On this week’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer® podcast, we focus on 7 foundational systems to put in place for a successful law firm.
When I’m talking with law firm owners who want to scale and create a profitable, sustainable law firm, it’s common to hear “I need systems.” But finding the time to set up those systems seems impossible, and even if you did, who knows where to start.
My purpose today is to help you get some clarity on the types of systems you need to augment your firm so you can make the best—most profitable—use of your time.
We hope you enjoy this episode as we discuss:
- The 4 external systems for managing the “buyer’s journey”
- The 3 internal systems—or the key to getting your life back
- How to boost client confidence and referrals
- The move that could put an extra $300,000 in your pocket
- And even more.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Wealthy Woman Lawyer website
- Wealthy Woman Lawyer League
- Davina on Facebook
- Davina on Twitter
- Davina on Instagram
Davina Frederick: Hello, and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. We believe all women lawyers deserve to be wealthy women lawyers. Our mission is to provide thought provoking, powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm, so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, let’s get started.
Hi, it’s Davina and today, I want to talk with you about systems. When I’m talking with other law firm owners who want to scale and create a profitable, sustainable law firm business, it’s common for me to hear I need systems. But when I asked if you want systems, why haven’t you created them yet? Most don’t know exactly how to answer. The most common response I hear is, I don’t have time because I’m so busy as it is. And I get that, truly I do because I have been there. It can feel really difficult to pull yourself out of the day to day of working in your business, and carve out time to work on your business, especially if all of your free time and I use that in quotes is spoken for. Because of family and other obligations. Most high achieving women I know have really busy lives.
Also, I think it could feel overwhelming to a lot of women law firm owners because they don’t know where to start. Most tend to start with setting up workflows in their case management systems. But beyond that, they don’t really know what to do next. So my purpose here today is to help you first really get some clarity on the types of systems you need to be thinking about when you’re working on scaling your law firm business to greater success, while also shifting allocation of your time, from doing what I call a hashtag all the things to doing only those activities that create the most value for you and your law firm.
When we start with the what, the who and the how questions become easier to answer. So let’s start there with what let’s dive in. So I’ve chosen to break down these systems into seven what I call seven foundational systems. And to break those down into two categories, external and internal systems. I call the external systems external because they are outward facing toward prospects and clients. So while we are setting up systems to help us internally, these external systems also send a message to the prospects and the clients about who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe, as a law firm.
The four external systems, I’m going to share with you our number one, client attraction and conversion. So client attraction, client attraction, and conversion is a system for how we attract our clients to as those ideal clients that we want to work with, and how we convert them from prospective clients to actual clients, and how, for the ones who are not ideal clients, we get them back out into the world, referring them out someone who can help them.
The second external system is client onboarding and intake. So this is what we do once they become a client. And now we are onboarding them, and bringing them into our world, within the law firm so that we can service their needs. So sometimes there’s a little, maybe some overlap or a little inter woven ness between the client attraction and conversion, and the client onboarding and intake, for instance, you may have clients attracted to prospective clients coming to you, because they’re attracted to you and your firm. And you may begin your intake process there before they become converted to a client. You’ll do some preliminary intake, maybe some conflict checks, and preliminary information. And then as you go into the client onboarding system, once they become a client, you may take that process a little deeper.
So the third external system is client service and fulfillment. So this is what most of us think of when we think I need systems. We jump in and we start thinking of fulfillment, that is fulfilling the promises that we have made to contractually made to our clients about doing the work for them the legal work, right. So a lot of us have a good handle kind of on fulfillment by perhaps using a case management system. And so we know this is the process of how we’re going to serve them. But what we oftentimes don’t think about in this client service and fulfillment process is how we can set up a system of client service that really makes it a no brainer for them to go out and tell their friends what a great experience they have with us. And to leave us five star reviews. So the service piece is a thread that is going to be woven throughout the entire fulfillment process. And you need that to be able to do that in a systematic way.
The fourth external system is client offboarding. So this to a lot of us, we think, okay, that’s easy, we close the file. But client offboarding, especially if you’ve done your job throughout all the other processes, then client offboarding, should be a lot more, that should be a place where you’re not only giving them instructions and next steps. But also, your this is where you’re, you’re asking for reviews, it’s where you’re asking for referrals, it’s where you’re putting them back into your remarketing, so that they are reminded in the future, that you are here at offering services that may be able to help them and other family members and loved ones, right.
