Legal Marketing

KPI 106: Planning for Law Firm Growth


Maturing competitive pressures mean excelling at today’s legal services and expertise areas will not remain enough. Leadership must take a future-focused role, actively monitoring key indicators on emerging growth opportunities as well as individual attorney development needs.

However, firm leaders must pursue sustainable, managed growth trajectories. Expanding legal business generation capacity without appropriately staffing up delivery and back office support functions risks deteriorating quality, variability, and abandoning overextended teams. Hence strategy must balance attorney rainmaking goals with operational readiness considerations like:

  • Paralegal and administrative headcount ratios mapped to revenueKPI 106: Planning for Law Firm Growth
  • IT system capacity ceilings per user
  • Client response time impact monitoring

To circumvent reactionary, rushed recruiting, maintain open job requisitions year-round for key law clerk and paralegal roles. Curate longer-term candidate pipelines enabling timely talent infusion keeping pace with demand. Star attorneys may hit accelerators, yet firm-wide success ultimately hinges on cohesive collaboration across groups.

Set Bold But Grounded Growth Goals

Well structured goals aim high but remain grounded by firm capabilities. Practice groups missing annual targets require Managing Partners and Chairs to re-evaluate viability given current staffing models, support roles, and fiscal budgets.

Conversely, continuously breezing past objectives likely signals growth ambitions set too modestly. The Strategy Committee should analyze and recommend stretching revenue, profitability, and expansion goals while balancing risks to culture and service quality.

Employ SMART Goal Frameworks

Leaders should leverage S.M.A.R.T goal principles when instituting attorney business development and practice advancement objectives:

  • Specific – Detail numeric book of business and relationship targets
  • Measurable – Establish quantifiable weekly sales activities
  • Achievable – Motivating but grounded in reality
  • Relevant – Aligned to firm’s 5-year strategic vision
  • Time-bound – Defined fiscal year deadlines

Evaluate Shortfalls Without Blame

If attorneys struggle meeting defined goals, mentors should have constructive exploratory discussions rather than rush to punitive measures. Examine skills coaching opportunities and whether expectations balanced individual workloads adequately before concluding deficiencies exist.

 Evaluate Attorney Growth Trajectory

Partners traditionally establish annual business development goals, though tracking intermittent progress tends to be lax. The Managing Partner owns consistency here, reviewing attorney advancement towards deliverables monthly with Department Heads or the Strategy Committee including:

  • New client acquisition totals
  • Total billed hours, realization rates
  • Progress expanding into new practices
  • Cross-selling success

For younger lawyers, evaluation circles incorporation of networking activities, writing submissions, and other strengths-building efforts. Verbally recognize those advancing quickly.

Case Example – Enhanced Goal Monitoring

Law firm leadership instituted quarterly attorney development reviews, leveraging CRM data on outreach activity and proposal status to complement financial metrics. A dashboard highlighted lawyers falling below 40% of planned progress to trigger one-on-one mentoring and training interventions early enough for course correction.

The rolling cycle and camaraderie around shared goals increased total case acquisition by 32% and average per attorney referrals by 44% in under a year.

Double Down on Emerging Practice Teams

While track records validate today’s most profitable practices will fund certainty for years, analyzing pockets of rapid growth signals where future demand heads. Finance provides monthly revenue intake, proposal volume, and talent utilization analyses by practice area, with YoY (Year over Year) comparisons. The Strategy Committee determines:

  • Marketing campaign support
  • Lateral attorney recruiting
  • Technology or other resource allocation

Getting behind hot areas early fosters authority. Size threshold should warrant focus. Outsize performance compels investment—even cannibalizing other groups temporarily.

Profound Pain: Witnessing Decades of Loyalty Drift to Rivals

Imagine the dismay Partner Lucy Liu felt receiving word from a General Counsel that their 20-year anchor client had quietly begun migrating cyber security matters to a niche competitor. How could the relationship seeming so sturdy, weathering ups and downs together, suddenly reveal hairline fractures without warning?

