A Founder’s Advice on Starting a Law Firm from $0 to $1 Million Firm
Pursuing law is a work of passion. When lawyers open their own firm, they don’t always do so realizing that they’ll need to fully run a business, but that’s what it takes to build a successful firm.
Unfortunately, a lawyer’s skill set doesn’t usually overlap with what it takes to run a business. Good lawyers aren’t necessarily good business people, but a law firm is a business and needs to be run like one.
Most lawyers branch out on their own to have more control over their work and to get away from the hustle of a big law firm. This typically means more work, however, and they’re dealing with challenges related to marketing, operations, human resources, capital, client acquisition, and more, all while trying to practice the law.
It’s a lot for anyone to balance. When lawyers are pulled away from the law to focus on their firm, their practice suffers. It’s more difficult to build sustainable growth.
Taking a law firm from $0 to $1 million dollars isn’t an easy task, but it’s much more difficult when you have no momentum. With the right strategies in place, you can build a steady flow of clients that will bring your law firm to that million-dollar mark.
Don’t Shy Away from Delegating
Lawyers are usually micromanagers. When you’re in charge of your own firm, you have to let others take on some of the workload. You won’t have the time, and you’re not an expert on accounting or marketing.
If you try to take on every task yourself, you risk things not getting done, things getting done incorrectly, and falling short on your commitment to your clients. You’re also susceptible to burnout.
Delegating and outsourcing is a necessity to keep your law firm running smoothly. You can delegate or outsource plenty of tasks that you don’t need to do yourself, such as IT work, accounting and billing, marketing, and more. Focus all your attention on your billable hours and delegate tasks to the right people.
If you don’t have the budget for a full-time employee, outsource tasks as you need to. You can find legal assistants and firms with staff for law firm outsourcing, so you can get help when you need instead of going through a hiring process.
Use Technology and Automation
Law firms are traditional and tend to be resistant to technology, but new practice management solutions offer opportunities for lawyers to lighten the workload. These tools have excellent features to handle billing and receiving, client communications, social media management, and more.
Remember that not all technology tools are ideal for all firms. Thoroughly research your legal management solutions to find the perfect software for your firm’s needs now and in the future, as well as your current budget.
Marketing and Client Acquisition for New Law Firms
Use Content Marketing
When clients are looking for a product or service, they often search online for solutions to their problem. For a legal client, this may involve seeking answers to their current legal issues or researching law firms in a specific area of practice. They may not even know if they need a lawyer and they’re looking for information to make the decision.
Most clients are seeking this information online. They’ll use a search engine and type in something like “do I need a lawyer for my divorce?” or “what happens if I die without a will?” These searches will return a number of results, and it’s vital that your content shows up for your firm to be on their radar.
Your content should cover the information and answers you know clients are searching for. Use varied content like articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, interviews, and podcasts. They’ll find the information you need, and it may prompt them to seek out more information available on your website. If they choose to hire a lawyer, you’ll be the first one that comes to mind.
Present Solutions to Problems
Legal clients have a lot to worry about. No matter the nature of their case, they’re dealing with a stressful situation with potentially big ramifications, and they’re looking for advice, guidance, information, and outcomes. These situations are complicated, but you can be there to help.
When they’re looking for information, they want confidence and an idea of what they can expect or indications that their case may work out the way they hope. Clients come across different firms with word-of-mouth referrals, television commercials, billboards, print, and more, but a lot will find law firms using a Google search.
If they have a law firm in mind, they may search for the firm directly. But in all likelihood, this is because they’re familiar with it from outside advertising. Sometimes, clients conduct a search for information and stumble upon a law firm’s content, then they search for more information. Or sometimes clients are looking for a specific type of lawyer, such as a prenuptial agreement lawyer, family law lawyer, or divorce lawyer.
Hiring a lawyer isn’t an impulse decision. Clients will often take time to research their options, read reviews, and talk to different firms. There’s a lot of weight to the choice, since they’re going to spend a lot of money and it may have a big impact on their life. They can’t simply return the product if they’re not satisfied. You need to build trust from their first interaction to be the one who gets their business.
Focus on the Right Marketing Channels
Businesses have more options for marketing than ever before. All marketing channels have different audiences, however, and you’d be spreading yourself too thin to try to market on all of them. This is too much work and too much money, especially if you’re working with a limited budget.
Focus on the marketing channels that have most of your audience. Perhaps you have a single audience that’s on mostly the same channels, or you may have multiple audience segments with different problems, interests, and demographics.
If this applies to your firm, it’s important to segment your audience and find the best ways to reach them. You can use this information to find the best channels that have most of your audience and design the right content. Then, as you see success, you can branch out to other channels to reach new audiences.
Engage with Video Content
Video content is popular online, especially with social media. TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and other visual platforms get a lot of traction from video, and brands can use video in landing pages and emails.
For the legal industry, video can be used to make complex topics more digestible for the audience. For example, you could do a live Q&A to answer common questions, conduct an interview, or explain the common timeline for a certain case. These videos are popular for clients looking for legal help.
If you’re out of ideas, use an existing article or blog post that was popular with your audience and make it a video. If you don’t want to be on screen, you can do a voiceover with graphics or a slideshow.
Nurture the Follow Up
When you start building a client list, it’s vital to make the experience as positive as you can to build a strong reputation and encourage future business. You don’t have to win every case to leave a good impression – the experience you give the client can be positive, even if the case didn’t go the way they’d hoped.
Once the case is over, you’re not finished. You have an opportunity to nurture your client in the retention stage and build a future relationship. If you can show interest after your business has concluded, you’re showing your client you care and they may leave a review or recommend you to a friend or family member.
Consider this. If you have a client leave with a negative impression, they may tell everyone how they weren’t satisfied with the service they received. This could happen anyway, of course, but if you follow up with your client, you can make an effort to make things right and build a good relationship.
Start a Referral Program
Referral programs are excellent for acquiring new clients and keeping a steady flow of business. Essentially, you’re giving a client an incentive to recommend your law firm to people in their network, such as a free gift or discount.
This can be challenging for a law firm, since you may not have repeat clients and the costs are typically high. You can give them something as an incentive, however, such as donations in their name or a discount for the client they refer.
You could also work with complementary businesses in your referral program. Each of you agrees to recommend the other, so you share in your audiences and attract more clients for each other.
Make Your Law Firm a Million-Dollar Firm
Building a business from scratch is always challenging, no matter the industry. Lawyers often struggle with time and business skills when they start their own firm, not to mention the competition they face. These strategies can help you create a steady flow of clients that will set your firm up for future success.
Maxwell Hills is the founder of Hills Law Group, a premier Orange County divorce lawyer law firm with a concentration on high net worth divorces. Max’s entrepreneurial career stretches back to his teenage days when he had his music used in Grey’s Anatomy and ESPN. Today, Max has used that experience to build Hills Law Group with 0 customers and $0 in revenue to a respected firm in the industry.