Let’s assume that the scary part is over, and you’ve started your own law firm. Congratulations! It’s now time to turn to the next burning issue: how to get clients for a firm that, more likely than not, no one has heard of.
You are aware that there cannot be a law firm without clients but finding them is a skill of its own and is only partly related to the practice of law. You’ll need to incorporate some marketing skills into your growth plan and potentially step outside of your comfort zone to attract potential clients.
Whether you are a fresh lawyer just starting your legal career or have worked for a prominent law firm and decided to start as a sole practitioner, finding new clients is no easy endeavour. You should keep in mind that it might not be possible to score big cases when you are just starting, and you should try to remain realistic and lower your expectations.
Starting small isn’t a bad thing at all. It gives you the power and the possibility to build a name for yourself, as well as a foundation of loyal clients as you go after the bigger fish. If you worked at a law firm before and left them amicably, they could also refer clients to you if they don’t have the capacity to cater to every client’s needs.
Now, let’s get into it.
How do clients find lawyers?
When someone needs a lawyer to help them draft a contract or represent them or their business in a dispute, how do you think they go about finding one? According to Clio’s 2021 Legal Trends Report, over 40% asked their friends, family or someone else they trusted for a referral.
You might not have a track record to speak for you if you are new in business, but you can still ensure that people hear of you. Tell your acquaintances, friends and family members that you have started your firm and they can mention your name when someone they know needs a lawyer in your practice area. The good old word of mouth is a great way to get your name out there.
If you have current or former clients who are pleased with your work, they can be excellent promoters of your services and refer their friends and colleagues to you.
However, according to the same report, referrals are not the single best way for clients to find lawyers, as over 60% also turned to online search engines such as Google when looking for legal help or representation. Search and reading reviews helped many clients find their solicitors.
With that in mind, it’s never too early to go that extra mile to ensure your clients are satisfied with your services and the way you treat them.
Lawyer 365’s Legal Vision 2030 report brought some more valuable information on how clients choose their lawyers. With the latest developments in the business world and the massive transfer to remote work, over 80% of clients also look for a remote option, while 67% want a lawyer who offers both remote and in-person services as needed.
Now that we know how clients find lawyers and what they are looking for in them, let’s see what you can do to improve your chances of getting them to come to your firm.
How to get clients
Knowing how clients look for lawyers for their legal needs and the minimum accommodation they expect can help you design a strategy to attract them to your firm. Instead of focusing on a single channel, make yourself approachable and visible in all those places your prospective clients could look for legal services.
Here’s what we recommend a lawyer should do to get clients for their new law firm:
Great website and online presence
Given that so many people search for lawyers online, you should ensure you have a great website. The website represents your firm and your brand in the online world, and it could be crucial for the first impression your prospective client has of you.
A website is an online presentation of your legal profile and skills. You don’t want it to be simple, dull and dysfunctional, so you shouldn’t hire your neighbour’s kid to design it. Consider using a website design professional who will create a functional, visually appealing website with all the relevant information.
The homepage is your initial sales pitch to potential clients. It must also make it easy for them to contact you.
Quality content and search engine optimisation
If you want people to find you, you should make your website discoverable and get it to rank high on search engines. To do that, you need to optimise the content on your website and build your authority on relevant topics and legal queries people search.
Write a few quality articles on some of the major issues in your practice area people are interested in and publish them on your website to provide valuable resources for prospective clients.
You can outsource this work with services like Fiverr. But it always helps to have a professional, legal eye to review and reinforce the topics covered.
People search for legal topics when they need more information or an expert opinion from a legal professional. When they read your articles and see that you are an expert in your field, they might decide to reach out to you.
However, search engine algorithms are very sophisticated and you need to make continuous efforts if you want to rank high for the keywords relevant to your practice area.
As a new law firm, you probably don’t have many client testimonials to speak in your favour and so focus on quality legal advice content instead to strengthen your position on search engines.
Consider too hiring marketing professionals to help you design and implement a digital marketing strategy for your firm, as SEO in legal services can be very challenging, especially in large cities.
Build your virtual presence
It is not just news articles that people read when they need help on a legal topic. Videos have become one of the most convenient formats people choose when they want to learn more about things that concern them.
Consider registering for virtual law platforms such as Lawyer 365 and create explanatory videos that bring clarity to the complicated legal topics and procedures, or even an introductory video to let prospective clients know who you are.
If you have the time, invite your colleagues to join you in discussing popular legal topics and create a podcast that your potential clients will appreciate. Note that search engines also look favourably on video as a content format, which should help you rank better.
You can also answer some legal questions on legal forums or other websites. Don’t forget to add quality content to your website regularly and build authority that will help you attract readers.
Leverage legal apps, online directories and client reviews
Legal apps such as Lawyer 365 are an excellent tool for lawyers to get their names out there and become more visible to clients. The presence on Lawyer 365 gives you more chances to attract clients who search for their lawyers there. Some of the other renowned legal directories include Avvo and Nolo.
Your rankings and bookings can be directly related to the reviews you get from your clients. That’s something you should worry about from the very moment you start your law firm.
Client reviews can rank you quite high in the directories, in Google search results or on Lawyer 365, for example, making it easier for new clients to find you.
When you find the online directories you’d like to be listed in, submit your profile if you’re not already listed there. Note that you will need to pay to be included in some of these directories, while others offer free basic listings.
Not every review you receive from your clients will be a positive one. Some clients are bound to be unhappy with your legal representation and might want to express that publicly.
As a new firm, you probably don’t need to worry about that early on but you should be prepared to respond to bad reviews in the future.
First, you need to apologise to your client for the bad experience they had and do what you can to fix the situation. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Instead, explain to the client what went wrong and reassure them you did everything in your power to handle their case in the best way possible.
A good reputation is crucial to a lawyer’s success, so don’t take yours lightly at any point in your legal career.
Networking and referrals
If you are a bit of an introvert, this step could sound a bit scary. However, networking doesn’t mean attending formal and informal meetings and events with other lawyers if you are not comfortable with that.
If you are, use those opportunities to introduce yourself to other lawyers who maybe practise in different areas. If you show them that you are a trustworthy and skilful legal professional, they could refer people they can’t represent to you.
I mentioned that many people look for referrals from someone they trust. If your former teachers, fellow students (maybe now barristers), or other lawyers you met while networking recommend you to someone needing a lawyer, you should at least look at the case. You can’t really afford to be too picky when starting your business.
These are some of the tactics you can use to get clients as a lawyer in a brand-new law firm. Remember that you can always ask more experienced lawyers to share their know-how and provide advice for finding new business.
Now that you know a bit more about attracting clients for your law firm, you should also consider setting up a great client onboarding experience by investing in an anti-money laundering (AML) and identity verification solution, like Verify 365.
This will bridge the gap in the problematic network of global legislation that this industry battles daily and ensure preparedness for future changes that will inevitably tighten client identity requirements.
You need a clear picture of who your clients are – biometrics, address, other identifying characteristics – and early investment in this solution will ensure you are meeting current and future ‘know your client’ and AML legislation requirements as your law firm grows in the new digital world.
However, just ticking the boxes to meet these requirements is not enough to prevent fraud. Investing in new client onboarding technology platform, which includes biometric NFC-based (near-field communication) identity verification, global address verification, open banking digital statements, as well as global politically exposed persons and sanctions checks, will help you protect your law firm from fraud.