Ten Questions to Inspire a Successful Law Practice

Most lawyers and Collaborative Law professionals struggle with not having enough time to build a law practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients. You can take charge of your practice by assessing your practice development strengths and weaknesses.

Read the following questions and rate the response with a score of 1-5. (1 - Not at all true and 5 - very true.)

  1. Purpose/Vision: Have you internalized “what” you want your practice to be and “why” this is important to you?
     
  2. Competence: Do you schedule time for attending conferences, workshops and advanced education?
     
  3. Best Clients: Do you know who your target client is and how to attract them to your practice?
     
  4. Core Message: Is your message distinctive? Does it differentiate you? Is it relevant to your target client? 
     
  5. Consistent Brand:  Does your brand communicate what you do, who you serve and the value you provide clients. Is it memorable? 
  1. Client Communication: Do your clients feel heard after they meet with you? Do you provide accessible and relevant education resources for your clients? How promptly do you return calls?
     
  2. On-line visibility: Does your website clearly communicate what you do and who you do it for? Does it reinforce your brand with high value educational resources and an informative blog? Do you have an updated bio on your web site and other social media sites including LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook?
     
  3. Building a referral network: Have you educated your referral sources on what distinguishes you and who your best clients are? Do you know the same information about your referral sources? How are you bringing value to your top referral sources?
  1. Exceptional Client Experience: Do you send out client evaluations and debrief with colleagues about improving your client’s experience? 
     
  2. Measure your results: Do you consistently evaluate how you get cases and assess your targeted goals with actual goals on a monthly basis?

Review your answers and make a note of the responses that scored below a 3. What are your top three priority actions for the next 90 days?

You can take charge of your practice by focusing on what you want and having a realistic understanding of what you need to do to achieve your goals. 

How Do You Attract Desirable Clients to Your Practice?

You can attract desirable clients to your practice by communicating a message that is relevant to the clients you want to attract.

This means communicating what your clients/referral sources are interested in hearing verses what you are interested in saying.  

Creating a relevant message requires preparation and having a solid understanding of your target markets most important problems and goals.

This article explores what does and does not work for effectively communicating the value of collaborative law practice.

What does not work?     Too much emphasis on the practitioner:

Example: We assist divorcing individuals with a cooperative process that gives families resources and options unavailable in traditional divorce models. XXX is a group of independently practicing family law attorneys, mediators, business valuators, mental health professionals and financial advisors specializing in divorce issues. Each practitioner, while in business independently in their field, has XXX to provide cohesive, multi-disciplinary services to divorcing clients.

What works?

1.    A message that starts with a point of relevance to the audience:

Example: Divorce does not have to be slash and burn.

2.    A message that relates to a problem the audience has and provides a solution:

Example“A significant advantage of collaborative law is that all personal and financial matters are kept private rather than open public records of a case tried in court,” adds Carlton R. Marcyan, “For clients going through divorce, especially business owners and clients with high assets, keeping personal and financial matters private is an important value.” (full article

3.     A Message that conveys a story the audience can relate to:

Example: "One of the more unique holiday plans Galvin has seen is a couple in collaboration were caught up in a power struggle over who got to spend Christmas morning and day with the children. With the help of the collaborative team the parents were able to focus on the importance of honoring the children's tradition rather than fight over who would be with the children on Christmas morning. Traditionally, the family opened presents in their home and then went to the wife’s parents’ home for a meal and to play with all their cousins. In collaboration, the couple agreed it was in the children’s best interests to maintain that tradition and the ex-husband would be included in the festivities for the next few years while the children were still young rather than alternating holidays and depriving their children of something that they looked forward to." 

This type of arrangement is in contrast to what can happen if parents do not communicate. For example, if parents cannot agree on how to divide time with their children over holidays, it is common for a Judge to try to give everyone a little something and order alternating holidays year to year which often results in tradition and the holidays being less enjoyable for the children in order to satisfy the parents’ demands.

With more than half of the marriages in the United States ending in divorce, there is no doubt Collaborative Law is something that could help parents minimize the damage of divorce on children. January is the month when most parents begin divorce proceedings. “The greatest gift you can give your child in 2010 and beyond is to love your children more than you hate your spouse and work cooperatively with the other parent to co-parent your children,” advises Jim Galvin. (full article)

In summary, the following are four steps to increase the effectiveness of your message so you can attract desirable clients to your practice:

1.    Believe in your message. Your personal belief in your message will come across. Authenticity is essential for effective communication.

2.    Develop talking points. Define the primary benefits of your service and stay focused in your communication. Avoid getting too detailed about the process before you have communicated the value of what you do.

3.    Know your audience. Understand what is most important to your audience, including their problems and the solutions you provide. Tailor your talking points to address the concerns and goals of those you are communicating to.

4.    Use multiple communication channels. Communicate your message consistently and frequently. Opportunities for getting your message out include, face to face meetings, on-line directories, firm/organization bios, articles, on line press releases, and web site, LinkedIn and facebook profiles.  

Send me examples of how your communication has worked and what  challenges you are facing to consistently communicate your "message".

Successful Lawyer Marketing Focuses on the Client

In a white paper recently published by Law 360 on lessons for law firms from the financial crisis, there is a section on business development including an article Getting Windows For Building Business In The Downturn By Shannon Henson. The article highlights a key strategy for lawyers in an economic downturn::

The best way to protect yourself is to make sure you are building up your own client base. If you do that, then no matter what happens, you will be okay.

One of the most important strategies for buidling your client base is to master how you communicate the value of your services to potential clients.

Your goal is to clearly communicate the value you provide clients. Communicate what clients want to hear, i.e. how you solve their problem, verses what you want to tell them, i.e. your credentials.

Description Based message

Many attorneys describe what they do based on a roster of their services or a list of their features. For example, the following message is a familiar description for family lawyers:

"We are a group of knowledgeable, dedicated professionals engaged in the practice of family law."

The emphasis is on the features of the group (knowledgeable, dedicated professionals) and on a description of the service (practice of family law) versus any beneficial outcome to the client. The client has to work hard to translate what this means to them.

Value based message

Compare this response to a family lawyer I consulted with on creating his core message. Through the process of creating his core message, the family lawyer internalized who his best client were, how he differentiated himself and the value of his service.

The result has been an increase in referrals from desirable clients. He is receiving web site referrals from clients who want what he does best.

A few weeks ago, he was at a networking event and when was asked what he did, he replied, “I help divorcing clients to reach solutions.”  One gentleman was listening and heard his unique way of helping divorcing clients and immediately asked for his card. The gentleman said, "I am in the process of getting a divorce and have talked to three lawyers who all said the same thing, you are the first lawyer who has talked about reaching solutions.” A few days later, the gentleman retained him as his lawyer.

Summary

The success this family lawyer experienced came from his ability to differentiate his practice and to convey the value of his services.

When the family lawyer talked about what he did, it was not about him and his credentials. He talked about the client, their problem, and his ability to help them solve their problem.