Marketing insights for sole practitioners

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My post on going solo brought emails from lawyers who appreciated that I didn’t varnish the truth about how hard it is.

If you are a solo or thinking of opening your own office, I recommend you read Philly attorney Jordan Rushie’s candid post about his experiences in staring his own practice. It’s interesting reading if you want to compare notes, required reading if you’re about to open that office and need to make a shopping list.

Rushie agrees that going solo is almost a crazy idea–a lot harder and more costly than some would have you believe, far more work and far less income than you can imagine. Although he acknowledges that it’s never the “right time” to go solo, if you have a choice, wait until you have the experience, money, and contacts to be able to do it right.

Rushie’s has some interesting comments about marketing for the new solo. Actually, his advice rings true for just about any attorney. He says you don’t need:

  • An expensive, fancy web site. I agree. You need a place to send people to get information about your practice and how to contact you. You can add more content and make things look nicer later on, after you’re making money.
  • A logo. Right again. Although you can get a decent one designed for a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, you’ll waste too much time deciding on the right look. You don’t need a logo, you need clients.
  • SEO Optimization”. Rushie suggests that more traffic won’t necessarily bring you good clients but that it will certainly bring you tire kickers. You can set up mechanisms to screen and filter out the low-quality inquiries and, therefore, get some decent clients, but the time (and money) you will spend are probably better spent elsewhere. Put this on the list for later.
  • A marketing/PR firm. I agree with this, too. Even if you could afford the cost and could find a firm that really knows what they’re doing (many don’t), you’re better off building relationships. Rushie says, “take potential clients to a ball game,” family, friends, and other lawyers out to dinner. No question about it, you will get far more business by leveraging your existing relationships for business and referrals than you will get hiring a marketing firm. I’m not saying you don’t need marketing information and advice. You do. But you’re better off learning it yourself so you can do it yourself.
  • Social Media or a social media consultant. Rushie says he doesn’t rely on social media to build his practice. He gets about 5% of his work from Facebook friends, “but they are usually people I knew from high school who would have called me anyway.” I know there are exceptions, but I hear something similar from a lot of attorneys. Don’t ignore social media but don’t depend on it, either. Use it as an excuse to connect or re-connect with real people because the magic happens when you talk to people or meet with people in the real world.

Rushie says not having a plan on how to grow your practice is a big mistake and of course, I concur. The good news is that the plan is a lot easier, less technically challenging, and less costly than you might think. Build your practice by building relationships.

Unfortunately, unless you know a lot of (the right) people, building relationships may take up a lot of time. Fortunately, as a new solo without a lot of clients or work keeping you busy, you have time to go meet some new people. Unless you’re too busy learning how to practice law.

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