The Legal Chamber Newsletter • August 2010
Websites: 10 Ways Lawyers Save Money
If you're running an outdated website, you're running the risk of turning away potential clients who may think you've since vacated the legal profession or are just plain out of touch. On the flip side, setting up a new website costs big bucks when done professionally, even for a shamefully simple design.
You will be happy to know that there are a number of shortcuts that do not involve learning web design or hiring the 12 year-old down the street:
- Host your site using blog software. While hosting your own site can be fairly simple, the easiest and quickest way to get things rolling is by working through a blog format.
- Design simply for ease of use.
- Include all pertinent information about you and your practice.
- Work with other lawyers to write blogs and exchange links.
- Focus material on your practice, not your personal life.
- Update frequently so people know you're current.
- List your blog site with free registries to increase exposure.
- Do promotions and get involved with online campaigns.
- Network all of your different profiles online.
- Respond to potential clients on your website quickly.
Top Business Errors Made by Lawyers
Highly skilled professionals like lawyers and doctors are trained to practice law or medicine, not to run a business. Many of us end up opening our own practices for various reasons, but are then required to take on more and more business responsibility. You're forced to attend to clients, manage staff, pay bills, market your practice, and keep toilet paper in the bathrooms. It's a lot on your plate when you're trying to give people quality legal counsel.
Below are some easy tips to help you bring in new clients and spread the word about your practice:
- Work with staff on marketing decisions - The most successful businesses work as a team and exchange ideas so that everyone is on the same page and things work like a well oiled machine.
- A message or credo - This may sound a bit cheesy, but whether you're "dedicated to fighting for injury claim compensation" or "protecting clients' interests and saving money," doctrines give clients insight into your practice and act like a free marketing scheme. Everyone remembers a great slogan or line, so "just do it."
- Show you're a leader - Whether you're the volunteer lawyer who provides legal commentary on a radio show or post blogs, showing you're an expert and leader is paramount in securing clients. They want a lion, not a lamb.
- Don't rely on referrals - Referrals are great because they let you know your clients are happy, but it's foolish to rely on something so serendipitous. Marketing will gear your practice toward long term growth while also providing short term compensation.
- Competitive pricing - Legal work is like any other product. If your rates are too expensive, many folks won't even consider your services.
- Newsletter - Companies normally put out newsletters to keep in contact with their clients, provide useful information, and attract business. Lawyers should shoot for at least two newsletters each year. For more info, see below.
- Don't cut corners on marketing - Marketing costs money. Create a budget and use it! There are lots of shortcuts, but they usually don't pay off in the long run.
- Promote your services - Tell people what you can do for them and how your experience will help sort out their legal issues.
How Lawyers Build Successful Newsletters
You may think that building a newsletter is straightforward, because there are templates in many popular programs like Microsoft Word and Publisher. However, there are a number of important things to take into account when you actually begin creating the newsletter. Certain missteps can alienate your clients.
Below are some considerations you should take into account when creating a newsletter for your solo law practice or small firm:
- You should have a clear idea of who your audience is. You would write much differently to a group of clients than you would your colleagues in the legal industry. Remember to explain things clearly when writing to clients. They have much less experience, so you will want to define legal concepts and ideas or include a glossary. Your newsletter should be "reader friendly."
- The tone of a newsletter if often overlooked and can be a major pitfall. You don't want to come off as a "know-it-all" by putting things too simply, but it's also important to demonstrate your knowledge. Before sending it out, you should ask a fellow lawyer as well as a lay person to review it and make suggestions. If the newsletter isn't interesting and engaging people, they won't read it.
- The most notable part of your newsletter is the actual articles and links you provide. Do your homework to make sure your advice and facts are sound and provide some links to helpful websites, blogs, and usual legal information.
- Frequency is important when you publish newsletters. It's important to keep in regular contact with your clients. Sending out regular newsletters shows your reliability.
- A "Call to Action" is important for any good advertisement, and that's exactly what your newsletter will accomplish. Your newsletter shows you're knowledgeable, reliable, and reputable. Go to it!
Legal Tip #7: Empathize with Clients
Do you feel that your practice is lacking a more humanized, personal touch?
You may be so busy that you don't always think about how your clients perceive you. But a positive presentation is something that should always be on your mind—and in your interactions with clients.
Some people have it already, but many attorneys are still learning what it means to empathize. Putting yourself in your client's shoes is something you may need to practice at, but it can help to motivate you and put your client at ease. Let them know that you understand their situation (and if possible, relate a personal experience to their dilemma), and tell them about any similar situations you may have handled and resolved in the past.
But remember, empathy is not just a pat on the back and an "I know what you're going through." Skip the canned Hallmark reassurances. If you want to make a true empathetic connection, you will need to listen and relate. You don't need to be their therapist, but you should be their confidant.
Empathizing with your client will encourage comfort and ultimately establish trust. And with over 88% of consumers claiming that it's important to trust their lawyer, an ability to express empathy can be a key factor in your client's decision to retain your services.