It's safe to say lawyers are always in demand.
However, you can’t rest on your laurels when rival firms are on your doorstep – you need a growth strategy to keep attracting clients.
When you’re busy building client relationships, moving into new territories, and gaining expertise, it’s tough to know the best steps to take next.
How do you plan for growth while keeping your head above water?
Our actionable step-by-step guide equips you with all the law firm growth and marketing strategies you need to build your firm, brand, and client base.
Read on to learn how to grow a law firm.
Growing a Law Firm: A 5-Step Approach Based on 19 Law Firm Growth Strategies
We’ve divided 19 law firm growth strategies into five specific steps, organized chronologically for your gradual, logical expansion:
- Set the foundations for a solid law firm growth strategy
- Become a client-centric law practice
- Boost your law firm’s operational efficiency
- Build a strong brand presence
- Measure your progress and stay agile
Let’s begin with the first step.
Law firm growth strategy step 1: Set the foundations for solid growth
The foundations of your growth strategy and competitive advantage rely on clear goal-setting and market analysis.
In step one, you establish the aim of your strategic planning, your target client base, and how you want to measure progress.
Planning law firm growth strategies for law firms: A summary of Step 1
|1. Establish clear and SMART objectives for your firm||Consider your strengths and realistic, achievable goals to build on them|
|2. Identify your target markets||Analyze your most frequent clients and make them your focus to drive revenue|
|3. Create a roadmap for the future and set KPIs to track||Keep yourself accountable with regular checkpoints based on tangible steps toward your goals|
1. Establish clear and SMART objectives for your firm
Start by setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals for business development. The SMART model helps you stay accountable while being realistic.
Here’s how it breaks down:
Be precise and straightforward so your goals are easier to reach.
Measurable goals enable tracking of progress, indicating when a goal has been completed.
Actionable goals guarantee the crucial steps are under your control.
Prevent unnecessary stress by ensuring that your goal is attainable and realistic.
Having a specific date to aim for keeps us driven and motivated, serving as a clear target to work towards.
Start with one or two goals to include in your rapid growth plan. A specific and measurable goal could be to grow your client base by 20% in the next year.
However, look at your current rate of intake. Is it achievable and realistic within the timescales you set and the resources you have?
Start by finding ways to increase your strengths rather than just improve your weaknesses.
The Washington State Bar suggests asking yourself the following questions to help set goals with strengths in mind:
- What are your firm’s greatest talents, and how can you make the most of them?
- Where do you find yourself wanting to help the most in your practice?
- What are the three biggest successes your law firm experienced in the past year, and what skills did you use to achieve them?
- Which existing clients do you prefer, and why? How can you reach more of them?
- What opportunities are you taking advantage of, and which are you avoiding?
Use your answers to grow a law firm with a SMART strategy. For example, if you want more custody cases, set a deadline to take on more of these new clients and decide how to measure your progress.
2. Identify your target markets
Focusing on specific groups of legal clients makes it easier to differentiate yourself from other law practices.
Again, consider the legal services and practice areas you offer.
Are you experienced in handling personal injury or custody law? Pool together your experience and carefully examine the cases you've handled in the past year.
You can also attend industry conferences to identify your target market and network with other lawyers.
Split your cases into demographics such as age, occupation, call drivers, and marital status. With demographic data, you can clearly understand the type of client who usually converts.
Going too broad means confusing your client base without reason.
Consider this example of a company moving toward a more concise client base.
An employment legal business working with a marketing agency identifies a high demand from clients seeking information on unfair dismissals. The agency analyzes this demand by researching the company’s target audience and its competitors.
Using this information, the law firm develops a content base that directly answers common questions about dismissal law, multiplying the site’s usual monthly traffic several times within just a year.
3. Create a roadmap for the future and set KPIs to track
Start breaking down the steps toward your goal using key performance indicators (KPIs).
KPIs are measurable checkpoints where you can monitor whether or not your firm is on track and learn what you might need to do next.
