Anywhere. Everywhere. That’s Where You’ll Find Me.
When I was first considering solo practice, one of my main struggles was choosing a location. At the time, I lived in the New York City area but my husband and I had been talking about moving to a warmer climate for some time. Couple that with my obsession with traveling (I’m talking two months in Thailand travel not 5 days in the Caribbean travel!) and I had a hard time choosing just one place to build a practice permanently. I hadn’t quite found The Place where I could be comfortable settling down for a long period of time.
Then I discovered the virtual law office (hurrah!). Realizing that I could have an online-based, location-independent practice sent me over the moon! Not having to choose one place to settle down and not having to give up my love for travel meant the virtual law office was the only way to go. At the time, I had been reading Jay Foonberg’s How to Start & Build a Law Practice religiously, every night; it resided on my nightstand and sometimes I took it to work with me to read during lunchtime. However, there wasn’t much information about virtual law offices because it was fairly new and just beginning to be used and adopted by lawyers. I read every article I could find on the internet but I needed the nitty, gritty details. I needed to know, does this thing actually work?
So what’s a girl to do? I had discovered this amazing tool and needed to know everything single thing about it but there were little to no resources with the information I needed. So I did what every self-respecting researcher does when books and blogs don’t cut it – cyber stalking. Yes, that’s right, I used the internet to find every lawyer who was using a virtual law office and either called them up or sent an email asking about how running a virtual law office was working for them.
Enter the Virtual Law Office…. but Does It Work?
Surprisingly, lawyers are not the mean and nasty bunch you might have thought they were! Every single attorney I contacted not only got in touch and gave me lots of information, they all seemed pretty eager to discuss this new-fangled technology. The attorneys were young and old, some had US-based practices while living in Canada, others had dreams of practicing law from a Caribbean island and all of them were struggling to make their virtual law offices successful. Their main complaint was that they were struggling to obtain clients. Even a long term, successful, brick and mortar law office with an integrated Virtual Law Office was having trouble getting clients. (Insert sad face).
Not so fast! Do I look like a girl who gives up the vision of her dream lifestyle so easily? Absolutely not! So I put together the common factors that virtual law offices were struggling with and started researching what I could do differently. And I did just that. I threw caution to the wind, set up a virtual law practice and now have new potential clients registering for my online-based practice every week. Not only that, but many of them have never had any direct contact with me prior to registering.
Making the Virtual Law Office Work For Me
So I know that all of you rebellious, freedom-fighting, non-location wanting and low-overhead-loving folks want to know – how did I make it work for me? Here are the key factors that have worked for me. I hope they will help you in determining whether an online-based law practice is for you.
1. Choose a Niche: I’ve written previously about the importance of choosing an oh-so-narrow niche of law to practice. This really works wonders for marketing and it gets your narrow client base super excited about working with you. I find it to be essential to a Virtual Law Office. Its been said before but I’ll say it again: trying to appeal to everyone means you appeal to no one. This was a key that I discovered in my rudimentary survey. Almost every VLO lawyer I talked to was covering several different practice areas on their VLO. My niche is business law for Gen Y entrepreneurs. Yes, I made that up. I have found that my niche loves working with me because I relate to them (since I am a Gen Y entrepreneur myself) and they also are a really technology focused bunch which means that they are very comfortable using technology to conduct their legal business. (But don’t believe the hype! I’ve heard that many older generations are using technology just as much, if not more, than us young folks. So don’t let having an older client base scare you away from having a VLO or having it in addition to your brick and mortar practice).
2. Killer Website (Part 1): This does not mean you have to spend $10,000 on a new website. My initial investment in my website was around $600 (that includes $300 for a logo), a whole lotta time and a whole lotta love. With wordpress and designer themes you could probably do it for even less. I have made lots of upgrades to my site but I still haven’t even spent $2,000 (that’s the initial investment plus upgrades) on it yet. A nicely designed website is great but that is not really what makes it killer.
What makes your website killer is engagement. Your website needs to be something to do not just something to read.
Regularly updated blog articles relevant to your client base, a monthly newsletter or free resource that client’s can sign up for and even a welcome video are great additions that will allow you to connect with potential clients.
3. Killer Website (Part 2): Nice design is key but information is even key-er (that’s not a word but it fits so I’m going with it!). Detailed information about who you are (and not just your boring bio, add some personality!), what type of services you offer, how you offer such services, how the virtual law office technology that you use works and your fees are critical pieces of information that clients want to know. And often they want to know this before they are willing to contact you. All of this information should be on your website in an easy to find place for your potential clients.
4. Flat Fees: Yes, its true. I have drunk the Koolaid. I use flat fees in my practice and I also include information about where pricing for my services start on my VLO. I could give you a whole lecture about it but Jay Shepherd already has. Just know that when signing up for services online, client’s want at least an estimate of your pricing before they engage. They don’t want to spend time connecting with you only to be quoted a fee that is far too much. And hourly rates do not reveal your pricing. Telling me your fees are $325 per hour does not at all inform me of how much money I am going to have to part with to work with you. In my opinion, flat fees are essential to a successful VLO.
5. Market, Market, Market. If you want online-based clients for your VLO, you have to go where they are and let them know you exist.
Most clients aren’t going to do a Google search for a VLO in their town. This was another key misstep of struggling VLO’s. They just assumed if they put the website up, clients would come. No, they will not. You must go out and find them.
The way I have done this is by having a strong social media presence; to learn my social media formula check out this video. In addition, to social media, I create free content for my client base both on my blog, on two columns I write (this is one of them) and by guest posting on sites that my clients frequent. I have also enjoyed a decent amount of press and get asked to be interviewed or be a resource for other content-creators pretty regularly. The point is that my clients see me online all the time and practically everywhere they go (okay, not nearly everywhere but you get my point) which allows me to stay on their minds so they think of me when they have legal needs. And it all starts with an engaging social media presence.
So there you have it, folks. This list is how I have established a location-independent, online-based practice. Any questions?
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.