YOUR LAW FIRM IS YOUR BUSINESS: Part III
Time to treat it as such.
Jane Fonda once said that –
We cannot always control our thoughts, but we can control our words, and repetition impresses the subconscious, and we are then master of the situation.
A quote that speaks to the very core of this week’s article. Because while we may be repeating some topics that come from the Going Out On Your Own series – some of them, including those related to the business of law – bear repeating. Why? Well as historian Will Durant said –
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
It therefore would seem that based on Fonda and Durants’ quotes – to master our own situation, to excel, to shoot for the stars, one needs to repeat a few actions to succeed. And it kind of makes sense – “practice makes perfect”, right?
Remember this series seeks to help you realise the opportunities within your law firm. And in doing so, to take it to the next phase and to succeed where others have not.
And while you may already know some of the things we are going to talk about, it’s all relevant. And it’s all necessary to ensure that your law firm is being properly managed.
Truly running your law firm like a business
Money makes the world go around. It’s also what you need in order to keep your business afloat, to keep yourself (and your employees) paid and to ensure that all your debtors are settled at the end of each month.
To use these funds correctly, you need to have certain plans in place. You can’t just make them up on the fly. We’re talking about solid plans to ensure that your business is on the right track.
The business plan
According to Investopedia, a business plan is –
“a document that defines in detail a company’s objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals”.
In other words – you need to both practically and formally know where you are going, what you want to do and how you are going to get there.
You are also going to need to be able to summarise what your practice’s goals are and what your financial projections look like – so it’s good to have this information readily available.
A business plan will be particularly useful if you need to apply for funding as it will show that you have a long-term vision and a solid strategy for your practice. Both good things.
Also, a business plan will ensure that you are able to track the progress of your business. And may need to be tweaked as your business expands, changes, and develops.
The expansion plan
Growth is the ultimate goal of most – if not all – businesses. Law firms included.
According to Banco Santander, an expansion plan is –
“a roadmap that defines the strategy that a company must follow to reach well established growth targets, and includes aspects such as:
· Characteristics of the plan and measures adapted to the needs of the business.
· Analysis of the viability of the procedures to be carried out.
· Framework under which it will be developed”.
In other words, as you grow, expand, or change direction, you need to be prepared for what that entails. So, play out expansion scenarios in your head and most importantly – write them down. Plan for them. Decide what you want (and what you don’t want) and then figure out how you’re going to get there.
This plan is also important to have in place so that you can effectively manage the growth of your business. So, you should include how you will manage expected windfalls and how you plan to sustain your clients’ interest and business.
The marketing plan
Speaking of sustaining your clients’ interest (and therefore their business), it’s vital that you not only develop a strong brand presence but that you effectively undertake a sustainable and intelligent marketing strategy.
Remain relevant by reminding people that you are out there and give them reasons for wanting to work with you.
A good marketing strategy can also help you understand what your clients’ needs are, whilst also educating them on what you can offer (and what is actually possible in the world of law). You can attract new clients with your intellectual and legal prowess and more importantly you can convince clients to remain with you, thereby securing repeat business (which is crucial for any business).
But the key here is remaining consistent.
Part of this marketing strategy will include social media campaigns. They aren’t everyone’s favourite thing in the world but your social media platforms (whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tik-Tok, or preferably all of them) will become your best friends whilst you are trying to get your name out there.
According to Cloudlancer –
In 2023, there are estimated to be 4.89 billion total social media users worldwide.1 This means that over 60% of the entire global population is active on at least one social media platform.
And that’s a lot of potential viewers that could see your content and be interested in what you have to offer.
Because part of staying top of mind is being present where your clients can see you, where they can engage with you and where they can get to know you. Social media allows that. Social media allows your clients to get in touch with you – at the tap of a button – and this further opens up your communication channels which is extremely beneficial to a new business.
Important tip! Remember that what you post on social media can easily bring your company into disrepute and end up chasing away clients instead of attracting them. It also doesn’t go away – once it has been posted it remains online for everyone to see. So, tread very carefully! As Emma Sadleir Berkowitz of The Digital Law Company has said “If you wouldn’t put it on a billboard, don’t post it on social media”. Which should be your rule of thumb. Always.
The exit plan
No one necessarily wants to think about the end of a business, but there is a certain inevitability that one day you won’t be running your own practice anymore. It could just be about retirement, or perhaps you decide to invest in a completely different company or maybe you end up selling your practice to someone else. Whatever the reason, you need to have an exit strategy. You need to have a plan for how you can let go of your business.
This exit strategy will give you a kind of peace of mind by ensuring that there’s a sort of end point to work towards. An end goal. Having an exit strategy can also be attractive to investors or potential buyers because they can see your “roadmap”. They can see where your practice is going and how it will get there.
To run the day-to-day of your business, you need to have some money in the bank to keep things going.
Whilst there’s no exact science of precisely how much you will need from day to day, there’s a certain level of certainty that costs will vary depending on many variables, such as the location of your offices, whether you will be renting or buying your office space, your practice area, do you require litigation funding, can you advertise your new law firm in a way that will attract new clients, do you need a website and other considerations like the need to invest in technology and office supplies. All varying. And all funds that need to be planned for.
From the get-go.
Ok, this may sound a little daunting, but you need to think of your daily, weekly, and monthly spends as a means to doing what you love, as a means to running a business you made, as a way to leave your own mark in the world, a way to do exactly what you are passionate about doing.
If you don’t – from the very beginning – you run the risk of being too afraid to do anything. Leaving you stuck in a place where you’re unable to move forward.
So, plan for it. If you need assistance, contact a financial advisor. But prepare yourself for these kinds of things.
Legal Technology Costs
In order to practice remotely from wherever you are, from any device (including your mobile phone with AJS Mobile), you will need to have your practice online, stored in the cloud (or wherever) so that you’re able to access your practice management software on the go.
You need software that will enable you to not only automate your documents with products like XpressDox, but also produce online receipts, follow digital payment processes or online invoicing options with products like AJS One, AJS Enterprise and AJS Express (view these product offerings here) which allow for document management, time recording, contacts management, FICA management and an asset register, all online. Or AJS FLOW which automates repetitive processes and menial tasks by allowing access to the system from anywhere via the Cloud.
You need to invest in a practice management system that allows you to work successfully from anywhere. Whether it’s at the office, at home or on the go. And AJS can certainly help you there.
Read our articles on Turning Inevitable Costs into Worthy Investments (which includes the technology you use) in Part I and Part II to discover how your legal tech spend is actually a worthy investment in the success of your practice.
The future is always uncertain. And it’s important to realise that your practice will not always be profitable. Unfortunately.
To ensure that your practice can remain open – regardless of what’s happening in the financial markets – you need to build up an emergency fund. Something that will help you during the dark times. Especially in months where your billable hours may not be what you had expected them to be. You can start doing this by setting aside a percentage of your monthly profits.
Always plan for the rainy days. You never know when those rainy days may hit you and you don’t want to be caught unawares.
It may not always be possible. But if you start small, at least you’re saving something. And that’s better than nothing.
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 by embracing the opportunities around you, the possibilities are well and truly endless.
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!