“Do you have a book of business?” That is the question you will hear most often if you want to move your legal career forward. Whether you are hanging out your own shingle, looking to make partner, seeking to move to a new job, or even working hard to remain partner at your current law firm, a strong group of regular clients, or a “book of business,” is the secret sauce for success.
Gone are the days of joining a firm as an associate, learning the ropes, and inheriting the firm’s clients over time. Gone are the days of hanging out a shingle and building a practice one client at a time. The practice of law, for better or worse, is no longer a scholarly profession. It is a business. And just like any other business, lawyers and firms need to leverage the services they provide to create a brand, and then market that brand effectively to beat the competition.
As any lawyer will tell you, a legal education bears very little resemblance to the actual practice of law. The same is true with regard to getting clients and building your book. So, let’s take a moment to discuss 10 ways in which you can find clients, build that book of business, and get the legal career you want.
1. An Online Presence – Optimized for Mobile
Having a website is a necessity if you want to be competitive, and it is the foundation of many of the other tips below. So, if you don’t already have a website – and a surprising number of law firms and solo practitioners still do not have one – get on the bandwagon as soon as possible. The marketplace is not in the downtown area of your city or borough. It is online. Potential clients looking for your services don’t check the yellow pages anymore. They run a Google search. Accordingly, a fundamental way to get client leads is to have a website that is professional looking, projects the vibe of your practice, and is easy to navigate.
If you are tech savvy, you can build one yourself. Most web hosting services even provide a web builder so you can create and maintain the site yourself. However, if you are intimidated by the notion of building your own website, then there are many services out there who can do it for you.
In addition, your website should be optimized for mobile. What does that mean? Simply put, your website should look good on both a desktop computer andon a cell phone or tablet. Approximately 95% of smartphone users search for local info on their phone. Make sure that your website looks good, and users can easily navigate it on a smartphone. It will be well worth the trouble.
2. Blogging to Draw People to Your Site
Beyond the usual contact information and a “who’s-who at the firm,” your website needs substantive content to draw potential clients to your site. Maintaining a blog, or several blogs, will help you do that.
Most people who need legal assistance will first try to find as much information about their issue for free. That means searching the web to get answers to their legal questions. With that in mind, you would be wise to come up with the types of questions and issues that clients might have in your particular practice area, and then write about them.
Your blog can have multiple marketing benefits. It gives some basic legal advice to people who may be searching for an attorney; it gives you the opportunity to show off your expertise in a practice area; and it allows you to draw in potential clients by reinforcing the need to hire a lawyer. If they are reading your blog, there is a greater likelihood they will pick up the phone to see if you can represent them.
3. Email Newsletters and Blasts
Keeping your name at the front of a prospect’s mind, while not being too intrusive, is the goal. Regular email newsletters to your database of prospects can accomplish that. Your email newsletter can be monthly or weekly, whatever pace you think results in the most prospects opening the email. The newsletter can give updates or changes at the firm, or interesting changes in the law in your area of practice.
If you are blogging consistently, then the email newsletter can provide updates to any new blogs added or any updates to existing blogs. Just remember – cater to your audience. Periodic email newsletters (or infrequent email blasts on a hot topic) should always be interesting to a potential client.
4. Free Guides Available for Download
Just like blogs on specific topics, providing website visitors a free downloadable guide is a great way to provide content while marketing your firm. Usually about 10 pages or so in length, downloadable guides can provide useful information such as “How to Draft a Will,” or “A Complete Guide to Obtaining a Trademark.” In exchange for the guide, you can capture a person’s email address, which can grow your prospects database.
5. Social Media Discussions
Another way to get your name and skill set in front of a lot of prospective clients at once is to host a social media discussion. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit are just a few platforms that allow you to have a discussion on various legal topics. There is substantial daily traffic on all of those platforms, giving you considerable exposure. The discussion will give you the opportunity to help people by providing some basic legal information, and establish a rapport with prospects who will be more inclined to seek your advice now that you have broken the ice.
6. Online Marketplaces
The latest trend that is gaining in popularity is the online marketplace. An online marketplace is a website that serves as a middleman connecting businesses and individuals who need legal services with lawyers in all types of business law practice areas. Websites like UpCounsel, LawKick, and RocketLawyer are easy to use and provide another path to reach potential clients.
