The New Rules For Law Firm Management
by, Beth Slate, Partner and Law Firm Consultant at RJH Consulting
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s you either bend with change, or it breaks you. This year has been one of true upheaval. We like to think we can anticipate, mitigate and plan for the ups and downs of business, but I don’t think any of us saw this coming. We certainly didn’t think that COVID-19 was going to have this great an impact on our economy. The good news is that while we might be change resistant, the legal industry does know how to handle a crisis.
Over the last few months, key factors have surfaced that are essential to sustainable success in this strange new economy. I state the obvious when I say that technology is the most important. Over the last decade, technology companies have turned their attention to the needs of law firms and created case management software, made space for our files in the cloud and showed us how to connect all the disparate pieces of running a firm into one neat portal. They even made it easier to connect with our clients by giving them their own portal to our work.
For whatever niche of the law you serve, there is a software program out there that can organize your matters, set up your calendars with deadlines and hearings, connect your time keeping to your accounting systems and track your metrics with just a few clicks of a button. Almost all of them have multiple training avenues, from live classes (remotely of course) to online manuals. Finally, because documents and calendars are not held on an office server, an employee can log in, no matter their location. Outside of case management software, most courts are now allowing electronic filing, and even handling dockets virtually.
When I think of “work from home”, I think Microsoft. I live in Washington state, so I have many friends who have been “work from home” experts for decades. But in our traditionally minded legal industry, the idea of allowing people to work from somewhere other than under our watchful eye, has been one of the hardest to adopt. One question I’ve gotten over and over again from my clients across the country is, “how do they keep their employees working when they are home” or “how do they know if they are working”? The truth is, that there are some unfortunate circumstances right now that make working from home difficult even for the “experts”. Children are not at daycare or school, partners may be competing for computer time or even office space at home, and all those activities we did in our daily life that helped us separate work and relieve stress are not happening. Even with all that, employers are finding that if they will allow some flexibility of when their employees do their work from home, provide them with the technology, and stay connected throughout the week through programs like Microsoft Teams, Slack or even Zoom, their employees are doing just fine. Yes, we all must be more intentional about our communication. We can’t stick our head into a partner’s office and ask their thoughts on a case, but we can reach out through phone and real time chatting.
People have been talking about The Client Experience for a while now. What many companies need to realize is that, if your employees aren’t having a great experience, your clients never will. Flexibility needs to be your mantra – and not just during this pandemic, but from this point on. The more you can show some flexibility the more you will attract top talent that will help you achieve sustainable success. This isn’t a millennial thing anymore, this is the wave of the future.
Finally, 2020 has a word for you: Pivot! Some niches of the law have been more impacted than others. Personal Injury saw a quick dip when no one was on the roads or in stores. hey will likely feel that in several months when those cases would normally settle. Disability and family law saw very little change, in fact, logically, family law issues spiked. Business, litigation, and many other areas are seeing their clients suffer the fallout from COVID-19. One particular client I recently worked with, had been seeing their business client matters drop off dramatically. During our strategic planning session, we were able to pivot their offerings to be able to handle bankruptcy, foreclosures and other new issues that their clients were now facing. If your niche of the law is seeing declines, Pivot! If you aren’t sure what issues your clients are facing, pick up the phone and call them. Your partnership is something they will value.
Now is the time to focus in on the human factor of running a business. Empower your employees with strong technology that allows them to stay productive and keep the lines of communication active to ensure they feel engaged. Now more than ever, your job as firm owner is to clear the obstacles out of the way for your team. Pay attention to what your clients need now. You might need to extend your niche to new areas, but your current clients will be grateful that they don’t have to form new relationships and you will sail right through these economical woes.
Please note: This article contains the sole views and opinions of Beth Slate and does not reflect the views or opinions of Guidepoint Global, LLC (“Guidepoint”). Guidepoint is not a registered investment adviser and cannot transact business as an investment adviser or give investment advice. The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation of an offer or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any security. Any use of this article without the express written consent of Guidepoint and Beth Slate is prohibited.