You can spend a lot of money on legal marketing, but you don’t need to. Nor do you have to be naturally outgoing or charming. What is necessary for good business development, say successful lawyers and consultants who shared their strategies with the ABA Journal, is a marketing plan focused on activities you do well, targeted at the right audience and carried out consistently.
We say that “lawyers and consultants” is a dubious description because it contains this thing called “consultants” who probably know jack shit about actually building a legal practice. Not that we know much more about it here, but we do know a lot about knowing jack shit, so in that capacity we’re freaking experts. So here you have it, the ABA Journal’s 50 Simple Ways You Can Market Your Practice – Annotated Edition.
1.) Some lawyers believe that if you do good work, people will automatically come to you. They are wrong. People need reminders.
“People need reminders” isn’t a way to market. And if you do good work, your clients will tell other people for you, so yeah, sometimes people will automatically come to you, or at least without you doing any additional marketing. Plus your clients will come back to you, and it’s not like you care much about the number of clients, it’s the volume of work that matters.
2.) Contact three to five potential referral sources a week—every week, regardless of how busy you are—and arrange to meet for coffee, drinks or a meal. That works much better than reaching out only when business is slow.
That’s 156 to 260 potential referral sources per year. Assuming a modest price tag of $35 per meal (if you invite them, you should pick up the check) you’re looking at upwards of $9,100 in wine-and-dine expenses. Not to mention the 260 or so hours spent contacting those people, and the 700+ hours actually meeting with them. You’ve got nine grand and a thousand hours to burn though, right?
3.) At business receptions, ask organizers whether you can be a greeter. This gives you a great reason to introduce yourself to people.
It also guarantees that you’ll never have the sort of extended conversation necessary to start a real relationship with anyone. If you’re at a business reception and need a reason to introduce yourself, how about you’re at a business reception? The entire point is to meet people.
4.) If you have a practice-related blog, write posts with information that’s truly useful to business targets. More often than not, that doesn’t include descriptions of how competent you or your firm are.
Show, Don’t Tell. A Rich Man Doesn’t Have to Say He’s Rich. Win Through Action, Never Through Argument. It’s good advice, but if you haven’t yet figured out that you convince people you’re competent by showing competence rather than saying it, you’re in trouble, because as a lawyer you’re in the business of persuasion and demonstrating that you are an abject failure at it.
5.) Your firm’s holiday card is probably one of many that clients or potential clients receive. Find another holiday (or make one up) that you enjoy and that complements your practice. Separating yourself from other, similar messages is of real value.
Nothing signals competence like an office so slow the staff have nothing to do but invent holidays.
6.) Think hard about who your target market is, and where the decision-makers are in that market.
If you believe that “think hard” is a marketing strategy, you probably also believe in The Secret. Good luck with that.
7.) When you meet a potential client, focus on his or her immediate needs. It may have nothing to do with your practice. Maybe that person’s immediate need is to find a dentist. If you know one and can connect them, there’s a better chance the person will think of you when services you offer are needed.
If when you meet someone the services you offer aren’t needed, then that person isn’t really a potential client. They’re just a person.
8.) Organize a monthly dinner group of law school classmates, varying the practice areas so attendees have greater referral opportunities.
If you vary the practice areas, aren’t you going to cut yourself out of most of the dinners?
9.) Develop a marketing plan around activities you enjoy. If you like to write, think about an electronic newsletter. If you connect better with people one on one, consider volunteer work with an activity that complements your practice.
There’s no reason that your work should be limited to ruining the 60-80 hours a week you’re in the office. Let it completely dominate all aspects of your life.
10.) Focus on good lawyers who are your contemporaries when thinking about potential referral sources. More experienced lawyers already have people to whom they refer cases.
So if you are an experienced lawyer, then you likely already have people referring cases to you. That would mean this advice is aimed at younger lawyers, telling them to seek out other younger lawyers as referral sources. That’s like the legal marketing equivalent of a sausage fest.
11.) Don’t adopt a false marketing persona. Be yourself, and figure out the best way to present yourself in a way you find appealing.
Great advice, unless of course your self sucks, and if you’re having trouble marketing yourself there’s a really good chance this is the case.
12.) You don’t need to hand a business card to everyone you meet at a reception if it feels forced and desperate. Instead, get other people’s cards, and email your contact information afterward. There’s a better chance they will remember you.
