Nobody ever said running a law firm was easy. On top of all their legal work and responsibilities to their clients, law firm owners have to keep track of budgets, coordinate marketing, and manage a staff, among other things.
These aren’t exactly subjects covered in law school, either. Even for experienced business owners, it can be difficult to tell when it’s time to expand your firm by taking on new staff. When can you afford it? When do you have the time to train them? Answers to these questions depend on your situation, and are so specific that it’s difficult to answer them.
Rather than telling you exactly when to hire more staff, we’re going to instead give you the tools to recognize when you might be in the market for an expansion. In this blog, we’ll cover three common signs it’s time to hire more staff for your law firm, whether that’s administrative, clerical, or even legal staff.
Has Your Client List Grown Too Big To Handle?
There is, unfortunately, such a thing as suffering from success. Obviously, if your firm’s client list is growing, that’s a good thing. But it is possible to grow too big too fast, and end up with more work than you can handle.
If you find yourself missing calls from clients and prospective clients because you can’t afford the time it takes to answer the phone, you might need to expand your staff to help you handle your current workload. It can be tough to balance all the tasks required of a law firm owner; but letting any of them slip is a recipe for disaster.
For example, you may have grown quickly, but allowing your client list to stagnate once you’ve grown isn’t a recipe for more success. Missing calls from clients can be disastrous.
According to Clio’s 2019 Legal Trends Report, 79 percent of clients expect a call back within 24 hours of leaving a voicemail.
Anything more than 24 hours, and you’re failing their expectations already, and some potential clients are even more impatient and will call another firm before you even have a chance to respond.
In addition, botching intake procedures can make your firm look unprofessional. If you’re rushed during your firm’s first impression with a potential client, you can lose clients who are already interested in hiring you. Nothing makes a client lose confidence in an attorney like an avoidable mistake.
Are You Spending Too Much Time At Work?
We have a few questions for you. How often do you work past 6 PM? How often do you work weekends?
According to Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report, 42 percent of attorneys work Saturdays and 32 percent work Sundays.
It’s long been true that lawyers don’t exactly adhere to the usual 9-5 business day. But if you’re finding yourself working on weekends often, you might want to consider hiring so you can have more time for yourself and your family.
An easy response to this question is to say that attorneys always work hard. And while that may be true, spending too much time at work is a recipe for letting the other parts of your life suffer. The legal world is reckoning with wellness issues, such as an ABA study that found that substance abuse rates in the legal profession are 1 in 5. A healthy balance between work and life is essential to making sure you have a long and successful legal career.
On a less serious but no less important note, if you find yourself canceling or turning down networking opportunities because you’re too busy, you should consider hiring more staff to make time for things like lunches and conferences. Networking is still hugely important, even for law firm owners. Meeting attorneys in your market in other practice areas can allow you to take part in valuable referral networks.
If you feel you don’t have time to network, you’re sacrificing the long-term benefits for short-term gains. So the next time you turn down a lawyer lunch because you have too much to do, remember that there’s more to success than just working hard, and consider hiring staff to help you make time for networking.
Do You Spend Too Much Time On Non-Billable Work?
If you’re spending too much time a week on clerical or administrative tasks, it’s time to hire more staff. Tasks like billing, invoicing, organizing, or even answering the phone might best be delegated to someone who would specialize in those tasks, while you spend your valuable time doing the legal work only you can do.
For example, how much time do you spend on the phone every day? An hour? Two?
Studies have shown that attorneys spend an average of 1.1 hours a day talking to clients on the phone.
That’s not even counting speaking to non-client callers like new leads. If you’re not getting enough work done because you’re spending too much tie on the phone, it’s time to delegate.
Think of it this way: at the end of the day, for most attorneys it comes down to billable hours. You can bill clients for the time spent on the phone with them, maybe, but you can’t bill anyone for time spent on the phone with potential clients or spam callers.
According to Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report, attorneys had an 84 percent realization rate (the ratio of hours billed to hours worked) industry-wide.
If you’re below that, you might be spending too much time on non-billable work.
And yet, you can’t just let callers go to voicemail. Phones are the lifeblood of many businesses, because that’s how new leads get in contact with you. If you let potential clients go to voicemail, they might call another firm before you can get back to them. That’s why it’s important to hire staff to make sure you can spend your time on legal work, and not on the phone.
Why Not Hire A Third Party Instead?
Of course, there are pros and cons to hiring new staff. For example, you would have to train anyone you hired on.
A 2022 Training Industry Magazine report found that the average cost of training a worker was 1207 dollars.
If you’re not interested or unable to train your new staff, you could always outsource your tasks. It’s a bit of a dirty word nowadays—too many businesses outsourcing their work to other countries, leading to communication issues and negative client experiences has given the practice a bad name.
However, there are plenty of ways to outsource the work you’re doing to a third party that will help your firm manage your workload better, grow your business, and improve your reputation. One of the most effective places to do that is in your phone handling.
Answering Legal Will Enable Your Firm’s Success
We might be a bit biased, but Answering Legal is the best way to outsource your phone answering. Our receptionists operate as an extension of your firm; they’ll answer every call using custom greetings, call protocols, and legal intake, so your potential clients will always know they’ve reached your firm.
All of this is to say that we’re perfectly positioned to help an understaffed law firm address the problems it might face. Our legal intake receptionists will make sure you always have the information you need to conduct your business as an attorney. Since this information is communicated immediately after a call, you’ll never hear “I already explained all of this to your receptionist” again.
By making sure every phone call you receive goes to a receptionist, your lead capturing rate will go up and you’ll save yourself more time for your legal work. If you’d like to learn more about the features we offer our law firm clients, click here.
At the end of the day, attorneys are specialists. You’re the only people who can do the work you do. Our receptionists are specialized in a similar way: they answer only for lawyers, so they’re uniquely qualified to take the burden of handling the phone off an attorney’s shoulders. With Answering Legal on your side, you’ll have more time for the legal work you need to do to keep your firm running, and therefore more time to spend with family and friends once your work is done.
Start delegating your phone calls today and get more done. Click here or call 631-686-9700 to sign up for our free trial. For a limited time, we’re offering firms that sign up for our service their first 400 minutes free.
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