Marketing fundamentals for attorneys


There are lots of ways to market legal services but (news flash) you don’t have to do all of them. A few basics are all you need to build a successful practice and if I were you, that’s what I would focus on.

You can do more, but wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to? 

Okay, what are the fundamentals I’m talking about? 

  1. Repeat business. Serve your clients well, make sure they know about all the services and benefits you offer, and stay in touch with them before, during, and after their current case or matter. 
  2. Referrals. Teach your clients and professional contacts how they benefit when they refer others to you and the easiest and best way(s) to do that. You can ask for referrals, but it’s usually easier (for you) to mention that a case or client you’re talking about (in your newsletter, for example) was referred to you and how much you appreciate your client or colleague for doing that. 
  3. Third party validation. Make sure your clients, prospects, and professional contacts see the benefits other clients got by hiring you. Gather reviews, testimonials, endorsements, and success stories, and feature them in all of your marketing content.  
  4. Build relationships. All of your clients and professional contacts should hear from you regularly, via your newsletter, holiday message, or personal email. Spend personal time (in person or on the phone) with your best clients, referral sources, and closest professional contacts. 
  5. Lead generation, not branding. If you do any advertising, direct mail, networking, writing, speaking, blogging, or any other marketing to the “cold market,” i.e., people you don’t know), don’t make it “one shot”—capture their email, stay in touch with them, tell them more about what you do and how you can help them (and people they know), and never stop doing that. 

The key to building a successful practice is maximizing the lifetime value of your clients, and these fundamentals are how you do that. 

The Attorney Marketing Formula


Reverse marketing


When I opened my practice, I looked at my skill set and experience, choose services to offer, and went looking for clients who needed those services. 

That’s how most lawyers (and businesses) do it. It’s also why they struggle. 

It’s much easier and more effective to do things in reverse. 

What I should have done (and eventually did) is to first choose the clients and market I wanted to serve, and only then choose services to offer them. It’s more efficient that way and much more likely to be successful. 

For one thing, you don’t have to hold yourself out to “everyone” and let “everyone” decide if what you do is right for them. Knowing what types of clients and markets you want to work with, you can (and should) tailor your marketing to the specific needs and wants of those clients and markets. 

Do you want to work with small businesses and professionals, big businesses, or consumers? Which industry, market, or niche? 

Do you want to work with clients who want premium service and will pay more to get it, or clients who want low cost, no frills services?

Do you want to work with clients who have lots of legal needs or clients with fewer but bigger matters? 

Figure this out first and then figure out what to offer them and how to package and promote it. 

You’ll have a lot less marketing overhead, a lot less competition, and a much higher “closing” ratio. You’ll also attract more word-of-mouth and referrals and build a much more lucrative practice. 

Use your existing “best” clients and markets and create a profile. Based on that, create content for your website, blog, or social channels, and marketing documents and offers, with examples, stories, and industry-specific language that will resonate with the people in that market.  

You’ll attract clients that are a good fit for you, and “weed out” clients who aren’t.  

You’ll also attract more referral sources and opportunities (speaking, networking, writing, joint ventures) who see you as a good fit for them and/or their clients. 

Market in reverse. Life will be good.

How to choose your ideal client and target market


Go deep with fewer people


You don’t have to go to networking events, do seminars, write a newsletter or blog, advertise, or “chat” on social media. It can be beneficial if you do, but you don’t have to. As long as you regularly connect with the key people you know or want to know—your best clients, top referral sources, most promising business contacts.  

The plan is simple. Make a list of 5-25 connections who fit that description and call or email them once a month. 

