Growing from solo practice into a firm – A Law Watercooler Podcast
If you are an owner or managing partner of a firm, do the math. One rainmaker (you), or all, (your entire team)?
If you are the only one bringing in clients, there are limitations to your time, energy and focus. Whereas, if you get your entire team engaged in business development, or bringing in clients, the opportunities for growth are far greater.
So how do you go from a ‘one-person show’, (you are the only rainmaker), to getting your entire team out there growing your firm?
When you go from one ‘rainmaker’ to an entire team of rainmakers, watch your firm grow.
So you’ve worked your entire career building your practice/firm/company. Retirement is on the horizon. What is your plan? Will you simply walk away? Will you forfeit all of your hard work, time, and energy and not reap the full benefits of your hard work?
Why not start planning now! Why not work to building up your practice/firm/ company so that it becomes more attractive to have someone or another firm buy you out? That’s your cash out! That’s your retirement reward.
Now there are two main options the way I see it. The first is to build your firm/practice/company and have a broker sell it for you. The second option is to groom within to bring on other associates and work with them to eventually take the firm over. In both cases though, it’s in your best interest to develop your staff so that you can point to a track record where everyone on your team is a valuable part of its growth. In other words, they all know how to, and have a proven record of bringing in new business. That makes your firm more profitable and attractive whichever option you choose.
But don’t wait until retirement is staring you in the face. Plan now!. Act now! Far too many professionals don’t give this enough thought and before they know it, it’s too late.
There are many ways to engage your people. One of my clients had an office meeting with all lawyers, law clerks, assistants, basically everyone in the office. They held a brainstorming session with discussions on everything from how to make the work flow easier, to better serving clients. As the leader or Managing Partner of your firm, you don’t have to have all the answers. When you engage your team members like this lawyer did, your people will come up with all kinds of ideas and solutions. And when you do this, you are empowering them to be a part of the solutions, not just dictating what they should do. Their loyalty increases. Their productivity increases. Their general well-being increases all leading to a more seamless and cohesive team.
I just talked about giving your people the opportunity and tools in order to succeed. Now let’s talk about how you reward them for their efforts. Depending on your billing model, I offer up two compensation models which are already proven to light the flame in staff and lawyers.
Working with a personal injury firm and understanding the flow of work and the time it takes to reap the rewards and the work is not billed by the hour, The Managing Partner and I came up with this.
Billable Hour Model
When your firm bills by the hour and you set targets for your people to reach, there is an opportunity to create a three-pronged compensation model. The first is for hitting targets. The second is for business development. And the third prong, is to support the team approach.
Don’t feel you have to pick one or the other. I have another client who opted for a hybrid of several different models. The important thing here is to know your people and what will motivate them and reward them best.
The first step in growing your firm is to engage your entire team, or as many of your staff and lawyers in business development. Engaging your team starts with identifying who on your team, lawyers, law clerks, paralegals, even assistants and receptionists do you think would be open to earning more income while at the same time enjoy being part of growing your firm? If your firm is like most small firms, you have them.
Approach them one-on-one with your idea. Ask them if they would be interested in taking their career to the next level? Get them a copy of this book, it is after-all designed for the individual legal professional to work through on their own or in teams. Or, go one step further and hire a coach to work with them. Point out the opportunities this will mean to them, expanding responsibilities, personal and professional growth, not to mention more income.
Don’t be surprised when some of them jump at the chance. By giving them this opportunity to expand and grow in their career, you are sending a very powerful message to them, that they are appreciated, you have confidence in them, and that you would like to see them succeed beyond what they themselves could have imagined. This builds loyalty and commitment to the firm like nothing else. Don’t be surprised to see that in addition to referrals starting to come in you notice them being more engaged in their work, docketing more, and generally becoming a more valuable resource to your firm.
Not everyone you approach will want to do this, and that’s ok. But do the math; Five or more Rainmakers vs. just you? And this is how you can begin to create a culture of business development and growth, one person at a time. Eventually you can grow your firm based on everyone being engaged in business development. More on that will follow under recruitment.
In a lot of small to mid-sized firms, your best strategy might be to start with your law clerks first. Lawyers are still very sheepish about business development. Help your law clerks succeed, and this might just shame some of your lawyers to get in on the action.