Of all the responsibilities that come with running a law practice, having a marketing plan is very near the top of the list. It is also one that is often overlooked, underused, set aside or simply not done for any number of reasons. If you are new to managing your own law practice, it can be easy to get immersed in all of the activities that come with running a business. What kind of office space should you have? What practice area are you focused on—auto accidents, Social Security disability, or possibly Workers Comp? Whatever your focus, the key thing to remember is that without clients there is no law firm at all. So, if marketing is so important, where do you start?
First identify what stage of growth your law firm is in. Stage 1 of a law firm’s growth is from $0-$250K in revenue. This stage is simply creating a viable law practice—you’re not worried about long term issues, being able to step away for a month at a time or even long term sustainability—this is GO TIME where you are wearing all the hats and just getting your head above water to the point where you are actually running a business.
Stage 2 is when your firm is comfortably generating $250-$500K in gross revenue. A time when you can begin to bring in staff, associates, and basically other people you can delegate to get things done. This is also the time to create processes policies and systems.
Stage 3 is $500K to $1M, where you now have staff, systems and financial controls in place and using the metrics from those systems to make better quicker more objective decisions.
So clearly it is critical to know what stage you are in because the things that are going to be GREAT when your revenues are between $0 and $250K are absolutely going to kill your business when you are trying to grow beyond 500K. You can be working your tail off, operating the same way you did in the early bootstrapping stages and be wondering, “Why can’t I get to a Million dollars”. The answer is pretty simple: You need to be marketing effectively for the stage of your firm and that means you have to begin replacing sweat equity with systems and personnel that can help you grow.
So, to get your marketing under control in Stage 1, it is important to keep everything very simple. Don’t get involved in overly expensive, complex marketing schemes. Don’t focus too far out into the future, just do the simple thing that lawyers have been doing for a very long time. Marketing brings prospective clients to your door—“old fashioned” advertising, networking, calling prospective clients, writing articles, building a website, writing a newsletter, etc. None of this has to be fancy or high tech, it is just critically important to have low cost ways of bringing your first new clients through the door.
Once you get over 250K (Stage 2) you need to start getting away from branding yourself personally to branding your firm. If your marketing is all about how “I am a Superman and can do everything”, it will burn you out and not convey the right message for growth. This is also the time that you might consider lead generation as a strategic option to grow your practice. If you specialize in car accident cases or Workers Compensation, working with a reputable lead generation company can be cost effective and allow you to focus on the other aspects of your business while you have a steady stream of potential new clients coming in. Once revenues are over $500K, you can start to educate people earlier in the buying process, possibly branding your firm on local media or larger scale direct mail campaigns.