By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
This week kicks off a 6-week series about how to become the CEO of your Law Firm. For my first two years of solo practice, I ran my law firm as if I were an associate attorney in someone else’s law firm. It took me years to understand that a law firm is a business and needs to be run as such. I decided that I needed to take the reins and be the CEO of my law firm.
As I became the CEO of my law firm, I came up with the 6 Key Roles and Responsibilities as the CEO of being the CEO of our law firms:
- Vision and Strategy
- Client Satisfaction
This week we are delving deep into CEO R&R #1: Vision and Strategy.
An important part of what a CEO does is determine the vision of the company and then create a strategy to support that vision.
We all start our law firms for different reasons. Some of us do it with a lot of thought and planning. Some of us have to do it quickly after losing a job. Some of us do it because we can’t find a job. Sometimes, when we start our firms from a place of urgency, we jump in to get started on doing the work and getting clients and miss out on taking a look at the bigger picture of what we want for our firm.
CREATING THE VISION
When starting a law firm, most of us want to make sure that we have enough business to sustain ourselves. While this is necessary, it is important to take the time to determine what you want the vision of your law firm to be.
A great way to begin is to use the Ideal Client Profile and go deep on the types of cases that you would like to take, the people you would like to serve, and the structure with which you would like to run your law firm.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking about the Vision of your law firm. The questions may sound a bit “touchy-feely,” and the truth is that it IS a bit touchy feely. It is important to remember that people do not normally come to see lawyers when things are going well in their lives. They usually come to see lawyers when they are stressed out and overwhelmed. By taking the time to think about what a client wants and needs to experience when s/he meets with you, it will help you develop every other process in your office, including policies, procedures, marketing, and more.
- What cases are your favorite cases? If you could do one case type every day for the rest of your career, what would it be?
- Who are your favorite clients? What kind of characteristics do they share?
- Some things to consider:
- How do they pay? (cash, card, check)
- What is their race/ country of origin/ nationality?
- What is their gender?
- What is their marital status?
- What is the feeling that you want to create for your clients?
- What specific things do you hope that they say about you to their friends and family?
- How do you want them to feel when they arrive at your office?
- How do you want them to feel when they leave your office?
- How do you want them to feel when their cases are completed?
- What experience do you want the clients to have when they work with you?
- Do you want to be considered the lawyer of their family and friends?
- Do you want the experience to be merely transactional without much personal interaction?
- How would you most like to communicate with them? (email, phone, text, etc)
- How would you most like them to communicate with you?
- What kind of customer service should your clients expect from you? In what ways?
Exercise: Create the Client Experience
Take a moment to write out a client experience from beginning to end. In our office, we have scripts that we use for each client interaction to ensure that we are creating the experience for our clients that is congruent with our mission.
Start with the initial phone call. Remember that when a potential client calls you, s/he is nervous and maybe even scared. She may never have spoken with a lawyer before. She is going through a difficult situation and is looking for a solution. Keeping all of that in mind, write up a short script/ guidelines for how that phone call should be answered in your office.
For example in our office our initial phone call script is:
- Formal greeting (for example: “Good morning/ good afternoon, thank you for calling our law firm”)
- Ask for the caller’s name
- Use the caller’s name in the following sentence (i.e. “Thank you, Maria, how can I help you?”)
- Allow the caller to talk and explain her situation without interruption
- Reflect and summarize the caller’s issue and feelings back to her (“I am sorry to hear that you are going through a hard time, Maria, I hope that we can help you resolve your immigration case.)
- Explain the consultation process
- Schedule the consultation (be sure to obtain the complete name and phone number)
- Ask if the caller has any more questions
- Formal farewell repeating the caller’s name again
- On every phone call, the caller’s name should be said at least three times
As you can see, this allows the person who answers the phone to speak naturally, but also ensures that the values of my firm are reflected in the conversation. Some people want to get right down to explaining the consultation and do not want to waste time listening to the facts since the lawyer would have to do the consultation anyway, which is perfectly fine if that fits your vision and mission of your firm. The point is that there is no “right way” except for the way that supports the vision for your law firm that you have created as the CEO.
Go through the following client interactions and outline how you would like for them to play out:
- Arrival at your law firm
- Consultation intake
- Consultation follow-up
- Contract signing
- Initial meeting post-contract
- Interactions about pending case
- Discussing the outcome of the case/ ending the case
- Post-case closure
CREATING THE STRATEGY
Once you have determined the vision for your firm, you have to get strategizing about how to put that vision into action. There are two main parts to creating a strategy to support your vision:
- Create a Brand and 2. Establish Your Goals
1. Create a Brand
By answering the questions and using the exercise above, you can pinpoint the clients that you want for your firm and the experience that you want them to have when they come to you. That information is important in creating your brand. Branding is not a dirty word! You do great work and in order to serve your clients well, they have to be able to find you.
By creating a brand that reflects the values of your firm, you will attract the clients that you most want to serve.
A few branding essentials:
The tagline is a short sentence that sums up what your law firm does and who you serve. For example, our firm is very committed to creating a family-like feel with a client-centric experience, so our tagline is “our clients are our family.” Another law firm that does immigration work and criminal defense of immigrants has as their tagline, “A law firm for immigrants.”
Take a look at your values as a firm and try to boil it down into a sentence or two that can describe your firm to anyone who hears about you.
A professional photo is a must. It’s an investment into your firm and your professional image.
There are many cost-effective ways to create a logo nowadays, and a logo goes a long way. It can go far beyond just the letters of your firm to include symbols that are meaningful to you or your clients. For example, our logo is a Mayan warrior which reflects the culture and spirit of the clients that we serve.
Keep your website clean, easy to read, and easy to navigate.
Remember that a client is coming to see you because she has a problem that she needs solved. Make sure that by reading through your website, she knows that you can solve that type of problem. Explain other cases you have handled and their outcomes. Use client testimonials if you are able.
Your “about me” section is essential. I like to use the first person and talk about why I, and everyone else on my team, does this work. I find it to be very powerful.
Your website and social media should all be similar. They should use similar color schemes, fonts, and photos. They should all cultivate the same feeling and someone should be able to tell that they are all connected.
2. Establish Your Goals
Oftentimes when we talk about goals, we immediately think of financial goals and income, but that is not all there is to it. It is important to think about lifestyle and your firm setup.
- How many hours a week do you want to work?
Most attorneys never give this much thought, and often say “less hours,” but it is important to put an actual number on it.
- What are some ways that you would like to spend your time that is meaningful to you?
Yoga class, your daughter’s play, 3 day weekends once a month
- What does success mean for you?
Write it out. Play it out. Success to me means _____________.
I feel successful when _______________.
I will feel like I have “made it” when _________________.
- What does your ideal firm look like to you?
How many lawyers?
How many support staff?
How many open, active cases?
How many total cases
How does it feel, CEO? I know it is a lot to think about and may be a lot of work to put this all together, but it is important because it sets the baseline for the other CEO Roles and Responsibilities that we will be discussing in the next few weeks.
Share your vision and strategies below! Let’s support one another on our CEO journeys.
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.