Have you ever wondered how the highest achieving lawyers got where they are? You take a few moments to ponder a highly successful lawyer who created a law firm with 50 employees, and an 8-figure revenue with a 30% profit margin, and write off their success as pure luck or that they had an advantage that others did not. But you would be mistaken.
Success leaves a trail. There are certain things this elite lawyer did that others did not. This lawyer is not only an elite lawyer—they are an elite business person. That’s right, there’s a good chance this elite lawyer never steps foot into a courtroom, or even meets with a client, and that’s just fine with them. This elite lawyer is laughing all the way to the bank.
There is a secret to the elite lawyer’s success, and it has very little to do with luck, where they attended law school, or their influential friends or family members. The components of a world-class law firm don’t only apply to the elite lawyer—they apply equally to all lawyers, including you.
These are the 7 components of a world-class law firm.
#1: Purpose, Values and Mission
Without purpose, values and mission, you will drift along without focus or a clear guide. Above anything else, you must know why you do what you do. Few lawyers take this seriously, but it is the most essential component of a world class law firm.
PURPOSE: Why do you do what you do? When your back is against a wall and you keep fighting, what is it that motivates you? Money? If so, you don’t really have a purpose and money won’t do anything to inspire your team.
The purpose of your law firm must be big, bold and inspiring. The purpose is the North Star that will guide your law firm forever. Find 3-7 words that are bold and audacious. Our firm’s purpose, “Stopping Medical Injustice”, is short, succinct and it explains why we do what we do. Every decision must be made with your purpose in mind.
CORE VALUES: Core values are the conduct of conduct that describe your law firm and define your culture, i.e., your law firm’s Constitution. Just like your purpose, you will have the same core values for the life of your law firm.
Less is more. Our firm’s core values are real, practiced every day and guide the conduct of our team.
- We limit our practice to catastrophic injury cases
- We NEVER agree to confidential settlements
- We are brutally honest with our clients
- We do not accept cases having questionable merit
Think of 3 employees in your law firm who embody who it means to be in your firm. How do your best employees conduct their work? Are your best team members obsessed about self-improvement? Are these team members fanatical about client service? Write a list of these values and ask for feedback from your team.
Once you’ve agreed upon your firm’s core values, put them on the back of your business card, display them on a poster-board in your lobby and conference room and share them with clients in your client welcome package.
MISSION: Your law firm’s mission should be quantifiable and have a deadline. Our law firm’s mission is to have 1,000 referral partners by October 19, 2023 (we currently have 428 referral partners).
Your mission should be bold and daring, e.g., JFK’s mission was to be the first country to put a man on the moon. Your mission should be a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (“BHAG”) that you might never achieve, but that’s okay. Your team will know what your mission is and will pull in the same direction.
#2: Measuring Performance by the Numbers
Ultra-successful lawyers are fanatical about measuring their success. The elite lawyers use graphs and charts to measure every aspect of their firm’s performance. With graphs measuring the performance of your law firm, you can measure the success of your law firm on a moment’s notice. The terms, “Scorecard” and “Rocks” are derived from Gino Wickman’s book, “Traction”.
SCORECARD: Everyone in your law firm should have a number that quantifies their contribution and what you expect from them. Every team member is responsible for reporting at least 1 number every week.
Litigation Paralegal: Finalize one set of discovery responses and demands per week.
Intake Specialist: Produce an updated list of the new leads, active cases and potential cases every week.
Client Care Advocate: Speak with 12 clients about the status of their active case every week.
Legal Assistant: Send a complete set of medical records and release authorizations to defense counsel for 2 active cases every week.
The Scorecard should be reviewed every Friday when you wrap up the week with your leadership team. Each team member should be responsible for the one number that determines whether their week was productive.
ROCKS: Rocks are the individual and law firm’s priorities over the next 90 days. Rocks will keep you on track for achieving your one-year plan. Over 90 days, what are your biggest priorities? Less is more. It is better to identify 1 rock than a dozen.
Confirmed Trial Dates: Set a goal (Rock) for the number of confirmed trial date, post the number on a whiteboard in your conference room and this Rock should be discussed at your daily huddle with your leadership team and your weekly Goal Setting meeting.
# of Google Reviews: Set a goal (Rock) for the number of reviews for your law firm’s Google My Business profile. Post the Rock on the whiteboard and discuss the Rock at your daily huddle and weekly goal meeting. Who has requested a review? Can you think of a vendor or client (former or client) who might be willing to post a review?
