PRACTICAL STEPS IN MARKETING, MANAGEMENT AND FINANCE
Future-Proofing Your Law Firm
By Jim Calloway
T HE FUTURE OF PRIVATE LAW PRACTICE has been a subject of much speculation the last several years. While some law firm partners behave as if they
believe things will go back to business as usual, most of those
who are paying attention believe we are headed to a “new normal”
in our future. Among the factors cited to support this proposi-
tion are business clients more engaged in negotiating legal fees,
Discuss the expectations of clients for each new matter. Set rea-
sonable, appropriate deadlines for projects and then meet them.
IGNORE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES
AT YOUR PERIL.
Information technology is becoming more interwoven
into our lives and business operations every day. A few
years ago it might have been appropriate to have a simple
feature phone and not a smartphone. But today, not being
able to set an appointment on your smartphone does not
inspire confidence about your legal ability. Technology
purchases and training are and will remain a critical part
of law firm operations for long into the future. Out-of-date technology slows down business. It is increasingly dangerous to use an antiquated billing system or to not have a good
document management system.
Simply put, you cannot take 10 or 15 minutes to do something
that other lawyers can do in a minute, whether you bill that time
One thing that appears tO
be certain is that the LEGAL
PROFESSION CANNOT LOOK
TO CONTINUED GROWTH TO
SOLVE ITS SYSTEMIC ISSUES.
an overexpansion of law schools that has led to more attorneys
entering an already packed job market, the continuing impact of
technological advances on law firms and the proliferation of legal
services offered online by people or entities that are not lawyers.
So, it’s a basic fact: Planning is critical for lawyers and law
firms. But it remains far too easy for firms to get mired in important short-term planning issues such as budgeting and managing large projects at the expense of investment in the firm.
As that great philosopher Yogi Berra noted about the future, “If
you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” So here are some areas to think about for your future.
BEHAVE AS IF IT WERE ALL ABOUT THE
CLIENTS, BECAUSE IT IS.
For a lawyer to have a practice, he or she must have paying
clients. We are in a service profession. But it is often easy to
focus on the quality of legal services provided at the expense
of customer service. Yet your clients pay as much attention to
how they are treated as to the work product. (In fact, they may
pay more attention to that.) Thus, we must build systems where
clients receive timely updates on the status of their matters
without having to ask for them or being charged extra for them.
HAVE A BETTER ANSWER FOR “WHAT
WILL THE TOTAL COST BE?”
We all like predictable costs. Anytime you can quote a potential
client a fixed fee, you increase the chance that a client will hire
your firm. But even where a range of total fees and costs is based
on many factors, you should be able to outline those factors and
show how they impact cost.
The billable hour hangs on, despite many calls for its demise. But
its hold slips more each year. There will be more discussions with
your clients about fixed fees and attorney fee caps in your future.
Be prepared for them with your firm’s historical information.
KNOW YOUR WORD PROCESSOR.
Love your word processor. Lawyers are wordsmiths. We
draft lots of correspondence and contracts and pleadings and