Let’s use our example of 20% client base growth. For this goal, you could create monthly increments and measure:
- The number of clients you’ve gained
- How many calls and leads have converted
- How many clients you retained
- The average cost per client acquisition
So, if your client retention rate is healthy from January to March, but your client gain and conversion rates are suffering, you might need to change your inbound marketing efforts.
Consider Wagners, a personal injury law firm based in Halifax, Canada, as an example.
Using data analytics, this law firm measured its online form submission to consultation ratio at an average of 8%.
Eager to understand more about this figure, Wagners then deep-dived into this KPI to find out which marketing channels were the most efficient sources of online leads.
The resulting analysis showed that local organic results (example below) and Google Ads outperformed the rest by an impressive 23%.
Based on this data, this Halifax-based law firm fine-tuned its marketing focus, prioritizing local search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising. These methods deliver the most leads and the best return on investment.
Law firm growth strategy step 2: Become a client-centric law practice
Offer positive, client-centric legal support is a strategic planning initiative that travels a long way by word of mouth and online reviews – and most importantly, it attracts new clients.
Putting your clients first: A summary of step 2
|4. Manage client relationships proactively||Prioritize client experience to increase retention chances and boost public reputation|
|5. Build a competitive and flexible fee structure||Keep pricing simple and versatile to attract customers with a range of different budgets|
|6. Leverage customer feedback||Use specific client feedback to identify problems you can fix immediately|
|7. Ask for reviews and referrals||Leverage client reviews to boost your online authority in the eyes of new customers|
4. Manage client relationships proactively
Always follow up quickly with transparent answers, avoid jargon that could confuse or frustrate future clients, and manage expectations about your legal services to improve client experience.
Start personalizing your legal advice – show genuine interest in what your client says and assure them of your impartiality and expertise.
Managing relationships proactively and with genuine interest tells your customers they're at the heart of what you do. That goes a long way to converting leads and promoting your firm by word of mouth.
Business developer Cynthia Sharpe recalls working with a marriage attorney who uses a five-step process to serve clients, manage relationships, and increase retention rates.
The attorney recommends:
- Making a great first impression – providing lots of detail and carefully confirming appointments
- Greeting clients in a friendly and professional manner, expressing appreciation
- Asking what information they need and how long they need to make a decision
- Under-promising and over-delivering on service
- Sending a letter to close the case and asking for feedback
5. Build a competitive and flexible fee structure
Many people appreciate fee flexibility and transparency from their legal professionals – they know hiring legal experts can be expensive.
Check what other law firms in your niche charge. Look at different packages and models – do competing firms charge billable hours at a flat rate or subscription-style basis?
Although conventional, billable hours are often complex to track and don’t consider work quality or effort. Therefore, many lawyers also use retainer and fixed-fee services.
This means you need to look carefully at the value of your service to clients. Consider the hours worked and expertise required, and tailor fees to your audience.
Be open to negotiating, but don't undersell yourself.
King & Jones, a firm practicing law in Chicago, offers clients two pricing choices:
- Contingency (no win, no fee)
- Blended (low hourly rates plus a contingency fee)
The firm uses contingency billing to support clients who might not have funds upfront and blended billing when significant work is required.
This strategy helps them cover various client cases without selling up short or losing their competitive edge.
6. Leverage customer feedback
Some of the best insight for your growth plan comes directly from clients.
Client feedback helps you find areas in your practice where your team might need more training or deeper product knowledge.
It also enables you to understand the niches you excel in and should focus on to reach the next checkpoints in your roadmap.
Ultimately, feedback is worth leveraging because it helps you streamline your client conversations and better serve your target audience.
For example, Grillo Law, a personal injury law firm based in Toronto, employed a lawyer fluent in Chinese to help translate important details for specific clients – but the company noticed more and more clients requesting a more accessible online experience.
