10 Marketing Tips for Young Attorneys
One of the most important parts about being a lawyer is marketing–something not taught directly in law school. For young attorneys and small to even mid-sized firms, it is incredibly difficult to effectively market. Particularly because larger firms or more prominent sole practitioners can expend enormous amounts of money on marketing to saturate the market. Thus, young attorneys and smaller firms are at an inherent disadvantage to differentiate themselves in this marketplace.
But there are some more cost-effective ways for particularly young attorneys to better market themselves. The list really can be limitless, but here are ten I most prefer.
1) Find a really good, responsive mentor — This mentor can be anyone in the legal field whether it be a professor, clerk at a courthouse, field placement supervisor, or of course an associate or partner at a law firm. You want to make sure you connect with this person not only on a professional level, but you also want to make sure you have a social connection to this person as well. This will ensure they associate you both inside the work environment but also outside the work environment; this where a lot of prospective clients are obtained which could potentially be referred to you. Your mentor will help you make connections with others in the area you are interested in, provide you with related experience when cases come up while you are working with them, but most importantly when you leave, they will still provide you cases that arise that might be outside their practice area but within yours. You can also use this mentor to learn more about how they marketed him or herself, and how business development works in the local legal community. Moreover, it doesn’t hurt if this person is well-connected–or as Malcolm Gladwell calls them, an “Enabler.” This will only maximize the relationship. Yet always remember this is a give and take relationship, and make sure to show your appreciation to your mentor!
2) Seize different opportunities at your job or school — This piggybacks off of the first tip, but could have a catch-22 contrary effect. If you are constantly working with the same few attorneys or staff members at your job, you are strengthening the bond with these individuals converting them into mentors; this is good. However, you are limiting your interactions with other attorneys or staff members who could also still benefit you. For this reason, it is important to really develop those strong relationships with a few individuals but equally important to balance yourself to become good acquaintances with the others in an effort to garner their support, advice, and hopefully referrals.
3) Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer — Law is a noble profession of respect. No matter how frustrating your adversary becomes during the representation of your client, “kill them with kindness.” Remain respectful and professional. At the conclusion of the representation, invite them to take them out to lunch, dinner, drinks, etc to develop and build a professional relationship with them. As a young lawyer, you can easily ask them for advice–maybe in other areas of law where you might not be opposing each other–and essentially “stroke their ego” for knowledge. Stay in contact with them as well, particularly if you are in the same field but opposite sides or within different niches. When a case comes along they cannot handle because of temporal issues or conflicted out of, they may refer it to you for your professionalism and tenacity in the prior representation.
4) Send thank you cards and business cards — This is true not only to employers, but also to clients! At the conclusion of representation, let them know you enjoyed assisting and getting to know them as a person, and if there are any future legal issues or questions to please let you know. Even if those questions are not in your practice area, ensure them you will point them in the proper direction. Also going off the idea of business cards, consider having a mailing list to past clients or prospective clients that you know to update them on your practice, reach out for any questions, and provide information on various areas of law to them as a resource.
Moreover, whether you are working at a firm or not, have business cards and include them in thank you cards–multiple ones! Nowadays anyone can make their own business cards at home with proper cardstock from a printing store. But it is still better to have them professionally made, and companies like VistaPrint offer heavily discounted–and quality–business card options.
5) Join bar associations and sections, but also local, non-legal associations or groups — Without question, these can be one of the most obvious networking and marketing opportunities for any lawyer–particularly a young lawyer! Again here, bring your business cards and hand them out whether or not you are looking for a job; getting your name out there is imperative! As for the non-legal associations, becoming a regular face–or at least a regular name on the newsletters, meeting minutes, programs, etc–will undoubtedly help you for one simple reason: You may be the only lawyer there. As opposed to bar associations where you are mainly seeking referrals or more “Enablers,” at non-legal associations or groups you are seeking actually seeking prospective clients directly.
6) Volunteer at public events — Even when you are volunteering in your community, there are great marketing opportunities. Not only is it an opportunity to get your face out there in the community, but you should also pass out those valuable business cards. Additionally, the bar associations promote this volunteerism and it is another talking point in a discussion with other members of the bar. Or, if you happen to recognize other attorneys there, it will only enhance their perception of you; hand out your card!