Asking for someone else’s card is inherently more desperate than giving them your card. Compare “Here, you can call me if you want, it’s entirely up to you,” with “I need people to rope into lunch three-to-five times a week, so puhleeeeze let me call you!”
13.) Providing they label it attorney advertising, personal injury lawyers may send ad letters to accident victims. And arrest reports can offer good leads for criminal defense lawyers. Family law attorneys may send advertising letters to pro se defendants in divorce cases, determining who to contact based on parties’ ZIP codes.
This used to seem creepy, but in light of all the news coming out about the NSA, clients probably won’t bat an eye at an unsolicited letter from a lawyer who somehow knows the intimate details of their life.
14.) If you hope to be hired for an appeal, read all the briefs as well as related cases, and figure out the case’s arguments. Be prepared to speak with the party about the case—without notes—for one hour.
Woah, woah, WOAH! You’re saying if I want to handle an appeal I should be familiar with the case? Can we get a second opinion here? I’m not sure about this.
15.) Posting tweets between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern time gets the highest click rate, according to Mashable. You can schedule tweets to be posted by services like HootSuite. But be careful if you have work during those scheduled times. You don’t want a client to think you are tweeting while you’re defending a deposition.
Excellent strategy for increasing the amount of blog traffic you get from legal social media marketing guru drones, but what about clients?
16.) Criminal defense lawyers: If an attorney in a different practice area has been a great referral source and their kid gets into trouble, think about handling the case for free.
Have you considered kickbacks?
17.) People sometimes need to be convinced that their legal problem is severe enough to hire you, and it’s up to you to persuade them. That said, turning someone away when they really don’t need a lawyer is good for business, too. It’s a good way to build trust.
Turning away someone who shouldn’t be wasting their money on you is just the decent thing to do, but it isn’t a marketing strategy given that the person you turned away is likely to need a lawyer an average of around zero times. As for that person referring you to their friends? Slim chance they’ll refer the lawyer who refused to help them.
18.) Attend bar association events. Lawyers only refer cases to people they know; and if they don’t see you, they won’t think of you.
Be sure to attend the evening events when the lawyers are typically seeing double. Twice the exposure means twice the referrals.
19.) Install Google Analytics on your website. It details what search terms got people to your site and how long they stayed there. You can also use it to determine popular search terms, and put the terms that relate to your practice on your website.
Congratulations on your new iPhone 5 practice.
20.) Volunteer with various legal and community groups. Do the volunteer work to the best of your ability, even if you don’t like it.
So you’re saying that kicking the dogs at the animal shelter is a bad idea?
21.) End a conversation with someone at a networking event after you finish a statement, rather than when they finish one, so they won’t think you’re cutting them off.
If they’ve finished their statement, they won’t feel like they’re being cut off. That’s what finishing means.
22.) If you want to represent a business with a legal department, your job is to make in-house counsel’s job easier.
So quit your practice and apply for a junior in-house position.
23.) The best elevator speech? “Hi, I’m a lawyer. What do you do?”
This is nearly as bad as “Have you heard the good word?”
24.) Speak at a continuing legal education seminar only when you think it’s an interesting one that will be well-attended.
Because speaking to small groups is beneath you.
25.) Don’t buy a table at an event. Instead, buy seats at different tables so you can spread out and meet more people.
It’s even more fun to do this on airplanes.
26.) If you are out consistently, meeting with people and doing outreach, you can be successful. There may be days you don’t feel like doing it, but consistency is key.
On the other hand, if you’re staying in the office consistently, with no one but yourself and some crusty old judicial opinions, you can be successful at your freaking job.
27.) If you have a website (and you should), have a blog, too. Add new content daily, because Google algorithms give more prominence to sites with fresh, original content. The content doesn’t have to be in the form of a long, researched post. A paragraph or two, with a recent link to something interesting and relevant to your practice, will get you the same amount of traffic—if not more—than longer posts.
Quality, yeah, yeah, I hear you, but have you considered crap instead?
28.) Don’t limit networking to in-house counsel, especially at bar events. You never know who someone in private practice knows—or when they will go in-house.
But if you do realize that someone is happy at their firm and unlikely to ever go in-house, don’t waste your time talking to him. Personal connections are in themselves worthless, and only have value when they can lead to more money.
