By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
For the first two years of owning my law firm, I did not run it like a business. I just wanted to “do the work,” and I didn’t want to be bothered with the “business stuff.” I wanted to be the associate in my own law firm instead of the CEO of my legal business. When I started my law firm, I was barely earning enough to get by. Finally, when I was 7 months pregnant and lost everything in a hurricane, I knew I needed to get serious about making my law firm work for me and be the CEO of my law firm. I made some very small changes and within 3 months I was earning in the 6 figures, and I know you can do the same.
Here are 10 Must-Do’s in Your Law Firm Today to help you be the CEO of Your Law Firm and make the money you deserve to be making:
1. Answer your phones
The phones can feel so overwhelming for solos and small firms! Even when you have staff it oftentimes can seem like there is something more important for them to do than answer the phones. However, every missed call is a missed opportunity to engage with a new customer and/or existing client.
If you cannot commit to answering the phones yourself, you must hire a phone answering service or hire someone who will answer. When you are just starting or even when you’ve been doing the solo or small firm thing for a while, it feels scary to pay for the help that you need. However, this is an important investment into your business, your life, and your earnings. Be honest with yourself- if you hate answering the phone (believe me, I get it because I do too), then bring someone on board who will answer for you.
2. Write a phone script
The phone is the first contact to your law firm so it's the most important contact of all. When someone calls your firm he is likely scared, overwhelmed, and doesn’t know where to start. He is also taking the important first step toward bettering his life and resolving the situation that is causing him so much strife. By creating a script, you can help streamline that critical first phone call. For more tips, check out our Power Hour: Customer Service Like a Pro.
Here’s a sample script:
- Answer, “Thank you for calling (name of law firm), how can I help you?”
- Let the person talk and when s/he pauses ask for his/her name
- “Thank you, [caller’s name]. My name is [your name]. I would love to help you today.”
- Reflect back the caller’s concerns (i.e. “I am sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult time.”)
- Use the caller’s name at least three times during the call
- At the end of the call, thank him/ her for calling
- Make sure that you avoid using negative words. You can find a list of negative words and how to transform them by checking out our article.
3. Return every phone call
This is a 6-figure tip that I have just discovered: return every single call that comes into your firm even if they don't leave a message. Every call is a lead that should be pursued. Doing this one thing can have a huge benefit to your bottom line.
Also, return calls to your existing clients in the same day. We all know that the biggest complaint that clients have about other lawyers is that their calls went unanswered and unreturned. Don't be that lawyer.
4. Invest in Case Management Software
When you are first starting out, it seems like a Case Management System is a luxury that you don’t need. However, you do need it. It is the best, easiest way to manage your practice when you are in the office and when you are on the go. Many Case Management Software systems are very affordable. Our firm uses MyCase and we love it. It is only $39 a month, and it is an investment that will change your life and your firm for the better.
5. Bill Your Clients
There are no excuses! You must send a bill to your clients every single month- even if they always pay, even if they pay on time, even if they know that they should pay because the contract says so. Every client needs to be billed each month. Also, every client needs to receive a receipt upon payment.
If you hate billing (most of us lawyers do!), then hire someone to do it. Contract it out. Find a virtual assistant. Whatever you have to do to make sure bills get out, do it. It is an investment into your business. It is amazing how much more money you make when you bill clients.
We have tried lots of different billing systems. It has taken a lot of stress and time. We have finally landed on using MyCase's billing system and our Business Manager enjoys its ease of use.
6. Streamline Your Pay Date
Update your contract so that every client pays on the same day. The 15th is a great day since the first half of the month is usually bill-heavy for people.
As your business expands and you have to make a higher payroll, try to make half of the payments due on the 1st and the other half due on the 15th to help have a cushion for payroll.
7. Make a professional email address
It's time to nix the "firstname.lastname@example.org" email addresses. It is very easy to make an email address with your firm's URL by using Google Apps. Non-techy people, don't fret. Their customer service makes everything incredibly easy and at $5 a month, it's accessible at any budget. This is a non-negotiable.
8. Review your marketing
Many of us lawyers throw money at marketing and then never look at it again. We sigh a sigh of relief knowing that we have one more business thing taken care of and we don’t have to do anything more with it. Unfortunately, this is a big mistake. It is important to know if the marketing is working otherwise it is money that is not well spent.
You should be tracking your consultation sources (i.e. how they found out about you). You can do so on your intake sheet, and then make that into a spreadsheet where you can see it all. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is! But it is worth it! (Also, I am designing an app to make it easier to track this. It’s coming soon! Get on the mailing list to be the first to know about its launch: http://lawsuitetech.com/)
9. Track your consults and contracts
Along the same lines as #8, it is critical to keep track of consultations and contracts to know how many you have each month. Most lawyers do not know how many consultations they do a month. Nor do they know how many new contracts they have signed. It is critical to know this so you can make financial projections, ensure that you have enough cash flow to cover expenses, and be able to create concrete ways to grow your law firm.
10. Organize your e-files
Most of us scan documents into our e-files, but they are not truly organized. It is important to find a way to organize all of your e-files so that you are consistent and can find documents each time you need them. Here’s a screen shot of our “file set up” e-file template. Every single case is organized this way. We also have a consistent way of naming all of our files so that they are easy to find. We have recorded how to name e-files and how to organize scanning in our training manual, which is an incredibly important document to start even if you don’t have staff yet.
Though 10 Must-Do’s may sound like a lot, they are all each very small actions that you can start today. By doing this, your firm and your life will be more organized and more profitable.
What other suggestions do you have? Leave them in the comments below!
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.