When business is booming, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Small law firms often take on a strenuous workload with employees wearing multiple hats. Periods of growth often cause lawyers and firm managers to wonder if growth and expansion is needed to handle the increase in demand.
Thankfully, this is a good problem for small to mid-sized law firms to have. Acquiring new clients and cases means that business is going well, but now you are tasked with growing your business in a way that is manageable and sustainable. If you find yourself facing this situation, keep reading for six valuable tips on growing your small law firm.
- Know why you are expanding
A common misconception is that your law firm should grow at certain times. However, there is not rule that says you must expand your business after a year, five years, or even 10 years. Before you make the decision to grow your firm, you should have a clear reason for expanding. Growing your small or solo practice is no easy task, and it is best to start this venture with a clear goal in mind.
Potential reasons for expanding your small to mid-sized law firm include:
- A steady increase in your workload
- The acquisition of new clients and cases
- A desire for a team or collaborative environment
- Peace of mind when you take a vacation, or even a sick day
- Adding new areas of practice to your firm
The reasons for expanding your practice are vast and unique to each individual. Understanding why you need to expand can help with the next step: determining how to expand. Keep your goals in mind as you go through the expansion process because it will not always be smooth sailing.
- Choose how to expand
How you expand is directly related to your goals. There are many ways to grow your small law firm, including hiring more staff, opening a new location, or expanding your areas of practice. Each path for growth comes with its own set of pros and cons, and you may require one or multiple to accomplish your goals. Planning will be key, so it is important to decide on your route for expansion sooner rather than later.
- Establish internal procedures
When you are swamped with a heavy caseload, it is easy to forget documentation. Lawyers already have so much documentation and paper work required as part of their daily job that internal procedures are often left neglected. However, a record of your internal business practices and procedures can make the expansion process much smoother.
Before bringing on new staff members or opening a new location, document the instructions for tasks that are repeated often. Have a clear procedure and expectations for responsibilities such as filing documents, communicating with clients, scheduling appointments, and anything else that is relevant to your business.
By establishing your internal business procedures ahead of time, you can avoid confusion and misinformation as new professionals join your staff. You will also save a tremendous amount of time repeating instructions, clarifying expectations, and determining crucial job functions.
- Prepare to delegate
If your law firm has been solo up until now, hiring someone new may be harder than you think. For business owners and managers of small law firms, delegating is no easy task. This is a great time to remember your goals for expansion, and keep them in mind as you learn to let some things go.
Before you hire someone, have a clear idea of what their responsibilities are. Outline the necessary training to teach them their roles and responsibilities as well as a timeline for handing over these functions. Throughout this process, remember that your law firm is a business, and not a personal extension of your identity. An efficient business can only run if the leader properly delegates tasks.
- Plan for a financial commitment
Before you start expanding your law firm, take a hard look at your finances. While business may be at an all-time high now, hiring employees and opening new locations are long-term financial commitments. You will be paying salaries, benefits, rent, utilities, and more fees for years to come. Ensure your growth is stable before jumping in.
- Reevaluate at a set date
Expansion is not something you set in motion and then forget. As you grow your law firm, set benchmarks to check in on your progress. Compare your current situation to your goals for expansion to make corrections and adjustments as needed. You may also find that your goals change over time, and you need to adjust your plans accordingly.