Law Firm Marketing: How To Get Your First Clients & Scale Beyond Just Referrals

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Would you like to learn the best ways to get new clients when starting up your own legal practice and also how to scale it so you’re not just relying on professional referrals to get new work?  

There are lots of ways to get clients, but you need a clear plan to actually make it work. Your client acquisition efforts need to work together, so you can consistently achieve new business.  Here are some marketing strategies and tactics that can help you grow your legal practice.

Start by building your profile and maximizing your professional referrals

Words from Mike Bromley
from Beyond Billables.

So firstly, leverage your professional network by getting out there and actually asking for the work. A lot of people aren’t used to saying “I’m here to do it”, so it is important to start building a profile & reputation that you can do it. For a lot of lawyers, that feels salesy, but sales should not be confused with building your brand reputation.

Sales is sitting down and shaking the hand with that end client. Building your brand is more like letting your network know that you’re the go-to person for the type of work that you are building your firm around.

It’s important to have a clear plan on who your client is, where they are, what they want to engage with as well and how they want to be engaged with. Don’t just think how you believe that they should be engaged with, go out there and get an understanding of what is the most burning problem my clients are facing and how you can position yourself as the go-to expert on solving that exact problem.

Additionally, you need to get an understanding as to how your ideal clients purchase legal services to solve their biggest problems.

For example, if your ideal clients tend to purchase at a certain time of the year,  you have to make sure that you’ve ramped up for that. Or, they’ve got a different level of purchasing intent that changes the landscape on how you market to them, for example, consumer-facing practices vs business-to-business.

Most small-firm owners live off referrals when they start because lawyers are great at referring and so are other professionals. 

Therefore, it is a great place right at the start to be cutting your teeth in getting something going but you also need to think about your plan for everything else whether that’s direct customer acquisition through Google or building a brand that helps attract and convert better clients.

Scaling beyond professional referral with direct online client acquisition

Words by James Banks from Web3.

Professional referrals are extremely important for any business, not just law firms, and it is particularly important in the early days to get the wheels turning.

It can help you to quickly find your feet and your position in the market, which helps to you understand where you want to be seen in the market and the types of clients and the cases you want to be dealing with. 

The trouble with professional referral is that it’s very difficult to say, “Okay in the next month, I want to receive X amount of referrals”. You can’t control the incoming amount of referral work.

So typically with the firms that we work with, they’re looking to augment professional referrals with a channel of direct acquisition of clients and cases that they can predict and control to give them forward-facing predictability of how their firm can grow over a course of time.

The first thing that we ask is “What’s the type of work you want to be doing?”And that’s about being very clear about the type of clients you want to be servicing and the type of work that you want to be doing for that client base in your area of law.

We can then back up that understanding through publicly available data, through platforms such as Facebook and Google which helps us to understand the potential audience size and their intent towards purchasing from you.

This is where understanding your ideal client’s purchasing habits comes into play. Having an understanding of the audience to go after and the offer we will take to that audience needs to be backed up with a viable business economic engine.

Put simply, if I go after this audience with this offer, will I make any money once all my expenses and cost of service is paid? If the answer is no, then you need to keep adjusting your economic engine, your offer and your audience until you get an overwhelming ‘yes’.

In terms of advertising channels for lawyers, we typically lean to Google for lead acquisition because of the high intent behind someone Google searching for a solution to their legal problems.

Depending on the field of law and the offer that you are taking to market, your target audience may have very high commercial intent to purchase when they click through to your offer. If your offer hits the marks with your audience’s wants and needs, you’ll be able to capture the lead immediately without doing any form of nurturing to build that interest into a lead with intent to purchase from you.

It all starts getting super clear with your audience and your offer. We can get all the data, numbers and cost associated to understand and estimate what that cost per acquisition (CPA) would look like if we went after your audience with your offer.

Once we know how many cases you want to be doing per month and how many clients you want to gain per month, we simply process that through a bit of mathematics to understand: “Okay well if I invest X into paid acquisition and then I can receive Y ideally by timeframe Z”. Understanding those estimates help us to establish KPIs which ultimately lead to achieving a return on investment (ROI) with your client acquisition campaign.

Once positive ROI is achieved, then we can look at how we can scale up your client acquisition efforts over the course of 3, 6 and 12 months to grow the firm and take it to the next level.

Karen Finch from Legally Yours

The power of Legal Community Events & Networking

Words by Karen Finch from Legally Yours & Mike Bromley from Beyond Billables.

At the end of the day, it’s about getting new sources of work. We recommend that most law firms try to aim for at least 5 possible sources. However, keep in mind that it may take years to get all 5 sources working consistently and effectively for your firm.

Whatever those sources of work are, whether it’s paid acquisition or referral or your personal network or your brand, you should also consider attending events held specifically for lawyers.

It’s particularly important for new lawyers and existing lawyers who go off to start their own firm to come to legal community events and start networking within their own community to build up those professional referral relationships.

What Legally Yours has done particularly well is hosting community-facing events where we bring lawyers in to present and be subject-matter on the areas they practice. So for all the other lawyers in the room, they can instantly identify with who you are, what you are doing and how you can help them. For instance, if it’s a freelancing-themed event, the audience will know which lawyers to go to if I need advice on freelancing. 

Events help you build relationships, but they can also provide you with the chance to speak to an audience and build your credibility up.

Everyone worries about their own credibility, especially those starting up: “Oh, but I’m not the expert” – well you are if you are the person talking! It actually doesn’t take that much if you can get beyond questioning yourself and your own credibility.

The reality is if you’ve got great legal skills and you’re doing something well, you’re worthy of being listened, which gives you the ability to build your brand reputation and network from there.

James Banks from Web3

Why you should build your business like the Pantheon

Words by Mike Bromley from Beyond Billables and James Banks from Web3.

Law firms who only have a referral-based business is dangerous. What happens if X person doesn’t refer you any more work? And a lot of lawyers are stuck in especially in larger firms like that. They’ve got two key client relationships, one walks out the door, and they don’t have to practice anymore. 

The cool thing about going out on your own is you can source more avenues of work to actually give yourself more security.

The analogy we use for our clients is you want to build your own Pantheon. You look at the Pantheon – it’s weathered thousands and thousands of years, hundreds of wars in front of it, yet it still stands strong today.

Why? Because it’s held up by multiple, multiple, multiple pillars. And you want to do the same thing for your business. Paid acquisition is only one pillar.  Professional referrals is only another pillar. Events is another. 

What are those pillars that you build into your business that’s going to allow you to have multiple sources of client acquisition?

That’s a difference between a business or a firm that is struggling to gain your work vs. one that’s got so much work, they don’t even know what to do with it.

The difference is how many pillars of work you establish to be positioned as the market leader and the go-to person in your industry for what you do.

How did you go about getting your first few clients in your business? Let me know in the comments below!

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