Every business travels upon a strong current, built of inertia. As work gets done, and as business picks up, ways to do things develop, and become processes — even if those ways were never meant to be formalized processes, but only introductory placeholders. Most small law firms travel along with the current for their entire existence, even if the strategies, choices and workflows that are adopted become essentially inefficient methods.
Think about the many ways by which this state of affairs could influence and overtake a law firm management team: You start scanning a few documents, and the first person to do it gets his strategy adopted, for the sake of expedience. A partner tracks her time on a Microsoft Word document, and hands it off to a secretary, who then inputs the information into a billing program that hasn’t been updated since the Clinton administration. You got lucky, and found two tremendous referral sources at the start of your practice; you’ve now been using them for two decades, and they provide you with an inflow of work that results in over 60% of your revenue.
That all sounds fairly innocuous, right? (Comfortable lawyers everywhere nod their heads.) But, what if your scanning guru quits? What if your secretary leaves? What if your referral sources retire before you do? There’s an old saying that goes: ‘the gods help those who help themselves’. A modern atheist’s translation would be: ‘luck is a product of preparation intersecting with opportunity’. Practically speaking, the more you develop an established process, and the greater depth with which you record and broadcast its existence, the likelier you are to be able to control it. You can then pilot your vessel, rather than floating along in it.
Of course, the earlier you can arrest the process the better. So, intentionally develop and diversify your marketing platform. Vet and select a single-entry time and billing program. If you want to go paperless, don’t get haphazardly chosen. Make conscious choices about hardware and software, develop and apply naming conventions, establish disposition protocols. Become and stay involved; steer the course.
If you feel like managing your law firm feels a little like trying to guide a boulder hurtling down a highly-graded slope, it may be high time you figured out whether you’re the boulder, or Indiana Jones.
Not so much.
From 2006 to 2010, Taylor Swift came out with three excellent albums in a row. As little as two years ago, she was doing stuff like this. Shortly thereafter, almost simultaneously, she began to focus on doing stuff like this. Almost overnight, she went from writing songs with import, to manufacturing the worst species of nonsensical, sugar-pop garbage, in which she seems to be engaging in a newstyle ‘Green Eggs and Ham challenge’, while working with far fewer, and less meaningful, vocabulary words than did the good Doctor.
Therefore, I give you the devolution of Taylor Swift, as summed up in five songs:
Boy, that was fast.
I Heart ? Indeed.