Private practice can be feast or famine, but by taking a few simple steps you will never go hungry.
Number one is to always be proactive in seeking – and creating – new business opportunities.
“The law firm business model is inherently reactive,” writes David Ackert, founder of the Practice Pipeline. “You wait for a client to call with a problem. Your growth is completely dependent on other people’s issues, and when business is slow you probably just hold out until it picks up again.”
To stop this roller-coaster existence, Ackert suggests reaching out to clients with innovative ways to serve them. For example, he helped one lawyer organize a Founder’s Summit for tech clients.
“[The lawyer] hosted a semi-annual event for CEOs to network, brainstorm, and share resources,” Ackert says in this National Law Review piece. “The summit served not only as a forum for better understanding his existing clients’ business challenges, it also attracted prospects who wanted to participate in the group.”
Another tip: when business is slow, call three attorney colleagues and ask for referrals. Who knows? The firm across the street might have overflow work they’d be thrilled to send you.
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Think Like a Business Partner, Not a Lawyer
As you’ve probably noticed, Ackert is big on creating solutions for needs the client might not even know they have. Too often, marketing takes the opposite approach.
“When you start with the question, ‘how can we get in front of more prospective clients and demonstrate our expertise?’ you are focused on your own agenda. When you start with the question, ‘what would help my client’s business become more successful?’ you are thinking less like a law firm and more like a business partner who truly understands the things that motivate its core audience.”
Here are two other client-based initiatives Ackert helped design:
- A Los Angeles corporate attorney offered a legal SWOT analysis to his top clients. This entailed scheduling a few hours with key members of the client’s executive team and walking them through the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats they face from a legal perspective. It was a win-win proposition. The clients gained new insights on how to grow and avoid risk. The attorney got new work.
- A global law firm launched a client “university” which consisted of quarterly CLE programs built around a curriculum approved by the client’s general counsel. “The firm prepared the programs and delivered them onsite,” Ackert says. “The university concept provided regular opportunities for face time with the in-house legal department, which consistently surfaced new matters for the firm.”
4 Other Ways to Bring Food to the Table
- Post a white paper on LinkedIn. Share interesting content to position yourself as a thought leader in your practice area. Offer a new take on a trending topic.
- Schedule one networking event each week. Attend a local bar meeting. Sign up for a business leads group. Volunteer in your community. “Making face-to-face connections is still one of the strongest ways to build your client base,” writes Sean Peek in this article. “Figure out where your prospects like to spend their time, such as at Chamber of Commerce meetings, trade shows and industry-focused meetups, and make an effort to attend. From there, it’s all about following best networking practices to introduce yourself, ask smart questions and start conversations about your business.”
- Give out your business cards. In this digital age, business cards have an old-school appeal. Make yours snappy and attractive to stand out.
- Answer the phone when it rings. “But when it doesn’t, be ready to pick it up and invite your clients to participate in a program that is relevant to their current circumstances,” says Ackert. “Something productive for them, and proactive for you.”
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