The Rock(s) is posted on a whiteboard in your conference room and discussed at your daily huddle and weekly goal meeting. The Rocks should be top of mind throughout the next 90 days.
SCOREBOARD: What gets measured gets done. What are the numbers you’d like to know? What is worth tracking? You need to know the score (e.g., jumbotron at a football game).
Limit the Scoreboard to only a few of your firm’s key numbers.
- # of settlements (calendar year)
- $ of attorneys’ fees (calendar year)
- # of referral partners
- # of active and potential cases
You can create graphs and charts to compare year-to-year performance with Domo.com, a free software that integrates with case management software and creates reports automatically using your data (thank you, Sandy Van, Esq., for this tip!).
#3: Documenting and Following Core Processes
If you have 100 employees, you need to train them all the same way. In the absence of core processes that are documented and followed, your team members will all be doing things differently and that will create chaos. You want to make sure your core processes are followed by all (“FBA”).
Designate a Leader for Documenting Policies: Designate a team member to document core processes. The Integrator, a/k/a Chief Offering Officer, can be in charge of documenting core processes. If an employee deviates from your core processes, tell them to find another job.
Online Documentation of Policies: Our policies and procedures are set forth in Fisherpedia.com (user: “fisherpedia”, password: “278wall”). Whenever there is a recurring issue, ask a team member to document a policy for it. Then, review the policy at a daily huddle and get feedback concerning how the policy can be improved.
Integrate Policies in Your Case Management Software: You can build your core processes into your case management software. Our case management software, SmartAdvocate, creates a to-do list and identifies the team member who is responsible for each task. With this to-do list, we can easily identify who is not following our core processes.
#4: A Targeted Marketing Strategy
If your marketing is the same as other law firms, you will be just like them: mediocre. Your need a targeted marketing strategy that focuses your marketing dollars on attracting your ideal client. Your targeted marketing strategy consists of the following:
- Uniqueness of Your Law Firm;
- Your Target Market;
- Your Proven Process, and
- Your Guarantee.
UNIQUENESS OF YOUR LAW FIRM: What makes your law firm special? What do you do better than anyone else? Write this down and share this in your marketing campaigns. Less is more. If your law firm has one unique quality that is better than 5.
Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Law Firm: “We only handle medical malpractice. Other law firms handle an occasional medical malpractice case, but medical malpractice is the only thing we do. We’ve handled every type of medical malpractice case that exists over the last 20 years. We are not permitted to say this about our law firm, but other lawyers call us, ‘specialists’ in medical malpractice.”
Most Liked Plaintiff’s Firm: “We treat our clients like our employees--#1 in South Florida”. The third party validation of employee satisfaction reveals a unique quality of the law firm of Craig Goldenfarb in West Palm Beach, Florida.
TARGET MARKET: Identify the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your ideal client. Be as specific as possible.
Our Law Firm’s Ideal Client:
- Plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer with a high volume practice, e.g., 1,000 plus clients
- Practice areas do not include medical malpractice
- Practices law in New York State, ideally in the Capital District and Hudson Valley
Once you’ve identified the characteristics of your Ideal Client, you create marketing campaigns devoted solely for them.
YOUR PROVEN PROCESS: Create an outline of what your clients can expect you’re your law firm. You might create an infographic that explains your case evaluation process.
YOUR GUARANTEE: The “guarantee” is what you offer to strengthen your marketing message. Do you have a guarantee?
Our Law Firm’s Guarantee: A board certified surgeon will review your medical records and provide a detailed opinion about the merit of your claim.”
#5: Highly Specific Goal Setting
The elite lawyers do not hope for the best—they set highly specific goals consisting of the following:
- 10-Year Target,
- 3-Year Picture, and
- 1-Year Plan.
10 YEAR TARGET: How do you become an 8 figure law firm? You create a 10-year target that is ambitious, a bit scary, and helps you visualize where you are headed. If you can’t visualize this target, it will never happen.
Create a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (“BHAG”) for your 10-Year Target (BHAG=Your Mission). Put in a date for the 10 year target. The 10-year target can be 5 years, e.g., “$150M in annual settlements by December 4, 2025”.
3 YEAR PICTURE: Where do you want to be in 3 years? What does it the law firm look like in 3 years? Over the next 3 years, you might want to increase the average legal fee per case (Credit: Craig Goldenfarb, Esq.) or expand your practice to another practice area.
If you want to double your revenue, make sure you are realistic. Consider 3 variables in projecting your revenue: (A) average duration of your lawsuits; (B) average legal fee per case; and (C) the # of cases in your inventory. Share your revenue goal with your team members, but do not share your profit (actual or projected) with employees.