What do you say? Anything. Because anything you say can make a difference. But here are some suggestions: 

  • “What’s new with you?” What’s new in their business, what are they working on, what’s the latest in their personal life? 
  • Congratulate them on something they’ve done (personal or business). 
  • Comment about news you read about their company, industry or market. 
  • How can I help? (Referrals, introductions, advice, information).
  • Compliment their new venture, campaign, website, product, or service.
  • Invite them to coffee or lunch; invite them to play golf. 
  • Invite them to accompany you to your next networking event.
  • Volunteer for their committee.
  • Offer to do a private seminar for their business.
  • Contribute to their favorite charity or promote their favorite cause.
  • Interview them (or let them interview you).
  • Send articles, videos, books that may interest them.
  • Ask, “What are you reading?” Get the book, share your thoughts.
  • Introduce them to your other business contacts.
  • Help their kids (get into college, support their team, buy their Girl Scout cookies). 

If you can’t think of anything else, just call and say hello.

Keep in touch with your most valuable business contacts. Help them, build relationships with them, be a friend. Inevitably, they will help you. 

The Attorney Marketing Formula


Your practice grows faster when you do THIS…


For years, I’ve been saying that it only takes 15 minutes a day to market a law practice successfully. I’ve said that because if I said “one hour” you probably wouldn’t do it, and also, because it’s true. 

15 minutes is all you need. 

But do it “every day,” not just when you have some free time. 

Make it a habit, a commitment. Put the time on your calendar as an appointment with yourself and don’t miss that appointment. 

If you don’t schedule this time, you won’t do the work. Life will get in the way. Especially if you don’t like marketing and have to force yourself to do it. 

But if you keep that 15-minute daily appointment, your practice will grow faster than you ever thought possible. 

Why? Because of the compound effect of doing it every day. 

Things get easier. You get better. Momentum occurs and accelerates. 

Not just because you’re doing the activities themself but by doing something every day, you condition your mind that marketing is important to you. Your mind accepts this and goes to work for you, finding new ideas and better ways to do them, making connections, seeing things you would otherwise miss, and it does this all day (and night), not just when you’re doing the activities. 

And here’s the thing. The actual activities aren’t that important. What’s important is that you do something—anything—related to bringing in new business and increasing your income. 


You could read a few pages of a book (or my blog), brainstorm ideas for your next article, do some research for your current project, edit something already written, hang out on social and see what others are doing that you could comment on (or do yourself), or make a phone call and say hello to someone you haven’t spoken to in a minute. 

Anything related to marketing and building your practice. Including sitting quietly and thinking about what you want and how you can get it.

By the way, if 15 minutes is too much, do 5. Or two. Because it’s about the commitment and consistency, not how much you do.

Do anything. But something. Every day. 

You might want to start by reading this


Want to earn more? Offer more value.


The formula is simple: to earn more, you have to bring in more clients (and/or more work from existing clients), reduce overhead, or increase your fees. 

You get the part about improving your marketing and bringing in more business, and you’re working on that. You’re also keeping an eye on overhead. But you’re not considering increasing your fees. 

Especially now when money is so tight for so many. 

Maybe you should. 

If you suspect you’re not charging enough based on inflation and increased overhead, and what other attorneys charge, maybe it’s time to think about increasing your fees.

I know, you’re afraid you might lose some clients who can no longer afford you. So, don’t do it—yet. Don’t increase your fees to existing clients until you bring in new clients at a higher rate. 

There, you have a plan. 

Well, almost. You still need to figure out how to justify higher fees for new clients. 

The answer is in the question. You “justify” higher fees by offering more value for what you charge. 

Want some good news? A big part of value is perception. If people think you’re worth more, you are. Which means you can increase your value by doing a better job of communicating that value.  

For starters, don’t hide the fact that you cost more. Lead with it. Tell your market you’re more expensive. You cost more because your clients get more. You get things done faster, with less risk, and better outcomes. 

Which is what clients want. (If they don’t, they’re price shoppers and you’re not the lawyer for them). 

So yes, tell them you’re worth more and tell them why—your experience, knowledge, training, connections, methods, staff, work ethic, and philosophies. 

And then prove it with testimonials, reviews, and a track record that speaks to that value. 

One more thing. Focus your marketing on referrals, the hallmark of a high-quality firm. 

How to get more referrals


How to get great clients


You may be very good at marketing, write great copy (or hire great copywriters), invest time and money getting more leads, and a host of other things that make your phone ring. 