But it is important with all of these systems that you’ll notice each one of them starts with the word client. So these are very client centric systems. This is where we’re focusing on their experience. External systems are designed to manage the buyer’s journey or the client’s journey. The buyer being those people who have raised their hand and said they need your services, and are willing to pay you for them. So when we create systems to manage this process, we not only make our jobs and the jobs of our teams much easier. But we also boost client confidence, and the likelihood of referral and recommendation of our firm to others, as well as the likelihood of them coming back to us time and time again, for other legal needs, if that’s appropriate for your type of law.
The three internal systems, as I call them, are no less important than the external systems, though they do have a direct impact on the client experience, these internal systems are focused on the people and processes you need in your business to operate and grow it successfully over time. So these systems also are the key to you getting your life back, and not having to do everything yourself. So the three internal systems are number one, people management system. So you might call this human resources or human capital, I’ve called it people management system, this is where we’re really going to be looking at hiring people, training them, compensating them, terminating them managing managing them. All of these processes are here under the people management system.
Finance management is the second of these internal systems. This is where you’ll find your billing your invoicing, your wealth management, your profits, your financial growth is for all of this happens, it this is the seat of your personal wealth as well. So we’re managing the business so that we are are also able to grow in wealth personally, as well as have our firm become a wealth generating business and a sustainable business that will last for as long as we wanted to.
So the third internal system I’m going to share today is technology management. And this is where we create efficiencies with automation and other tools. So when I talk with my clients about systems, a lot of times when I, other women law firm owners have a conversation whatever I may see, and some of the groups on social media, they tend to conflate systems with technology. And systems and technology are two different animals. So but system is really much more of an umbrella term. As you can see, we touch on many, many aspects of business, we talk about systematizing a business. Technology, just like people are tools, right that we use, that we may place on top of a system to help us make that system more efficient.
And so this is where we would deal with that. Things like security for our firm and planning that you know planning of how to expand our data and our resources in the future. Disaster planning and management. I’m in Florida, and we have a lot of hurricanes here. And so technology, you want to definitely make sure that there’s a technology plan that takes into account disastrous events like hurricanes. And also, with so many of us operating virtual or remote firms with we may be entirely virtual or we may have a hybrid model. We may just have some distributed workers at various times, because for various reasons, anytime we’re entering into that world, we really need to take a close look at not only how it affects culture as a firm, but also how it affects our security, and the security of our client’s data.
I just read an article this week, where a very large law firm with big, big name clients like national and multinational businesses that whose names you would recognize as their clients had a data breach from ransomware. So your technology management is really important above and beyond just helping you to do a job faster and more efficiently. So these three internal systems can be lumped together under operations. You also might include things like physical plant management under operations. But as more and more firms are working virtually, or in a hybrid manner, I focus on these three particular internal systems to start people management, finance, management, and technology Management.
So many law firm owners, especially when they do not yet have these three internal systems in place, can look at them negatively, and as a burden. You might hear words like I can’t afford to hire someone to help me, or I can’t trust anyone else to handle this. Or I don’t know how to train anyone else to do this. Many consider these systems to be costly. So how am I gonna afford to hire an Associate Attorney? How am I gonna afford to buy expensive case management software? How am I gonna afford to buy research software that I know we need? How am I going to afford to hire a CPA to help me with tax planning and strategy? Or a tax attorney to help me with that, right.
So oftentimes, we see focusing on costs. And this is the first place we tend to look at are these different areas and say, this is where we need to cut costs. Marketing is always the first thing to go under, your marketing system goes under the axe faster than anything when you start penny pinching. So if, if that’s you, if you tend to focus more on the cost, and you can be more worried about the cost of the thing, I invite you to consider not just the cost of hiring and training people, or investing in technology, or hiring financial and other business experts, like other attorneys, or coaches to help you manage and grow your business, but to really focus on the return on investment of these investments.