So, after listening to this feedback, the law firm decided to create a Chinese version of its website and run Chinese language advertisements on Google and social media.
By translating its online resources, Grillo not only satisfied a growing need in their current client base but also boosted their acquisition efforts, increasing their website’s conversion rates by 12%.
7. Ask for reviews and referrals
Word of mouth is extremely powerful in the legal industry, as your practice revolves around trust.
However, always ask for client reviews and referrals when the time is right.
That is, once cases successfully conclude.
Have you just won a case for a client or helped them clear up a costly custody battle?
Ask for an online review via your Google Business Profile or website that you can show to prospective clients as proof of your business's legitimacy and expertise.
Positive reviews help remove the last bits of doubt prospects might have before calling you.
The psychology of law firm web design dictates you should include legitimate, traceable reviews to help make readers' minds up before they click back.
These work best at the bottom of a page because you back up all the claims you’ve already listed about your services. You’ve enticed the prospect. Now’s the time to close the deal.
For example, Grillo Law’s website makes great use of customer testimonials by hosting short video interviews with real clients toward the bottom of its main landing page.
Law firm growth strategy step 3: Boost your law firm’s operational efficiency
An ineffective law firm falls behind the competition fast.
In step three, you should focus on streamlining your hiring process, workload, and expenses. It's also a good point to build on your firm’s culture.
Streamlining for success: A summary of step 3
|8. Master your hiring process||Look for skill gaps and hire carefully to ensure you work with the best lawyers|
|9. Create an efficient internal working process||Break down where you spend the most time and spot opportunities for delegation|
|10. Build a strong company culture||Make your office somewhere people want to work – support your team’s needs to keep them productive and boost your reputation|
|11. Boost efficiency and cut costs with technology||Use tools such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce your team’s workload|
|12. Outsource to lighten the load||Consider hiring experts outside your firm who can handle aspects of your business that need time and specialist attention – e.g., web design and digital marketing|
8. Master your hiring process in the legal industry
Without the right team behind you, expanding is a struggle. Talented lawyers win cases and drive positive feedback and PR for your firm.
Look closely at gaps in your team and create clear job roles and responsibilities.
Use your team's professional networks. Ask the team for any lawyer or assistant referrals you can bring on short notice.
Use multiple channels when posting jobs online – consider building a social media presence via legal Instagram and Facebook pages to go along with adverts on professional job boards like The Lawyer Careers and TotallyLegal.
You can also use pre-employment tests to grade prospective hires on their skills, not just their experience. Review their resumes for qualifications, and let them prove themselves through online assessments.
TestGorilla, the skills assessments provider, helped Estrin Legal Staffing test and evaluate law experts.
The staffing firm used skill assessments to qualify high-quality candidates more efficiently, allowing them to make more placements for law firms within their usual timeframes.
9. Create an efficient internal working process
Without efficient systems, work becomes confusing, frustrating, and tedious.
Paperwork becomes difficult to find, casework slows down, clients get frustrated, and staff morale nosedives.
Start overhauling your internal efficiency one step at a time:
- Use a client relationship management (CRM) system and/or a call tracker to collect data and lay your processes out flat.
- Start tracking where you spend most of your time – billable hours, administration, and marketing.
- Create lists of priorities for each day and employee. Again, a CRM can help you manage data for this and assign workloads.
- Optimize your legal intake process with custom forms, automated workflows, and data tracking.
- Be prepared to delegate tasks within your team – make the most of their time and your own.
Peters, Johnson, Staley & Co., public accountants, recall working with a law firm that regularly managed its finances through spreadsheets and struggled to control its revenue growth.
The accountants set up a three-phase plan where the law firm moved bookkeeping to QuickBooks, which supports financial reporting and KPI checks.
Working with PJSC’s team led the company to boost profit margins by 15% within five years.
10. Build a strong company culture
You must foster and support the people winning your cases to keep your company growing.
