Small Firms Can Become Great

Kathy Fortin
July 8, 2016

In our consulting work with small law firms we have seen that the most financially (and otherwise) successful small firms share certain characteristics.  Consider giving attention to any of the five characteristics described here which can lead the firm to better times.

Leadership.  Every successful small firm we have seen has an effective leader,  one who has a positive attitude, who gives respect to all employees and motivates them to excel; one who is neither authoritative nor indifferent, is an effective listener, gives consideration to all views and motivate others to follow their lead.  The flip side of the coin is that firms without effective leaders struggle to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Culture.  A hallmark of a successful small law firm is a positive culture.  Culture is the unique fabric of the firm that develops as a result of the leadership, attitudes, personalities, policies, and decisions made, past and present.  A negative culture will always be a hindrance, standing in the way of change and progress, whereas a positive culture that is open to change and progress is necessary to propel a firm to new levels of success.

Planning.  A unified firm where everyone works together is essential for a firm to excel.  Setting goals, creating a culture of accountability that fits the firm and transparency are critical for small firms that want to do better.  Feelings of firing on all pistons yet not reaping the results of their efforts is something we commonly hear.  When everyone knows what is expected of them, the firm’s vision and goals can be attainable.  A firm with a collection of autonomous lawyers with separate practices are not in the best position to achieve the full measure of the firm’s financial success. 

Marketing.  Lawyers who do not market their services will never be as successful as they can be.  Lawyers who still believe that because they do quality work and continue to get referrals from current or former clients they do not need to do more are mistaken.  Often, we hear from our clients that revenue is shrinking and shortfalls in cash flow are common.  Small firms must recognize that what they relied on in the past will not likely continue to make them successful in the future.

Consider This
Too many lawyers in small law firms are struggling financially.  As we see, the struggle can be due to one or more of the following: failed leadership, a lagging culture, lack of vision, planning or goals and missed marketing opportunities.  Paying attention to these characteristics and making efforts to improve upon the weaknesses can help to improve the firm’s future.