1 YEAR PLAN: What do we need to do this calendar year? Create 3-7 main goals for the year and a revenue target.
Yearly Goal: Hire a full-time in-house marketing director with experience working in a personal injury law firm.
If you can’t afford a full-time marketing director, hire a marketing intern from the local college and give them marketing tasks, e.g., direct mail campaign to prospective referral partners. Hire the marketing intern for a number of hours per week at an hourly rate (Credit: Craig Goldenfarb, Esq.).
#6: Law Firm Accountability Chart
The elite lawyers would not get where they are if they were handling the day-to-day operations of a law firm. Instead, the highest achieving lawyers “delegate and elevate” and make others responsible for the daily operations of their law firm. If someone else can do a task at least 80% as well as you, you have to delegate. (Credit: Craig Goldenfarb, Esq.)
ACCOUNTABILITY CHART: The Accountability Chart lists the major functions in your law firm. The top of the Accountability Chart lists the Visionary and the Integrator (Chief Operating Officer). Who is making the decisions for each department? Who owns each responsibility in your law firm? An accountability chart gives clarity.
Put only one name in every box. Delineate 5 major functions for each position and give clear expectations for each position.
- Marketing, Litigation, Accounting
You cannot have a Visionary and Integrator in the same role. You cannot have 2 people steering the ship—you will be unhappy with each other. The Integrator, a/k/a Chief Operating Officer, makes all decision in the law firm. Use the software, Miro.com to create your organizational chart. (Credit: Sandy Van, Esq.).
#7: Strategic Planning and the Rhythm of Meetings
Lawyers hate meetings and for good reason, no one ever taught you how to run a productive meeting. There is a rhythm and pulse to meetings that can turn an unproductive meeting into the highest use of your time.
Meetings create alignment around common goals among your leadership team and allow you to shift priorities to urgent tasks on a daily basis. Nothing is more productive than a well-run meeting.
QUARTERLY STRATEGIC PLANNING: Your quarterly strategic planning day is a day spent working “on your business” where you focus on a specific goal. You set specific “rocks” for the next 90 days and everything knows your rallying cry.
Do this one thing. Schedule 4 dates for your quarterly strategic planning day at an offsite location. Post your rallying cry (your “Rocks”) on a whiteboard in your conference room and make discuss the progress toward your Rocks at your Weekly Goal Meeting.
There will always be more issues/problems than you can address at a quarterly strategic planning day. Decide that you will not tackle the issue over the next 90 days.
WEEKLY GOAL MEETING: The agenda for the Weekly Meeting should consist of the following:
Step #1: Positive Focus: Each member takes a turn expressing something in your professional or personal life for which they’re grateful.
Step #2: Review Scorecard: Did the team member achieve their number for the previous week?
Step #3: Rock Review: Discuss the progress that has been made toward the “Rocks” for the quarter.
Step #4: To-Do List: Each member reports their top 5 goals for the week and their “Top 1 of 5”, or highest priority goal for the week.
Step #5: IDS (Identify, Discuss, Solutions: Identify any remaining issues, i.e., “Is there anything left over?”
Step #6: Rate the Meeting (1-10): At the end of the meeting, ask your leadership team to rate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=horrible; 10=could not have been better). The concept of a “Level 10” Meeting is derived from Gino Wickman’s book, “Traction”.
At the end of the week, you have a brief “Friday Wrap” (Credit: Melissa Shanahan, Velocity Work) to find out who achieved their top 5 goals.
DAILY MEETING: The Daily Huddle is brief (15-20 minutes) and focuses a positive focus and the top 3 goals for the day of each team member.
A team member can’t say that you’re never accessible because you allot time for them every day at your Daily Huddle. And if your team is doing tasks that are not serving your priorities, e.g., an upcoming trial, you can shift their priorities, so everyone’s focused on your top priorities.
Why You Should Have a Coach
There’s one more thing that the most successful lawyers do: COACHING. Why would an ultra-successful lawyer have a coach? Because the highest achieving lawyers need accountability and are on a quest to continually improve their processes. The best lawyers realize that they can’t achieve greatness alone.
John Nachazel, Chief Operating Officer of the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan and co-author of the book, “Fireproof”, is a master at implementing the principles of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (“EOS”) for law firms. John is a pioneer in the practice of applying business metrics to law firms. If you’d like to learn more about consulting with John Nachazel, go to FireProofPerformance.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.