What makes for a successful law firm? Is it talented lawyers? A diversity of practice areas? A high degree of specialisation? Loyal clients? A captive market?
We could go on and on, and the answer to each of these questions would be a qualified "yes," because any one of those factors can contribute to law firm success. In fact, there is no single formula for prosperity in legal practice. Firms thrive for as wide a variety of reasons as there is variety in law practice itself. That having been said, at LawMaster we've spent three decades serving the legal market. We count some of Australia's most dynamic, successful firms among our clients. And so, over time we've identified three traits that prosperous firms tend to share in common. These traits do not constitute a formula, per se, but in our experience, they contribute to the long-term health of a firm no matter its size, speciality, or location.
1. Have a strong commitment to a clear internal strategy
One thing successful firms share in common is a firm-wide understanding of what it means to work for that particular firm. Business theorists use a variety of terms to describe this characteristic: a shared vision, a one-firm mentality, a mission, an esprit de corps. Whatever the label, when a firm culture is based on shared values and purpose and makes its strategic decisions within that framework, in our experience success tends to follow.
The specific value and purpose of each firm will be unique, of course. A small legal practice specialising in criminal defence, for example, may infuse its culture with a mission to uphold constitutional values against all odds. A global business-oriented practice may place on a pedestal its commitment to teamwork and cross-office collaboration in service of the most complex client needs. No matter the value set, what matters most in fostering long-term prosperity is that every person working in that legal practice knows, believes in, and acts on those shared principles.
2. Make intelligent investments in productivity-enhancing technology
In our years of experience here at LawMaster, we've found that law firms often resist becoming the proving ground for new technologies. It's not difficult to understand why. New technology can be, indeed, often aims to be, disruptive. In contrast, the law and legal institutions change relatively slowly by purposeful design, and law firms follow suit. Cautious and careful by nature, lawyers are also often inclined to adopt an "If it isn't broken, then why fix it?" mentality.
And yet, we have also seen time and again that legal practices of all sizes prosper over the long-term when they invest intelligently in technology that enhances lawyer and staff productivity. That does not mean chasing innovation, such as by rolling out the very latest digital gadget firm-wide every year or two. Instead, it means choosing software, hardware, and IT infrastructure designed to support, rather than get in the way of, the firm's client-centred work. At LawMaster, our contribution to that technology is top-quality, intuitive, scalable, and integrated practice management software, and we're proud to say that firms that have adopted our solution routinely see immediate and sustained gains in productivity and profitability, with minimal disruption.
3. They are smart and disciplined about process management
Whenever a story appears in the news about an organisation in disarray, the adjective "dysfunctional" is not far behind. A business where every manager is an island and every worker has their own way of doing things is doomed to mediocrity at best, and outright collapse at worst.
Even well-run legal practices are not immune from slipping into dysfunction if they're not careful. Consider the fairly typical case of a firm that hires a new senior lawyer with an established book of business. Perhaps the lawyer brings an admin or a junior lawyer them from their old firm. They have a mode of working that was successful in the past, and it can be a struggle to get them to adapt to their new firm's processes. But, adapt they must if the firm is to succeed as a whole. If they don't, they will risk becoming an island, and the firm will suffer.
In our experience, the firms that succeed consistently over the long-term are those that follow two rules when it comes to process management. First, they invest resources in developing and evolving sound procedural practices, from time-sheeting and billing to document and file management. Second, they rigorously enforce those practices, ensuring through training and follow-up that lawyers and admins don't drift from the established norms. By sticking to this intelligent, disciplined approach to firm processes, successful firms eliminate dysfunction and enhance productivity. At LawMaster, we design our integrated practice management solutions with just this sort of discipline in mind. We aim to empower legal practice managers in setting and maintaining smart, consistent workflows and processes.
As we said at the outset, the three features above are not a formula for success, but in our experience, they are a condition of success in law practice. LawMaster's legal practice management solutions take inspiration from these principles of success because we want our clients to reap their rewards. To learn more about how LawMaster's practice management solutions can put your firm on the path to prosperity, contact us today.