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Jason Shindler Posted by Jason Shindler on March 23, 2020

How Your Law Firm Can Make it through a Pandemic

How Your Law Firm Can Make it through a Pandemic

Law Firm Tips For Uncertain Times

If I were writing that headline even just a few weeks ago, I don’t think a lot of people would read it or take it seriously. After all, would you read “How your law firm can make it through … a meteor, a tsunami, or a volcano”? Probably not. But here we are, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we are all having to scramble to figure out how this will impact our businesses and what steps need to be taken.

As a Digital Strategist with experience helping many different firms over the past 20 years (and even a year working directly for one), I have worked in many different environments and with many different types of law. While I have never been through a pandemic, I have seen how law firms make decisions and weather crises.

First, before you can look at how this impacts your firm, you need to take a deep breath. Maybe several deep breaths. You can’t make good decisions on what’s next if you are personally panicking. Your clients, your employees, and your future clients are relying on you to make the right decisions and you need a clear head to decide what’s next.

Remember That We've Been Here Before

This isn’t the first economic, medical or financial crisis. The so-called “Spanish flu” killed tens of millions in 1918-1920. The Stock Market crashed 90% 1929-1932. The terrorist attacks of 2001 disrupted air travel for weeks and reset security expectations around the world. Every time these panics occur, we emerge as a country stronger than before. Remember the last 10 years of growth? It happened after a serious recession. Take all of this into account when considering the future and remember we will make it.

Assess Your Business

Next, take a look at your business. What kind of law do you specialize in? Some law specialties will be more impacted than others. Some will even thrive in this environment. Some will be hit hard. Look at who your clients are and consider how they will be impacted both short and long term.

Say you own a bankruptcy focused firm. Congratulations, your business is counter-cyclical, which means it does well when others don’t. While no one is calling today, your business (unfortunately and fortunately) will be very busy soon. It would make sense to go through this checklist to prepare for what’s coming:

  • Is your marketing up to date? A firm’s website and online listings are the first stop for many potential clients and referral sources. If the website is glitchy, not designed properly, or your addresses in online directories are incorrect, you are slowing down or stopping a potential client from contacting you. At efelle, we use tools like SEMRush, GTMetrix, and Google PageSpeed to help assess a site and make recommendations on what can be done to make a website better. Ask us for a free consultation if you are interested in learning more. 

  • Is your client experience up to date? Once a client calls you, they usually come in for a meeting. After the virus is over, clients will return to in-person meetings. Does your physical space look up to date? Is your intake process dialed in? This is the moment to prepare.

  • Are there smart ways to help get the word out about your business? Teaching classes to other lawyers can be a great way to get referrals. Direct advertising in some law practices but not all. 

Most law firms will not be in counter-cyclical businesses. They will be in specialties that will be directly impacted by any downturn. Business law, Real Estate Law, even Personal Injury will be affected, at least in the short term. Here’s a checklist of items to consider for most law firms in these times.

  • Is your marketing up to date? Every lead that comes in the door is even more important than it was before. During a downturn, you need to convert more leads into clients. So any gaps in the content on your website should be addressed. You can fill in these gaps by hiring a copywriter or to save money, use your own staff. 

  • Scrutinize your marketing expenses, but don’t just cut them. Many lawyers throw money at marketing when business is good with little accountability, and take it all away when business is bad. Of course, you need the business more when things are tight, so that’s not a good idea. Look for data to back up your decisions. You spend $20,000 on that yellow pages ad (really? It is 2020!?), but what do you actually get from it? Can you measure it? What is the Return on Investment? So you spend $20,000 and get $500,000 in business from it when business is good. That’s the marketing you keep.  You spend $20,000 on that billboard and you can’t attribute any sales to it, that’s the money you cut or reallocate.

  • Be sure your space and staff match your needs in this challenging time. A typical law firm spends 65% on payroll expenses and 6-7% on rent. That’s more than 70% of your expenses between these two things -- if you need to make changes, that’s the place to start looking -- as painful as it is.

All that being said, it may feel like an uncertain time for many - and it is - but remember we've been through similar things before and we can get through this again. If you'd like a free consultation about your next best move, feel free to reach out to our team at [email protected]