But as good as that is, there’s something better. Easier. More profitable. And more likely to lead to a steady stream of happy clients who help you build your practice. 

Instead of relying solely on good marketing strategies, target better prospects. 

Better prospects include people who 

  • Know they need a lawyer and don’t even consider doing what needs to be done themself 
  • Have the ability to pay top dollar for top level legal services (yours) and are not only willing to do that, prefer it 
  • Sees you and what you offer as a good match for them. If you’re a sole practitioner with one practice area, for example, they understand how that benefits them and aren’t looking for something else.
  • Doesn’t need permission to hire you, or can usually get that permission
  • Are action-oriented. When they see the need, they don’t hesitate; they put you to work
  • Have a lot of legal work for you—repeat business, big cases (if that’s what you want), or lots of smaller cases, with work you’re good at and enjoy
  • Know other people with similar needs and ability to pay, i.e., they can (and will) send you a lot of referrals, introduce you to people you want to know, and otherwise promote and support you. 
  • Are easy to work with, don’t complain, don’t micromanage, don’t slow-pay, etc. 

Feel free to add other attributes you consider important components of your “ideal” client. Because you should be targeting your ideal client, not “anyone” who has legal work you can handle. 

No matter what kind of marketing you do, or how much you do, targeting your ideal client is the force multiplier. It makes everything easier and better.

You may not always get them. They might have some of the qualities you desire, but not all of them. But if you want your marketing to be easier and more profitable, you should focus more of your resources on this type of client and less (maybe much less) on other types.  

Why wouldn’t you? You can always “tolerate” other types of clients or cases, at least until you’re ready to go “all in” on your ideal. 

Where do you find these dream clients? Primarily, eventually, through referrals. There’s no better way. But there are other ways, and they can lead to a lot of referrals. 

Start with your existing clients. You may only have a few who are “ideal” (or close to it) but if you spend more time with them and do more to help their business grow or personal life prosper, they will lead you to more people like themself.

The Attorney Marketing Formula helps you identify your ideal clients, and get more of them


Plan 9 From Mars


For some reason, when I thought about the idea of planning (for next year), I thought of the title of what many consider the worst science fiction movie of all time. 

I only watched a few minutes, many years ago, but I think it was about Martians invading Earth. 

I’m pretty sure their plan failed, but I commend those Martians for thinking big, which is the point I want to make today.

If you’re going to plan (something), for next year, or any year, make it big. 

Don’t spend a lot of time planning how to redecorate your office when you can plan a new marketing strategy that might allow you to buy a new office building. Or three. 

Big plans force us to be creative and do things we’ve never done before. They force us to focus.

Even if your big plans don’t materialize, thinking big helps you sort out what’s important and make that your priority, instead of getting bogged down with a multitude of small ideas which, even if successful, won’t amount to a hill of beans (I’ve got movies on the brain).

Big plans give you a chance to win big. 

The Pareto Principle says 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts (plans, ideas, activities, projects…). Figure out a handful of big ideas that can deliver big results, and then narrow down your list to just one or two. 

One or two big ideas that could transform your business or life.

In the book, The One Thing, author Gary Keller puts it this way: 

“What is the one thing you can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary”.

Your big plan might fail (and you’ll have to return to Mars) but if you’re going to work on anything next year, work on something big, so big it could take care of almost everything else.

No pressure. But I need your answer on my desk first thing tomorrow. My ship leaves at 9.


Is niche marketing right for you?


Lawyers can learn a lot about marketing by looking at what other professionals and businesses do to market their products and services. Real estate brokers and agents, for example, use a method of marketing that allows them to maximize the effectiveness of their marketing and minimize their costs, and lawyers can use the same method.  

In a nutshell, instead of spreading their marketing “seeds” anywhere and everywhere, real estate brokers concentrate those seeds in a small part of a city or neighborhood (for residential brokers), or an industry or list (for commercial brokers), 

That neighborhood or industry is their “farm,” and that’s where they invest most or all of their marketing dollars and time.

