Posted by Jay Kamlet on Jun 16, 2014
Standing out from the crowd in your solo practice
One of the fundamentals in running any business is understanding how to sell your product to your target client. In law, we talk about hanging a shingle when opening a solo law practice or small firm, but simply posting your name on a building or a website is not enough. To attract a sustainable stream of clientele, you must be able to show why your practice is worth choosing over the dozens or hundreds of other attorneys in your field.
The key is to differentiate yourself from your competition through effective practice management. Examine your value proposition and what makes you unique. Think about:
Chances are, you chose to start your own practice for a reason – rather than join or stay at a larger firm. Think about the reasons you started your business and determine if they can become part of the core message that sets you apart from your competition. For example, if you started your practice to meet the needs of a niche demographic, such as senior citizens or people with disabilities, use that fact as one differentiator in your core message.
Solo attorneys and small firms often have more flexibility to compete on rates and billing models.
“If you aren’t already using flat fees or value pricing models, reconsider. Your clients want predictability so they can budget their legal expenses. Find ways to break your fee into manageable chunks,” wrote Susan Saltonsall Duncan for attorney@work.
Use billing and pricing flexibility to your advantage, but remember that price can’t be your only differentiator.
In addition to being flexible on rates and looking for alternative billing structures, look for ways to drive revenue. Leverage the skills of other attorneys by contracting with less experienced lawyers at lower rates. Agree to pay those contractors on an hourly or fixed-fee basis and bill that through to the client with some margin, but keep in mind your ethical obligations to clients when setting that margin. Using this approach can help you compete with the bigger firms while delivering value to your clients.
LawBank creates the perfect environment to assist with this model because of its mix of attorney members in different specialties and with different levels of experience—from the new graduate to the 30+-year attorney. Opportunities to drive revenue by collaborating with other attorneys abound in an environment like this one.
Service and Relationship
Many solo lawyers report that the ability to serve their clients well is a key motivator for starting their own firms. That service includes focusing on a few core specialties rather than attempting to be all things to all clients the way some bigger firms do. If you have particular personal or professional experience in your chosen specialty, share that with clients. For example, a personal injury attorney who lived through a significant biking accident himself can offer unique insight and empathy to his clients.
Direct client contact is a key characteristic that often sets solo attorneys apart from medium or large firms. Invite clients to your office (or to the LawBank conference room, for members) for face-to-face consultations. Follow up personally to questions whenever possible, rather than delegating responses to an assistant. When clients receive deep legal insight and personal, hands-on service from you, they are more likely to tell their friends and contacts about the experience. That word-of-mouth marketing is gold.
In addition, you can differentiate yourself by providing same-day responses, sending handwritten thank-you notes and correspondence and providing a personal touch that sets you apart.
Writing for professionals in the auto industry, Kathi Kruse advises using clients’ “pain points” as a way to differentiate a business on social media.
“People crave information, especially when they have to make a decision around ‘big-ticket’ items,” she wrote in this article for LinkedIn. “Be helpful. Be interested. Be human.”
Legal services are a big-ticket item, and writing a blog or newsletter designed to help educate potential clients about issues in your legal specialty can help set you apart from the competition.
To learn more about the office suites and co-working spaces available at LawBank, visit www.law-bank.com.