Signs You’re Building A Law Practice Not Just Providing A Legal Service

law-firm-law-offices-small-law-firm-solo-practitioner-300x225There’s a big difference between simply “being” a lawyer and building a law practice. Even for solo-practitioners who have been in business for years it can be difficult to know the difference. Below are six signs that you’re building a law practice and not just caught in the cycle of providing legal services.
You have a dominance plan. Some attorneys go with the flow by providing services to people and organizations as issues arise. However, attorneys who are serious about building a law practice have developed a plan to dominate a particular industry. They find out who needs their services and they create a plan to be the person that the target market thinks of first when they need legal services for certain issues.
You aim to be known. Staying too busy to attend conferences and become a thought leader could cause you to miss the boat when it comes to building your practice. Attorneys who are successful at building their legal practice, set aside time to write, speak, and stay at the center of their audience by engaging them with important information. If you want to be known as a leading attorney in your field, you must take the time to become the go-to person for information—be active on social media, do interviews for news publications, and conduct workshops at conferences.

I make sure to take interview opportunities when they are presented and share my expertise as best as I can even if it’s personal or for Smokeball.
You problem solve. Good attorneys provide stellar legal services to their target industry, but great attorneys with thriving practices provide problem solving. If you’re building a powerful legal practice you are also identifying common legal problems in your target industry and developing solutions that take into account your clients’ unique situations.

You have a business plan. Even the most skilled attorneys can get shy around numbers. However, any attorney who wants to build a successful legal practice will make it priority to run the numbers. Is your target market a viable one? Can they provide the income you need to thrive? How many hours do you need to bill to cover your baseline expenses and make a profit? Is your market big enough to allow you to grow? These are the type of questions you will need to answer if you want to do more than simply provide legal services to your niche.

When starting a legal practice, it’s important to focus on more than just providing legal services. Building a successful law practice involves building relationships with clients and creating a sustainable business model. Here are six signs that you’re building a law practice, rather than just providing a legal service:
You’re building a brand
Building a brand is an essential aspect of building a successful law practice. A strong brand communicates your firm’s values and differentiates you from other legal service providers. A strong brand can also help you attract new clients and build a reputation within the legal community.

You’re focused on client relationships
Building a successful law practice requires more than just providing legal services to clients. It requires building strong, lasting relationships with clients. This means taking the time to get to know your clients, understanding their needs and goals, and communicating with them regularly.
You’re investing in marketing
Marketing is an essential component of building a law practice. This means investing time and resources in building a website, developing marketing materials, and engaging in activities that help you build your reputation and attract new clients.

You’re offering additional services
To build a successful law practice, it’s important to offer additional services beyond just legal representation. This might include offering legal advice on business strategy or helping clients navigate regulatory compliance issues.
You’re focusing on growth
Building a law practice involves setting goals and taking steps to achieve those goals. This might involve expanding your client base, increasing revenue, or hiring additional staff to help you scale your practice.

You’re committed to professional development
Building a successful law practice requires a commitment to professional development. This means staying up-to-date on the latest legal developments and trends, attending continuing legal education (CLE) courses, and participating in professional organizations and networks. A commitment to professional development can help you stay competitive and build a strong reputation within the legal community.

While a strong work ethic is admirable, it’s not always in your (or your firm’s) best interest when it comes to growth—especially if you’re too busy to respond to potential clients or too busy to market your services. Chances are, you’re doing work that doesn’t really need to be done by you. Delegating could free up significant time, and lead to opportunities for growth.
Assess your work tasks, and challenge whether you’re the one who should be doing them. Come up with a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re unsure if a task can be delegated. Write them down, and refer back to them. Here are some questions to get you started.

Hiring full-time associates isn’t the only way to support your growing business. As this guide explains, legal process outsourcing is a way to delegate tasks (like document review, scanning, and non-substantive court appearances) outside of your staff—whether to other experts, freelance lawyers, or other qualified professionals.
By taking these tasks off of your plate, outsourcing can lighten your firm’s workload, so that you and your staff can focus on your priority work.

