“The Perfect Legal Business” is a model I have developed that is made up of about 10 pieces of jigsaw. The 10 pieces are all things that I either got very right during my decades of owning and leading teams and law firms, or very wrong. I now work with law firms to move them forward on all of these fronts.
Crucially, as with any jigsaw, these pieces are all joined together. You cannot truly improve your legal business in a sustainable way by improving one thing or by bolting a new thing onto it.
Together, yes, these pieces offer a formidable route to sustained growth in profit and cash (so they work well for law firm owners), but they equally offer an assured path too to the one thing that a business is duty-bound to do (improve the life of its people) and the one thing that a legal business is in my view duty-bound to do (improve the personal and business lives of its clients).
The 10 pieces are covered in detail in my book, “The Perfect Legal Business”, but here I’d like to focus on a handful of “golden rules” which all add up to slowing a law firm down and getting it to do less, better.
- Don’t take a client on unless they agree your rules – you deliver a great service so they have to pay a good price; define your retainer so that if there’s extra work there’ll be extra fees ; tell clients they’ll have to pay quickly or you’ll sack and sue
- I have never yet seen a law firm that needs more work – they always need more lawyers. What is the point of a lawyer having 200 files? They only have to spread their usual working hours across more files. Give them 100, so they can do proper work on the files instead of snatching time when the client rings or when a deadline is approaching. They won’t be any less busy. Give the other 100 files to another lawyer who can look after those clients well. Only then do you earn more money when you open more files.
- Give senior lawyers junior lawyers they can trust – files keep moving and cheap work is done by cheap lawyers.
- Think about whether your lawyers can indeed deliver a great service to every client. Law firms are quick to boast of excellent service but rarely do anything “on the ground” to make sure their lawyers can do this. How can a lawyer with hundreds of files deliver a great service to every client?
- You are entitled to make maximum money on every case – provided you are delivering a great service. The journey to making maximum money begins with setting a good price rather than competing on price. It then runs to doing good work on the file instead of snatching a few minutes here and there (and irritating clients by racking up big bills made up of “1 unit” time entries that take a file nowhere. Focus on – and reward – a lawyer’s [chargeable hours and realisation rate] inputs not their [billing] outputs
- Don’t tolerate people who don’t pay you. What do they think this is? And make it the lawyers’ job to bring in cash, not just to send out bills
- Build a team culture where the aim is to offer maximum care across all teams to all your clients, not for individual lawyers to bill as much as they can every year
- Give your good people somewhere to go – a transparent career path that rewards the behaviours set out here. And remember the damage and corrosion that bad people can cause.
- Don’t spend a fortune trying to win new clients. They’ll all want their work doing cheap. Most law firms have got all the clients they need – too many, in fact. Look after them and get all the work they’ve got to give. They stop looking for cheapest prices once they realise that every time they use you they get a great service.
If you do all of these things, your legal business will go from strength to strength and your people will blossom.
Your clients will also all join your sales force.
AUTHOR, “THE PERFECT LEGAL BUSINESS”
Simon qualified as a Commercial Litigation solicitor in 1990 at Pannone.
His role gradually evolved into a mixed fee-earning / marketing / management role and then into a solely marketing and management role.
He became Head of various teams, Marketing Partner, Director of Business Development, and part of the Management Team at Pannone. He also launched the Connect2Law network for law firms.
In 2007, Simon became Managing Partner at Darbys Solicitors. Based in Oxford, the firm made a trading loss in 2007 but after going a long way backwards – and during the credit crunch – the firm emerged to have its most successful year ever in 2010. In 2013 it was the country’s fastest-growing law firm.
In 2016, Darbys was acquired by Knights Professional Services. Simon joined the merged organisation as Client Relations Partner.
He later exited to form McCrum & Co, a management consultancy for law firms.
A dedicated “growth” merchant, and an ardent believer in law firms being able to and being responsible for changing clients’ lives for the better, Simon helps firms to move towards becoming what he calls The Perfect Legal Business.