29.) Take time once a week to write LinkedIn endorsements for people you’ve worked with and respect. Don’t wait for them to ask for one; do it on your own.
The hell is LinkedIn?
30.) A reputation as a stand-up person is the best marketing tool. It takes a whole lifetime to build up that reputation and only one negative incident to destroy it.
Just look at Michael Richards.
31.) Join bar associations that welcome you, not those that are closed clubs.
Don’t join groups that won’t let you join. Gotcha.
32.) Before meeting someone you’d like to have as a client, research their business on the federal case site Pacer to get a better sense of potential legal needs. Also, read quarterly reports, check out websites and do a Google News search to see what stories have been published about the business.
If you’re getting marketing tips from the ABA Journal, what are the odds your potential clients are involved in federal cases, or anything that makes it on to Google News?
33.) Never criticize a company by name in a blog post. You never know when that company might be in a position to hire you.
Unless it’s a Fortune 500 company, because come on, they’re not hiring you.
34.) Market the work you’d like to be doing, not the work you have to do to pay the bills.
Unless of course, you do actually have to pay the bills this month.
35.) Have an office that’s convenient to reach. Being near the courthouse may not be the best place because there’s rarely free parking.
For this reason you should also not locate your office in New York City, Washington DC, or the downtown areas of Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles or really any major market. Consider moving to rural Kansas where there is lots of free parking and clients can drive 90mph to reach your office quickly.
36.) Read your city’s business publications to get a better sense of legal needs that are not being met, as well as future areas for which people will need counsel.
Other than the Wall Street Journal and some of LA’s entertainment industry rags, does any city even have business publications?
37.) Go to events to give, rather than to get.
You can be the guy who sets up his own snack table next to the buffet. But only if you’re not busy being a greeter.
38.) If your community offers free classes, think about volunteering to teach one in an area that complements your practice.
But only if it’s interesting and well attended.
39.) Join groups that have few lawyer members.
Such as Doctors Without Borders.
40.) Handing out items with your business logo at a trade show? Make sure they’re easy to pack and meet TSA carry-on standards.
You might think your practice is da bomb, but …well, you know.
41.) If you represent consumers, think about a storefront office. People with legal needs probably are not riding up and down office building elevators, unless they already have an attorney.
TIL: People with attorneys spend most of their day riding up and down office building elevators.
42.) Ask for a guest list before you attend a business event, and identify individuals you’d like to meet.
You can also get the seating arrangement so you know where they’ll be, but this can be tricky if the person you want to meet has bought seats at multiple tables.
43.) Do adjunct professor work. It adds to your expertise, and former students can be great referral sources.
This is why “grades” are sometimes referred to as “marks.”
44.) A few good questions to ask people you meet in networking situations: What got you started in this line of work? What are you working on? How are things going with your business in this economy?
Also, Where’s the bar? Can I get you another? and How about we split this joint and go find a titty bar?
45.) Ask the staff of the association that hosts an event to introduce you to people who you think you should know at bar or trade association events.
They’re only going to be able to recommend you to other staff, because, you know, they’re the staff.
46.) If you send other lawyers potential clients, let them know. They’ll appreciate that you referred the clients, and it will help them to remember that you did so. If they don’t remember, you need to move on to lawyers who will.
Don’t worry about referring clients to the best person for them; refer them to the best person for you.
47.) Talking to reporters can be a good thing. To gain their respect, you’ve got to show them you have genuine expertise in a subject and can give pithy answers to their questions.
On the other hand, if you’re hoping to get referral work, it’s probably not a good idea to lose the respect of the entire legal community.
48.) Multiple people can go with you to a beauty contest, but only one person should do the talking. Clients hire lawyers rather than firms.
The other people sitting silently in the corner are just there to demonstrate that you do have other people at your firm, just like law students wear suits during OCI so that firms know they at least own one.
49.) Give people you meet a brief description of what you do, rather than stating your title.
So instead of “I’m a lawyer,” go with “Mostly I just dick around on meme sites while running up client billables and filling my stomach with cheap scotch.”
50.) Don’t brag about yourself because people won’t take you seriously. No one hires lawyers they don’t take seriously.
But everyone takes seriously the greeter at a business reception who hands out his business cards to everyone to let them know about his exciting new iPhone 5 law blog. “Hi, I’m a lawyer, what do you do? Great! Let’s do lunch!”