Promoting your competitive advantage as a solo attorney

Legal professionals talking over a desk in an office setting.

As a solo attorney, no one knows better than you that you get very little opportunity to kick back and take it easy. That’s especially true with business development. No sooner does one matter wrap up a matter, then go hunting for the next one. You’re human, so of course you’d appreciate the chance for a breather now and then, or just some better resources to work with. It just seems like you don’t get that. Is that just part and parcel of being a solo attorney?

Not necessarily.

A steady stream of paying clients would help solve that problem — and as daunting as it seems, it is achievable. There’s no single surefire approach that will work for every solo attorney in every market and practice area, but in this post, we share some of the best strategies that we know help solo attorneys build a robust pipeline of new work. The hope is that by embracing as many of them as you can, a lot of the pressure to always be hunting for your next work matter will be lifted and you can focus on practicing law, which is what you really want to be doing.

Bolster your website.

The legal industry was ever so slow to wake up to the critical role websites play in attracting new business. There are still plenty of attorneys practicing today who either don’t have one at all, or have a bare-bones website that, frankly, turns potential clients off by looking dated or amateurish (the exact opposite impression any attorney would want to convey).

If your website is better than that, you’re already ahead of the game. By “better than that,” we mean it has a fresh, contemporary design that visually reassures clients they’re in good hands; is adaptive to access from mobile devices like tablets and smartphones; and has features consumers expect, like a click-to-call button. If we had to hazard a guess, we’d say your existing website might have some, but probably not all, of those features. There are any number of places that can provide a nice-looking website, but a marketing vendor like FindLaw works exclusively with law firms and has spent decades researching online consumer behavior.

Ask yourself: Are you excelling at intake?

FindLaw’s research has found that one-third of law firms neglect phone messages and half do not return emails within 24 hours. That’s far too slow for most prospective clients. These missed connections are lost opportunities, because they reflect missed chances to connect with people who have a legal need, found your law firm, and want legal representation — and people like that are why you put so much effort into marketing in the first place!

Take some time to think about how you handle incoming inquiries and be honest with yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is worried and wants help quickly. Is the way you respond fast enough and good enough for that person? If it isn’t, it needs to be. Otherwise, you’ll continue to lose potential clients at the precise moment it should be easiest to bring them in.

Launch an integrated marketing plan.

A digital legal integrated marketing plan consists of a mix of the most effective online strategies that work for your preferences and budget, then combines them so that the cumulative effect is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, a blog on your website engages human viewers, attracts attention from search engines, and provides fodder for social media accounts like LinkedIn or Twitter — which in turn catches the eyes of more potential clients and further show search engines you’re reputable and worth showing to users. This description makes integrated marketing seem simple, but it needs some expertise and experience to get the components truly working in concert.

Prime the pump for referrals.

Quality referrals don’t come from nowhere. If you want a robust referral pipeline, you have to put yourself in a position yourself to receive it — good things come to those who help themselves, in a way. A first step that you may already know is that you have to let your local legal community know what types of matters you handle, so that attorneys can refer work they don’t handle your way. Beyond that, you need digital proof of your excellent work for past clients. That comes in the form of reviews (which, like referrals, don’t come in spades on their own), testimonials, and evidence of your work on your website and social media. To get the referral engine purring, you need to engage with people both in person and online.

Remember: You’re not a machine.

Lawyers are infamous for overworking themselves. You can’t go full steam ahead 100% of the time, because that would leave you burnt out and with nothing to offer either your clients or your loved ones — the worst of both worlds. If you find it hard to resist the impulse to focus only on work and not on yourself, remember this: A decent work-life balance helps you be the best attorney you can be, and your clients need that. You can’t provide good representation or solid counsel if you are burning the candle at both ends.

What we’ve spelled out here might seem like a lot, especially with all of the other demands of a solo practice that you’re undoubtedly juggling. What we hope you remember is that you can take on these recommendations in stages. In no time, you’ll be well on your way to building that steady stream of paying clients.

For more tips on marketing your solo practice, take a look at the Lawyer Marketing blog.

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