A strong company culture retains the best employees, creates a positive work environment, boosts your appeal as an employer, and promotes you to prospective clients.
Make your law firm somewhere people want to work – communicate openly with your team. Encourage sharing knowledge and experience, and give your employees any necessary tools and support.
Help staff with their work-life balance. Be prepared to offer flexible working and wellness benefits to help them refresh and recharge.
Create opportunities for learning and development, and show your team you care about their careers.
Here are some further ideas to implement:
Enhancing Organizational Culture
Consider British law firm Osborne Clarke, which received recognition from industry players for its positive collaborative culture and atmosphere.
The company is well-known for looking after its staff’s mental health, which has reduced burnout and helped the firm continue growing with its net profits on an upward trajectory.
11. Boost efficiency and cut costs with technology
Technology should grow your firm’s strengths and help you improve the status quo for new and returning clients.
Law firm CRMs, such as Clio and Lawmatics, help you create specific projects and workflows.
Some tools have automation features for smaller administrative tasks like document generation, which lets your staff work on high-value tasks.
Use these to save time and money you’d otherwise waste handling such queries.
Artificial intelligence, or AI for lawyers, helps you further break down some of the more time-consuming tasks in your team's workload. You can use:
- ChatGPT to write letters and wills and explain complex topics
- ai to pre-screen calls, pre-qualify leads, and answer prospective client queries
- Diligen to review complex documents and find clauses
- Midjourney to design marketing graphics
AI Services For Lawyers
- writing letters
- explain complex topics
- pre-screen calls
- pre-qualify leads
- managing prospective client queries
- finding clauses
- reviewing complex documents
Ziegler Diamond Law used Smith.ai to help speed up its sales outreach to people completing forms online.
Using Zapier's work automation software as a bridge, the company converted 42 leads out of 342 in a month. It even had to take on an additional employee to cope with demand.
12. Outsource to lighten the load (especially for small law firms)
It’s a good idea to delegate to agencies and freelancers to help you handle specialized areas when you don’t have the time and skills to deal with them properly.
For instance, hiring a law firm marketing agency to handle your promotion, social media, and digital branding is far more efficient and cost-effective than carrying the burden yourself.
Kozyrev Law, a family and immigration lawyer serving Toronto and North York, employs dNOVO to handle its digital marketing with the goal of improving website conversions and boosting online visibility.
Rather than spend time and money tweaking SEO and Google Ad campaigns in-house, the company now relies on outsourced experts to deliver effective online lead generation campaigns and attract new customers.
The firm also depends on dNOVO’s web design experts to keep its website accessible, informative, and inspiring for visitors:
Law firm growth strategy step 4: Build brand awareness
In step four, we look at why investing in unique branding, data analytics, and market gaps is important when building a strong public presence.
Showing people who you are: A summary of step 4
|13. Invest in building a unique brand entity||Create a brand that’s professional yet different from the average to attract more potential clients|
|14. Leverage digital marketing channels||Be willing to advertise across different social media platforms and paid campaigns and get help from a marketing agency to attract more clients|
|15. Take a data-driven approach to marketing||Use client data to answer complex marketing questions and make more confident decisions|
|16. Find market gaps and build expertise in them||Look closely at emerging trends and ask clients about pain points to grow into a legal support niche|
13. Invest in building a unique brand entity
Don't be afraid to make your law firm brand stand out, especially if you’re a new business.
First, avoid the typical images of scales, courthouses, and Lady Justice in your law firm logo and brand design.
Keep your values core to your visual appeal, but consider whether or not your clients are looking for a laid-back, disruptive, yet professional firm or a company that’s traditional but highly experienced.
Making a law brand stand out isn’t simple if you’re new to marketing, which is why law firms look for agencies to help create visuals that embody the service they deliver.
Law firms, such as GDH Family Law, offer a unique, calming, and open brand entity to appeal to people needing help with sensitive private matters.
