Ultimate solo attorney guide: How to get more clients (the right ones!)
In this guide, we’ll take an end-to-end approach to help you:
• Develop a marketing plan;
• Calibrate your position in the market;
• Select the right channel, and;
• Generate more work for what you care about, and with the resources you have.
Asking the right question
As a solo attorney, you may ask yourself, “How can I bring in more clients to my law firm?” But a better question is:
How can I get more of the right clients?
And better yet:
Am I practicing in an area of law that I’ve always wanted to?
Many lawyers begin their careers intending to focus in on a particular discipline like business or intellectual property, but often they will get pulled in another direction by client needs. Particularly as a young lawyer in a solo practice, and looking to get established, you often will take on any clients willing to pay you to handle any legal matter.
Follow advertising regulations and a marketing plan to reduce your chances of going off course. This means attracting the type of clients in the area of law you really want to pursue. The last thing you want is to look back at your legal career with regret. Be the lawyer you always wanted to be.
To attract the right clients, focus on your strengths and unique selling proposition. Then tell your own story, focusing on the area of law that you’re passionate about. Above all, be authentic in your message.
Learn how to tell your story
Everybody has a story, yet telling it doesn’t come naturally for many lawyers.
Start with the following pointers and questions.
Do people truly feel like they’ve met you, based on what they can read and see about you online? Do they feel as if they’re sitting with you at your office, with a wall of plaques, law school degree, or family photo behind you? If so, that means you’ve done a good job in making your online brand match your offline brand. And in turn, this means that you’re more likely to connect with potential clients. Keep it up.
Also, it sounds simple, but it’s important to ask yourself, “What would make people want to hire me?”
The truth is, there isn’t any marketing magic that can create perfect leads for your practice. However, there are things you can try to control, at least in part – like who’s going to knock on your door.
How? Try telling a story that reflects your values and experience as a lawyer and a person. The more you can articulate your story to specific groups of people, the better. For instance, the following video by FindLaw appeals to solo attorneys. Note that it’s not trying to reach every solo attorney. It’s aimed at solo attorneys who want to make a living through their own practice, but who also prioritize doing what they love outside of work.
What is your fundamental story, and which specific group do you want to reach? FindLaw research shows that many consumers in need of legal help perceive attorneys and law firms as being very similar.
So put yourself in their mindset and ask, “What would make them hire me?” What makes you uniquely qualified to handle their legal matter? What will make you stand out?
Show how working as a solo practitioner can be an advantage
Many solo attorneys get overwhelmed with work, to the point where they feel the need to hire another lawyer or paralegal to keep up. There’s another option.
Instead of adding staff, consider raising your fee and reducing the number of cases you take on. People will pay for good service, and the best way to provide good service is to limit the amount of clients to those you can reasonably handle on your own.
Only when you reach the point where you’re turning away attractive client opportunities should you consider hiring a staff person or another lawyer.
Use clear and simple billing practices
Law firms benefit from providing detailed invoices. That said, clients may get confused and frustrated when they discover charges for copies, research, or other one-off line items.
You should offer clients clear, detailed invoices that make it easy for them to review the services you provided, and how much each cost. An uncomplicated billing process is a competitive advantage that will leave clients with a positive impression.
Consider using a software that tracks time, billing, expenses, and client information for future communication. Technology is the great equalizer—it enables a solo practitioner to accomplish tasks in less time with greater efficiency.
Turn reporting and communication into a unique strength
Lawyers, whether in large firms or solo practice, can struggle with client communication. Clients often grow frustrated by what they perceive as poor, confusing, and time-consuming interactions with their attorneys: it’s often the top reason for them leaving a negative review.
Having succinct and timely communication with clients is an opportunity to stand out. Make the most of the challenge, and use it to your advantage.
Building bridges and loyalty
Clients hire individuals, not law firms. People relate to individuals and are comfortable with them. If you handle a legal problem successfully, you’ll often form a bond with the client. This means they’re very likely to give you follow-up business, and they also may tell their friends about the great experience they had with you.
Often, some of your best clients are the ones that you started out with. Make sure to stay in touch with these clients after the original matter is closed. They can be one of your best sources of new business through future referrals.
Decide how to position your brand
You will need to decide how you want to market yourself. What kind of lawyer are you?
