When I first began my law career, it was tempting to accept any and every case that walked through my door. After all, I was young and hadn’t built many client relationships.
I soon learned, however, that I had better results when I focused on the people who could benefit most from my legal counsel.
As a personal injury attorney, I wanted to help individuals who suffered harm through no fault of their own. However, putting up billboards or spending money on advertising to everyone in the Chicago area was not cost-effective.
When you decide to start your own law practice, you want reliable, scalable methods of getting clients. These five proven ways worked for me at the start of my career and continue to be effective at attracting cases.
#1. Digital and Traditional Networking
Building a network within your target industry is a savvy business move for all lawyers. It’s essential for solo attorneys. Whether it’s a virtual meeting or an after-hours social, business networking allows others to see you as an individual as well as an attorney.
Where to Start
Traditional networking focuses on community building. These opportunities include your local chamber of commerce, Rotary club, and others. Groups that require a membership or entry fee are more transactional.
You don’t want to mingle only with other lawyers, either. You will receive your share of referrals from other firms through the years, but as a fledgling lawyer, you want to cast as wide a net as possible for new clients.
Social Media & Online
- Facebook/Facebook Live
- Chamber of Commerce
- Community service and leadership programs (such as Rotary Clubs)
- Business Networking International (BNI)
A word of advice: don’t overcommit. Most organizations let you attend one or two events without a fee or membership. See which groups are a good fit for you before you join.
#2. Get a Customized Website
Consumers expect law firms to have a website to help them choose the right attorney. If you don’t have a website, get one. In today’s digital-obsessed world, solo attorneys with a professional website enjoy a distinct advantage over their competition.
Think of your website as a virtual office visit for potential cases. You want visitors to find everything they need, quickly and easily.
According to Entrepreneur, the best-performing websites contain these ten elements:
- Easy to remember and simple domain name; ideally, the name of your law firm
- Crisp homepage that explains who you are and the services you offer
- Well-designed site map so visitors can easily navigate
- Mobile-friendly design that is accessible for all users
- Secure hosting platform that protects you from hackers
- Readily available contact information
- Call to action, such as call or click for a consultation
- Client reviews or testimonials
- Fresh, timely content
- Basic use of SEO keywords (Search Engine Optimization)
#3. Create a Strong Return on Relationships
As business owners, solo attorneys often fixate on return on investment (ROI). They quantify success in the form of leads and cases or short-term results.
A return on relationships (ROR) helps you grow today, five years from now, and further down the line. You want to invest wisely in external marketing but don’t overlook the priceless value of building solid relationships.
One of the most important lessons I share with budding lawyers is never taking a client for granted. There are over 1.3 million practicing attorneys nationwide. The competition is fierce.
Your client base is an excellent source of referrals and future business. You can cultivate a strong return on these relationships by doing the following:
- Be the hero that solves their problem
- Exceed their expectations
- Return calls and emails promptly
- Keep them informed throughout their case
- Stay in touch
#4. Encourage Online Reviews
Positive online reviews are some of the best ways to get new clients. Over 90 percent of clients read online reviews before hiring an attorney. Google and Yelp reviews are today’s “word of mouth” that can boost a solo attorney’s reputation and brand.
List your firm on Google My Business, Yelp, Avvo, and Facebook so clients can leave online reviews. Make it easy to leave reviews with links on your website, emails, social media, and any marketing correspondence (such as e-newsletters).
How to Handle a Negative Online Review
Being open to online reviews may seem scary. Don’t focus on that. Rather focus on how you can navigate if you receive negative feedback.
Although Google and other online review sites try to weed out trolls or fictitious personas, it can happen.
Determine if the reviewer is an actual client or an individual who contacted your firm. If they are, respond to their negative review in a timely manner.
You can minimize the damage of a poor review by acknowledging the situation and apologizing publicly if necessary. Ask the reviewer to contact you privately if you feel they have a legitimate concern.
Most people know that even the highest-rated firms occasionally have a negative review by a disgruntled individual. Your prompt and polite reaction can put a positive spin on it.
#5. Use Social Media to Your Best Advantage
Your social media presence should be a positive and interactive experience. You can maintain professional decorum yet boost awareness with tasteful and timely posts.
You can finetune your social media according to gender, age, income level, and geographic area. Keep in mind, some social media networks will be a better fit for your firm, depending on what type of law you practice.
Which Social Media Platform Is Right for Your Firm?
Social media is a vital tool in your marketing strategy. You can present a more human image of your firm and, at the same time, drive viewers to your website.
Each social media platform has strengths and benefits to help your solo practice reach potential clients.
- Instagram is an image-based platform (graphics, videos, and pictures) that can help attorneys seem more approachable. The direct message (DM) feature is an excellent way to connect with prospects directly.
- LinkedIn remains one of the most popular online forums for lawyers and other businesses. You can post articles and videos that build credibility for your firm.
- Facebook (which also owns Instagram) has increased its features and benefits. You can post, upload videos, and conduct live streams about legal issues relevant to your target clients.
- Twitter helps you connect with journalists, publications, and the public. You can also participate in communities like #LawTwitter.
It takes time, patience, money, and faith to build a solo practice that is sustainable and enjoyable.
Along this journey, I’ve grown as an attorney and an individual in ways that I never thought possible. Yet I cannot imagine doing anything else or practicing another kind of law. I hope that these five ways of getting clients are as effective for you as they have been for me over the past 20 years.
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®.