You have decided to take your practice to the next level with the intention of increasing both your client base and your income. The step you are about to take is an exciting one—but a move that can also have significant challenges.

Growing too fast or too far from ‘home’ can indeed result in not just risk but also the potential for liability. It will take the right plan, people, and processes to get you from here to there with as few compliance and risk pitfalls as possible.

Scaling Safely

At its most fundamental definition, the term ‘scaling’ refers to changing the size of something, whether it is scaling fonts on a word processor or scaling an architect’s model. In research as well as in a business setting, the term is a bit more refined, referring to a measured process of gaining in size according to rules, conventions, and other known factors. Then there is the other meaning of ‘climbing higher’ or
‘going to the next level’, as in scaling a cliff. Both notions apply to scaling your law practice, and to be successful in your scaling endeavor, you will need to follow proven steps executed in a particular order.

Which Path Up the Mountain?

One of the first questions to be asked as you lay out your plan will be: Can I increase client and work capacity on my own? Or will I need to hire associates to accomplish this? Staying solo is, of course, the more conservative route, certainly in terms of financial outlay, but staying solo and trying to do it all yourself raises the specter of early burn-out and significant life-work balance issues. One side of the argument posits, ‘I’ve brought it this far, and I can do even more’, while the other side cautions
‘without some assistance, I will not really be able to grow my dream.’ Different practitioners have different tolerances for workaholism versus charting the unknown financial risk  associated with staff and facilities acquisition.

Dual Goals, Not Just One

While the profit motive likely led you to undertake your scaling mission in the first place, a parallel goal must not be overlooked: improved service to your clients. Your reputation is everything, and if the quality of your legal service slips, it will not take long before your well-intentioned scaling becomes de facto sinking. So here are some valuable tips on how to improve the provision of legal
services to your clients as you grow your practice quantitatively:

  • Crafting a Mission Statement. A basic element of your scaling plan will be honestly assessing what you have to offer and to whom you wish to offer it. Have you always been a litigator but frankly prefer transactional work? Does the idea of helping to launch hi-tech start-ups thrill you more than continuing to fight the battles inherent in family law? Now is the time to assess where you have been and where you are going.
  • Process Mapping. Now that you have your goals, you will need to implement the processes for getting there. This will require you to address staffing, technology, location, and marketing factors. A look around you will tell you which attorneys are thriving in your market and what are the legal demands of your community. A small-town lawyer who can best serve his or her community as a general practitioner will require a very different map from the urban lawyer who must carve out a single niche, or perhaps a couple, to make a name for himself or herself.
  • Mobilizing an Online Presence. Being online is not just about social media exchange—although that is today a primary means of establishing a marketing presence—but also serves as a platform for everything from a first client meeting to client intake and follow-up communication. Your practice is no longer limited to the confines of an office, and to better serve your clients, you will have to become comfortable with technology as the point of meeting. A plethora of automated tools can be of enormous value in scaling your practice.

From Virtual Office to Virtual Staff

Even if you decide to expand as a solo practitioner—as opposed to bringing on associates or partners—you will still need a reliable support staff. Before you think in terms of employees and all of the expenses related thereto, think in terms of the ever-expanding pool of remote and virtual paralegal services available. Document preparation, filings, and office telephone reception can all be handled virtually by independent contractors who can be engaged on an as-needed basis. Even court appearances can be assigned for many routine matters to a lawyer who practices in providing just that type of legal service.

Out of State…But Not Out of Bounds

Today, it is not uncommon for lawyers to practice cross-jurisdictionally. However, scaling in such a manner, of course, raises compliance and regulatory issues. For example, can a lawyer who is licensed in Illinois, only advertises there, and only solicits clients there, nevertheless handle a local client’s matter over the border in Wisconsin? Teaming up with local counsel is one solution, but in some cases, there may be paralegals and other support personnel in the neighboring state who can undertake out-of-state routine tasks under the aegis of your office.

Check the laws of the neighboring jurisdiction to make sure you don’t cross the line without even crossing the border!

Responsible, compliant scaling requires, more than anything else, responsible planning. By following a proper outline for scaling your practice, you will achieve both quantitative and qualitative growth!

Executive Summary

The Issue

How to scale your practice to the next level?

The Gravamen

Being mindful of improved quality as a goal alongside improved revenue will maintain your reputation and reap bountiful attorney-client rewards.

The Path Forward

Follow a well-considered plan of action that considers where you have been and where you are going.


1. Assessment:

Assess yourself, your clientele, your community, and your competition before setting out to expand your practice.

2. Mission Statement:

What is your identity as a lawyer? What will scaling bring to your clients that you could not bring to them before, or how can you improve on what you have been providing to them?

3. Staffing your Dream:

With the assistance of your tax advisor, determine what is the best way to obtain the staffing services your expansion will require? Hiring associates? Partnering? Staying solo with virtual assistants?

4. The Plan:

You are not the first attorney to undertake the scaling of a law practice. Conventions already exist courtesy of those who have ‘been there, done that.’ Take full advantage of the many law practice scaling tools and forums that are out there in creating your own step-by-step plan for expansion.

Further Reading:

  1. compliance-program
  2. dollar-lawyer/

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