There are many ways to build your reputation as a lawyer and cultivate relationships that can turn into referral sources. The important thing is to stay involved in activities you enjoy, otherwise, you will find yourself making excuses to avoid that activity and you won’t enjoy the activity enough to make it worth your while. When I do marketing training, I always ask who likes golf? I tell the attorneys who don’t raise their hands to avoid it because it is unlikely to be a positive experience and unlikely to help you build your relationships.
As a lawyer, there are many non-profit and civic causes where you can lend a hand and make a valuable contribution. If you are thinking about the best way to do that, on March 19th, I am participating on a panel with the Massachusetts Bar Association. Click here for more information. The program is free for MBA members and can be accessed remotely.
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.
Good marketing is the art of differentiation. If you present yourself like any other lawyer in the marketplace, potential clients and referral sources are less likely to remember you when they encounter a need you can service.
This is a hard lesson to embrace in a competitive field for legal services. Most of the clients I work with are concerned that if they do not mention everything they do, they will miss out on opportunities. But by not focusing your marketing message, the opposite is true. You run the risk of being memorable for nothing.
Think of it as you would when taking a photograph. A good photographer will focus in on those elements in the scene where they want your attention drawn. If your main subject is out of focus, then you often end up with a bad photo and the viewer doesn’t know where to focus his or her attention.
So if your primary practice focus is creating estate plans for middle class couples, don’t be afraid to tell that to the potential clients and referral sources you meet. If the individual is looking for a good divorce lawyer and you happen to do some of that work, you can always indicate that as the conversation progresses. Similarly, if they are selling a home or have a potential conflict with a business partner, and that is work that you have successfully handled, then you can add that to the conversation, as well.
The point is when someone asks what you do, try and limit yourself to one or two (possibly three), types of matters that you handle and who are the most likely clients for that work. Like a good photograph, a focused marketing message will stick longer in the memory of those who you are relying on for your work. You can always clarify that you also handle the type of matter that the individual needs help with. But keep the focus of your marketing message on those areas that you want to be known for. A focused message like that is much more likely to stick.
Great venn diagram on the subject.
I write a lot in this space about relationship building, reputation building and the tools you need to market your law practice. For those of you who practice in a law firm setting (either as an associate or as a partner), there are some bigger issues you should also address in your career.
There will always be tradeoffs when deciding where to build your career. But, what are some other questions you should ask yourself in order to assess whether your platform is the “right” platform?
Click here to listen to the whole podcast.
When you get right down to it, fear is the biggest obstacle to marketing success for most professionals. No one likes rejection and if you plan to ask anyone for business or referrals, the odds are very high that you will experience a significant amount of rejection. The key is to get beyond the fear and act.
Set up a system that rewards yourself for your actions not your results. Over time, you will achieve the volume of contacts you need in order to get the success you want. The important thing is to ignore the “no’s”, “not interested’s”, “not now’s” and the ever pervasive “no response whatsoever”. Click here to read more.