and market you wish to serve, you are halfway there. Once these are decided, there is no room for distracting forays into areas that might dilute the main proposition.
On its own, this is not enough. You should make sure that the strategic message is understood by all staff and is broadcast externally to allow clients and potential clients to digest and understand.
Differentiate your practice.
With a clearly defined strategy established and communicated, your USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) should enable you to differentiate your practice in the marketplace. However, that is only half the differentiation story. As any good marketing professional will tell you, you should back this up with brand values which appeal to your clients.
After developing your service offerings, your markets and your USPs, it’s time to develop a “style” that will appeal to your clients. As a result, your brand values will become clear in their minds.
Put your clients front and centre.
The most successful firms go to great lengths to make sure the services they provide are consistent and timely. Paying lip service to client care rather than delivering it is not enough. Establish protocols which allow you to manage your clients’ expectations. These should cover, pricing, delivery timings and information updates as well as warnings of any potential delays. When you have these protocols in place, audit them regularly.
Also, perform periodic client surveys. These will allow you to fine tune your service delivery and keep abreast of changing client demands.
Allow the managing partner to manage.
This one really can be a potboiler for some practices. In some, the lead role is something to be avoided at all cost due to the impact it will have on fee-earning ability. In others, many senior partners try to do both jobs and end up falling between two stools.
The most successful practices have a managing partner who devotes the overwhelming majority of his or her time to management and client development. More and more are considering a managing partner who is a business qualified manager rather than just an LLB. If you aspire to lead your practice, you must accept that your fee earning days may well be over. You may like to consider getting a sound business qualification such as an MBA too.
Be the best place to work.
Organisations that develop their staff, invest in them and create an enjoyable workplace culture outperform those which do not. It’s not rocket science. Engaged, committed staff perform better and the revolving door syndrome is avoided. Perpetually recruiting replacements for disgruntled leavers is an expensive hobby.
Use technology to improve the practice.
Firms that invest in new technology and modern practice management systems are the real winners. Good IT systems and software provide significant advantages.
For example, in LawWare’s software, compliance, efficiency, client relationship management and accounts are all designed into the same package. Its main benefits are to help your staff, assist in client development and keep the SRA and various Law Societies happy. It’s a small price to pay for something that will make you more efficient and productive.
Needless to say, this list of 8 characteristics is not exhaustive. However, they are as good a place as any to start and should provide you with plenty of food for thought.
Mike O’Donnell, 2018.