7) Make the most of CLEs — Related to the two previous points, young attorneys especially have the most demanding CLE requirements. But you are not just using this time to network with fellow attorneys sitting with you in the audience. Typically, more experienced and prominent attorneys are the ones lecturing which creates another great opportunity for marketing. Using some tactics noted above, if you particularly like a lecturer’s presentation or are currently practicing or want to practice in that area of law, commend the lecturer on a job well done and offer lunch or dinner to further discuss the topic. As always, card ’em with a thank you and two business.
8) Use social media for legal marketing— We all use social media, but whether or not we use is to our legal marketing advantage is another question. Creating accounts and pages is almost always free and they can have an enormous impact. As a young attorney, it certainly is awkward to have a page dedicated to you as an attorney since–most of us–have yet to accomplish anything impressive to sway a prospective client. Further, law school achievements such as Law Review, clinical intern, law clerk for a judge, etc do not resonate opinions whether or not to retain us for the layperson. Yet, they still may help with referrals. Remember, your colleagues out of law school are your best resources. Yet, after three years you still may not know all the practice fields your colleagues work in–even your closest friends. This is why is is important to advertise this on social media where you are connected to your colleagues. Furthermore, Craigslist is a great source for free advertising (in most cities) for yourself as a young attorney. Even if you just take a case and refer it, this can give you the experience doing initial client conferences and fact investigation, compiling a file, and referring the case out to someone who can handle it. Giving local firms business will only make them think more favorable of you, and when a case comes along that you can handle, you are sure to be considered.
9) Consider creating a website, blog, or both — Creating a website or blog can be costly, and they certainly will take a considerable amount of time. While there are some less-expensive methods out there, do remember your goal is marketing; having a cheap, budget website or blog will only reflect poorly on your law practice. Hence why when you do decide to have a website to market yourself, to do it correctly and spare no (reasonable) expense. In addition, a blog attached to your website is also incredibly important because it will further expand your website’s content frequently. Having more topics, discussions, and posts will “widen the net” to land more search engine hits. If your blog is attached to a website (and/or social media), all of these hits are imputed from the blog (or social media) to your website now. Thus, you are increasing exposure for your main services on your website by discussing ancillary–and possibly attenuated issues– on your blog.
Lastly, using both social media and having a website or blog (or both) will do another important thing: Confirm who you are on the internet! It goes without saying that if a prospective client or possible referring attorney hears your name, the first thing they will do now is search for you on the internet. If that person does not find you, they likely will not want to use someone who hasn’t even expanded to the internet yet. However, if they find you and your illustrious blog which is relevant and well-kept, they will likely contact you. This is important because, as a young attorney, you are likely to change your employment many times before finding the one that sticks. This translates into your business cards you keep handing out–even if just a year ago–may have old information on it. You can easily update your contact information through a website and blog, which is just another way of keeping contacts connected to you.
10) Perform document review/part-time employment — Quite possibly one of the most dreadful phrases and experiences any young attorney could hear or do: Doc review. Yet, these are excellent opportunities to market yourself and your skills. Search your legal newspapers and publications in your area or local court opinions recently for class actions. Particularly look for small firms or solo practitioners that are handling these kinds of cases and send them correspondence offering to assist with document review for them. Similarly how these firms are disadvantaged for business development and marketing versus large law firms, class action cases are an even more prolific example of this disparity. Providing these services will show you are hardworking and willing to do menial tasks. This generates another opportunity to provide your business cards or contact information for a referral. Especially in light of the fact that this firm is probably only taking a few large cases at a time (or only one!), and if there are other clients that come to them with a case during this time they may not be able to handle it. Now you are a prime target for a referral phone call!
In closing, it is important for young attorneys to also recognize that they need to ultimately take their own approach as well; one size does not fit all. Effective marketing will make you stand out in the crowd. But most importantly, any attorney needs to acknowledge that you may not–and likely will not–see an immediate change when you first start marketing. This is an ongoing process that a young attorney needs to develop and continue to take the right steps before seeing an impact. Notwithstanding the rough economy, young attorneys still have plenty of tools at their disposal to increase their clients books.