Who Is Your Competition
My practice is more profitable because…
I help people get to the right attorney.
We lawyers live in a super competitive environment. Barratry goes largely unchecked and the law schools continue to churn out more lawyers to fight over less work, or so it appears from all the anecdotes we hear. More than ever, a successful law practice is dependent on successful marketing strategies to generate business. Gone are the days when a stellar reputation as a law practitioner is the best way to generate business. Yet, for most lawyers the biggest competitor is not other lawyers but the inaction on the part of potential clients or their misdirected efforts to find help. Every week clients come in for consultations who have good or very good claims which they can no longer prosecute because the statute of limitations has run. Bottom line: there is still a lot of business out there. It is a matter of focusing your marketing on potential clients who do not know they have rights to protect or who are not naturally inclined to be proactive in seeking out legal services for redress and need legal help to be user friendly.
There is a marketing strategy for every type of law practice. Consumer bankruptcy attorneys, mass tort litigators, and family law lawyers are able to access their markets through more traditional marketing strategies such as TV, radio, print ads, search engines, etc…. Lawyers who represent corporations and businesses often have to become involved in professional and fraternal organizations in order to network and get exposure to potential clients. Real estate transactional lawyers have to hob knob with bankers and title companies to get business. But no matter your law practice, all lawyers should do one thing well: refer to other lawyers and clients.
For example, you are in your office working and receive an inquiry that appears to be about your area of practice but turns out to be more about insolvency and the need for bankruptcy protection. This is someone who is misdirected in their efforts to find help. You can beg off in giving any help or you can make a referral. If you do not make a referral, the chances increase that person will stop trying to get help. However, if you give them the name of a lawyer who practices in that area along with a phone number, the person is more likely to follow-up with a phone call. If you want to encourage the person to keep trying to get to the proper lawyer, you can tell the person you will add the referral lawyer’s office into the call to try to set up an appointment. In the least, you should tell the person to mention your name when the person calls the referring lawyer. Anytime someone tells a lawyer they were referred by another attorney, the referral should be treated as serious and worthy of immediate attention. And your referral may prove profitable in the event the referral lawyer pays you a referral fee.
Another example: you are talking to your client one day and he mentions he and his wife bought a lot out on a local lake and are going to build. He tells you they have preliminary plans but have not selected an architect or a contractor. Your best client is a local contractor. You give the client his name and phone number and offer to take him to lunch with the contractor next week. How much will the contractor love you? You are the contractor’s lawyer but he sees you as a one-way ticket where he is always paying you. This is your chance to change his point of view and see you as a referral source. If you seal the deal, his loyalty to you will be like a faithful dog and he will be more likely to return the favor and market you to other potential clients.
And doing the above costs you nothing but time. You are not paying for advertising, for clicks, or for marketing personnel. One caveat: document these calls and incidental meetings. Whenever possible get an address and, even better, an email address and send them confirmation of the conversation and the name and phone number of the referral(s). One word of caution, though: tell them whether you are familiar with the person and their professional reputation. It is all right to refer them to someone you do not know as long as you disclose this: “Although I am giving you the name and number of John Doe, I do not know what is his reputation for doing quality legal work. I only know that he holds himself out as regularly practicing law. Although there may be other local attorneys who practice law, I am unfamiliar with who they may be or I know them and cannot recommend them.” And use these referrals to develop new collegial relationships. Call up the referral attorney and introduce yourself. Find out more about his practice and introduce him to yours. He is likely to make a more serious effort to find a client to refer to you if you make the call.
Finally, there are some modestly priced software programs worthy of your investment to help you keep track of your marketing efforts and referrals. It is difficult to develop or to revise a marketing plan if you have no idea who is your referral sources and how strong a source they are. Marketing software helps to track this and provides solid data on which to make sound marketing decisions.