5 Considerations For Bankruptcy Lawyers Adding A New Practice Area

expand beyond bankruptcy

Getting involved in a new field of law involves more than just getting some new books.

With the continued sharp downturn in bankruptcy filings, most of us have kicked around thoughts of adding a practice area. I did that first during the post-2005 drop in filings when I added Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act work, and again in 2012 when I dove head first into the world of student loan law.

Before you add a practice area, you need to step back and evaluate your decision as a business person, not as a lawyer desperate to bring in enough money to cover the rent.

When I made the jump into student loan law, here are some of the considerations I kept in mind before making the change. Answering them for yourself will help you decide whether expanding your offerings makes sense to your office.

Is This A Problem Your Clients Have? I’ve got a friend of mine who decided to expand his bankruptcy practice into criminal law, only to experience complete financial failure because none of his existing or prior clients were of the sort who got into trouble with the law. Expanding into a field that will help your client base makes it easier to help the same people in new ways.

Are There Ways To Learn The New Field Quickly? When I began offering help with credit reporting errors, I did so knowing that there was a NACA conference to help me learn the field. So, too, with student loan law – I decided to begin helping student loan borrowers in part because there was an in-depth student loan law workshop available to me. Without a means of learning the nuts-and-bolts of your field of choice, you may be left without a base of knowledge upon which to draw.

Does It Fill A Gap? When adding a new practice area, you should be looking to fill gaps because they represent missed opportunities for helping your clients. Bankruptcy can provide significant relief to people, but it doesn’t help with all debt problems. If you’ve got a lot of clients who are divorced and have gone through financial hardship, consider learning how to negotiate modifications of domestic support obligations. For practices that see clients with significant nondischargeable tax obligations, learning tax resolution fills a gap.

Can Your Staff Handle The Work? Once you’ve figured out how to do the work and recognized that your clients need the help, look to your staff members to determine whether they can incorporate it into their existing workflow. Bankruptcy involves a step of discrete tasks, so handling new matters of an administrative nature may be a perfect fit. If the workflow doesn’t follow a consistent pattern, you may need to think about changing the makeup of your office.

Can You Price The Solution? This is probably the most frustrating part of the equation for people who expand beyond the bounds of bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy is primarily a flat fee practice area, so going into a new field that involves hourly billing may not work for you without a significant amount of retooling of your office. You’ll need to decide whether the long-term profitability of the new field warrants the investment before making expansion plans.

Entering a new field of law can be exciting and challenging, waking up your brain and pushing your intellect. Adding new practice areas is also good for your firm’s profitability. But every new practice idea shouldn’t make it to the light of day. Using these considerations as a guide can help you expand in a way that makes sense for your practice.

7 Reasons Why Your Law Firm Needs A Facebook Page

like facebook

There’s more to Facebook than cat pictures and linkbait.

For many people, Facebook has become a part of the fabric of their lives. Pictures get shared, jokes get passed around, and people end up feeling more connected.

Don’t believe me? Here are some statistics courtesy of Statistic Brain to make you weep:

  • Facebook has 1,310,000,000 average monthly users
  • Users visit the Facebook app or the site 13.8 times during the day, for two minutes and 22 seconds each time
  • Cumulatively, that comes to over 32 minutes per day – over 16 hours per month
  • 48% of adults check Facebook first thing when they wake up in the morning
  • 1 million links are shared on Facebook every hour of every day of every month

As a bankruptcy lawyer, it’s easy to dismiss Facebook as a practice-building platform. After all, not many people want to admit to their Facebook friends that they Like a bankruptcy lawyer.

On the flip side, consider the fact that those who do take the step of Liking a bankruptcy lawyer are more likely to refer new clients to you. Those people include not only clients but also other lawyers and non-lawyer professionals.

I’ve found that having a Facebook page for my practice has provided an enormous boost in business in what have been fairly lean times for bankruptcy attorneys nationwide. So much so that I’m breaking with my longstanding position of, “nothing particular marketing platform is necessary, it depends on your audience,” to say that your law firm must actively develop a Facebook Page.

