Every business has its challenges, including law firms. Part of what makes our law firm so successful is our openness about the obstacles we face and our willingness to confront these challenges to make sure we provide the best possible service to our clients.
Some of the biggest challenges we face as a boutique law firm are:
- Managing client expectations.
- Balancing professional obligations to clients with the need to run an efficient business.
- Maintaining the edge to be entrepreneurial and hungry while being overwhelmed with legal deadlines.
Below, we discuss how we’re able to overcome these challenges and secure the best possible outcome for each and every one of our clients.
Managing client expectations
Clients often come to lawyers under desperate and tumultuous circumstances. Whether it’s a bankruptcy, divorce, the death of a loved one or an auto accident claim, the client is typically in a tough situation. Raw emotion, combined with life uncertainty and financial insecurity, can make a client feel completely overwhelmed. The client simply wants their anxiety to go away.
As a lawyer, it’s our job to be their champion who will solve their most pressing problems. However, sometimes the situation is more complicated than the client thinks, and the solution isn’t cut and dry. In fact, that’s usually the case. Compromise is the most common result in a legal conflict. Disputes that yield a clear winner are few and far between.
So how do you make an anxious client feel better, while preparing them for a likely imperfect legal outcome?
We talk to our clients honestly about the limits of what we can accomplish and clearly go over the limitations inherent in the legal process. We believe it’s better for a potential client to walk out the door if their expectations are unreasonable or unattainable than to enter into a representation that will ultimately lead to unmet expectations and hurt feelings.
Balancing client obligations with business needs
Another challenge for many boutique firms like Scholle Law is the tension between the personal professional obligations that a lawyer has to his or her clients and the necessity to delegate to non-lawyer staff.
Almost all lawyers have multiple clients at the same time, and since one person cannot be two places at once, it’s inevitable that a lawyer will have to give their undivided attention to one client’s matter at the same time a different client wants it.
Paralegals and non-lawyer assistants not only perform important clerical legal functions, but they also bridge the customer service gap while the lawyer is unavailable. Paralegals legally and ethically cannot perform functions that require expert legal judgment. Accordingly, lawyers have the obligation and responsibility to advise their client personally.
Moreover, most clients expect personal dialogue with their lawyer and want to know that the lawyer cares and is truly invested in their case. The reality is that the economics of a law firm make non-lawyer personnel a necessity. A firm made up of exclusively lawyers would find it hard to compete in a price-sensitive legal marketplace.
So how do we mitigate this dilemma?
Again, communication is key.
If a client understands that the lawyer may not be available for every communication, but that he or she will be there for the critical parts, they usually are more accepting. It helps too if the paralegal is pleasant and helpful.
Meeting existing caseload while retaining new clients
Finally, maintaining the hunger to attract new clients and adapt to technological changes can sometimes take a back seat to meeting court deadlines and managing existing caseloads. Many lawyers vacillate between being overwhelmed and feeling that the phone isn’t ringing enough, and it can be a vicious cycle. If a lawyer focuses too much on the legal work exclusively, he or she might find that at the conclusion of a time-consuming case, there are no new cases in the file cabinet.
A skilled lawyer learns how to multitask and make time to market their practice, even while they are providing excellent legal work. The best new clients come from referrals from satisfied former clients, but referrals from other lawyers or other professionals are also key.
In addition, the dynamic changes in technology make it imperative that lawyers remain tuned into innovations and informed about emerging technological efficiencies. For example, most courts have adopted electronic filing and will no longer accept paper documents. So like it or not, a lawyer is going to have to keep up.
Both business development and business efficiency are key areas where a lawyer can delegate a little more effectively. Many of the best law firms these days are outsourcing these important tasks to legal marketing consultants, digital marketing consultants and computer consultants so that they can make sure the firm keeps clients coming in and keeps important documents going out without sacrificing customer service to their current clients.
Running a successful law firm is no walk in the park. It’s a delicate balancing act of managing client expectations, meeting deadlines while running an efficient business, and maintaining a business edge in an ever changing market.
Here at Scholle Law, we work to overcome these challenges every day, and we believe that the many successes we’ve been able to secure for our clients speaks volumes. Contact us to schedule your free consultation with our dedicated Duluth personal injury lawyers.