Whether you have years of practice, or you are just getting started, the decision to start your own law firm means you will likely become exposed to issues you have not had to consider before.
In addition to the challenges of practicing law, you are also signing yourself up for the responsibility of managing and operating a small business. If you have not owned your own business before, you probably did not have to worry about the day-to-day functions of the business or organization where you worked. Suddenly you will become very aware of the cost of supplies, the hassles of billing and invoicing, and the pressure to bring in revenue so the lights can stay on.

Many legal professionals who transition to owning their own practice find that the autonomy and flexibility are worth the challenge. They are entrepreneurs at heart, and find that the opportunity to make their own decisions is rewarding. The financial benefit can also be an incentive— small firm ownership means that you have less overhead and costs consuming your revenue, meaning that you have the potential to bring home more income for the same work. It may also mean that you have more autonomy to lower your fees or provide pro bono services.

What is the timeline for completing pro bono legal service reporting and what happens to a lawyer who does not file it?
All pro bono and IOLTA reporting will be done online through the Attorney Information System. You will receive a notice on or about July 10 of each year, notifying you it is time to file these reports and pay the annual Client Protection Fund assessments. The reports and payments may all be made at the same time through the Attorney Information System. Payments can also be made separately by check or money order.

Shortly after February 10 of the following year, the AOC will prepare, certify, and file with the Supreme Court of Maryland a list of the lawyers who have failed to file their reports. If the Supreme Court of Maryland is satisfied that the lawyers received the notice of default required by the rule, it will enter an order decertifying the lawyers and prohibiting them from practicing law.
A lawyer who has been decertified for failing to file a report can be recertified by filing the delinquent report and paying a $50 recertification fee. The fee is payable to the Clerk, Supreme Court of Maryland. The report must be separately mailed to the Access to Justice Department at the Administrative Office of the Courts. See for additional information.

This required reporting rule does not make pro bono service mandatory. It only makes the filing of the annual Lawyer Pro Bono Legal Service Report mandatory. A lawyer who has not performed any pro bono service for the year covered by the report complies with the reporting rule merely by filing the report and listing “0″ hours of service. A lawyer cannot be decertified or sanctioned in any way for not performing pro bono service.

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This phrase is often quoted in a humorous manner to depict the legal profession. It certainly can have different meanings. At worst, it implies that the law is subservient to personal relationships and that a judge will give different decisions based upon who stands before him or her making the same argument. While North Carolina has in fact seen misconduct among the judiciary (see In re: Denise S. Hartsfield as one recent example), the instances of such misconduct are rare.

It is misconduct for an attorney to seek to influence a judge by a means prohibited by law, to communicate ex-parte with a judge (some exceptions apply) or to even imply that they can influence the judge through some personal relationship (See the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct). And it is also incumbent upon judges to maintain integrity and independence. In fact that is “rule 1” of the rules for judges (See the NC Code of Judicial Conduct) and judges who become aware of inappropriate conduct of lawyers must initiate disciplinary action against them.

Be responsive
When thinking about how to grow a law firm, it’s important to be responsive to clients and potential clients. As outlined in the 2019 Legal Trends Report, a test emailing 1,000 law firms to check their responsiveness came back with dismal results: 60% of law firms didn’t respond at all.
Being responsive is important to Abraham: “I have anxiety if I don’t return a client’s phone call within 24 hours. I really do,” he says, adding that clients need him to be responsive to alleviate their anxiety about their legal matter.

Be empathetic
As Jack Newton discusses in The Client-Centered Law Firm, it’s important to remember that your clients are humans—and dealing with legal issues is stressful for them. Empathy helps your firm stand out and grow.
For Abraham, it’s simple: “just really care about your client. Make them family. Give out your cell phone number. A lot of lawyers hate that. Every client has my cell phone number. Respond to them, answer their phone calls, even if it doesn’t have to do with law, don’t get agitated, and just give them the answer.”

Getting more clients, growing your law firm, and becoming a success story takes work, strategy, and possibly a shift in perspective—but the results will be worth it. Much of law firm growth boils down to strategic delegation, so start by coming up with a system to facilitate growth and prioritize marketing to bring in new clients. Nurture your client relationships, and be proactive and responsive. Don’t be afraid to hire or outsource staff, and take advantage of tech to automate where you can.

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