Here are some of the reasons why:

A Facebook Page Keeps Business Separate. You’re on Facebook to share private news and information, be it baby photos or news about your latest adventure. That’s good for your friends and family members, but not necessarily something you want to share with your clients. Conversely, you may not want your personal connections to be exposed to your debt-related information quite so often. Keeping a separate Facebook page for your practice allows you to separate work and pleasure.

No Limits To Your Page Connections. Your personal profile has a limit of 5,000 friends. Not so for your Page, which can have an unlimited number of people who like it.

Get A Boost. When you post an article on your personal profile, it’s seen by some of your friends and not others. You can tinker with that over the long run, but whether your updates show up in someone’s feed is determined by the Facebook algorithm. Though not everyone who Likes your Page will see an update either, you can pay to boost the article’s reach and ensure that it’s seen by the most important people.

The Insights Are Amazing. Once your Facebook Page garners more than about two dozen Likes, you’re given access to a treasure trove of information on the people who have chosen to connect with your firm. We’re talking ages, genders, and a whole bunch of demographic information you can use to hone your advertising message elsewhere.

Be More Than A Lawyer. A Facebook page gives you the opportunity to show your personality to your clients and business connections – without having to expose them to pictures of your children and pets. Your Facebook page can provide a representation of your firm that includes more than merely a comprehensive knowledge of your practice area, yet keeps things professional.

Facebook Pages Show Up In Google. Your Facebook page is indexed by the search engines, so people who search for your firm on Google will be able to see your updates. Especially if you update your Facebook page on a regular basis, that fresh content will showcase you in a professional yet informal manner than attracts new clients.

BONUS: It’s Cheaper Than Dirt. According to Cost Helper, dirt costs between $8-$15 per cubic yard. For that money, I can get a lot of exposure on Facebook. Building a Facebook Page costs nothing but time, as does populating the Page with regular updates. Boosting a post can cost as little as $5, which gets your message in front of the people who have expressed an interest in hearing from you.

In the end, the decision on whether to create a Facebook Page shouldn’t be too difficult. Everyone’s on the platform, which means you’ve got access to your target market (regardless of what that market may be, it’s a safe bet that it’s represented on Facebook). Most of the setup and maintenance is free. The data you get can help give you a leg up on your other advertising opportunities. Even the paid options are cheap.

Slam dunk in my book. How about yours?

Hide Annoying Facebook Content With A Simple Click

We’ve all seen the annoying Facebook clickbait. It comes with headlines such as, “They All Laughed When He Sat Down At The Piano – But You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!”

Online publications use these titles precisely because they work so well, but we all know that there’s seldom anything useful behind the click. Usually it’s just another time-waster that burns a hole in your day.

But Facebook has a built-in way for you to avoid ever seeing those posts again. And the best part is that you don’t have to unfriend people to make it happen.

Let’s say you don’t want to see content from ViralNova anymore because it’s never useful. Just click the little down-arrow next to the post, and click to hide all articles from ViralNova.

This will prevent you from seeing ViralNova articles posted by any of your friends. You’ll still see the rest of what your friends put on Facebook, though.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Hide Facebook Content

You can do this for any many sources as you’d like – from BuzzFeed to SomeECards to political sites and more.

Don’t like it? No need to see it!

And with that out of the way, your Facebook feed can become more interesting and useful for you.

You Can Grow Your Bankruptcy Practice Even When Filings Are Down

One step ahead handwritten on blackboard

You may have found that your efforts to grab new clients online hasn’t been as fruitful as it once was.

Lots of bankruptcy lawyers probably chalk it up to a reduction in the number of filings nationwide, but that’s a red herring.

Let’s say there has been a 30% reduction in the number of bankruptcy filings in your local court. That doesn’t mean there’s no work – just that there’s a smaller pie to share among the bankruptcy bar. It does not mean that your numbers need to go do proportionately.

