Globalization, remote working, and changing expectations from both employees and clients are factors that have left no industry unturned, including the legal industry. If you’ve noticed there are too many lawyers, and not enough support staff to accommodate their needs, you’re not alone. Late last week, the Managing Partner Forum (MPF), Jaffe PR, and The Remsen Group released quite possibly the most comprehensive report on the future of the law firm, including what changes need to be made to survive this time of flux.

Given that part of the stipulation of this report is that lawyers are more busy with administrative tasks than they should be – especially you solo artists out there – we wanted to do our part and deliver a summary of everything you need to know, at a glance:

Structure Your Firm Like A Business – It Is One!

Law, and the pursuit of justice, is a noble profession – no one is denying that. However, many lawyers forget that a law firm is still a business.

Every law firm needs the same components for success that any other business does. The main pieces that MPF found lacking in most small-to-medium firms’ structures were:

  • A defined hierarchy of leadership – every business, including law firms, needs a CEO. Businesses that are run as a democracy rarely last, so define the roles of each member, and make a succession plan, so you’re never caught in a lurch when someone leaves, no matter how unexpectedly.
  • Managing partners whose actual role is to manage – and who know how.
  • Job descriptions for each member – yes, even partners!

MPF’s report – and, we think, common sense – dictates that the highest ranked members of the company focus on leadership and management of the firm, and promote innovation and company culture. Any group of people who work together over time will develop professional and interpersonal issues and disagreements, and there will be members who fall short on their requirements. Without strong leadership and management, those rifts will cause the downfall of the law firm as partners and their supporting staff stop collaborating and communicating. Without leadership holding partners accountable, there is no consequence for being an underperformer – to the point where MPF found that 79% of respondents to their survey admitted they have equity partners who haven’t developed a book of business.

Strategic Business Planning Is Critical To Long Term Success

An alarming number of law firms have no strategic plans for the future. This is another “just like any business” situation – without a plan, your firm will be at the mercy of whatever it’s able to do spontaneously, instead of being able to work towards a long term goal methodically. Further, you’ll be setting yourself up to under serve your clients, which means less referrals and less profit overall. Less than a quarter of law firms have a strategic plan – time to make one!

Developing a strategic plan means more than just writing down what you hope will happen over the next 5 years – it also includes plans for what happens when things change. When do you hold a company-wide meeting? Who is the final decision maker? What happens if you lose a key employee?

Stop Avoiding Technological Advancements

Over half of the firms surveyed by MPF said that they view technology that reduces the need for lawyers and paralegals as a threat, either present or future. While apprehension around technological advancements replacing our jobs makes sense, it’s important that you recognize that to fight back and protect your profession, you’ll need to use other technologies to enhance your services.  

In a nutshell, avoiding technological advancements is not prudent or cautious, it’s dangerous. As globalization affects our industry, and client expectations of immediacy rise, it’s critical that you take advantage of every tool available to you. Don’t skimp on cyber-security – your practice depends on it. Likewise, don’t skimp on hiring and remote contracting platforms – the sanity of your staff depends on it.

Invest In Marketing and Business Development

Every business benefits from investing in marketing and business development. However, only a quarter of law firms surveyed invested more than a mere 4% into their marketing and business development.

This makes sense from a legacy standpoint – many firms rely on referrals and professional networks for the bulk of their clients. So why the change? Globalization. Your potential client pool is growing every day – and without investing in marketing and business development, you’re letting hundreds or thousands of potential clients get away.

How do you fix this? Make sure you hire a marketing manager, and they have the staff needed to support them (or use an outside firm). Prioritize your online presence, and study what the most successful firms in your field are doing. The age of letting clients come to you through word-of-mouth is over.

You can read the full report here. Do you have questions about what this information means for your practice? Does your law firm struggle with any of these points? We’re here to help! Let us introduce you to your champion.