Because in this new age, we are all, always, looking for work
Editors Note: Although the title of this piece describes business development for lawyers, many of the techniques discussed can be used for professionals and job-seekers of all sorts.
Law is a business. Knowing how to market can mean the difference between living from paycheck to paycheck and having a profitable practice. These tips will give you an edge you need to succeed in the legal market place.
1) DO cater to a paying clientele base.
The first thing you must ask yourself is “who do I envision my clientele base to be?” Stick to 4 or 5 legal areas you want to cover and become an expert in one or two of them. For instance, if you wish to practice criminal law, but realize that defending criminals for misdemeanor offenses is not making much money, switch to the business side of it and represent small businesses, corporations and executives for white collar crime. If you enjoy doing personal injury work but find the Plaintiff’s side of the practice is not bringing in the revenue you want, switch to defending small businesses, department stores, shopping malls and other revenue generating outlets when they are sued.
2) DO have a professional website.
The most important thing for any business to have is a professional looking website. Law firms are no exceptions to this rule. An impressive website is a pivotal step for securing paying clients. A legal website should have: A) The practice area(s) of the firm, B) A blog that is updated regularly, if not daily, C) Testimonials, D) Success stories of past clients and E) Contact information. Bios and video content of the attorneys are great options too.
3) DO write legal topics. CONTENT IS KING!
Once a law firm creates a website, now what? Most firms just sit back and wait for clients to call. This strategy is known as “passive marketing”. This strategy never works. Instead, you need to take the initiative and generate content for your site. The more content a website has, the better your chances of landing near the top of website searches. Many attorneys may be hesitant, thinking this will be a time waster. But, you must think in your client’s shoes. They are going to wonder “why should I hire you when there are over 20,000+ other attorneys to choose from?” Blogging a topic a day—even if it is short, like 250 to 500 words—shows you are knowledgeable. As your writings accumulate, you will get noticed and new opportunities will arise.
Tip: the ABA model rules on professional responsibility prohibit solicitation, not advertisement. Sorry, no ambulance chasing please!
4) DO attend community events weekly.
Having a great website and content is great, but you also need to get your name out to the community. Attending events weekly will utilize your time far more than being tied up in court: you are networking and developing name recognition. There are many ways to become involved. Attending political events is good because many business owners and non-profits want to see their elected representative. You can call local offices and ask to be put on their list for upcoming functions and fundraisers. There are also meet up events that cater to businesses and tons of business networking events that happen every single day in major cities. All of these groups are constantly looking for new members and love lawyer involvement.
5) DO have matching business cards with your partners and staff.
It is an effective marketing strategy to have consistent business cards with the same layout. This includes the same title of the law firm, along with the same address and telephone numbers. This should be common sense, but I have seen businesses that do not have uniform messages on their business card. As a result, prospective clients do not know who they are dealing with. A lack of uniformity creates confusion, and this is not something that helps to generate business.
Tip: Experience is a major plus to put on a business card!
6) DO represent non-profits Pro Bono.
At these various meetings and events, you will inevitably run into people that run non-profits. Unlike regular businesses, they may not have the money to hire a law firm. This should be the only instance where the law firm works on a pro bono basis because representing non-profits can be a good opportunity to bring in new clients. You may also be able to satisfy your annual pro bono hours required by the bar. Have the firm represent the non-profit and, in return, they refer its members to your law firm should they need legal assistance. The members are the ones that pay in full.
Warning: Research the non-profit before the firm officially represents them. Do they have members? If the non-profit is new, you have to think about whether it has potential. Reject the ones that seem to be floundering and don’t have a sizeable membership base.
7) DO meet clientele outside of the office.
Many law firms want clients to come to the office and, in most cases, this is appropriate. Sometimes, however, it is also best to meet the client outside of the office, which may end up being beneficial to both parties. Take them out to lunch, take them out to dinner or take them to an entertainment venue, like a baseball game. Some law firms even go to the client’s home so they do not have to travel.
Warning: Going to a client’s home may not be suitable in some cases. Use discretion, caution and professional judgment when implementing this practice.
9) DO make friends with the adversary attorney.
Many attorneys grow accustomed to disliking the adversary. Let’s face it, who likes people that consistently are ‘against’ us? Despite this, you should always make friends with opposing counsel for several reasons. The first reason is simple: they can help you out down the line. This help is not just in business, but in your personal life as well. The second reason is professional courtesy: you want to develop a great reputation among your colleagues. The best way to do this is to have an adversarial attorney tell his or her associates what a great person you are to work with. A great reputation is paramount when generating business. Remember: the client’s needs are temporary, but you may be seeing this attorney for years to come. It is best to make a friend, rather than an enemy.
Tip: An attorney can zealously represent the client while maintaining good relations with opposing counsel.
10) DO NOT give fee discounts, even to friends. You get what you pay for.
It may be tempting to give a business, or even an individual, a discount when they give some story as to why they are down on their luck. While I greatly emphasize with their plight, you have to make a living too. The ABA recognizes downtrodden clients, which is why there are Public Defender Offices and Legal Aid Societies. They also recognize, and encourage, clients to take out loans or sell property that will cover the cost of securing legal help. Your work and experiences are valuable, and should continue to be perceived that way by society. You must charge what the going rate is to all clients that walk through the door.
Tip: If there is a question what to charge people, DO leave a sheet for your staff that explains what the going market rate is. The staff will have to stick to those rates. Should someone simply not be able to afford those rates, the firm can explain to them why it will be useful to either borrow the money or sell some of their assets and save money—or freedom—in the long-term. Should they still cannot afford the rates, the firm can then refer them to an affiliate.
Remember: paying clients want to see they are getting their money’s worth. It is never worth it to skimp out on marketing.
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