Professional Services Accounting ARTICLE -
Success Strategies You Might Have Overlooked
Target Audience: Accounting Consulting Firm News and Updates Interest, Law Firm Professionals, Lawyers, Law Firm Associates
You may think that the key to your firm’s success is financial strength. No doubt a healthy bottom line is necessary for long-term survival. But the success of your firm depends on many other factors as well — not all of them obvious.
Lawyers are frequently told that strong external communications are vital. Indeed, a failure to communicate effectively with clients is one of the most commonly found charges included in American Bar Association disciplinary complaints.
But internal communications — among partners, associates and staff — can be just as important to the success of the firm. Law firms that seem to implode or slowly die on the vine are typically those where only a handful of partners are kept in the loop.
When associates and staff feel uninformed or misinformed about important firm matters, the rumor mill may take over. Worse, individuals may feel less invested in the overall success of the firm because they believe they play no part in it.
Lawyers Who Lead
While there are many outstanding practicing attorneys, strong leaders are harder to come by in the legal profession — or in business in general. Lawyers are well trained in the practice of law, but few have been trained in the art of leadership.
Successful firms develop leadership talent by encouraging lawyers to take charge of strategic planning and firm goals. Leadership can be an innate talent — some attorneys are natural risk takers and visionaries — but leadership can also be learned.
Lawyers should be encouraged to challenge accepted practices and evaluate new methods, policies and procedures. This is the best way to ensure that the firm is operating at its peak and is as competitive as it can be.
Strategic plans aren’t just for giant firms. They can help smaller firms establish a vision for the future and the steps they will need to take to reach their goals. Strategic plans also help you put your core values on paper and establish acceptable behaviors.
A good strategic plan will be well understood and followed by all lawyers and staff. This “buy in” allows them to orient their activities to the greater benefit of the firm.
The Right Clients
No firm can be all things to all clients and should not even try. That’s why you need to decide what kinds of clients you want to work with. Then, if necessary, develop the legal talent to serve them.
Evaluate your current client list for clients or practice areas that are unprofitable or that simply don’t match your firm’s strengths. If there is no strategic reason for keeping a client, consider phasing out your representation and, possibly, referring the client to another attorney or firm.
In today’s competitive and rapidly changing environment, decisions sometimes need to be made with speed. That’s why the best management structures are simple and limited in membership. While committees to deal with specific issues may be necessary, they should be kept to a minimum and shouldn’t be burdened with excessive reporting requirements.
Unresolved issues won’t disappear just because you ignore them. To head off potential problems, your firm’s management team needs to meet at least monthly to discuss ongoing operations and anticipate the firm’s future needs.
Compensation systems based wholly on origination fees and billable hours can be dangerous to a firm’s health. This system encourages partners to hoard clients and even leave the firm when they receive other offers.
Instead, develop a pay-for-performance system that rewards partners not only for production, but also for other desirable activities, such as cross-selling, mentoring, developing new services and living the firm’s core values.
Naturally, attention to issues such as communication, management structure and strategic planning doesn’t replace basic fiscal responsibility. The primary goal of most firms is to generate revenue through billable hours while minimizing overhead costs. Nevertheless, the secret of any firm’s success is multilayered and requires the consideration of many, less-obvious issues.
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