It would stand to reason that by virtue of graduating law school and passing a state’s bar, you would be able to start a law firm. You might print business cards, get some office space, tell your friends, and the clients would just start coming in.
It would certainly be nice if it worked that way, but it does not. Cultivating clients and client relationships is important, and the time needed to make this happen is a full-time gig in and of itself. While on a panel this past weekend at the Catapult Conference in San Francisco, several solo and small firm attorneys chimed in on what it takes to get clients when you are just starting out…
You are not going to find clients sitting in your office (or hiding out in a coffee shop). It is important to get out in the free world and meet other professionals. Forming connections with attorneys is an essential first step. These relationships offer a great value proposition for both parties involved. All attorneys need referrals and to bring in new business.
It is equally as important to form relationships with individuals in the industries that you represent. You cannot call yourself a real estate attorney if you do not know anyone working in the industry and what the needs of the sector are. If you want to promote that you offer a service specific to an industry, it is important to be on top of the latest news and trends so that you can stay ahead of the curve and ahead of your client’s needs.
Don’t Refer to Social Media with Disdain
Social media is not just a fad. It is here to stay.
Now that you have had a moment to absorb this, you need to integrate the tools that work for you in your practice.
For some, Twitter makes sense. The commitment is 140 characters at a time, and you can pre-game your plan for your tweets depending on what tools you use. It is also a place where people look for issue area experts to follow. If people are able to identify you as an expert, when it comes time to hire a lawyer or refer one to someone else, you might be the first person to come to mind. Lawyers have to recognize that not everyone else knows a bunch of lawyers they can just call for any given matter.
If you have the capability to create content in a longer format consistently, blogging might work for you. Blogs are an appropriate forum to dissect an important or hot issue in your space. Many times when people are looking for advice or an “in the trenches” analysis, they turn to blogs. This can be an avenue to drive traffic to your brand and your web properties, leading to potential clients.
Social media is a place to be adventurous. You can use Pinterest to pin things you find relevant to your practice. A Facebook page can operate as a public relations mission control for those who are interested in your practice and what you do. As new platforms emerge, there is no reason not to experiment to see what attracts an audience for you.
There are thousands of conferences and events every year. These events are contingent on having content to provide to an audience, and speakers are a critical part of making these events competitive with other events in the space.
If you can determine that listening to you would be educational and not a total snooze, putting in speaker or session proposals for conferences can be an avenue to make connections with an audience who are in a room because they want to hear you and learn from your expertise.
The bottom line to finding clients (and I’m sure this will be revisited in future columns) is being public and available. In a connected world, you cannot hide, but if you are trying to be a successful solo or small firm practice, why would you?
Christina Gagnier leads the Intellectual Property, Internet & Technology practice at Gagnier Margossian LLP, with a specialization in social media, copyright and information privacy. She is also at the helm of REALPOLITECH, a digital public relations consultancy that provides a broad range of services, including crisis communications. She serves on the Board of Directors of Without My Consent, combating issues like revenge porn. If you ever need to find her, start with Twitter at @gagnier or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.