Building Your Business
This article has been provided by LawCare – health support and advice for lawyers
In March 2006 Richard Vetstein, a Massachusetts litigator, decided to start his own firm, and took a novel approach to marketing it. He created a Facebook page, linked in his blog, and posted regular updates on real estate law and happenings at the practice. At networking events he gave out a card encouraging colleagues to become a fan of his firm’s Facebook page, and he persuaded former colleagues, friends and clients to join. Within 6 months he had over 600 fans.
Using social networking to build his business worked very well for Vetstein. In addition, he says that it helps him build friendships and to see a social side of his clients – the names of their children and their birthdays are often listed on their Facebook pages, for example. “People do business with people that they like,” he says. “Facebook enables you to get to know people in a way that strengthens the overall relationship.”
With the global recession hitting sole practitioners and small firms with particular force, Vetstein chose an interesting time to go it alone, and his success was largely due to his innovative way of marketing his business. One benefit to the consumers in the recession has been that firms and businesses have had to lower fees, improve the product or service offered and show originality and creativity in order to stay afloat. Customers and clients have more choice and more power than ever before.
A 2012 study commissioned by Cxinlaw used 100 ‘secret shopper’ telephone calls to law firms enquiring about services such as making a will and starting a business. The results showed that the firms were shockingly bad at offering initial point-of-contact customer service. A third of the calls were cut off before they reach a legal adviser and 44% were put through to the wrong person. 45% of the secret shoppers reported that they would not use the law firm they had called, and 72% of the legal advisers they spoke to were judged to have showed “little ability to empathise, build rapport or deal with objections sensitively.” If your business is to grow, then good customer service, from the very start, is vital.
Lawyers are often very good at the nitty-gritty of legal work, but poor at building and managing their business. These days, running a practice effectively is just as important as being a great lawyer. During the height of the recession, one in four calls to LawCare’s free and confidential helpline was from a lawyer facing redundancy. If your firm is to survive the continued economic crisis then it needs to attract new clients, and keep established clients not only coming back, but recommending your friendly and helpful service to others.
Having a well-presented and attractive office space should be a given, with clear signage. However good a solicitor you are, it is the brightly-lit, clean and attractive, well branded street front which inspires the confidence of potential clients on a budget.
Richard Vetstein showed that original thinking can pay dividends. Stand out from the pack of other law firms in the area and come up with some new business ideas to attract “floating clients” who may never have had cause to use a solicitor before, and will happily go to the first one they come across. Here are some ideas:-
- Make a sponsorship deal with a local removal firm that is also struggling. “Have Smith & Co. do your conveyancing and get 10% off your removal costs with Jones & Co.”
- Offer to visit potential clients at home to explain how you can help them.
- Produce a simple and interesting practice newsletter and send it to all clients on a regular basis, reminding them what you offer and giving brief updates on changes in the law that might affect them. For example, cohabiting couples and inheritance. You might even include a “Special Offer” such as a will prepared for a fixed price, but only up to a certain date.
- Put cards advertising your services in newsagents’ windows. It’s cheap, and people really do read them.
- Consider community sponsorship. It could be something as inexpensive and simple as donating a raffle prize to the local school fete, but it creates awareness, goodwill and even a sense of obligation. An Essex Estate Agent which sponsors the annual Summer Fete of the school opposite reports that many of their vendors come to them due to gratitude for what they do for the school.
- Offer yourself as a “legal expert” in your particular field to your local newspaper or radio station whenever comment is needed on related current events. This inspires confidence in those reading or listening, and is especially beneficial if you are permitted to include the name of your firm.
- And, as Richard Vetstein discovered, a Facebook page is free and often very effective.
Despite doing all or some of the above, there may still be times when the going gets tough. For those times, LawCare offers free and completely confidential support for problems such as stress, depression and addiction.
Their free and completely confidential helpline is open 365 days a year, from 9.00 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. on weekdays and 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on 0800 279 6888.
There is also a comprehensive website at www.lawcare.org.uk