The best lawyer in the world is ineffective without marketing.
Unfortunately, for some attorneys marketing is a dirty word. This need not be the case. Everything you do is marketing, in addition to everything your staff does. Every letter you send, every pleading you file, every client you meet – all are marketing opportunities.
Of course, the best marketing is to do an excellent job for the clients you presently have. This is the surest guarantee of future business.
Here are some additional marketing tips, most of which do not cost a cent:
- To advertise or not? Some experts advise new lawyers against spending a lot of money on traditional advertising. You’ll likely have more time than money when you just start out. Spend that time peddling your services in old-fashioned ways. Patronize nearby businesses. Pass out business cards. Go door-to-door to neighboring lawyers and introduce yourself. Ask for overflow cases and referrals. Make at least one business contact each day. By year’s end your contact manager will be full.
- Rules of Professional Conduct. Here is the starting line for determining your ethical duties regarding advertising and marketing. The rules govern direct-mail solicitation of prospective clients, using fictional “clients” in dramatized advertisements, and the retention period for keeping hard copies of ads.
- First impressions count. Studies show that initial impressions have a lasting impact. Prepare a brochure introducing your firm and its services. Dress professionally. Go out to the waiting room and greet clients with a smile and a handshake. Be a good listener in initial interviews. Tidy your office and conference room. Project the image of an organized, caring professional.
- Social media. Opportunities for widespread marketing on the internet via social media and other online platforms are exploding. But be careful to stay current on the evolving ethical rules regarding same.
- Know your market. What clients do you want to attract? What are the demographics of your area? A maritime law practice in Mocksville might be a tough sell. Some areas have a greater need for real estate lawyers or intellectual property practitioners.
- Ask your clients. A good way to pinpoint what you are doing well is to ask your clients. Find out how they heard about you. Ask them to evaluate your services in terms of speed, efficiency, courtesy and convenience. Develop a client questionnaire. Don’t be shy to ask their opinion as to your fees.
- Be innovative. You can promote your law practice and be a good citizen at the same time. Law firms sponsor youth sports teams and school events. Join and support a local civic club or PTA.
- Speak and write. Participate in continuing educations programs. CLE providers are always looking for good speakers. Contact the N.C. Bar Association, the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers and other providers. Present a free seminar on wills and estates at your local retirement community. Speak to a high school class. Write an article for Lawyers Weekly.
- Carve out a nice. In smaller, rural areas, concentrating your practice too narrowly might be unwise. But the trend is toward specialization. Pick an area you enjoy and run with it. Spread the word that you’re the go-to lawyer for certain cases. Stick to cases you know how to handle and enjoy, and refer the others out. If you are interested in becoming a certified specialist, contact the N.C. State. The specialization designation will set you apart from other lawyers.
- Use existing services. Get your name on the local court-appointed lists. Do pro bono work for Legal Services or charities. Some of this free work will later turn into paying cases, plus you will get valuable exposure. Join the N.C. Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service.
- Return phone calls. The number one client complaint to the N.C. State Bar each year is that the lawyer did not return the client’s phone calls. If you develop a reputation for returning phone calls, you will be respected and successful. Guaranteed. And while you’re at it, you’ll be immunizing yourself against malpractice claims and bar complaints. Keep a telephone message log. Make sure all client inquiries are answered promptly. In this droid and blackberry age, clients expect instant communication. Set expectations by discussing response procedures in the initial interview.
- The best strategy of all. Work hard and do a superb job. Your practice will prosper.
Ernest (Jay) Reeves Jr. is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. He has practiced in both states and was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He writes the Risk Man column of practice pointers and risk management tips. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 919-619-2441.