This year will be extremely important for nearly every industry, as business owners work to rebuild and move forward after a challenging year. For many organizations, including personal injury law practices, this year could make the difference between keeping the doors open or permanently shutting down. Savvy managing partners are learning from the COVID-induced remote legal operation of 2020, implementing better law practice management, and taking advantage of legal outsourcing resources. Such actions will undoubtedly allow for the strongest future outlook. If you want to be among them, read on for our tips for ensuring success in 2021 and beyond.
It’s all about working smarter, not harder.
Obviously, you trust your staff to get the job done, or they wouldn’t be your staff. However, even the best of teams and firms need guidance. Personal injury law practices move at a breakneck pace, juggling clients and experts, mountains of documents, and more. Sometimes it can seem like there’s no end in sight. Enter law practice management principles, also known as legal project management. Put another way; it’s taking the ideas behind project management from the business world and adapting them to the legal space. It’s easier than it sounds and can bring a world of benefits to your firm. Start by treating each matter as a “project.” Then create a roadmap to get from stage A to Z:
- what needs to get done (every stage of the matter broken down into its component pieces)
- when it needs to be done by
- who does what?
Then use this roadmap to set smart goals for your lawyers and staff – where possible, break down a single assignment into a set of tasks to be performed, each with its own due date and responsible person(s). Set timelines based on the best-case scenario, not the worst. Automatically create reminders to make sure nothing is overlooked.
One of the best things about this exercise is that once you’ve done it for a particular type of case, you have a repeatable process for each subsequent matter. You’ll quickly develop a standardized roadmap for the various types of cases your firm will encounter. Take this, load it into your law practice management technology, give it to your legal outsourcing support provider, and watch your firm perform like a well-tuned engine.
Invest in your team
Professional development opportunities for lawyers and staff are essential for many reasons, above and beyond the obvious, mandatory CLE requirements for lawyers. In truth, most staff members will appreciate the opportunity to learn something new, and, notably, they will see that you have taken an active interest in their careers. You’re investing in them, which will make them feel valued, leading to a more content office atmosphere, more efficient employees, and satisfied, impressed clients (which leads to more business). The benefits are practically endless.
However, don’t fall into the trap of simply offering courses to ensure your team is current on legal developments. Invest in them – and your firm – by offering up a variety of opportunities. Technology-focused topics can result in improvements in firm operations. Business-focused or project management courses can help everyone become efficient and bring fresh ideas to the table. Before long, you’ll see that your entire team is not only working more productively, but they’re also taking the initiative to get things done more quickly and resolving issues before they become problems. As a result, you get to focus on the most important tasks and those at which you excel and enjoy. In short, letting a paralegal take that business course they’ve always dreamed of could, and should, have a big payoff for you and the firm.
Focus on Marketing and Branding Your Firm
This year, you will be competing for one of the smallest pools of potential clients in industry history. It will be key to put time and effort into building and marketing your brand to succeed and grow. Potential clients need to know what makes you different from the other personal injury firms before they even walk through your office doors. Determine what you want your brand to be and what works well in the community. You could build a brand around getting clients compensation faster than any of your peers (because you’re awesome at getting insurance companies to cough up attractive settlements). You could be known for getting larger average jury verdicts than your competitors or as the most compassionate, family-focused firm that ever existed. You might want to specialize in particular types of cases, like pedestrian accidents or premises liability. There are sizeable pools of potential clients for each type of firm (and more). Whatever it is, build a brand that resonates with you and your team – because if it doesn’t, you won’t be able to sell it to potential clients.
Once you’ve got the brand focused, market it. Take advantage of developments in marketing technologies, go beyond legacy advertising (billboards and radio) to social media, internet search ads, etc. Perhaps engage a marketing specialist to guide you.
Cross Boundaries for more remote work exposure
All accidents don’t happen between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday; they occur at all hours of the day. This means that each morning could begin with a flood of calls from potential clients, eating up the precious time you and your team have to do the million other things you need to do – all of which are equally important (if not equally enjoyable). Obviously, you can’t operate a firm around the clock. Or could you? The increased overhead and overtime would probably sink the notion of starting and running a night shift (plus, not many people like working the night shift). However, you can take advantage of time zone differences by utilizing legal outsourcing providers.
Legal outsourcing can allow your firm to operate (nearly) 24/7. Among the many tasks that can be handled “after hours” are:
- fielding potential client calls
- drafting intake packages
- setting up matters in your system
- drafting complaints and creating discovery responses.
Better still, most legal outsourcing providers are based in lower-cost areas, meaning that you can support your onsite staff and expand your caseload while decreasing matter timelines at a fraction of the cost of doing it all in-house. White shoe firms, major financial institutions, and Fortune 500 companies have been doing it for years. There’s no reason your firm can’t leverage the same concepts and advantages as many of the largest companies in the world.
Digitization is the future
Personal injury law practices probably relied on technology more in 2020 than any other year (and possibly more than all other years combined). One lesson we definitely learned last year was that digitization is the future. Implementing a cloud-based legal technology you can rely on is critical to your future success. What’s more, the best PI-focused legal tech has a lot of built-in tools to help your firm run smoothly. Your team can work from anywhere, with full access to everything they need to do their jobs. Clients can connect to get progress updates or send more information without making unnecessary phone calls, and you can send them important info securely. You can connect with medical providers to seamlessly access medical records and then get those records to your experts. Your client’s doctors can upload bills directly into the system. Your legal outsourcing team can connect effortlessly and get important work done in a secure environment while you’re sleeping – go to bed with a stack of intakes to process, wake up to completed intake packages and new clients/matters in the system. Your team will love the simplicity and mundane task relief, your clients will appreciate the ease and transparency of interactions, health providers will benefit from the enhanced relationship, and you’ll be ecstatic about the results!