It’s invested in support to create a clean website design and a recognizable logo built around the idea that nothing matters more than family:
14. Leverage digital marketing channels
Law firms can qualify and build leads through various online platforms and channels – including search optimization, social media outreach, and paid local service ads¨(available in the US only, as of October 2023).
Always use a variety of channels to attract as many new leads as possible.
However, narrowing down the best marketing channels isn’t easy unless you know precisely where your converting customers are coming from.
You can build a strong brand for your law firm online by:
- Producing authority blog content
- Sharing relevant industry content
- Interacting with people on social media
- Emailing news to interested leads
- Optimizing your website’s SEO
Alberta Legal is a law firm that regularly publishes in-depth blog posts and guides to help attract people using search engines to find specific advice.
For instance, it has produced guides to drug trafficking laws, weapon classifications, and indecent exposure legislation for specific markets – in this case, Canada:
15. Take a data-driven approach to marketing
Rather than relying on assumptions, use data to inform your marketing and boost conversion rates.
Consider using law firm call tracking software to trace calls and measure which channels drive the most money.
This software generates unique numbers and tells you how many calls came from specific ads or channels. You can then dive into this data to determine how many people convert.
Data-driven marketing helps you make the most of your budget, so you can efficiently adjust where to place advertisements, which keywords to target through SEO, and which social media channels to focus on the most to drive paying clients.
Alberta Legal, for example, uses Lead Docket (a CRM) and CallRail (a call-tracking tool) to discover more about the channels that provided them with the most converting clients.
Adopting a data-driven approach to law marketing helped the firm boost its conversion rates by 12%, decrease retainer costs by 19%, and increase online marketing leads by 23%.
Increased conversion rate by segmenting calls to specialists
Decrease in cost per retainer
More leads attributed to online marketing campaigns
16. Find market gaps and build expertise in them
Focusing on the best market gaps helps you move ahead of your competition and ensure a steady flow of clients for your practice.
Keep your finger on the pulse of legal news in your specialty and any niches you already serve, and ask for client feedback. For instance, your clients might need guidance on a new local industry law in the construction sector.
You should consider using data to spot potential leads you might not be capitalizing on.
Many lawyers use a mixture of call tracking, CRM software, and agency SEO expertise to find the keywords that drive the most traffic to their websites.
This data could indicate market gaps that you can step into, potentially making you a trailblazer in your niche.
Take Roskilly & Mills as an example. This British law firm noticed a gap in the market for families affected by civil partnership law.
By building up expertise in cohabitation laws in the UK – which can differ from the country’s marriage legislation – the firm moved into an under-served family law niche.
Law firm growth strategy step 5: Measure your progress and stay agile
Much like other industries, the ever-evolving legal industry demands that you’re flexible and available on demand.
Therefore, keep your KPIs in check and be open-minded about change.
Maintaining that growth mindset: A summary of step 5
|17. Track your KPIs with analytics||Break down data regularly with software and measure your progress with objective information|
|18. Correct and adjust based on performance||Be willing to change your strategy if you’re struggling, and keep building a sustainable growth mindset even when things look positive|
|19. Adapt to industry changes||Help your team stay on top of business development, regularly retrain staff, and keep an open mind about emerging industry trends that you can pivot into|
17. Track your KPIs with analytics
Data analytics and visualizations help break down complex numbers and give insight into your performance on specific KPIs.
Let's look at an example KPI of satisfied clients.
Many firms use data from call tracking software and CRM dashboards to see how many paying clients they took on in a specific month and compare this data to how many clients they retained.
The net difference between the two is a growth figure you can track across as many checkpoints as you like.
Instead of manually recording client intake, data-driven law firms use an analytics dashboard to keep detailed tabs on this figure.
This enables them to see where they’re making the most progress – e.g., which legal niche and clients are the most profitable.
18. Correct and adjust based on performance
If your conversion rates are slowing down, look at your most profitable channels and double down on marketing campaigns there.
