7 Signs Your Law Firm is Headed for Danger
11–14 minutes to read
Your law firm is going along steadily. There are no major obstacles and the day-to-day operations are running smoothly. You don’t worry about looking further than the next day ahead of you because you’re so complacent with how things are going at the moment. All of a sudden…
BOOM — a recession hits. You’re blindsided, but most of all, you’re panicking because you know you hadn’t prepared for this.
You’ve lost over half of your clients — forget bringing in any new ones.
You haven’t landed any quality cases since before times got tough, and now you’re struggling to bring in any new revenue at all.
Your team members are worried about whether or not they’re going to be able to keep their jobs. You’re wondering how to tell some of them that you have to let them go.
You’ve even had to stop all of your marketing campaigns in order to scrimp and save where you can in hopes to get back on your feet when (if?) the recession ever ends.
You don’t like thinking about the future, so instead of planning ways to get through it, you turn a blind eye, leaving tasks, documents, bills, and emails piling up with no end in sight.
You begin to wonder if your law firm will survive any of this. Will it ever see a good day again?
You finally — reluctantly — face the facts and admit to yourself that none of this had to happen.
If only you had prepared in the first place, you could have avoided this.
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel — or should we say, the beginning of the tunnel. We’ve compiled a list of seven warning signs your law firm is headed for danger (recession or not). If any of these remind you of your law firm, now is the time to make changes as soon as possible to avoid getting too close to the danger zone.
Let these serve as your light at the beginning of the tunnel so you don’t have to struggle in the trenches when a recession does hit.
- You’re constantly worrying about your law firm’s longevity
- You’re still making bad hires
- You haven’t landed any noteworthy cases lately
- You’re still using outdated processes and procedures
- You’re not as passionate as you once were
- You’re spending time babysitting your team
- You’re losing hope for the future or given up completely
1. You’re constantly worrying about your law firm’s longevity
It’s time to be honest with yourself: if you were to disappear today, would your law firm survive without you?
No one wants to contemplate their eventual demise, but in the case of your law firm, you’ve got to. If you don’t, bringing it to life and building it all those years will have been for nothing.
Let’s say this isn’t a matter of life or death, but rather a matter of stepping away from your office for even just a week. Can you genuinely say that your law firm won’t have gone up in flames by the time you get back? What’s the point of stepping away if you’re constantly worrying about your team back home?
While a great law firm owner should always be thinking about the wellbeing of their organization, they shouldn’t be concerned about it surviving without them there. That’s the difference between a law firm that is prepared for the future and one that is not.
If you’re afraid to imagine your law firm’s world without you in it, there’s still plenty of time for you to get prepared, and that starts with empowering your team, delegating accountabilities, and aligning your people around a shared vision.
Take a look at your team right now. Is your law firm known for frequent turnover? Can you trust that these people will stick around long enough for you to board your plane to make it to your destination? If not, are their roles and responsibilities clearly outlined for the next person who comes in to take over their job smoothly and swiftly? Is there a consistent onboarding and training plan in place for every role?
Most importantly, everyone on your team must be all-in and committed to achieving the overall goal of the company. If they aren’t, your law firm has no hope of survival — that’s because its legacy cannot be sustained if no one cares about it.
These are the things you need to think about when planning your firm’s legacy. Before you walk out of those doors for the last time — or even if you step out for a few short days — your team’s alignment needs to be on point, and they need to be able to lead themselves when you aren’t there to lead them.
2. You’re still making bad hires
As it stands right now, the unemployment rate in the United States is holding steady at 3.6 percent, which equals around 6 million people. Though this might sound like a number with endless recruiting possibilities, that isn’t the whole picture.
Yes, there may be 6 million people out there looking for a job, but there’s a huge difference between hiring anyone off the street to come work for your law firm, and hiring the right person to fill a unique role in your one-of-a-kind firm.
This just leaves two questions:
- How do you know you’re making the right hiring decisions?
- How do you attract your dream team members to your law firm?
If you want the absolute best people working for you, the most important thing you can do is assess and strengthen your company culture. Better yet, does your law firm even have an intentional culture? What is it about your firm that stands out from others? What makes it a more appealing place to work than another law firm? How does your law firm operate? What are your non-negotiables? What core values does your team live by?
Pro tip: The best job candidates out there want to know exactly what they’re getting involved with. They want to see that the company they’re considering has a strong culture, clear expectations, perks, benefits, and unique value. The best candidates are not just looking for any old job; they’re looking for a place to belong, a mission to serve, and a future they’re excited about.
The same logic applies to you as a law firm owner. Write your job descriptions with your ideal candidate in mind. Don’t waste time sifting through potential bad hire after potential bad hire. In fact, don’t waste time sifting at all — put a strategic hiring process in place to help prevent any bad fits from making it through your application process at all.
3. You haven’t landed any noteworthy cases lately
While we firmly believe that all successful cases for your law firm should be celebrated, there’s a difference between getting out-of-this-world cases that bring recognition, respect, institutional change, and increased profits over your everyday cases.
Even if you’ve never had a case of unbelievable notoriety, that’s okay — but you’ve got to start somewhere, and if you haven’t accessed the capital needed to make bigger investments in your firm to help scale your business, it could be a sign your law firm is headed for danger.
One of the fastest ways to attract higher quality cases to your law firm is by auditing and increasing your overall marketing investment.
Think about your law firm’s current marketing efforts:
- Do they align with the goals you’ve set for your firm?
- If they don’t, you could be impacting your firm’s reputation.
- Are they supporting your long-term vision?
