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Ready, Set, Scale: Preparing Your Law Firm for Growth, Even When You’re Busy

By David Skinner and Karen Skinner

In “Ready, Set, Scale,” Karen and David Skinner help you prepare your practice for the growth you want with time-saving systems. Download the complete guide.

When your firm experiences a burst of growth, you probably think to yourself, “Finally! This is the moment I’ve been waiting for.” But that excitement quickly turns to frustration when you discover that your current systems can’t handle any more work.

Instead of enjoying new opportunities and greater success, here’s what actually happens:

  • You work long hours to get all that new work done.
  • But because you’re tired, your efficiency drops.
  • Which means you can’t deliver on time, despite your best efforts.
  • Then your clients get frustrated by slow responses and unexpected delays.
  • So you just put your head down and work harder. (It’s a vicious cycle, right?)
  • And on top of it all, you’re too busy to develop new business. When the work is done and you finally look up, you have no new files coming in.

Sound familiar? We call this the feast or famine cycle.

To end the cycle, balance your workload and ensure you don’t burn out, you need systems designed to support growth.

Ready, Set, Scale: How to Set Up the Systems You Need to Grow

Welcome to the first in our series on how to set up systems for growth.

What do we mean by systems?

You may be thinking legal tech, but systems are so much more than technology. For our purposes, systems are optimized combinations of people, process and technology that allow you to accomplish tasks in your practice efficiently and effectively.

In this series, we’ll cover what you need to prepare your practice for the growth you want, starting with this article on how systems fuel growth and why you need to invest time creating them — even when you’re busy.

Preparing for Growth … Even When You’re Busy

You can’t scale your law firm business without systems, but when you’re working all hours, you may feel like it’s not worth investing time to create those systems. But it is, and here’s why.

Systems Save Time

If you don’t have a system or process for something you do more than once, you’re wasting time and leaving money on the table.

Without a system, tasks take longer than they should. You may not remember exactly how you did it last time, so you waste time trying to remember or you make a mistake and have to start over. You may try to delegate it to others, but without a process to follow, it takes too long to explain what to do. People interrupt you with questions or return low-quality work, so you spend time correcting it. All of that is time, energy and effort you could put to better use (like business development, higher-value work or just going home earlier).

Systems Increase Efficiency

Efficiency is having the right people doing the right work the right way with the right tools.

Systems empower you and your team to complete work faster and make fewer mistakes because work is standardized and everyone knows exactly what to do next. Systems also make delegation possible. How? Because a good system includes clear standard operating procedures, or SOPs, that provide people with everything they need to complete a task correctly on their own, without interrupting you with questions or returning low-quality work.

Systems Allow You to Grow and Scale

Systems make growth possible.

Many lawyers spend less than half of each day on billable work. The rest is spent mired in unbillable administrative work. When you experience that growth spurt you’ve been working toward, having systems in place that streamline the administrative tasks will ensure you’ve got more time for the new billable work coming in. And when you’re ready to expand your team, having clear processes and SOPs for your business tasks and your legal work will ensure you can quickly onboard and train new team members, so you’ll be able to effectively delegate legal and business tasks.

All of this will free you up to do more of the high-value work and still have time to develop new business. You’ll finally be able to break free of the feast or famine cycle.

But back to the elephant in the room: You’re already overworked, and creating systems takes time. Is the investment going to be worth it?

The short answer is yes.

Here’s a great table that comes from XKCD.com that sets out how much time you can invest, across five years, on improving your process:

systems for law firm growth

When you’re busy, the key is to start small. As James Clear says in “Atomic Habits,” aim to make your practice just 1% better every day.

Image © iStockPhoto.co

Tired of the ‘feast or famine’ cycle?

Download “Ready, Set, Scale” and learn how to set up the systems you need to grow.

* Create processes and SOPS
* Automate key workflows
* Learn what to delegate and to whom

Karen Dunn Skinner and David Skinner help lawyers and legal professionals build more efficient, productive and profitable practices. They’re the co-founders of Gimbal Lean Practice Management Advisors and lawyers with over 20 years’ experience each in Canada and Europe. Together, they’re the exclusive Global Advisors on Legal Process Improvement to the International Institute of Legal Project Management. They write and speak regularly, facilitate legal process improvement projects across North America, and have taught Gimbal’s LeanLegal® approach to thousands of legal professionals.

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