Master Small Law Firm Management Without Overwhelm

byRachel Steininger

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Five Principles To Master Small Law Firm Management Without Overwhelm

Do you own a small or solo law practice? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the day-to-day business that takes your time away from growing your practice?

If yes, you're not alone. Many attorneys face this challenge.

The good news is there are ways to get out of this rut and focus on building the law practice you envisioned when you started this journey.

Here are five principles that can help.

1. Make Your Goal Bigger Than Your Constraints

When you tackle a client issue, do you look at the rules of court or the regulations or laws as something that stops you from being an effective attorney?  

Of course not.

Those are just the constraints of the legal issue at hand and you are the qualified person they need to help them navigate those constraints for the best possible outcome.

Your business is the same way.

Yes, you need to generate revenue.  Yes, you need to serve clients.  Yes, you’ve got this second stream of non-client to-do’s that can feel never-ending.

There will always be constraints.

But it’s by seeing the goal that you can navigate your business to the best possible outcome.

2. Don’t Confuse The Action Plan With The Outcome (Or Bog Down Your Action Plan With Non-Essentials)

I have clients come to me with a very definite list of what they “should” be doing.  

And that list often comes accompanied by feelings of guilt and overwhelm.

Those “shoulds” bog down their time, trap them in the day-to-day and many times, are not even getting done.

When I ask these owners why they need to do those things and what those actions are going to help them accomplish, they often have a hard time articulating the intended outcome.

Here’s the reality… that list is only what they decided they should do or what someone else (peers, society, etc.) told them they ought to.  

Worse, sometimes it’s just pure copycatting.  

“Well, this is what the other law firms are doing.  Shouldn’t I be doing it too?”

But, for all you know, that’s just the blind leading the blind.

What you want from your real to do list is an action plan to get you what you want for your law practice.  

Best practices.  Grounded in reality.  But tailored to your desired outcome.

The action is not the goal; the goal is the goal.  

3. Get Creative

Once we are clear on our destination, aka our desired outcome, we have the opportunity to get really creative.

Best of all, it’s often the simplest yet creative ideas that can help us reach our goals and regenerate momentum.  

Take my client, Masah, for example.  The team member managing her billing process was ready to quit and Masah worried about finding someone she could trust.  But instead of a search process, retraining, and risking loss of revenue, she changed up the way she managed the system itself, freeing up massive time in each and every month.  With the burden reduced from an everyday task to a one day a month task, she retained that high-trust team member because that person no longer felt burnt out.

Getting to that action plan though was a process of design thinking and prioritizing out her needs in the context of her larger system of goals and values.  It’s something we go deeper on in the Upward Acceleration Academy but here are some hints.  

  • Brainstorm all the ways you can get to your end outcome.  
  • Challenge yourself to think about it in different ways.  
  • Think with abundance…  If you had all the money you needed, if you had all the time you needed, etc.
  • Think with constraints… How could you do this faster?  How could you do this with less resources?  How could you do it once and never again?

Throw anything on the board with full creativity and no judgment whatsoever.

And then, and only then, start prioritizing the most effective action plan in the context of your needs and goals.

4. Put It On Your Calendar

Some tough love for you and your small or solo law practice is this…  

If it’s important to do, you’ll need to carve out time for it.

In practicality, what does this mean?

It means blocking time for on the business work in your calendar and honoring that time.

It means getting better at delegating and setting boundaries on distractions.

It means assessing whether that client needs you right now or can wait an hour or two while you give your business and bigger goals some attention.

We all have urgent things going on in our lives and businesses.  

Your law practice is no different.

But that urgency can easily last for years.  And life and opportunity will pass you by, unless you do something about it.  

So set the time for the important and non-urgent because those are the things that will move the needle.

5. Stop Thinking Like A Lawyer & Start Thinking Like An Investor

Lots of owners of small and solo law practices aren’t using the resources they have because there’s up front project work to be done.  

They recognize that they could free up their time and get more out of every moment they spend in their business.  But they get put off by the upfront investment or distracted by the urgent and in-your-face hamster wheel of clients and consults. 

But my background is in investments, not law.  And I’m going to give it to you straight.  

It’s time for you to start thinking about ROI (aka Return on Investment).

Like setting up that intake form that will save you time in consults, spare you the transcription errors in your CRM, and will pay you back in the ability to track and contact leads who don’t immediately sign on.

Or documenting the processes as SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to make it easier to train and get employees on board and working at their best.  

Those SOPs and even a data review process can make it easier to track the metrics that drive your business, leading to more rapid, objective and effective business decisions.

So is there an investment of time or money to set these things up?  

Yes.  But the return is massive.

Remember... it doesn’t have to all fall on you

You can hire a consultant for services, utilize fractional COOs, or join a program that shortcuts the process for you.

In fact, that’s what we do at Upward Acceleration, beginning with the Upward Acceleration Elite Coaching.

Because the real freedom, flexibility, and financial opportunity comes when you treat this like a business and invest in your and its success.

Implementing these five principles can help you get out of the day-to-day business of your small or solo law practice and achieve your desired outcome.

Remember why you started this journey, for the freedom it would bring you, the ability to create a career you enjoyed, to positively impact your community, and to control your lifestyle and financial success.

Now go take action!

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