7 Ways to Grow Your Practice
By Steve Riley, Attorney and Atticus Certified Practice Advisor
Tired of working evenings and weekends? Tired of practicing pay-the-rent law? Tired of being tired all the time?
It’s time to look forward and grow your practice, which will increase your personal income and have a positive effect on your team and your clients. Along the way, the confidence you gain will help you propel the practice forward in the years to come.
1. Change Your Mindset
Your eyes only see and your ears only hear what your mind is looking for. If you’re in the “Great Lawyer Mindset,” an academic mindset where you try to validate your intellect and skills as a lawyer and are focused on trying to be the best lawyer you can be, you could be missing the key elements of growth. A “Great Lawyer Mindset” is excellent to have, but it doesn’t do anything to grow the top line or bottom line of your revenues.
Shift your mindset slightly and distinguish between legal skills and business skills. As an attorney, of course you want to be as perfect as you can be doing the technical work. When you’re growing your practice, however, you don’t have to be perfect. You can take risks and try new strategies because a new mindset leads to new results.
With an academic view, you’re looking for validation of your skills much the same way you looked for grade validation in law school. However, in your practice, clients can’t judge your skills as a lawyer. Clients can only judge the experience your law firm creates for them from the customer service side of things. As an attorney running a business, you need to think about what type of experiences you’re creating for the client.
Let go of trying to be the best lawyer on the planet and realize that the game changed out of law school and that business experience became just as important as your law skills. Look at your practice from the outside in, through a potential customer’s eyes, because all the things you think shouldn’t matter, sometimes matter the most to a client.
It’s a bit counterintuitive, but as you work on improving your business skills, your mental capacity increases and your legal skills can improve as well.
2. Budget Time for Growth
If you’re going to grow your practice, you have to find time in your calendar to work on it. When you’re focused on growth, you generally go through three phases. First, you learn to manage yourself, your time, your path forward. Second, as you begin growing, you learn how to manage your team and every staff member you bring aboard. Finally, you’re managing managers in your firm, who in turn manage people on their teams.
Out of all the Atticus Four Foundations for Practice Growth™, time management is key here. Every Monday morning, schedule time for you to plan out your week, meet with your assistant, and set your team upon the week’s tasks.
Create a written plan for your firm’s growth with defined revenue targets. Writing something down makes it more concrete in your mind, makes it more likely that you’ll focus on it, and try to achieve what you said you wanted to achieve.
Identify 10 key projects for growth in your firm and spell out your revenue targets for each. If you don’t know the revenue target, make your best guess. An educated guess is better than no guess because it gives you a direction to aim in. If you put down nothing or leave it blank, it becomes easy for that to move to the back of the line in your thinking and eventually ignore it.
An excellent and expedient way to create a written growth plan is to complete Atticus’ most popular one-day workshop, Double Your Revenue™. Atticus and the ISBA hosted a marketing workshop February 27 at our Chicago headquarters. We hold several sessions a year.
4. The Trifecta of Growth
MONEY - Increase your prices, increase your rates, tighten up your accounts receivables, and tighten up how you explain how you create value for people. You need to get paid for the work you do, so shift from bad pricing habits and approaches to better, more defined ones.
CLIENTS - Go from bad clients to good clients. In your practice, nothing will suck more of your time and attention than bad clients. These client vampires will drain you of energy, of confidence, and often of money. To get rid of bad clients, tighten your intake process and vet them. Increasing your consultation fee is a good way to weed out poor potential clients and bring you good clients who will pay — and pay on time. You’ll have fewer, but overall better clients.
STAFFING - Move from a bad staff to an all-star staff. A bad staff will hold back your firm, so hire your staff, don’t adopt them. Many lawyers are lions in the courtroom, but lambs at the office, afraid to confront staff members about their poor work. An effective way to tell if you do have a staffing issue is if you complain to your spouse or partner about a staff member, but don’t actually confront that person. This could mean that you might have adopted your employee. If you’re in an adoption situation and you can’t get that person to improve or rehabilitate, cut the cord and replace him.
5. Revenue Follows Capacity
Most attorneys are operating their days and their practices at maximum capacity. That means you’re not working at your best, you’re not managing at your best, and you’re not thinking at your best. You’re overloaded with work, leaving you no time to focus on growth.
You can reduce capacity by raising your rates and focusing on better clients and better cases. Or you can increase capacity by hiring more people, adopting new processes, and investing in technology.
Differentiate between tasks and goals. Tasks are the things you do, but a goal is something that inspires you. If you’re going to grow your practice, you need time to invest in growth projects — not time to do more work.
6. Ask for Business
Many lawyers do bumper car marketing. They go to community events and instead of specifically asking for business from strategic people, they hope to bump into someone who might send them business. A better strategy is to ask for business three times a day from your referral sources. A great bunch to start with: Your existing clients.
When you ask, use a strategic and intentional approach that’s ethical and something that makes you feel confident. If you’re uncomfortable — or even if you’re not — script your approach and practice it. Don’t just wing it. You wouldn’t go into court without a plan, so don’t go into marketing opportunities without a plan. Create three to five different scripts to use in different situations, but practice them enough so they sound natural, not forced.
7. Don’t Grow Alone
Enroll in a practice management group program, such as the Atticus Practice Growth Program™ or Dominate Your Market™. If you can afford a bigger, more tailored investment, work with one of our coaches in a one-on-one coaching program.
Knowledge alone does not equal power. Knowledge + action = power. Just thinking about something doesn’t guarantee greater, future results. So, if you’re looking to grow your practice — and why wouldn’t you be? — pick one of the above seven ways and calendar yourself a checkpoint 30 days out to see your progress. You’ll be amazed at what 30 days with a clear, concrete plan can do — and how it can lead to the future you want.