Now that you know the law practice you have and the one that you want, the next step is to focus on the difference and how to bridge the gap. Lets take an example; Jim Jones is a partner in a small law firm and is totally in charge of his own law practice. He has evaluated his practice breakdown by looking at the cases he has handled over the past year. *It is also a good idea to compare the time expenditure vs. the gross income from each area as some areas will produce more income for the time invested. For the purpose of this exercise lets assume that the breakdown of Jim's current practice looks like this:
Family Law 60%
Business Transactional 20%
Probate & Estate Planning 10%
Plaintiff's Personal Injury 10%
Here is what Jim wants his practice to be:
Family Law 25% (with no child custody cases)
Business Transactional 20%
Probate & Estate Planning 20%
Personal Injury (Plaintiffs & Defense) 25%
Social Security Disability (a new area) 10%
Jim needs a marketing plan, a written marketing plan. If its in your head and not written down, its not a plan. Lets take the areas one at a time as each could be considered a profit center and will likely require different approaches.
Family Law. Jim wants to eliminate handling child custody cases and he wants to reduce by 35% the total amount of time investment in this area. Since he is going from more to less, eliminating the custody cases will reduce it some. Jim also can raise his his fees and perhaps further limit the types of family law cases to achieve the reduction.
Business Transactional. No change is in order, all Jim has to do is keep doing what he is doing, marketing wise, to keep the percentage the same. *In working with clients I have seen several who were unaware of the amount of business they had in a particular practice area and wasted marketing effort. For example, one client was focused on increasing the amount of truck accident defense work. He had joined organizations, written papers etc. in an effort to increase his business. When we did this exercise he learned that he actually already had more of this type of work than the percentage he said that he wanted.
Probate and Estate Planning. Jim wants to increase this area from 10% to 25%. So, in his written marketing plan, he needs a strategy to increase this business by150%. Jim needs to determine how many new cases this represents. Lets say that number is 15. Now Jim needs to set a goal of getting 15 new cases by a date certain, say 90 days. With a goal that is specific and a time frame to work in, Jim can develop a strategy to achieve his goal. The marketing tools he uses will often vary from practice area to practice area. For this one he may consider conducting an estate planning seminar, networking with other attorneys for referrals in this area, investigating court appointments, etc.
Personal Injury. Jim wants to increase his PI business from 10% to 25% of his practice and he is willing to add defense work. Again, he needs to set a goal, develop a written plan and follow it. Lets assume his goal is 5 new plaintiffs PI cases and 10 defense cases. Each will require a different strategy. The plaintiff's PI plan might include advertising, networking with doctors, etc. while the defense work marketing plan might include joining insurance industry organizations or networking with insurance adjusters.
Social Security Disability. An entirely new area. Jim needs to decide how to go about developing business. There are similarities to plaintiff's PI cases so some of the same marketing methods could be used. Referrals from other attorneys could also be a good option. Again, a written plan is in order. And, since he is starting with 0 cases to work on, Jim needs to commit an amount of time specifically to developing this practice area. For example, Jim could commit to spending 5 hours of his week, roughly 10% of his time, exclusively to marketing for SSD cases.
Upgrading your law practice consists of knowing the practice you have, determining the practice you want and taking the actions necessary to bridge the gap. Its not rocket science but it does require analysis, visioning, investigation and strategic planning. And, faithfully following a written marketing plan makes it happen. Have a great practice!
This is Part 3 of a 3 part series: “Upgrading Your Law Practice.”