If you are like most of your colleagues, the New Year has come and gone and so have your New Year’s Resolutions. Change is hard and in the high pressured field of law, resolving to spend more time on non-billable work may be easier said than done. While there continues to be slow and steady movement towards project based billing in private practice, the reality is that most lawyers still bill by the hour; and most law firms still pay close attention to billable hours in determining how much of a contribution you are making to your firm.
In the short run, a lot of the incentive is to maximize the hours you bill. But for most attorneys, building your own practice is what will give you more career satisfaction and more control over your destiny.
So you resolved to spend more time on marketing in 2014. But as we approach Groundhog Day, that resolution may seem like a distant memory. The good news is that its never too late to start making change. So here are some tips for how you can be more successful with your Groundhog Day Resolutions:
1. Don’t try to change everything at once. Choose one or two things that you want to do differently this year.
2. Resolve to spend a fixed amount of time every week on marketing and put it in your calendar (perhaps 15-30 minutes every morning before you become consumed with client demands).
3. Choose marketing activities you think you would enjoy. If you like to write, write about something you want to be known for. If you like to speak, get out and speak about something that will reinforce the reputation you want. If you enjoy playing golf or attending sporting events with referral sources, do that.
4. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. When you work on a client matter, think about whether there are other prospective clients who might want to know about an issue. You’ve already done the work. Can you turn it into an article, check list or blog post?
5. Recycle your marketing. The goal is to be visible. Once you have written something, send it to individuals on your mailing list (start a mailing list if you don’t already have one). Create a newsletter that links to items you and some of your colleagues have already written (again, focusing on the subject matter where you want to build your reputation). Publicize your speaking engagements through a newsletter, on your website and in a LinkedIn update.
6. Send out articles (or links to articles) to people on your mailing list. “Thought this might be of interest to you.”
7. Get involved in a recreational, civic, non-profit or hobby related activity that puts you in contact with the kinds of people you want to meet. Again, choose activities you enjoy (i.e. not things you think you “should” be doing). You are much more likely to follow through and participate and you are much more likely to be relaxed.
Truly building a law practice can take years. So the sooner you get started, the sooner you will start to see the fruits of your labors. But don’t feel like marketing is an all or nothing proposition. Resolve to do a little more this year than you did last year and you will make a real contribution to your own success down the road.