Most new lawyers are justifiably proud of themselves when they finish law school and successfully pass the bar exam. Their families and friends brag about them and tell them how many new clients they can refer their way. Unfortunately, even with these good intentions there may not be a slew of new, paying clients walking into their office. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to learn how to market yourself as a lawyer and how to build a law practice.
If you’re an attorney who is joining an existing firm, it’s important to start growing your own “book” of clients to increase your value to the firm — as well as to establish yourself as a young rainmaker. If you’re trying to hang out your own shingle, you’ll need to find paying clients quickly to cover your overhead expenses and to start earning a living. Whatever your situation, as a new lawyer, marketing is the best way to bring on new clients.
Before we share lawyer marketing and law firm marketing ideas, it’s important to be aware of the unique value that you’re offering to clients. Whether you’re a new attorney or looking to go out on your own, it’s wise to focus on a specialty area of law. While you can make it as a general practitioner, it is not the same as it was decades ago. These days, most successful lawyers have specialties – and even a “specialty within a specialty” — in order to be more marketable and in demand. Being the best known for a specific practice type is the best way to a successful career.
For example, you could specialize in family law matters and build your practice that way. In addition, you can specialize within family law in an area like same sex divorces. Not only would you be in unique demand by the public, but other divorce lawyers may even refer their clients to you because those cases are outside of their comfort zone. These types of sub-specialties and niche practices make you much easier to distinguish yourself from the legal crowd and more marketable as an attorney.
There are many great ways for new lawyers to market themselves to new clients, existing clients, and the general public. Listed below are methods that have helped many new lawyers turn their small practice into a sizable and profitable firm. They’re all worth exploring as solutions for growing your practice.
Write a Book or Legal Guide
You don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize author to write a great legal book or guide. Many lawyers self-publish their own books and guides and use them as a marketing tool. The cost is relatively inexpensive and they provide much better exposure than just handing out a business card or firm brochure.
A guide should be dedicated to a specific topic, like “The Ultimate Guide to Michigan Car Accidents” and provide useful information to the consumer. These guides can be distributed anywhere from public libraries to community events and many other professionals may even keep them in their lobby. Not only are you providing useful information, but you become “The Lawyer that Wrote the Book” on a certain area of law.
Give Presentations to Lawyer Groups
Speaking in front of lawyer groups at local bar association meetings and legal seminars gives you great exposure as an expert on an area of law. Lawyers in attendance will note you as a speaker and recognize you as an authority on a topic. This is a great way to get niche referrals from other attorneys.
Create a Website
It is essential to every law practice to have a great website these days. You can highlight your education and expertise on specific topics on the site. You must tell visitors how you can help them solve their problems, so don’t be like other lawyers who just like to write about themselves.
Creating a website is important but getting found by the public is of equal importance. You should either hire a search engine optimization firm (SEO) or learn it by yourself. Without proper optimization, you will wind up on page five of Google search and will never be found.
Even if you market by other means, a nice website will provide you with credibility and give you an air of professionalism. The public, and even other lawyers, will often judge you based upon the appearance of your website and the content on your site. It’s a great opportunity to promote your services and any awards or accolades you have earned even as a new attorney.
Take to Social Media
In addition to a great website, take to social media in an intellectual and tactful way. Many social media platforms have dedicated groups for specific topics and personas. You can join those groups or offer free advice online and earn great exposure. Others in the group will appreciate your input and even share your willingness to help other family and friends.
Facebook and other platforms also sell ads that allow you to target specific groups and demographics. Rather than spending money to advertise to ninety percent of the population that has no need for your services, you can dive in and focus your efforts on your specific target market. You need to pay attention to all leads and new client conversions so you can determine with certainty if certain campaigns are working and are ineffective. Be prepared to adjust as time goes on.
Offer Free Seminars to the Public
You may have heard radio ads or seen offers on television for all types of free seminars. These range from “How to Buy Real Estate and Flip Houses” to “Weight Loss without Dieting.” These are essentially free dinners or presentations to draw in the public and sell a service. Chiropractors are well-known for marketing their practices with “Free Seminar on Eliminating Back Pain Without Surgery” and they regularly draw excellent audiences.
Lawyers have successfully used this same technique over the years. Many probate firms offer “Free Estate Planning Seminars” to educate people on the most recent estate tax issues. These are beneficial to the public, but they are really just selling the services of the sponsoring attorneys to the attendees. And, you are much more likely to get a new client if you give them free information and legal advice. Attendees also share their new found information with others and this multiplies the number of potential new clients that can be generated at a free seminar.
The possibilities for marketing and growing your practice are boundless. The more creative you are in selling your services, the more likely you are to generate new clients. And don’t just look to see how every other lawyer is marketing their practice, but rather look at how others who are successful in their industry and profession advertise their services. You should also read as many marketing books as possible to grow your knowledge base and to help create new opportunities for yourself.
Remember, you may be a lawyer but you are really a business that sells legal services. Your business must have advertising, marketing, and sales to become profitable. Best of all, you can start small and grow with a little creativity and hard work. You will reap the rewards and grow both professionally and personally along the way.
About the Author
Lawrence J. Buckfire is the owner of the Buckfire Law Firm in Southfield, Michigan. He earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Michigan and his Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. His firm specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.