As they set into the groove of running their practices, law firm owners tend to realize one thing sooner or later:
Talent alone isn’t indicative of a firm’s success.
Here at The Law Entrepreneur, we’ve seen our fair share of horror stories from practice owners that banked on staffing to bring in more clients—only to end up barely making it out of their first years despite their star-studded rosters. And while staffing lawyers with strong records and polished skillsets goes a long way, doing so can only go so far along the path of success until reality kicks in.
So, this all begs one question: what CAN law firm owners do to better guarantee their business’s chance of making it big and becoming a household name?
Well, for Mrs. June Legal LLC’s mastermind, Randa Prendergast, believes that practitioners need to take a better look at their processes.
For over 15 years, Randa has helped hundreds of law firms and private practitioners work efficiently by dissecting their operations and guiding them on how they can carry them out smarter, better, and faster. With process improvement as her bread and butter, she’s made quick work of even the most challenging client needs with an assortment of tools, practices, and resources—and this is why the biggest law firms come to her when they need help with their management hurdles.
According to Randa, she specializes in what she does because it’s exactly what lawyers and law firms need more of nowadays, saying:
“"I have this love for processes and organization and for solos so I thought, "I want to help them set up their law firm so they can be successful. I want them to also have this legal support, whether that's a paralegal or legal admin, to help them out.'"
This episode of The Law Entrepreneur has no shortage of mind-blowing insight, tips, and tricks from Randa Prendergast and her countless experience in law firm process improvement. Our conversation with her also touches on allocating resources the right way, future-proofing law firms, and why it pays to hire extra help for day-to-day tasks.
Here are some of our other favorite takeaways from this episode:
1. It’s crucial to accept that there’s no such thing as a lawyer that was taught to run a firm when they were in law school. While it may seem like running a successful practice boils down to having good lawyers and a wealth of connections, there are many more things that go into it—and unfortunately, it’s something that many attorneys aren’t well-aware of.
Here’s what Randa has to say about this ever-relevant reality:
"You wear many hats as a legal support staff in a solo firm, so I always identify, like you said earlier, about not being taught how to run a law firm in law school, and that was part of it. Attorneys don't know how to run a law firm, and a lot of times, they rely on legal support staff to do so or they try to do it on their own, and it becomes a little messy."
So, if you want to run a successful law firm that gets to build a name that precedes itself, there’s no better time to start getting into the details of your business and understanding them than today.
2. Most law firm owners overthink the kind of work they’ll need to do when they improve how their operations work. According to Randa, what practitioners need to look at when tweaking their processes is often as simple as simple gets, saying:
"When it comes to improving operations, people] say processes, policies and procedures, but it's really your workflows, your task list, how you run your cases. I break down all of their processes to be super detailed so if they are out of the office or they're onboarding new team members, they have a guiding tool telling them, 'This is how we complete this particular process.'”
Once you figure out what you’ll need to look at in your law firm’s processes, it’ll be a lot easier to determine what you need to work on, what you should aim for, what needs to be inspected regularly!
3. You’re not always going to know what your law firm needs, so it pays to get help. Although you might be really dedicated to ensuring that your practice has the surest shot at success that it can get, chances are you’ll overlook a few key things here and there as you juggle different roles.
Here’s Randa’s explanation for why this lesson is something that law firm owners need to learn ASAP:
"Sometimes people know specifically what they want, but a lot of times, they don't. In our discovery process, we ask them what their biggest pain point is and that helps us to identify where they need help the most. We also offer billing clerks to our current clients as an add-on service because a lot of times, they're just overwhelmed getting simple billing out along with some of the other tasks, and when an attorney can get their billing out and get paid, they're a lot happier."
Whether you’ve owned and operated your law firm for a few months or a few years, it’s always a wise decision to invest in expert help and consultations so you can keep everything ship shape.
4. Don’t have a process? Don’t expect to see success coming your way, then. That might sound a bit harsh, but it’s the truth—processes (well-established and built ones, mind you) are the backbone of any law firm’s capability to grow, scale, and thrive as more work comes in.
Randa herself has had her fair share of clients come in and admit that they don’t have processes in place—and here’s what she tells them every time:
"When I meet with law firm owners and they want legal support, but they don't have processes in place, I'm honest with them. I said, 'No one is going to be as successful as you want them to be if you don't have any of your own processes. They could be really intelligent, have all this experience, but if they're constantly having to ask you 'How do you want this done?' because it's your business, your law firm is a business, then it's going to cause you stress and no one is going to be successful.'"
Before you start daydreaming about long-term success and your law firm’s potential to go far in the next few decades, make sure that you have set processes in place that will work without fail!
5. A lot of law firm owners have the wrong mindset when they tackle process improvement. In fact, the biggest mistake this wrong mindset causes is that it leads practitioners to believe that they don’t need to test any new systems they make just because it works for another firm.
The solution to this? Randa believes that firm owners should make adjustments based on their team’s experiences and input:
"[Process improvement is about] progress, not perfection. It's not going to be perfected until you use it or a support staff uses it." If they have questions over the same task over and over again, or if they're saying, "This task is happening too early," or "too late," or "We actually should think about A, B and C instead," that's when you're going to really start perfecting your processes is when you actively use them, and they're always going to be evolving also."
Creating a process that works time and time again is all about building one around the needs of those who’ll be following it—so be mindful of feedback and put it to use!
If you loved our talk with Randa Prandergast, you can catch the latest episodes of The Law Entrepreneur on our website. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates.