These Are the Top Traits of the Most Successful Law Firms
Your goal may be to have a booming law firm brimming with clients, cases and revenue.
But the reality is often much more of a daily grind.
Few firms maintain the kind of practice that always whirrs along beautifully, allowing the partners to focus on the big picture.
Maybe you’re not getting the number of intakes you want. Maybe it’s inconsistent. Maybe your team could be functioning more effectively. How do you model your firm after the most successful ones?
At the Firmidable legal marketing agency, we tapped a law firm coach and growth expert to share the insights he has gathered from working with firms all over the country. In a recent webcast produced by Firmidable, Vista Consulting Team Co-Founder Tim McKey laid out his picks for the traits that define the most successful firms.
In this blog post, we’ve gathered a few key themes from his talk:
- Why your law firm’s culture is crucial
- How your law firm should capture—and use—data
- The importance of taking decisive action
Choose the Law Firm Culture You Want
Your law firm has a culture, whether you intentionally created one or not. To be successful, Tim argued, your firm’s culture needs to be something you deliberately implement, not just something you let happen on its own.
“No matter what it is, there needs to be thought behind it,” Tim said. “Generally, it’s built around the owner.”
Without a culture plan, bad habits can form organically, negatively affecting your firm before you even know what’s happening. With a deliberate culture, you can reduce that worry.
Part of a successful law firm culture is that it allows you as a partner to work on your firm, not just in it. This means you have the freedom to focus on strategic moves instead of getting bogged down in daily management.
A law firm owner also has to make sure the firm doesn’t solely revolve around one attorney (namely, themselves). When you do that, you’ve got a job, not a business.
And your firm will suffer for it. Your employees are there to expand your firm’s capacity. Don’t you want to be able to empower them, so you don’t have to tend to every detail?
It’s why Tim suggests employing a high-functioning chief operating officer (COO) or management team to help run your firm. These people don’t have to be lawyers, and often they aren’t. They need to able to keep the firm running smoothly without worrying about what’s happening in a case.
Tim also suggested these operations leaders have the following qualities:
- Great coaching ability
- Intuition for talent
- Ability to relate and communicate well with superiors and subordinates alike
And the biggest thing? You have to be realistic about your practice. You should value discipline over pure drive and motivation, which can be fleeting when you’re up against that familiar daily grind.
“You can’t be fired up to do the same thing every day,” Tim said. “Being disciplined means you’ll still succeed, even on off days.”
Know Your Law Firm’s Data
Thriving law firms know their data.
Your firm should have systems in place to capture data, which can be as broad as how many cases you’re getting per month and as narrow as the conversion rate per call that each intake team member is posting.
This goes back to hiring a skilled management team. Tim also recommends investing in a case management software system that tracks everything. It’s a valuable tool in assessing the performance of your firm and training your lawyers and staff to improve.
“You can see which employees are performing better than others,” he said. “And you don’t want to use the number as a hammer—think of it more as a coaching tool. Communicate with them, but still hold them accountable.”
Too often, Tim says, law firm owners he advises have no idea how things are actually functioning inside their firms.
Data can fix that.
Move your Firm Forward Decisively—Even if You Don’t Change Anything
Once you build your foundation—your culture—and you have your data, the next step is to take confident action going forward.
The foundation you’ve built isn’t there to sit in a display case for everyone to admire. It’s there to help you reach new heights as a law firm. You have to use it. Don’t be afraid to make a leap, to really change something, if your data is telling you so.
Even if your groundwork suggests you should stay on the same track, you should embrace that decisively, too. Don’t throw out what works.
Tim said the most successful law firms are always looking for a “win-win-win”—a win for the client, a win for the attorney, and a win for the firm.
And don’t stop with the data after you’ve used it to guide a decision: You have to measure and analyze the results of each action. Your new data could point you toward expanding your practice to a different city. Or it could be downsizing if that’s the right move for your firm. But you have to have the data to back it up.
And don’t be afraid of the “dips.” After you launch any new system or endeavor, these naturally happen. You can face a period where your results may slump, and you have to hang on longer to get the benefits you want. But if you do, it can pay off.
In the webcast, Tim told the story of a client who was suffering from a dip in cases. They looked at the data, and all the plans they had in place appeared to be working smoothly.
So what was wrong? Nothing, as it turns out.
In a couple of months, everything was running great—just as the data suggested it would. The client trusted his process and didn’t panic when the results lagged at first. This is an example of how holding steady can lead to success.
If you’re interested in talking more about the savviest strategies for growth, including your law firm marketing, strategic positioning and more, get in touch with Firmidable today.
Firmidable has been a national expert in legal marketing for almost 30 years. It brings law firms customized, data-driven marketing strategies and services, including online and traditional media for a wide range of legal practices. From Maine to Hawaii, it has transformed the lives of attorneys—and their clients.