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how to grow a law firm

Growth Strategies for Law Firms: How to Use the STARS Framework

Growth strategies are vital to the ongoing success of your law firm, especially when you run a small law firm or medium-size law firm. However, most law schools don’t focus on the business of law, and it’s likely that you’ve never considered your approach to growth. After all, you’re busy practicing law and representing your clients.

There are several organic growth strategies and leadership strategies out there that can help you effectively evaluate your business. While many of them can help you grow your business, I would like to introduce you to the STARS model.

As a management leadership strategy, it helps lawyers determine their best course of action to move their firms forward, empowering them to align and realign their priorities and tactics. It is an incredibly flexible and powerful organic growth strategy that gives you the ability to make decisions based on the actual needs of your law firm and the goals you set.

What Is the STARS Framework?

First introduced in Michael D. Watkins’ best-selling book, The First 90 Days, Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, the STARS model helps law firms and other businesses assess moments of transition and build practical, customized solutions and strategies. In recent years, it has become one of the most powerful and popular growth strategy models and has been touted in the Harvard Business Review and The Economist. The STARS framework breaks down into five specific areas:

  • Start-up
  • Turnaround
  • Accelerated growth
  • Realignment
  • Sustaining success

The framework can be used at every stage of establishing, running, growing, and maintaining a law firm.

The 5 Phases of the STARS Framework

Whether you think that your practice has faltered or you’re joining a new firm as a partner, you can use the STARS model as a law firm growth strategy. Let’s look a little closer at each of the five phases of the STAR model.

Start-Up

If you’re just starting your law practice or launching a new venture, you have a lot to do. You’re busy putting together the necessary processes in place to serve your clients, identifying organic growth strategies to bring in more clients, considering when you should bring in someone such as a legal assistant to help you, and wondering whether you should invest in a physical office or hang your shingle virtually.

There are some key challenges if you’re in this start-up stage:

  • You might be building your practice and brand from nothing.
  • You may not have any sort of framework or business plan in place— or only have a very basic plan to launch your law firm.
  • You may need to make the best of limited resources.
  • You likely have a small team or are doing everything on your own.

While the start-up stage can be challenging and often scary, it also presents many opportunities.

You have the opportunity to make the right decisions from the beginning.

You’re excited about the possibilities and the opportunity of business ownership.

You’re not limited by the decisions someone else made for their law firm because you aren’t their employee.

This is your law firm. You get to make the decisions!

RELATED: What Does Law Firm Branding Really Mean?

Turnaround

If your law firm has stalled, if your employees seem to no longer care, or you’re burning out, the STARS model gives you the opportunity to turn everything around. This part of the framework presents its own challenges and opportunities.

Some of the challenges you may face depend on what brought you to this point. During this phase, you must be honest about the challenges that are involved so that your firm can embrace the proper growth and marketing strategies to reinvigorate your practice.

Some of the most common challenges include:

  • Unhappy employees
  • Feeling pressured to make decisions quickly to turn things around
  • Not having enough personnel to properly serve clients’ and potential clients’ needs
  • Taking on cases or clients that you do not want to handle or are ill-equipped to handle
  • Making difficult decisions to positively impact the law firm

Your opportunities include recognizing that this is your “light at the end of the tunnel.” You can do something positive to make a difference. You can gain momentum by recognizing that even just a little success will help propel you and your firm to the next success. In this way, the STARS model is a very powerful leadership strategy.

RELATED: How a Law Firm Split Affects Your Digital Marketing (and What to Do About It)

Realignment

Law firms need to realign to improve law firm performance for different reasons. Sometimes, the firm’s priorities have changed, ownership has changed, or some other major event has happened that affects the firm’s longevity. Other times, you or your employees might feel like law firm life is less exciting than it was. Even if everything hasn’t fallen off the rails, you’re not meeting your goals. Realignment can be challenging, but it also presents opportunities for you as well as for your staff.

One of the top challenges for law firms is dealing with a change in culture. You and your employees must believe that change is necessary, not just required. As a leadership strategy, realignment must be modeled. It cannot be a “do as I say, not as I do.” It may also require management changes in certain law firms, depending on the issues presented. This might even require replacing certain employees.

One of the opportunities presented here is that you and your employees get to realize that everyone wants to see themselves as successful. This is the law firm’s opportunity to help make that happen by realigning to focus on individual strengths to move the law firm forward!

Sustaining Success

Sustaining success is the goal of all law firms! If you’re in this stage, there are key challenges to address. Some of the challenges include making sure that you’re taking the right steps to embrace growth marketing strategies that continue to grow your law firm and doing what you can to avoid potential problems before they occur.

There are still opportunities to take advantage of when you’re successful. As your law firm grows and changes, you may find that there are things that do need to change so that your practice is more profitable and more productive (and so that your employees stay happy!).

How Law Firms Can Implement the STARS Framework and Grow Their Practices

The STARS framework is flexible because a law firm can start in whichever step they identify with and take personalized steps to maximize their growth. STARS framework implementation for law firms starts by deciding where your law firm is at within the model. Next, you must identify the challenges and issues your law firm faces. It is also important to find the opportunities. Then, it is time to explore the personalized solutions that can be implemented for your law firm.

At RJH Consulting, we understand that it can be difficult to identify the challenges, issues, and even the ideal solutions that small and medium-sized law firms face. With more than 60 years of experience implementing strategies to improve law firm performance.

About RJH Consulting

RJH Consulting and LaFleur have partnered together to help several law firms build their practices and reach their ideal clients. If you want to learn more about the STARS model and RJH Consulting’s customized solutions, please visit their website.

If you’re interested in how digital marketing can complement your overall growth strategy, contact the legal marketing at experts at LaFleur. You can complete our online form or call us at (888) 222-1512.

References

Watkins, Michael D. (2009, January). Picking the Right Transition Strategy. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/01/picking-the-right-transition-strategy