The answer: Be the lawyer that you would want to hire. Be trustworthy and reliable, with the experience and expertise to back it up. Position your brand as the go-to legal expert for your clients’ needs.
Be specific and personal to a degree you are comfortable with, and tell/show your story whenever possible.
Tell your story with integrated digital marketing
Leverage the power of multiple digital marketing platforms to maximize your success.
Professional websites, content to support your practice areas, SEO-friendly blog posts, active social media profiles and other digital tactics can all help create an effective marketing strategy. Use them together to amplify your reach and maximize your results.
FindLaw website design guide
Learn more about the website elements that can help your firm get (and keep) search engines’ attention, convey your brand and value proposition and connect with prospective clients.
Optimize your site for search engine visibility
Search engine optimization (“SEO”) is the practice of crafting content for websites that is both helpful for readers and designed to be detected easily by search engines, so that your site is discoverable based on any relevant search queries.
SEO is a fundamental aspect of online marketing. It requires deep technical knowledge, a clean site architecture, keyword usage, and linking strategies. SEO is a process, and while these efforts may not yield immediate results, they will help your site gain long-term visibility.
Use paid search for immediate visibility and leads
Pay-per-click (“PPC”) is a great choice as a supplement for solo attorneys building their presence and looking for a faster result. The ads are linked to search terms or categories, so they will appear when users are looking for specific information.
You only pay when someone clicks on the ad, not when it’s viewed. It is a great way to create visibility for your firm, and to increase your brand awareness.
Measure your marketing performance
Once you have chosen your mix of marketing strategies, the work doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor how your marketing plan is performing. Check in at least monthly to ensure that you’re getting an acceptable amount of clicks, calls, and engagement. If you use a vendor, they should offer you a dashboard tool to track progress.
FindLaw, for example, offers INSIGHT, a platform that gives clients easy-to-understand information on how their digital marketing is performing. Marketing companies tend to provide a lot of data, but only you will know if you are getting new clients.
We’ve learned in conversations that most lawyers get 90% or more of their business via referrals.
While referrals mostly happen through social circles and word of mouth, reviews are also a powerful tool in helping potential clients to choose an attorney. In fact, 37% of Thomson Reuters U.S. Consumer Legal Needs survey respondents say they have used reviews in their decision process. Each positive review boosts your reputation, so the more you have, the better. Don’t ignore this powerful marketing strategy.
After concluding a case, politely ask your client to leave an online review. For example, you could send a link to your Google business page, and ask if the client would mind leaving a positive review there.
Most are happy to do it, so all you have to do is ask. You could have a QR code at your receptionist’s desk, or in your office’s conference room—when a prospective client scans the code, they get links to your reviews. You may be surprised at the results.
Follow up to inquiries
You need a structured client intake process. It’s imperative for attorneys to prioritize responding to calls and emails.
Research shows that one-third of firms don’t return phone calls, and half don’t return emails, within 24 hours. This can be a major mistake. Don’t miss out on potential clients by not responding promptly to inquiries. Respond quickly and you can make a connection that leads to a new client that’s the right fit for your work and their needs.
Consider hiring an answering service. Many solo practitioners are often in court, meeting with clients, or just not available to answer the phone when the big call comes in. An answering service ensures that every call gets answered and the meeting is booked.
Understand your potential clients
Today’s legal consumers are tech-savvy and use the internet to inform themselves about the outlines of their case. However, they still need an experienced lawyer’s help.
FindLaw research has revealed that while clients will do some legwork in researching legal issues, they’re still more likely to use a lawyer than try to solve their legal issues on their own.
One reason is that clients want someone to give them assurance and peace of mind during the legal process. An attorney who understands these needs and uses the right marketing strategies can be the one to provide them with the help they seek.
FindLaw marketing guide
In a post-COVID world, you have to market your solo practice by having people meet or experience you online just as if they had met you in person. More than ever, you need to be your authentic self, and be the lawyer whom you would hire.
You don’t have to market your solo practice on your own. FindLaw understands the complexities of the legal business and can provide the necessary support and guidance to tell your story online. With our experienced staff and reliable resources, we serve our clients with a personalized approach to marketing to stand out in a crowded legal market.
FindLaw marketing guide
Solo attorneys face the difficult challenge of running their law firm while also managing a host of personal and professional priorities.