Internal inquiries uncovered the stark truth – their capabilities expanded into new specialties years before through quiet lateral hires, yet loud announcements heralding these new strengths to in-house teams somehow never followed.

Despite possessing the precise firm expertise coveted to navigate modern enterprises’ mounting information vulnerabilities, poor internal visibility left account managers unaware of potential cross-service synergies. Partners recriminated over how foundational institutional knowledge was now enriching an upstart, instead of deepening their ties.

Aggravating Awareness: Recognizing What They Didn’t Know They Didn’t Know

While individual attorneys immerse themselves perfecting legal craft, the narrowing specialization can foster knowledge silos invisible to themselves. How can one collaborate on synergies they don’t realize exist? What existing strengths fail to reach relevant colleagues or accounts where impact multiplies? How many more latent connections await activation?

As leadership reflected on additional accounts likely overlooking some of the firm’s expanded strengths into emerging areas like privacy and data regulations, apprehension grew. The thought of prized clients seeking outside counsel on new issues blind to in-house capabilities offered an agonizing revelation – they didn’t know the scope of what they didn’t know.

Systematic Solution: Illuminate + Connect

Recognizing the conundrum of internal visibility, the Executive Committee launched an initiative to illuminate and connect. Existing practice groups documented key talent additions, specialty certifications, publications, and matters demonstrating differentiated insights. Compiling the firm’s full array of legal firepower shone light across the entire organization.

Additionally, structured accountability formed between Client Relationship Leads and Practice Area Heads to jointly introduce advisors with relevance to strategic accounts. Quarterly reviews further safeguarded continuity in spotlighting ongoing emerging solution skill sets. Eliminating assumptions around known knowns while mining for dormant expertise unknown unknowns became vital rituals towards continuous coverage.

This institutional reflex towards progress over perfection offered the path forward – illuminated connections and communications demonstrating full-firm capabilities in anticipation of client needs. Anticipating client needs is crucial for delivering proactive solutions and fostering long-term relationships, as it demonstrates a deep understanding of their business challenges and positions you as a trusted advisor ahead of emerging trends.

Cultivate Cross-Practice Area Synergies

While attorneys focus deeply on excelling in their legal domains, additional firm value accompanies deliberately synergizing across specialty areas. The managing partner should monitor cross-department referrals, proposals, and new service bundles.

For example, an oil & gas regulation lawyer could identify environmental patent needs for a client. Making a warm introduction to the intellectual property group to develop emission-reducing technologies can lead to expanded firm scope.

Likewise, M&A partnerships advising private equity firms pursuing retail sector deals could benefit from early consultation with the employment and labor relations group to assess human capital considerations.

Proactively connecting complementary strengths across practice areas facilitates showcasing full service competencies. Consider formalizing referral processes and incentive structures favoring cross-department collaborations. such deliberate synergizing breaks down silos, advancing comprehensive client solutions.

While client project teams interact routinely as needed, additional firm value accompanies deliberately synergizing practice areas. The managing partner monitors:

  • Attendance and new ideas advanced from annual firm retreats
  • Number of cross-department proposals issued
  • Referral statistics between groups

Financially incentivize heads collaborating to alienate silo mentalities for the best client solutions. Structure partner reviews and lateral recruitment processes to balance individual rainmaking with organization building behaviors.

KPI Management FAQsKPI 106: Planning for Law Firm Growth

Q: What should trigger extra goal tracking for attorneys?

A: Missing consecutive targets, complaints around responsiveness, low submitted activity levels in CRM require intervention.


Planning future growth demands advance indicators on emerging practice teams, new market needs, and high potential junior lawyers. Dedicate resources explicitly to incubate new capabilities. Recognize leaders strengthening firm ecosystem synergies beyond personal production stats. Diligently nurturing organic growth drivers seeds sustainable momentum.

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