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A Law Firm Business Plan for Success

4 min read

A Law Firm Business Plan for Success

Lawyers starting a new firm usually feel confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. That’s how I felt when I started my solo firm in 2006. Since then, I’ve created a law firm business plan that’s helped dozens of lawyers get started. Here are my recommendations. 

Develop a solid plan to use technology effectively, which means focusing on five key areas: digital workflows, automation, delegation/outsourcing, security, and marketing. 

  1. Digital Workflows: Laying the Groundwork

Every well-run business requires a robust operational foundation. For law firms, this core foundation includes the effective use of: 

  • Practice Management Software: Practice management software (“PMS”) helps lawyers and their staff stay organized in client matters. PMS makes billing easier and enables firm-wide reminders for all critical deadlines. The best option for PMS will depend on your type of practice, so do your due diligence before settling on one. 
  • Billing Systems: Frictionless, accurate billing is vital. You need to accurately track time and expenses and provide detailed invoices. Being able to accept online payments is important as well. 
  • Document Management: You must be able to keep your digital documents organized, synchronized, and easily accessible from anywhere you might need to use them. And they also need to be secure from cyberattacks or inadvertent loss (see below). Making use of PDF software such as Adobe Acrobat is also vital in modern law practice. 

Key Takeaway: These operational systems form the bedrock of your firm. Investing time and money to make them work well is your best investment in your law practice. 

  1. Automation: Streamlining Common Tasks

The less time you spend on low-level tasks, the more time you’ll have available for doing client work (i.e., high-value work). Here are three areas where automation can eliminate friction and accelerate the speed of work: 

  • Document Automation: Most lawyers spend a lot of time creating, revising, and transmitting documents. Using templates helps, but automation is what moves the needle the most. Learning automation can be overwhelming, so start by using simple but powerful tools like TextExpander or AutoHotkey. 
  • Appointment Scheduling: Too much time is wasted getting agreement on when two or more people are available to meet. Automated scheduling tools like Calendly streamline and simplify the process of booking appointments. You can start using it for free and that’s the best way to grasp how powerful this automation is. 
  • Artificial Intelligence: Lawyers who embrace the use of tools like ChatGPT will flourish and those who do not will struggle. If you’re a litigator, check out Clearbrief.ai and if you do transactional work, try Spellbook. The power of AI will continue to increase at a rapid rate, so it behooves you to start using it sooner rather than later. 

Key Takeaway: Automation frees up valuable time that can be redirected in ways that ensure that every client feels more prioritized and valued. 

  1. Delegation/Outsourcing: Offloading Drudgery

Whatever drudgery you can’t automate, you should outsource. Understandably, many lawyers are wary of outsourcing, but they shouldn’t be. The best way to understand the power of outsourcing is to try it, beginning with small steps. 

Here are the best options to explore: 

  • Low-Level Tasks: the two services to start with are Fiverr and FancyHands. Fiverr is great for one-off tasks and specialized tasks (e.g., website work, logo design, or branding assets), and FancyHands is a subscription-based service that’s great for routine/recurring tasks. 
  • Executive Assistant work: Having an executive assistant who gets to know your workflows well is incredibly valuable. However, hiring a full-time EA can be expensive and beyond the budget of someone starting a new firm. Chatterboss is a great way to get a “fractional EA” that’s affordable and indispensable. You can (and should) book a free consultation call to explore this option for your practice. 
  • Lawyer Assistance: If you need help from other lawyers, you should check out LawClerk Legal. You can find U.S. licensed attorneys to help you on a temporary, per-project basis or an ongoing basis. It costs nothing to register, so you should do this as soon as possible so you’re prepared in the event of a sudden surge in work that you can’t handle. 

Key Takeaway: Every attorney should delegate as much as possible, and outsourcing is the most affordable and powerful way to accomplish this. 

  1. Cybersecurity & Data Privacy

Increasingly, security and data privacy are essential for lawyers to understand. It’s best to focus on measures that protect against the most likely common attacks. 

  • Protecting Passwords: Having strong passwords is vital, as is making sure you use different passwords for each important account. The best way to improve your password protection is to use a Password Manager. There are several options, and they all work the same way. The one I use and recommend is 1Password. 
  • Reliable Backups: Your digital data must be properly backed up, automatically and reliably. Don’t rely solely on the cloud services you use to back up the data on their end. Make sure you are doing local backup as well. 
  • Virtual Private Networks: Being safe while traveling or using public WiFi requires a VPN service. There are many good ones to choose from, but the one I use and recommend is ExpressVPN. Do not use any form of public WiFi without enabling VPN service. 

Key Takeaway: Securing your data is vital for your and your clients' sake. It’s not hard to get the basic protections in place. 

  1. Marketing Strategy: Staying Top of Mind

In a competitive legal market, you need an effective system for getting new clients in a reliable, steady flow: 

  • A Website: A simple website is easy to set up. If you can’t do this yourself, outsource the task via Fiverr or Upwork. You also need to develop and use a system for getting client testimonials. Software like Testimonials.io makes it easy to collect, organize, and display them. 
  • Referrals: The best marketing opportunities for lawyers come by way of referrals. You need to stay top of mind with potential clients. The key to getting more good referrals is the 3 Rs. That is, you need to (1) remind people (2) regularly in a (3) reasonable way what kind of work you do and how much you care about your clients. 
  • Email Newsletter: The easiest way to stay top of mind with referral sources is email. You can use ConvertKit for free for up to 1,000 names. All it takes to stay top of mind is to send a short email once a month. Writing and sending the email shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. 

Takeaway: A solid marketing strategy is vital to any law practice, but it doesn’t need to cost much or take much time. 

Conclusion Starting a new firm can feel daunting, but a solid law firm business plan can alleviate anxiety and overwhelm. Most importantly, a good plan improves the likelihood of success. 

If you want additional help to develop a solid law firm business plan, this online resource can help and takes less than eight minutes to complete. 

Authored by:

Ernie Svenson is an award-winning consultant, author, speaker, and podcaster. His website contains many resources for lawyers who want to reduce friction, gain freedom, work less, and take more time off. www.ernietheattorney.net

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