- If they don’t, you could be making your long-term vision a moving target.
- What metrics are you using to measure them?
- If you have none, or it’s complicated to measure, you may be overestimating or underestimating certain marketing channels.
- Have you set baselines and goals for each initiative?
- If you measure metrics but have no baselines, the marketing channels your use may not actually be performing as well as they could.
- Do you feel like there is room for improvement?
- The general answer here should always be yes! Clarify where and how you’d like to improve.
- How many clients are you attracting through your current marketing efforts?
- Be sure to think about the billing type for each of these clients based on your practice.
- Are they your ideal clients?
- They should be high quality and high value.
If you take the time to hone in on what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved within your law firm, you can be more prepared for the future and start attracting higher quality cases and clients to your law firm.
4. You’re still using outdated processes and procedures
It’s 2022. Why are you still only using the tactics that once worked years ago?
One of the best things you can do for your law firm is to get with the times. The world is different now, and consumers behave differently than ever before.
Gone are the days where a consumer sees an advertisement once, clicks it, and immediately becomes a client. With so many options in your market, the likelihood that they will automatically choose your law firm over the hundreds of others available to them is essentially nonexistent. You must show discerning clients why they should choose you, make sure your messaging stays top-of-mind, and build a relationship of trust that makes your firm the obvious choice.
Clients expect a frictionless experience with every entity they do business with (not just Amazon, Starbucks, and Netflix — law firms too). The way you answer phone calls, respond to inquiries on your firm website, greet clients, handle cases, communicate with clients, and provide a positive experience must be world-class.
To do this effectively, you must eliminate old ideas that are outdated and unusable, and focus on upgrading how you do things. The goal should always be to get the best results possible — but it’s the way you do it that has changed.
If you’re not ready to die (we hope not), it’s time to think outside of the box. Take a look around and see what needs updating in your law firm.
Some ideas to start with:
- Are you marketing your firm on the right social media platforms?
- Do you need to expand the channels on which your law firm appears?
- Are you outsourcing and automating tasks where possible?
- Do certain accountabilities need to be shifted onto another team member or removed completely?
- Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared of what could happen?
Don’t hold back. There’s no time like the present, and if you aren’t jumping on the latest trends (yes, even the one and only TikTok), you could be missing out on some huge markets and potential new clients.
5. You’re not as passionate as you once were
We all lose momentum every now and then, but if you find yourself in a constant state of unenthusiasm and even dread, it’s time to get re-energized and revamped about your law firm.
If you’re part of that 56 percent of attorneys, we’ve got just the thing to bring you back to life and psyched about helping and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people all around the world.
It all starts with the Game Changers Summit this November 2-3 on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field in Atlanta, GA!
At the Summit, you’ll surround yourself with thousands of other like-minded law firm owners who are ready to build the law firm of the future. Learn from larger-than-life speakers, get fired up about the future, and maybe have a little bit of fun while you’re there.
Everyone who’s attended the Summit in the past has left feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to take on the next (and better-than-ever) stage of their law firm and their careers.
If you’re ready to find your mojo once again, you can’t miss this event. Secure your tickets today before they sell out.
6. You’re spending time babysitting your team
No one ever said being an adult is easy, but one of the major perks is not having to babysit or be babysat anymore. If you’re the owner of your own law firm and are still having to tell your team members what to do and when to do it, hold their hands, and soothe their tantrums, there’s a clear disconnect going on that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Think about it: you put in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to bring this law firm to life. You should be spending your time networking with other growth-minded law firm owners who have had the same experiences, challenges, and setbacks as you — not with low-accountable team members draining your energy, time, and resources.
In order to eliminate the drama and prevent this from happening in the future, make sure your team is empowered to make decisions, solve problems, and get your law firm closer to achieving its vision without you by their side. You shouldn’t have to hover or micromanage for your team to act the way they should and do the things they need to do. Set them up for success before that happens, and empower them to be successful on their own.
When your team learns to lead themselves, it makes the entire organization stronger. They must be able to take ownership and bring new ideas and solutions to the table. After all, they’re working toward the same goal as you are, and you shouldn’t have to remind them of that.
Eliminate the need for a babysitter. Your team must hold themselves to the same high standards as you do in order to be successful. Prioritize your time and focus your energy and efforts where they are most needed — not on babysitting and hand-holding incompetent team members.
7. You’re losing hope for the future or giving up completely
Before you go any further with those thoughts, take a look at some of these prime examples of people who didn’t let a setback keep them from following their dreams:
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and went on to become one of the most recognizable names in the history of the world, let alone basketball.
- JK Rowling, the author of the bestselling and beloved Harry Potter books, had the first book rejected 12 times and was told, “Don’t quit your day job.”
- Hillary Clinton failed the bar exam the first time she took it. She went on to become the Secretary of State and ran for President of the United States twice.
- Michael Mogill pitched Crisp 21 times — and then finally landed his first client on the 22nd pitch.
Great people don’t always start out great, and that’s okay.
If you feel like giving up or throwing in the towel, this is your call to greatness: Don’t do it.
You can create something meaningful that will stand the test of time if you get started today on building a brighter future. You’re just getting started.
Even if you recognized one, two, or even three potential danger signs after reading this, that doesn’t mean your law firm is doomed. There are ways to turn things around, kickstart your performance, and get on the right track — but time is of the essence. If you don’t take the first steps now, you might not be so fortunate.
Be honest with yourself. Understand what changes need to be made to move forward in a positive, growth-centered direction. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Go do what you need to do.