The 4 Stages of Maturity of an Estate Planning Law Firm

From my years of being involved with estate and business law firms, I have concluded that there are 4 stages of maturity for any estate and business law firm:

  1. Launch – The issues associated with the launching of a solo practice include determinations relating to location, niche, equipment and initial staffing.  The peer group solution is not appropriate for the launch phase.  We suggest a 1 on 1 coaching relationship to excel in the launch.
  2. Primary Driver – All three major managerial functions of the law firm business (sales/marketing, finance/administration and production) are led by the ownership of the firm.  This requires time, energy and effort by the owner.  It is a necessary phase where the owner is controlling the growth of the firm, establishing processes and benchmarks.  The issues in this phase are particularly time intensive and short-cuts are welcome.  This is an excellent time to join a peer group so as to accelerate through the phase in the shortest possible time-frame.  You benefit by adopting policies, procedures and processes of others and modifying them to your desired parameters.  You are building out the sales/marketing, finance/administration and production aspects of your firm to your comfort all under the guidance of experience attorneys who have been there and done that.  This is a phase that you want to run through so that you have a real business and not just owning your job.
  3. Business operator – Begin to form a team so that one or more of the major managerial functions of the business are being led by someone other than the founder(s).  The objective in this phase is to refine policies, procedures and processes, institute key predictive indicators, dashboards, benchmarking against industry norms and engage in group strategic planning.   Many owners will choose to remain in this stage for an extended period as they enjoy leading one of the major functions of the business.  Peer to peer learning with facilitation from experience lawyers (not consultants or coaches who never practice law) is an excellent solution for improving efficiency, profitability, attaining better personal life balance and growing healthy revenue.  It also acts as a short cut if your desire is to move to an enterprise leader.
  4. Enterprise Leader – every major function of the business (sales/marketing, finance/administration and production) are led by employees of the firm reporting to owners.  The issues at this stage involve managing the firm by dashboards and other gauges.  You are assembling, training and guiding the management team to succeed you.  Your participation in the firm daily activities is determined by your preferences – 90% or more of what you do is enjoyable to you and the time and energy you spend on your practice is based upon your desired activity.  At this stage, you have a readily saleable law firm.  Peer to peer learning is an excellent solution for accelerating the migration to a true enterprise leader and working through the issues of empowering others, delegation and monitoring.  Succession and Exit are also areas of concern.  Succession involves passing the torch to other members of your firm and exit references a sale or retirement from the firm.  Preparing the firm for sale or retirement poses its own challenges and the peer to peer learning group provides a path for navigating this stage.

What stage is your law firm in? How can you get deeper within your stage or even move from one stage to the next? Email me for a discussion.

Published by Tom Fafinski

Thomas Fafinski is co-founder of EPiC and actively facilitates several of EPiC’s peer groups. He is an active estate planning and business law attorney with Virtus Law PLLC, specializing in planning for high-net-worth individuals and providing legal services to tech companies across the country and internationally. A frequently published contributor to national periodicals such as WealthCounsel Quarterly, Dakota County Tribune, Star Tribune and various newsletters, Tom has also been featured on Todd Rooker’s radio show “Cover your Assets,” and on multiple episodes of MSP Radio. He is a contributor and member of the national asset protection, tax and estate planning organization, WealthCounsel. He is admitted in State and Federal Court for Minnesota. Tom is an active real estate investor with commercial holdings with nearly $10M in holdings. Tom cherishes spending time with his family and extended family and enjoys reading mystery and suspense novels, golf, Mustangs of the ‘60s, his dogs (for the most part) and attending sporting events. He is also a die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan.

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