But where do I start?
Without a doubt this is the most common question I’m asked.
“I want to move to fixed prices, but I don’t know how to make the transition.”
“We need create a system for our client engagement process, but where should I begin?”
“I’m looking for technology so I can automate my documents. What’s best?”
One thing I’ve learnt from the first few months in my consulting practice is that there’s no shortage of great ideas. There are plenty of lawyers who want to change the way they practice law, but by far the biggest challenge they face is getting started.
A few weeks ago I shared my new advice was to “just do the next right thing”, a mantra adopted from Frozen. I stand by this advice – small changes are better than no change at all – but thought some more concrete guidance might help.
I take my clients through a 9-step framework for designing a sustainable law firm that lets them take a holiday. Most people are keen to dive in with the whizz-bang technology or the online document sales, but I always bring them back to these 3 foundation blocks.
1. What’s your purpose?
If, like me, you’ve been to a few professional conferences in the last few years, you might feel tired of the “start with why” idea. I grew tired of listening to these talks, but that doesn’t mean I grew tired of the message.
Like I always say, if you’re going to redesign your business, you might as well make it one you love. So imagine what you want your life to look like and work back from there.
Spend some time working out your values, vision and “why”. This provides a valuable framework for you to assess future ideas against.
2. Adopt a designer’s mindset
Lawyers are taught to follow precedent. We write exams and are told to choose black or white, even when there are shades of grey; we talk about cases as being “won” or “lost”; and failure is frowned upon.
The designer’s mindset is different. It encourages a new way of looking at challenges:
- Observe, be curious and ask questions. Don’t blindly accept that “we’ve always done it that way.”
- Empathy is key. Seek to understand other people, not by making assumptions, but by engaging with them directly.
- Learn from failure. Use every opportunity to learn, experiment and grow from your mistakes.
- Seek feedback early and often.
- The big picture is just as important as the small details.
- Remain optimistic. Embrace the idea that there is a better solution out there.
3. That’s enough of you, it’s time for your customers
Now you’ve got yourself sorted, it’s time to let your customers take over. Put your customers at the heart of your business and anchor everything you do around them. Talk to your customers to truly understand their fears, frustrations, wants and aspirations. Design services that are solutions to their problems, which almost certainly means looking beyond the legal issues. Remember, lives aren’t lived in practice areas.
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” – Michael LeBoeuf, Author
Getting the foundations right
Getting these three things right will not only set you up for success, it will also make the rest of your transformation journey clearer.
Once your foundations are in place you can move on to your business strategy and to optimising your operations, but don’t skip this essential first step.