What happens when your advertising program begins to work and the calls start to come in? You will inevitably experience a surge in business, which is a great thing, but it brings unique challenges to a growing practice.
After several years of trial and error in implementing various marketing programs, prospective clients now call my office consistently, which has significantly increased my client base. However, as much as I want to grow my practice, I was unprepared for some of the challenges I’m facing in my growing practice, and I was initially unsure how best to handle those challenges to accommodate and benefit from the growth. Below are some of the issues I’m currently facing:
Increase in calls and web leads
As attorneys, we like to plan our day and then work according to our plan. But the reality is that we can’t control when a potential client calls our office to inquire about our services. When a prospective client calls, I am aware that this potential client has most likely screened other law firms before choosing to call mine. Therefore, my firm has developed a system of lead review and “triage” to prioritize the lead and respond to the call within the hour. Not long ago, I handled initial calls myself; now with an increased workload, I’ve delegated this function to an associate who handles the initial telephone case evaluation and determines the next step in the process. I have to admit, it was not easy for me to give up this responsibility, but I had to do it, and I am very happy with my associate’s performance.
Increase in work volume
Yes, more clients mean more work! We all want more work. The problem, however, is that we have limited time to deliver more work. Unless you delegate, you’ll end up working weekends (like me), or the work will bottleneck and you will have unhappy clients. In my experience, the growth process is not organized and predictable; it sneaks up on you, and, if you do not recognize it, accept it, and adapt to it, it can create problems down the road. How I am handling it? I am constantly prioritizing and delegating in order to meet deadlines. I also use downtime during the weekend to plan activities and goals for the upcoming week. I also create open space in my calendar that I set aside to perform functions that can only be done during business hours, such as meetings, client consultations, billing, collections, hearings, responding to other attorneys, etc. I’ve found that when the volume of work increases, having proper time management and organizational skills is essential; otherwise, you could lose potential business or not deliver the work on time.
Increase in operating costs
Inevitably, with the increase in lead calls and workload, I’ve had to increase staff hours and invest in additional software and technology to manage the growth. I’ve also had to review my fee structure and update it to current service levels since, until recently, my fee structure was the same as it was 2 years ago. Raising rates was not easy, but it was necessary to manage the additional staff and resources needed to undertake the new volume of work and capture the new client base.
I have no magic formula when it comes to managing growth. I recognize that the increase in calls is the result of years of effort in building a brand and reputation. This is what I’ve been working toward for 12 years, and I will embrace it, ride the wave, and take my practice to the next level.