This is the next post in my series on why there will be fewer law firms at the end of 2017 then there are today. My last article looked at why automation and artificial intelligence is quickly eliminating legal jobs. Attorneys who don’t think that these trends will impact their business are being naive and are going through life like this guy:

Blindfolded man on cliff

The thing is that there will be attorneys who can be successful in this new world where the demand for legal services shrinks while the supply of service providers increases. If you go about things the right way you can still wind up looking like this guy:

Thumbs up

I’m assuming you’d rather look like the former and not the latter. The thing to understand is that maintaining any level of success is going to require a lot of that four letter word – “work.” Let’s get to it.

The first thing attorneys will need to do to be successful is to understand that their firm is a business. I’ve been consulting for law firms since 2011 and I’m still amazed at how often I hear someone say “I’m a lawyer, not a businessperson.” Well….here’s the thing. The day you decided to hang out your shingle you became a businessperson; if a chef decides to open his own restaurant he’s now a business owner in addition to being the head cook. Your law firm is no different. If you take the attitude of “I’m not a businessperson” then you’ll be out of business so fast that the problem will take care of itself. Here are the things you need to change immediately to run your firm like a successful business:

    • I’ve dealt with many, many, many (many) attorneys who spend less time at work than their associates. Being the boss does not mean sitting at home, or on vacation, while others do the work. If you’re not averaging more than 40 hours at work, each and every week, then you shouldn’t have an associate or contract attorney.
    • Most lawyers that I speak with worry about increasing phone volume but don’t sit down and say “how can I make my firm operate more efficiently?” Many have been able to eek out a living with this approach but the days of that are over. Good business people see themselves on a never ending quest for improved efficiency. It’s time that you start that quest. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
    • Invest in your own marketing assets (such as your blog and videos) and stop renting ad space through third party sources such as pay per click, radio, etc. Here’s an article on the subject: Attorneys should stop using pay-per-click in 2017.

These things are doable but attorneys will find that these steps are like most things in life; it’s not that people can’t follow these steps, it’s that they choose not to. Life’s about choices and most legal professionals will choose to continue making the types of mistakes discussed above. That choice will lead to the failure of their firms.

The second step, after running your firm like a business, is to understand the highly important nature of customer service. Attorneys are notorious for not calling people back and for providing possibly the worst service on the planet. Well, if this is you then you can change or watch your practice go under. I find it odd that more firms don’t focus on customer service. A happy client is more likely to become a referral source which, in turn, reduces marketing expenses. Simply returning phone calls, therefore, is one of the best ways to increase your firm’s profitability. Again, it’s that attorneys choose to not provide good service. It’s not that they are unable to do so. While lawyers have traditionally been able to earn a living without providing “lights out” customer service, we have entered an age where those days are over.

My next post will provide a quick wrap up of this series. I’ll then be publishing a series on marketing your firm in this new environment.

Do you think attorneys will choose to make the types of changes mentioned in this article? Please chime in through the comment form below.

Update: After completing this blog series I was interviewed on JDblogger.com regarding trends in the legal profession and how you can help your firm whether the coming storm. You can listen to the interview here.