All you need to do is set up a lawyer profile on the site, provide your background, areas of expertise, and an hourly rate. You are able to bid on projects posted by potential clients, and clients may invite you to interview for their job. Marketing is a numbers game. So, the more sites you are on, the more exposure you will have.
7. Q & A Websites
Question and answer websites, like Quora, give you a place to provide helpful answers to people who ask questions related to your practice area. Your answers are seen by not only the person asking, but also by any future visitors to the site looking for more information on a similar issue.
You can create a profile on most, if not all, Q & A websites. Your profile should connect up with your own website and other social media (e.g. Facebook) pages. It is easy to create an account for a site like Quora, and it is an informal way to again expand your presence online.
8. Networking Events
The first seven tips above are solely related to going after prospective clients online. That’s appropriate because online marketing is still a somewhat new animal, and there are many avenues through which you can bring more business to your firm. When it comes to using online tools to build a book of business, the only limit is your own creativity.
That said, there are still some in-person, or old-school, ways to attract prospective clients. And these methods still work.
Networking events are a tried and true method for getting name recognition in your field. Seek to join organizations that put you in contact with people who would likely need your services in your practice area. Without question, getting to know someone on a personal level will make it easier down the road for that person to trust you with a legal issue.
9. Referral Network with Other Professionals
Not only should you connect with groups that include people who are likely prospective clients, but also you would be wise to also join groups in related industries. For example, joining an organization of bankers, doctors, insurance managers, and other professionals, would allow you to meet people who have clients who may have legal issues. Your relationships with those professionals can lead to them referring you when their clients confront a legal problem.
The same goes for joining organizations of lawyers in other practice areas. If you are a tax attorney and you establish a rapport with a trademark attorney, the next time the trademark attorney’s client has a tax issue, you’ll get that referral. At some point, you’ll also be able to return the favor.
10. Word of Mouth
The final tip has to do with word of mouth – current clients referring you to new potential clients. At first blush, you might not think that you have control over what your clients say to their friends and family. That is not entirely true. The key here is that your work speaks for itself. You have some control over the buzz with regard to your practice by providing top-notch service. It may sound a bit idealistic, but at the end of the day the quality of the service you provide will, on some level, dictate future work.
In addition, you can expand the audience of people who can see positive feedback from your clients by asking clients to provide testimonials that you can put on your website, Facebook page, and other social media platforms. Your great work should not go unnoticed. Accordingly, encourage positive review of you and your firm, and make sure those reviews can be seen as part of your online presence. Check out this website for a little more info on word of mouth referrals.
So, be sure to be responsive and reliable for your clients. Make sure that you provide them with top quality work. Indeed, the service that you provide will do a great deal to sell your firm. All the marketing tools discussed here are great ways to improve that book of business, but never forget that the quality of the work you do also has substantial marketing value.
Finally, Try Out Different Strategies and Measure Their Impact
The coveted book of business, which is now the measure of value for a transactional or litigation attorney, defines much about an attorney’s career. Employing the 10 tips above will go a long way to establishing your presence in your practice area, and will help build the book of business you need to succeed.
There are many approaches available to you within each tip above. Also, no one tip is better than another. It would be a good strategy to try out different techniques to see which ones provide the best results in terms of prospective clients.
Don’t be afraid to try marketing techniques outside of your comfort zone. What is ultimately most important is determining which ones give you the best bang for your buck.
In that vein, with any strategy you try, you should be sure to measure the effectiveness of the strategy. Trying things without knowing the impact may end up with you simply spinning your wheels or spending too many resources in a place that does not yield good results.
Fortunately, the online tips above allow for concrete ways in which you can measure the impact of a marketing strategy. For example, with email newsletter marketing, it is very easy to see whether your content is reaching people in your database. There are services available to determine the number of email users who open your email, and how many times. Use those metrics to help you better tailor your marketing strategies in the future.
You can’t expect results right away, but as long as you are out there, interacting with potential clients either in person or online, it will begin to pay dividends. Before you realize, your hard work and targeting marketing will lead you to a thriving, successful law practice. Best of luck.