Getting clients when you’re a new attorney


I got an email from a young lawyer who just completed law school, asking for advice:

“I got a job as a legal marketer for a sole practitioner who has been in business for over 20years.

I am expected to find new clients, set up websites and yet I have not been given the appropriate tools to market this practice and attract clients. Worst part is I don’t earn a salary, only 10% commission for every client I sign. It’s been two months and I haven’t brought anything.

So how do I make this work and attract new clients with no referrals, no tools, no contacts in the legal field?

Please help.


I’ve got news for you JB, you don’t have a job. You have a very bad deal.

Okay, you get an office and someone to answer your phone, I presume. That’s good. That has value. But it’s not worth giving up 90% of the fees on clients you bring in.

Time to re-negotiate.

I would offer to “pay” for the office space by doing work for your landlord, on his existing files. Research, draft documents, meet with clients, do court appearances, that sort of thing. Two hours a day, perhaps, in return for an office or even a desk and access to the conference room is a good deal for both of you.

If he wants your help in marketing HIS practice, he needs to pay you. A salary and/or a reasonable percentage of the fees. Start with 50-50.

Otherwise, if you bring in clients, they’re yours. You get 100% of the fees, unless you choose to associate with your landlord because he has experience and resources you don’t yet have.

If he won’t agree to this, there are other attorneys who will. They have empty space, they need an attorney in the office to do some of their work but don’t want to hire someone. “Time for space” is a good deal for them, and for you.

Okay, what about marketing?

First, consider that your current landlord (or another lawyer or firm with whom you choose to associate) has something valuable you don’t have. They have a reputation. You can use that to get better results in your marketing.

For you, starting out, it might be easier to market this other attorney or firm than to market yourself. Make sure prospective clients and referral sources see you are associated with an experienced firm.

Now, how do you bring in clients?

First, set up a simple website. You need to have something to point to when someone asks what you do and how you can help them or their referrals.

Next, contact (by phone) every attorney you can find and tell them you are available for appearances (for pay) and for overflow. You’ll take cases that are too small for them, for example, or outside their practice area. Ask them to recommend other attorneys who might need your help.

Then, write a “referral letter” that describes what you do (or what the attorney or firm you are marketing does). Explain what you can do for an attorney’s clients when they refer them to you, and why they should. Send this to attorneys you know, and to attorneys you don’t know, and follow up.

Next, write a report that prospective clients would want to read. Things they need to know about their legal problem and the available solutions. Explain why they should contact you to take the next step. Put a form on your website so prospective clients can sign up to get your report. Keep in touch with them via email.

This only scratches the surface but it’s a good place to start. And it will bring in clients.

How to write a referral letter to send to lawyers and other professionals

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