In fact, there’s likely still well enough people filing for bankruptcy overall for you to remain fat and happy. If, that is, you can grow your market share even as others shrink.

If you look around at the competition, it shouldn’t be too hard to recognize that growing the face of a shrinking population of bankruptcy filers is eminently possible.

You’ve probably been doing the same thing as the competition until now, perhaps incrementally better or worse. That’s great if you want to track the market, not so much if you’re looking to shake things up and grow your filing volume.

Take, for example, blogging. You’ve heard me talk about the power of content creation for years, so you’ve likely done some work towards that end. You created a blog, maybe published a few pieces, and then promptly ran out of steam because it didn’t give you the big splash you’d been hoping for.

Another open door is social media such as Facebook (which is my current favorite and most profitable way of getting new clients). Maybe you set up a page for your law firm, begged friends to Like it, and then drifted away because you didn’t know what to do next.

The competition did the same thing, give or take a bit. They launched a blog, did a Facebook page, got on Twitter … and then … not so much.

Knowing this, why not take the next step?

Go beyond the mere launching of your blog to creating an editorial calendar and carving out some time to write.

Learn about Facebook ads and discover how to bring in clients at a far lower cost-per-click than any other platform.

Develop your Facebook page and fill it with creative and interesting content that will encourage people to spend more time there.

Make some phone calls to your LinkedIn contacts (LinkedIn? Yes, LinkedIn) and set aside time to create meaningful referral relationships.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there’s a lot you can do to make a dent in the bankruptcy universe in spite of the reduction in filings. So why not do it?

5 Reasons Why Now Is A Great Time To Be A Bankruptcy Lawyer

best time to be bankruptcy lawyer

Bankruptcy filings continue to slide, and most of the attorneys I know who practice in the field are making significantly less this year than last.

A perfect time to become a bankruptcy lawyer!

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? After all, we’ve been taught to jump into new lines of work when we see a demand and growing opportunities.

Or have we?

Baron Rothschild, member of the Rothschild banking family, is widely credited with the quote, “buy when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” He should know – he made a fortune buying the financial panic following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.

So let’s look at some of the reasons why now is the perfect time to be a bankruptcy attorney.

Less Competition. During the Great Recession of 2008-2012, every lawyer practiced bankruptcy. With most people having financial troubles, it was pretty easy to find new clients. Now that the bankruptcy market has dried up and the economy recovering, those lawyers have gone back to real estate, family law, and other areas.

Cheaper Advertising. With fewer bankruptcy attorneys and less money to go around, paid ads for bankruptcy-related terms have gotten far less expensive. Clicks on Google AdWords have less competition, and various companies catering to the legal market have dropped their prices for ads in an effort to lure in more advertisers.

New Opportunities. If you want to make a splash as a bankruptcy lawyer, there are more opportunities than ever to hone in on a specialty market of clients. Consider getting training in student loan law to set yourself apart and own your slice of the market.

To Every Bust There Is A Boom. Bankruptcy filings are down – that is, they’re down now. But as the economy continues to heat up and people start spending again, there’s sure to be a need for bankruptcy lawyers. Do you want to be the attorney just coming onto the scene, or would you prefer to be able to lay claim to having some experience?

Bankruptcy Is Everywhere. When the marriage falls apart, issues surrounding debt bubble to the surface. Failing businesses hover around bankruptcy-related concerns. Even death involves bankruptcy because it becomes important to understand how to handle the estate of the deceased. Understanding bankruptcy is, to some extent, key to fully grasping every aspect of the law.

Will you make a ton of money when you first decide to enter the field of bankruptcy law? Of course not – but that’s the case whether the market is hot or cold.

A good bankruptcy attorney spends time and money getting the proper training, taking it slow with new cases, and asking questions. By necessity, that means you’re going to make less money at the beginning than after you’ve gotten some experience under your belt.

Why not begin your journey into the world of bankruptcy law when the pressure of competition is low?