So actually take the time to do the math, not only focusing on cost, but considering all you’re likely gain in return. I’m gonna give you an example hiring one new associate alone could put an extra $300,000 in your pocket. There’s a math equation I go through with my clients, and I show them exactly how they can immediately get an extra $300,000 on their bottom line revenue in a year. And that’s after the cost of hiring the associate and providing benefits for them. So you can see how you can very quickly scale your business, if you have associates working for you. And this model works no matter what type of pricing or business model that you have.
You’ll notice at all the seven essential systems foundational systems. That is because over time, as your firm grows beyond let’s say that $2 million revenue mark, you likely will need additional systems. And of course, each of these systems has subsystems. In other words for your people management systems, you don’t just need a system for hiring. You also need a system for compensating, for training for managing or terminating for leading, and much more. So you need processes and systems interwoven throughout all of these different main system foundational systems.
Your focus right now, though, is if you if you do not have these systems in place, and working for you, is to start with what I’ve shared with you today. Where you start is up to you. Like I said in the beginning, many women law firm owners tend to start with creating workflows in their case management systems. We do that for three reasons. We’ve invested in the case management, so we need to use it to its maximum benefit.
Number two is we don’t want to drop the ball on a client matter and risk negative consequences like having something fall through the cracks and missing a deadline and maybe having somebody follow up or complain or worse sues for malpractice, right? So we’re really usually pretty on top of those fulfillment systems and using case management to help us with that. It’s also the path of least resistance, because companies have built tools to help us with that.
However, if you’re struggling to get enough clients or to get paid, what you feel your services are worth, or to get better clients to retain you, we’re talking about those ones that you really love to work with are easy to work with, and they pay their bills on time, then you might want to start taking a look at your client attraction and conversion system. If getting clients is not your problem there. You know, you’re getting so much work, they all this feeling like you’re at capacity, if not a little beyond it. You feel pretty good about your onboarding process, but you’re finding a lot of your time sucked into sales consultations, let’s say, then that may be a reason for you taking a harder look at your client attraction and conversion system.
So the clients are showing up. But are you really the best person to be a converting them. And that may be a place where you want to do some work. If you’re one of those people who’s always feeling behind on billing, and therefore you’re not getting timely paid. So how many of you, you know, if you’re behind two months, three months on billing. Some people maybe six months to a year on billing, because they’re just so busy, and they feel like they have to be the ones to look at every room before it gets sent out.
And if that sounds like you, then you’ve probably experienced some pissed off clients along the way. Because when they finally do you see their bill, it’s so far removed from what you did for them, that they no longer have all those happy endorphins around the results, you’ve gotten them. And they’re just sitting here looking this bill going, what is this. This is way too expensive, right. And also, for many of my clients, we don’t get into a billing cycle, we do things that help us make sure that we are collecting money up front, so that our system is really functioning well not only for our clients, but for us as well. So if that’s you and your firm struggling with that, you want to take a look at your financial management system, and see where you begin to make some changes and improvements. And that may involve hiring someone else and training them to help you with billing.
So I hope this information about systems will serve as a guide to get you started. If you would like to know more about systems and have support in setting them up and creating them. I invite you to join us in the wealthy woman lawyer league. The wealthy woman lawyer league is a program that I created last year. That is for those women law firm attorneys who aren’t in a place yet where they really feel ready for a one on one coaching. But they might want some coaching and support and also a really strong community of other women law firm owners who are on a very similar path and journey. Some may be ahead of us that may be behind you. But just a wonderful community of women lawyers who are sharing with each other resources in addition to the nine step framework that I teach you, plus my bonus on the seven essential systems, law firm systems roadmap.
So we have all this going on in the league. You can find out more information about the league at www.wealthywomanlawyer.com/league/. So it is wealthywomanlawyer.com/league. league/ or by scheduling a call with us from our website, what you can do if you go to wealthywomanlawyer.com you’ll see there are many opportunities on the site for you to schedule what we call a right fut call, so you can get more information.
We look forward to getting to know more about you and your law firm. And in the meantime, please continue to enjoy the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. This is a free educational resource that we’ve been doing for about three years now. For women law firm owners, and I really hope that you are enjoying it and appreciating it. And if you are please leave us a review. We would love to hear that. So thank you so much for being here today. And being a part of the wealthy woman lawyer community.