Seven Things Lawyers Should Do to Build a New Practice

Sep 4th, 2019 | Company News, Law Firm Marketing, Legal Marketing in Brief

A lawyer in her second year of practice decided to relocate to a new city, and build her practice from scratch. She called us asking for tips about business development priorities and direction.

While the discussion was with a younger lawyer, this advice applies to all lawyers no matter the stage of their careers. A key in continuing to build business, even in the best years of your practice, is to make sure you don’t get so buried in your work you forget to stay close to key contacts. Otherwise, some other enterprising lawyer will gain access to them.

Here are the principles:

  1. Have a website bio that includes a recent picture, if possible and within your jurisdiction’s applicable Rules communicates recent representative matters, and contact information.
  2. Focus not on developing relationships directly with potential clients but with referral sources, both attorneys and other professionals, with whom you share mutual targets. “Referred prospects are the least expensive leads you can obtain. And because they convert at such a high percentage, they are by far the lowest-cost client you will sign,” write Kara Prior and Jim Pawell in How Small Law Firms Can Obtain More Referrals, a 135-page must-read with templates for those with consumer-facing practices. High-end financial planners or insurance producers can send a steady stream of clients to an estate planning lawyer, for example. They are easier to find at the right moment than business owners and high net worth individuals. Such symbiotic relationships exist in most every practice area.
  3. Develop a niche, either in an industry or an area of law. You need to be known for something most other lawyers are not known for or cannot handle. An example of an industry is software development, an area of practice is representing liquor license holders. Generally speaking, once the client hires you for work in that niche they will give you most all of their work, making you their de facto general counsel. The niche is just your lead punch.
  4. Join a trade group or bar section. And attend its meetings religiously. If possible, get into the leadership. Ideally, the trade group aligns with your industry niche, say, your region’s Software Development Association, or area of practice, say, your area’s Tavern Operators Guild. That’s where you can meet suppliers, bankers and insurance people who specialize in the industry, those referral sources mentioned above.
  5. Create a database. Every potential referral source and trade group member has an email you can eventually obtain. Get them all. Keep building your list. Add all of your clients and their direct reports as your practice grows.
  6. Develop a content strategy. Write short articles about changes or trends in the law of interest to your niche or explaining key tenets of your area of practice. Forwarding a link and your comments about the EEOC’s annual report on its enforcement actions if you do employment law is an example of this. Another example, for an estate planner, is the importance of choosing the right guardian. Checklists are great, too. Send them out regularly, at least quarterly, and ask recipients to forward them to those who might find them of use. You will eventually think you are becoming repetitive with some of what you write and circulate. You will be. Your audience will be larger each time you write about a topic and many who received the first iteration of your content did not read it because they were busy, on vacation, etc. Use a blast email program to do this. (We have covered the tenets in this article many times before, but not quite in this way and certainly did not circulate them to anything close to my current mailing list. Keep in mind that good articles by others are worth sharing with your mailing list, too. Good marketers give credit to original authors and amplify what they say, as I did above.)
  7. Have a basic social media presence. Get on LinkedIn, create a profile in the third person, invite everyone you know professionally to be a Connection, and share your content there linking updates you post to your articles on your website. If you want to do this on Facebook, go ahead.

Do all of this no matter how busy you become. Get help doing it if needed. It will assure you remain “top of mind” with your contacts. Every lawyer we know who executes this seldom has days where they don’t have more than enough to do.

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