It’s a more cost effective and impactful than trying to get their message in front of “anyone, anywhere who might want to buy or sell”. 

Open your mailbox and you’ll see the same flyers and calendars from a handful of local agents and brokers who farm your neighborhood. You may not mail flyers and calendars but if you do any advertising, speaking, or networking, instead of trying to do that ‘everywhere” and getting lost in a sea of lawyers’ messages, you can stand out in your target market by focusing on a few neighborhoods, a few industries, or a few groups.

If you advertise, don’t choose “every” keyword or publication, concentrate on keywords or publications that get your message in front of your ideal clients. To some extent, this will allow you to dominate your target market or niche because your prospects will seem to see your message “everywhere”. 

Your marketing messages are also more effective in a niche market because you can use buzzwords and stories and examples from their niche. Instead of a lawyer who does estate planning, for example, you can position yourself as a lawyer who does estate planning for medical professionals or yacht owners.

Yes, niche markets are smaller. But for each $1000 or hour of time you spend in a niche, you get a lot more bang for your marketing buck.

And you can then target more neighborhoods, industries, professionals, or lists. 

How to choose the right “farm” for your practice


If your clients wrote your marketing plan


Your clients know what they want (and don’t want) from you and can give you insights into what you can do to attract more clients like them.

Which is why you should survey your clients and find out what they want, what they like, and what you can do to get more clients and increase your income. 

You can use surveys to learn about

  • Your image in the marketplace
  • Your services, fees, offers, and benefits
  • Your “client relations”
  • Your content—what they like, what they want more of, what they want you to do differently
  • Your marketing, advertising and social media—did they notice your ad? What did they like about what you said? Why did they choose you instead of other attorneys?

You can learn a lot by asking questions. 

But surveys aren’t the only want to find out what your clients (and prospects) think about what you’re doing. You can also do interviews, going more in depth and asking follow-up questions, and find out what they “really” think. 

Another way to do “market intelligence” is by tracking metrics—opens, clicks, downloads, sign-ups, how long a visitor stays on a page, etc. 

Finally, you can find out what clients think by listening. Nothing formal, just listen to what they talk about, what they ask you, how they feel about their situation, and what they complain about regarding your competition (and about you). 

It can be a lot of work, but if you have the numbers, it could be worth the effort. If you don’t have the numbers, or don’t want to invest the time or money, stick with surveys. 

At the least, survey every new client, to find out what they want and why they chose you, and survey every exiting client (at the end of their case or engagement), to find out if they got what they wanted. 

Surveys are easy to do and can tell you what you’re doing right and what you need to improve. 


Your marketing plan


One of the biggest components of a marketing plan is the allocation of resources. How much time or money will you allocate, and on what? This will depend on the marketing methods you use, your practice areas, your target market, your objectives, and other resources available to you, such as your staff and your contacts.

Your plan might call for something like this: 

  • 25% prospecting (networking, advertising and lead generation, speaking, content creation, working with referral sources, etc.)
  • 25% following up (scheduling consultations, return calls/email, closing, newsletters/staying in touch, etc.)
  • 25% client relations (added value for clients, cross-selling, up-selling, stimulating reviews and referrals, creating offers or incentives, etc.)
  • 25% promoting (your services, your website, your content, events, etc.) 

You might have these same broad categories, but different sub-categories. You might advertise primarily for lead generation or to build name recognition in your niche. You might might allocate more time for certain marketing activities and little or none for others.

You might invest 50% of your “marketing time” working with existing clients and prospects, or include working with your referral sources, joint venture partners and professional contacts.

The point is, you get to choose how to spend your marketing time (and dollars), and on which activities. Figure out what works for you and schedule everything.

Start by making a list of the activities you currently do (or plan to) and put these in appropriate categories. Then, consider the total time and dollars you do or will invest each week or month, and then divide up that total by category, as above.  

This is, of course, just one way to do it. It may not be the right way for you, but it is a place to start. And that’s all any plan gives you.