If feedback suggests your team is working on cases too slowly, consider training options and bringing in automation or AI to reduce unnecessary work.
Focus on the channels that are doing well and keep digging for niche practice areas where your potential clients need you the most.
Solitaire Consulting mentions an example of an ambitious African law firm committed to creating a culture of continuous improvement.
This firm, specialized in the intellectual property legal field, struggled to meet its revenue goals due to outdated systems and processes.
The consultancy made recommendations for monthly checks and amendments, which resulted in the law firm building a “culture of change” from the ground up. This resulted in improved KPIs and a willingness to continue measuring and improving its performance.
19. Adapt to industry changes
If you don’t adapt to industry changes, you risk being outpaced by competing firms with more expertise in trending areas.
Ensure your team is always learning and has access to the latest developments in your niche.
Consider setting up a knowledge base or using Slack channels where everyone can keep up-to-speed on the latest news.
Keep researching your competitors and network with other experts in the industry. Create online content that opens up discussions regarding significant changes in your niche, and pay attention to what people say.
For example, consider industry attitudes to AI – which at the time of writing are positive, though cautious:
Perceptions of ChatGPT and Generative AI in the Legal Field
Generative AI In Legal Tasks?
Generative AI To Legal Tasks Advisable?
Always prioritize a growth mindset and a willingness to adapt when needed. Adapt when trends start emerging – and course-correct if you have to in the short term.
For instance, Walter Law Group – a disability, personal injury, and employment law firm based in Mississauga, Canada – started using AI to simplify its processes in 2023.
The company uses ChatGPT’s generative AI in combination with tools from its legal tech stack to help automate and speed up some of its legal documentation production – enabling its lawyers to spend more time on value-adding activities rather than admin work.
Use Law Firm Growth Strategies and Start Moving in the Right Direction
The law firm strategic planning advice we explored in this guide is flexible and scalable to fit any practice's needs.
Whether you're starting out as a young criminal law firm or you’re struggling to increase your corporate law firm’s revenue, these tips can help you on your journey.
Growing a law firm looks different from one company to the next, but the key is to:
- Refocus your goals and plan ahead
- Place your clients at the heart of your practice
- Boost your working efficiency
- Drive more client conversions into your firm
- Measure your performance and commit to a mindset of continuous improvement
When it comes to building and finalizing law firm marketing strategy, also consider asking an expert to weigh in on your plans.
dNOVO is here to help you take these crucial growth steps and push your firm to the next level.
Law Firm Strategic Planning FAQs
Here are a few more points to consider when learning to grow a successful law firm, regardless of your practice area and the legal issues you address.
How can I set a solid foundation for my law firm growth strategy?
Use the SMART goal-setting method. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals to improve your customer journey.
Be realistic with your overall goals and set clear checkpoints to measure your progress over time.
Here’s how to start planning.
How do you create a marketing strategy for a law firm?
Start by setting clear goals and learning more about your target audience. Build a clear roadmap with checkpoints and consider which software and personnel you need to help you meet your targets.
Then, consider investing in your branding and internal culture to help drive customer interest.
Read more in our guide above.
What are law firm goals?
Typical law firm goals include boosting client conversion rates, growing customer bases, becoming authoritative in a particular niche, and improving case win rates.
However, law firm goals vary depending on industry, size, and target demographics.
How do I make my law firm stand out?
Focus on creating unique visual branding, leveraging social channels, and creating informative content people want to read and share.
You can get help on all three options by aligning your growing business with a leading law firm marketing agency.
Take a look at more branding tips in our guide above.
What is a strategic plan for a law firm?
A good strategic plan for a law firm involves setting clear, specific, realistic goals, measuring progress regularly, and using technology to help remove unnecessary obstacles.
Law firm strategic plans should invest in efficient talent acquisition, positive business development, and data-driven marketing.
At every stage of a strategic plan, measure your strengths and weaknesses and refocus your efforts – here’s some more information if you’re interested in learning more.