Consider for a moment how you maintain your car. Are you the type that sticks to the recommended regular maintenance schedule, or do you only address vehicle health when given a sign such as a warning light, a weird sound, or a change in drivability? If the former, then you’ve come to appreciate that the cost of waiting to address a failed component can be far more expensive than having taken preventative measures along the way.  

Unfortunately, many law firm owners take a more proactive approach in the care of their vehicle than of their business.  If you operate your firm waiting for some sort of warning light to alert you of issues that need to be addressed, you’re playing from behind. Like most businesses, a law firm’s issues don’t just appear out of nowhere like your vehicle’s warning light, but rather from symptoms that have been there all along causing damage that exacerbates when neglected along the way. 

What Signs Should I Look For?

Perhaps you’ve recently lost several clients to competitors, have failed to convert and sign a few strong leads, experienced an unexpected drop in revenue, or your pipeline has dried up. Could any of this have been anticipated, mitigated, or avoided? Quite possibly, yes, had you taken time earlier to step away from your day-to-day to conduct a diagnostic of your firm’s overall health.

You may have uncovered that your firm lacked a standard service protocol for consistent communication with its clients, thus creating flight risk, or your intake and screening process was too slow in recognizing and converting high quality cases, creating missed opportunities, or you had no method in place to project future revenue, forcing you to make reactive decisions, or that your network of referring attorneys hasn’t heard from you in over a year, thus ensuring you’ve been replaced by other, more familiar options, or that your main metric for determining marketing performance or firm productivity was that the phone kept ringing. 

What Can I Do?

Do your business a favor, and don’t wait for the warning lights to appear. Instead, put yourself on a maintenance schedule and conduct at least an annual look under the hood of your firm. 

You can start a health check now by taking a closer look at the following:

  1. How long does it take your firm to respond to an inquiry?
      • According to a recent report*, 60% of law firms didn’t respond to their test inquiries at all, even though 79% of clients surveyed say they expect a response in 24hrs. Where does your firm land? Check the last 40 emails to your firm’s main inbox and see how long it took your firm to respond to new inquiries. 
  2. If key personnel were to unexpectedly leave the firm or be out for an extended period, could the firm operate seamlessly? 
    • Think through a scenario where a key staff member leaves the firm effective tomorrow. Would another staff member or new hire be able to seamlessly step into those duties? How much of the firm’s institutional knowledge is lost with their departure?  When it comes to lead processing or client management, does your firm have an established way of doing things, or is it inconsistent for each attorney or staff member?
    • If you have different intake staff, listen to how they evaluate new leads. Sit down with a partner or associate attorney and see if they manage clients differently to see what you can both take away from different processes. 
  3. How frequently does the firm proactively reach out to its referral sources?
    • Do you have a regular cadence to check in with referral sources? Should you create one to ensure a consistent pipeline? 

Whether attempting to do-it-yourself, or working with a trusted advisor, you may be surprised to discover repairs are needed to ensure your firm is firing on all cylinders, avoiding costly issues down the road.

*Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report https://www.clio.com/resources/legal-trends/2019-report/