Whether you’ve started your own practice or joined an existing one, career success largely rides on one thing: Clients. More specifically, do you have enough clients and/or are you generating enough interest on behalf of your firm? Luckily, there are some things you can do to get the word out and the clients in.
Read on for a roundup of five tips aimed at helping lawyers get more clients.
1. Work your contacts.
As a law student, you probably heard over and over again about the importance of networking. Well, there’s no better time to start networking than when you’re a young lawyer just starting out in your career.
Amass all those business cards you’ve collected, including everyone from lawyers and judges to law school classmates and your parents’ friends, enter this information into a database, and send an announcement out about your new position. Avoid violating Rule 7.3 by making your announcement informatory in nature as opposed to solicitory.
2. Cultivate referral sources.
Your clients aren’t just your clients; they’re also valuable referral sources
Proposes web and marketing consultant Larry Bodine, “A lot of lawyers get most of their business from referrals, and that’s a wonderful thing, but the point is that it doesn’t just happen all by itself. The people who get these referrals are lawyers who cultivate them...Where I would start is with clients. Again, these are people that you're doing work for, but unless you tell them that they're supposed to send you new work and that you would welcome this new work, they won't know that they're supposed to do so. You actually have to tell them….Step two is you tell them what kind of work you're seeking. If you're doing a lot of commercial real estate transactions and they're sending you matrimonial cases, you haven't explained the kind of work that you're looking for."
Similarly, your circle of contacts aren’t just potential clients; they’re also potential referral sources. ABA Journal senior writer Stephanie Francis Ward suggests reaching out to three to five referral sources a week -- regardless of whether business is currently booming. This will help create a pipeline and heads off last-minute scrambling when things slow down.
Another effective way to generate referral sources? Blogging. Which brings us to #3.
3. Become a blogger.
Blogging is a simple yet significant way to assert your authority while simultaneously maximizing your marketing reach.
Criminal defense attorney Grant Bettencourt told Huffington Post, “A smart content strategy is an absolute must for reaching new clients. When people have a legal question or are worried about the fallout from an old DUI, immigration case, or felony conviction, they turn to Google for information. This is where content marketing can really prove invaluable. When legal practices publish engaging content that answers these questions, practices can raise their own profile and further establish themselves as a local leader on these hot issues.”
4. Keep networking.
We’ve already established the value of your networking efforts to date. Well, your work isn’t done yet. Ongoing networking can unearth new potential sources and referrals.
“Get active in a trade association, and get on the board of directors. You'll notice that I said, trade association, and not bar association. You should join an association of clients. You want to get in front of a room full of clients, people who can potentially hire you. You find out about these trade associations by asking your current clients what meetings they go to. Then it's a simple matter of saying, ‘I'd like to join you at the meeting. Would you introduce me to your friends?’ These friends, of course, are all potential clients for you,” continues Bettencourt.
If you’re a solo practitioner looking for clients, meanwhile, you may need to take more proactive measures. Recommends Victoria Pynchon, “Attend continuing legal education seminars and stay on top of the law in your field. One drawback of being a solo practitioner is not having the comradery of a law firm atmosphere. You can't just walk over to the associate next door and bounce ideas off him….To compensate, I started a monthly lunch group where I gather local estate planning attorneys (yes, my direct competition) to come together and talk about our pending cases….This helps me have a sounding board of my peers to discuss challenging cases. It also lets me stay on top of all the trends by knowing what others in my field as doing.”
5. Understand online tools.
While this tip may be more applicable to soup-to-nuts solo practitioners who are entirely responsible for generating their own leads, it’s an important one. Many different tools are available to help today’s law firms get noticed. These include everything from Google Adwords to custom landing pages. Just make sure you these efforts are measurable. After all, wouldn’t you rather invest your marketing budget into what you already know works?
And don’t underestimate the importance of law firm reviews! According to an iLawyerMarketing survey, a whopping 84 percent of respondents said they’d only hire firms with online ratings of four stars or higher. Don’t have any online reviews? That’s just as bad.
Are you a new lawyer or solo practitioner with experience to share on this subject? If so, please let us know your strategies for getting more clients in the comments below.