5 Systems You Need For Your Law Practice

law firm time managementThe other day I spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of systems in your law practice. That sounds all well and good you say, but “what systems do I need?”

Fair question.

In my opinion, everything you need to accomplish can be broken down into one of 5 general systems that you need for your law practice.


Here they are:

  1. Time Management
  2. Marketing/Client Development
  3. Staffing
  4. Fulfillment
  5. Cash Flow

I’ve researched systems a great deal during my 13 years in private practice and am proud to say that although my systems are not perfect and they have definitely changed over the years, they are definitely starting to come together.

And based on my personal experience, as well as the advice of my marketing coaches, the 5 systems listed above are the most important systems needed for a successful law firm.

Time Management is the Single Most Important Law Firm System

It’s not a coincidence that time management is listed #1.

One of the biggest factors that will impact how much money you make, how happy your clients are, and how satisfied you are with the practice of law is how well you can manage your time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

There are a gazillion time management books for lawyers. Right now I’m reading Time Management for Attorneys: A Lawyer’s Guide to Decreasing Stress, Eliminating Interruptions & Getting Home on Time as part of my Atticus Coaching.

During our next in-person workshop in May, we will spend the entire workshop talking about time management.

So why is time management so important?

Because if you can’t manage your time, you can’t do anything else well in your law practice.

If you are constantly jumping from task to task without any rhyme or reason, it will cause you a tremendous amount of stress and problems will slowly start to develop. One of the biggest sources of grievances against lawyers is disorganization and missed deadlines.

You shouldn’t even be worried about marketing your firm until you have effective time management systems in place.

Your Client Development System is a Close Second

Once you start to get a handle on your day, you will free up time to get the legal work done, market your practice, and handle the influx of new cases.

There are three main ways that lawyers develop new business, and all of them should be systematized.

  1. Referral based marketing
  2. SEO or Organic Search
  3. Paid Advertising

In my opinion, before you start dabbling in 2 and 3, you need to focus your efforts on your referral marketing.

Referred clients are much more likely to retain you, they will pay you more money, and they will do what you ask them to do. They are much more likely to be “A” level clients.

Compare that with the experience I’m going through with a client right now. This is a potential elder law client that found me through an online video. They initially reached out to me in December. We scheduled their initial meeting for January. The January meeting was postponed to February. The February meeting was postponed until this month (March). They didn’t finish their homework so I wasn’t fully prepared for all their questions. I met with the client and family yesterday for over an hour (typically these meetings only take 45 minutes). They were not ready to hire me – they want to think about it for 30 days.

Will this family ever hire me? Maybe, maybe not. But compare that experience with what a referral looks like.

Client calls because they were referred by an advisor they have a close relationship with. Client set’s up a meeting for 2 weeks from now. Client completes all homework and provides more information than requested. The client comes to meeting prepared to move forward and hires me on the spot, paying their full fee.

Do you see the difference? Do you see how much more time the internet-based prospect takes to even make a decision to move forward with my firm?

Do you see how much time and effort it takes to persuade the internet based lead to take action?

There is a big caveat here – I’m working in the estate planning and elder law arena. Generally speaking, we need to drag our clients in kicking and screaming to do their estate plans.

But I will tell you, referral marketing works well in any practice area. It doesn’t matter if you handle family law cases, personal injury, criminal, bankruptcy, etc.

A referred client will always beat a lead off the internet.

Does that mean you don’t do anything with SEO or paid advertising? No. But before you do, you should focus your efforts on finding at least 20 good referral sources. In Atticus, we call this our “Top 20” list.

But the whole point here is that you need to build a system for how to find and cultivate those 20 referral sources. And that is the cornerstone of your client development system.

Here’s the system:

  1. Make a list of potential referral sources.
  2. Call the list to schedule coffee or lunch.
  3. Attend coffee/lunch.
  4. Send thank you card.
  5. Rinse and repeat with the people who send you business.
  6. Continually add to your list of potential referral sources.

I’ll give you that one for free… 😉

The Staffing, Fulfillment and Cash Flow Systems

The final three systems will be unique to each individual practice.

Staffing is how you find, hire, retain and build a team of loyal and amazing staff members. These are smart, ambitious, goal-oriented individuals who will support your efforts to build an amazing law practice, and not be the cancer that destroys your efforts from within.

Fulfillment is how you provide the work-product to your clients. Initially, you will be doing all the legal work, with perhaps a little help from a paralegal. But as time goes on and your firm starts to grow, you will want to hire more attorneys that can help you with this work as well. But before you do that, you will need to document what legal work you do and how you do it so that you can duplicate yourself.

Finally, your cash flow system is the system of managing the books. I just put “hiring a bookkeeper” on my list of things to do. You should consider doing this as well. A bookkeeper will provide you with regular reports on the state of your law firm and how well you are doing financially. They will help you to spot problems before they get out of hand. After recently spending an entire weekend working on my books from 2017, I can tell you that hiring a bookkeeper is something I absolutely need to do.

Time to Start Implementing

What’s next? Time to start implementing. Since time management is number one, I recommend you start by building and following a time template.

For me, that means meeting with staff first thing in the morning, then going into a “closed door” session where I crank our legal work. At 11 am I return phone calls and emails, then I try to meet someone for a marketing lunch. From 1-4 in the afternoon, I set aside time to meet with clients and from 4-5 I return calls/emails again. Beginning around 5, I start shutting down for the day.

Your day may look different, depending on your practice. But this is a template I’ve found works for me and keeps my practice under control (for the most part).

What works for you?

Comment below or come join our Facebook group to let me know.

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