The Alternative Legal Practice
Servicing legal plans is a relatively new business model, especially when comparing it to the more traditional solo or small law firm practice. Typically, a successful legal plan service provider, or law firm, operates in volume, dealing with all sorts of clients and legal matters on a daily basis. Managing the administrative and legal work for the large number of requests that come in can become overwhelming, however, by adopting the right tools and processes into your practice, you can create a lean, mean, lawyering machine.
What Makes a Successful Legal Plan Practice?
Ultimately, there are two questions law firms need to ask themselves to gauge their success:
- Are our clients satisfied?
As a basic business principle, law firms should focus on measuring and improving client satisfaction. In the world of legal plans specifically, clients expect a fast, hassle-free, and affordable experience. Law firms can ensure they are exceeding these standards by proactively obtaining and responding to client feedback, an action which in itself leads to a positive client impression. Firms should also look to measure and evaluate key performance indicators (KPIs) such as attorney responsiveness, drafting completion time, client return rate, etc.
- Do the finances make sense?
While we have a moral and ethical responsibility to provide people with access to justice through pro bono work and other public programs, when running a law firm, the question of profitability cannot be ignored. With this in mind, your firm must have a practice structure and strategy that lend themselves to your financial goals. Many legal plan providers do not function on the billable hour, often time operating on a flat fee, capitated rate, or strictly a lead conversion basis depending on the plan details. Therefore, to properly assess the financial sustainability of your firm, you must keep record of how your time is allocated as well as what client conversion and the average lifetime value of legal plan clients look like. Know your bottom line – the difference between your time and resources spent versus your revenue.
As mentioned earlier, a successful professional services business must be able to quickly deliver excellent service at a price that makes sense to both the consumer and provider. The ability to deliver such fast, quality, economical professional services on a volume basis is dependent on an operational infrastructure that is built for scale.
Today, a burgeoning legal technology industry has emerged to help facilitate the delivery and scalability of legal services. From practice management tools like Clio to tech platforms like Rocket Lawyer, today’s lawyer has numerous tools at his/her fingertips to build an effective and profitable practice.
The tools are out there, but they are of no use if they just sit in the tool box. A 2016 Rocket Lawyer attorney survey showed that 42% of polled attorneys did not use any practice management tools to help run their practice. The good news is that by using the technologies out there such as calendaring, billing, and communication systems, this 42% has the opportunity to reduce administrative cost and time all while improving client satisfaction.
Recommendation and Resources
Like with running any other professional services business, legal plan providers must prioritize firm infrastructure and operations alongside the actual practice of law.
Practice management tools such as Clio or My Case offer firms a way to streamline everything from internal and external communication to invoicing and billing. Virtual office and receptionist solutions like Davinci Virtual allows small firms to handle big firm volume:
“With 30-40 calls coming in every day across 8 offices up and down the state, having a central call-in number and center to receive, log, and monitor calls is pivotal, as is the fact that each caller gets a live person answering the phone during normal business hours,” says Mario Jaramillo, a GLSA member and one of Rocket Lawyer’s legal plan attorneys.
Additionally, legal plan administrators often provide their attorney network with an online portal to process and track service requests.
Good practice management means less administrative time/cost and increased client satisfaction, ultimately leading to higher client engagement, retention, and referrals. So embrace your inner entrepreneur, leverage the available legal technology solutions, and take your firm to the next level!