There is nothing more annoying that a lawyer who says, “I don’t understand why I don’t get a lot of business. I’m a really good lawyer.”
Big deal. Lawyering ain’t rocket science, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, move away from them as fast as you can.
And this is coming from a lawyer, someone who’s been plugging away for quite some time at it.
We are technicians, schooled in a profession that is part mechanics, part art. The old saw is that they call it the “practice of law” because you never get perfect at it. True words indeed.
Ask any lawyer who’s been practicing in a particular niche for more than a decade and they’ll confirm (if they’re being honest, that is) that the basics remain the same and all that changes is nuance after awhile. Sure, laws change and precedent evolves – but the basics stay the same. Nail those and you’re halfway there. Probably more.
Everyone says that they look for the best lawyer for their problem. I take that to mean that they want a really good lawyer, not the best in the world – after all, not many people are going to fly across country for a lawyer, right? Besides, “the best,” is a subjective term. So we’ll just settle on “a darn fine lawyer.”
But when it comes down to brass tacks (I have no idea where that saying comes from, but I like it) the reality is that people make a decision based on the way the lawyer markets his or her practice. Word of mouth, advertising, web searches, bar referral programs … whatever road leads “Joe Legal Problem” to the lawyer is definitely NOT in any way related to that lawyer’s overall qualifications.
The only thing that comes close is word of mouth, but only in the form of a referral from a friend or family member who used the lawyer and got a good result in the past. But even then, the referring client may have gotten a terrible lawyer and a dead-simple case. Not to trash talk anyone, but sometimes a case is so easy a college kid could bumble his or her way through it.
Here’s the ugly truth – no matter how busy you are, no matter how quiet your phones are, no matter how full or empty your waiting room is … that’s entirely up to you. Nobody else. Your hand makes the moves on the chess board that results in someone saying, “Hey, that looks like a good lawyer to hire.” Your efforts constitute the grease that makes the wheels turn.
So let’s say you’re a good lawyer who’s not too busy. What do you do to get … well, to get busy? Here are a few ideas:
- Close your eyes and envision your perfect client, down to the color of their hair and the brand of clothing they’re wearing. Name that client John or Jane, depending on their gender. Every time you write anything professionally, imagine that you’re having a one-on-one conversation with John (or Jane).
- Examine your business card and ask whether someone who picked it up off the floor in a crowded shopping mall would have a clue as to what kind of law you practice. If the answer is, “No,” get in touch with a graphic designer and tell them you’d like to have the error corrected as soon as possible.
- Add the following line to the end of every client-related form letter in your library (after the signature): “P.S.: I have built my practice on referrals from satisfied clients like you. I’d appreciate it if you would pass two of the enclosed business cards to a friend or family member who may need my help. The third card is for you to keep in your wallet. I promise to treat every one of your referrals with the highest degree of care and respect, and thank you in advance for your faith in me.” Whenever you send out a letter, drop three of your new-fangled business cards in with it.
- Take an hour to buy a domain name with hosting, and install WordPress on it. Play around with it until you’re comfortable, then customize the “About” page. Write it entirely in the first person (don’t use the word, “we,” ever).
- Write down a list of the top 10 questions your clients ask you – not the ones you wish they’d ask, but the ones they actually ask you. Now go back into your spiffy new WordPress blog and create a post with each one of those questions in the title area. Save as draft, then come back to one each day to create a blog post. Remember to write like you talk, not like some stuffed shirt with an ego the size of Buffalo (which is where I went to law school, by the way). And write it as a personal letter to John or Jane.
- Buy the book, All Marketers Are Liars, by Seth Godin. Read it, then re-read it. OK, now read it again.
- Buy any book by Harold Robbins. There’s a reason the guy sold more books than any other fiction writer, and that’s because he could tell a story really well.
- Always remember #6 and #7 when you’re doing #5. Yes, they apply to you.
Is this going to result in an avalanche of new business, this small bit of legal marketing? No, but it will get you to take some action and start to market your law practice just a little bit. It make you start to think about your law practice as a living organism, one that needs to be fed with new clients in order to thrive (and pay your bills).