The legal industry is extremely competitive and you have to be strategic with your marketing efforts in order to stand out. This article is structured to help the next generation of attorneys start the process of building out their law firm’s marketing plan. Everything you will read is tried and proven through ongoing research and experimentation. When growing your law practice, if you address each of these topics, you will start obtaining new clients for your firm.
1. Define Your Target Case Type
It is likely that you will have worked at another law firm previously or a few different firms. Through those different journeys, you have picked up a ton of experience practicing different areas of law. Although you have all of the experience in different areas of law, that does not mean your law firm needs to be marketed as such. Specializing in an area of law will position your firm as a potential expert.
People prefer to work with an attorney that is constantly working on the type of cases that person may be facing. Through user studies, we identified that people looking for an attorney openly voice that they like one firm over another because they specialize in the issue that person is facing. Once you have identified which area of law you want your firm to specialize in, you can start to plan and outline your goals.
2. Setting Short and Long Term Goals
Fast forward 10 years from now. The world will be a different place and your firm will be as well. Decisions you make today will impact the trajectory of your practice. In 10 years, do you imagine yourself having many associate attorneys under you? Do you want to stay small and get to the point of only taking on the specific types of cases you want? Your goals are allowed to change over time, but in order to start your firm’s growth, you need to plant your flag somewhere. Once you have the big 10 year vision for your practice, break those 10 years down into smaller pieces. Set a target of where you want to be in 5 years, 3 years and at the end of this year. Your marketing plan and growth strategies should always be tied directly to your short and long term vision for your law practice.
Having a goal will shape the steps you need to take in marketing and business growth. For example, if you have the goal of owning a large law practice, then your marketing strategy may need to be shaped around generating as much volume as possible of all the different case types that fall in your area of law. If the area of law you’re focusing on is criminal defense, then you will want to have new clients coming in dealing with problems from everyday traffic tickets all the way up to first degree felonies. The more case volume your marketing efforts can generate, the more revenue you will generate and the more staff you will need to hire. In a strategy like this, you may need some up front capital to spend on different marketing strategies to generate the volume. Using this scenario of criminal law, if you had the goal of staying small and focusing on higher end felony cases, then you can shape your marketing strategy around generating a lower volume of cases, but the exact cases you want.
3. Developing Your Value Propositions
If I am in need of an attorney, why should I choose you over your competitor? This is a very real question that you need to answer. Specializing in an area of law helps with answering that question, but that can’t be the only reason why a prospective client should choose you. There are many law firms that focus on one or two areas of law. This is a question that we ask all of the attorneys we work with before starting any marketing and this is something I am asking you as well.
Having succinct and effective value propositions does not come overnight. It takes deep reflection and a strong understanding of prospective clients and what they are looking for in an attorney. Your value proposition must be designed to solve your ideal customer's problem. They are looking to solve a specific problem, you must be their specific solution. To have an effective marketing strategy, you must have an answer to the question “Why should your ideal customer choose you instead of your competition?”.
4. Determining Your Law Firm’s Brand
What is a brand? Most people would say that a brand is the logo that represents a company. A brand is actually not the logo or colors, but is the impression a business gives to the market. When a prospect is looking for an attorney, they are marking off a series of checkboxes in their mind. Once they find an attorney that checks all the boxes, they become psychologically open to taking action and requesting a consultation.
It’s important to think about what impression you want your firm to have on people. The brand of your law firm is going to live in the minds of your potential clients. What image do you want them to have in their mind when they think of you? When working with other attorneys, we studied the process people go through when looking for an attorney. The attorneys that people will choose tend to incorporate the following with their brand:
Your law firm’s brand will not live in an image or colors. Your law firm’s brand will live in the mind of every person you come into contact with in your market. Take a moment to think about what emotion you want your firm to trigger within people. Once you make that determination, approach every single day and everything you do with that in mind.
5. Focus on “In Market” Consumers
Wasting money as a startup, solo or boutique law firm can be a critical error. There are a lot of ways to waste money in misguided marketing strategies. Once you start your law firm, you have to make sure every dollar spent is getting you a return on your investment. Because of this, you need to focus marketing dollars on “In Market” consumers.
An In Market consumer is someone who is actively looking for an attorney to solve their problem. Using a Criminal Defense attorney as the example, if someone received a DUI, then that would mean they are in the market for a DUI attorney near them. In our hypothetical scenario, the person that received the DUI may ask friends or family members if they know of an attorney. If someone they know does not give them an attorney’s information, that person will turn to a search engine like Google to do a search. At this moment, your marketing dollars should go into effect.
In order to put your law firm in an ideal position to get new In Market prospects, you will need to work on a couple key items. Those items are a professional website, an advertising plan, custom marketing funnels and the setting up of free listings. All of these items can be a lot to take on, but they will be critical to generating revenue for your law practice.
6. Building a Professional & Unique Website
One of the first items needed to get new clients from the In Market pool is a professional and unique website. When taking the step of starting a website, it’s important to understand what other law firms are presenting. What they are presenting and offering to your ideal prospect will have a major impact on how to approach your firm’s website. The goal of your website will be to move the prospect through a series of mental sequences. Your goal is to check off all the boxes on why you are the best attorney for their particular problem.
A common misconception is that a website is like a brochure. When someone is building a website for their firm, they build the site as if the prospective client is reading the website from beginning to end. The reality is that prospective clients hardly read the website at all. When a person is looking for an attorney, they are dealing with a problem that typically has urgency attached. They do not have a lot of time to read through your entire website before making a decision. Your website must be able to communicate why you’re the right choice in fast, digestible chunks. The website needs to be structured and designed in such a way that you answer all of the prospects' questions and quickly move them to requesting a consultation. A custom website is like a custom fitted suit. It’s your outfit that you present to the world.
7. Building Marketing Funnels
When someone is looking for an attorney, they do their research to find the attorney that can help them with their particular scenario. If you are a criminal defense firm, you can’t have a generic website saying you are a criminal defense attorney in your market. Someone who is facing an assault charge will be doing Google searches looking for an assault defense attorney. This is the moment in time where you can give that prospect a custom experience with your firm and brand. In this particular scenario, you would want to have a page on your website dedicated to providing helpful information to someone that may be facing assault charges. You will also want to sprinkle credibility along their path so that they start to gain trust with your firm and brand. When you develop this page, you’re not selling them on the idea of hiring you. You are being a helpful, credible resource to them that can help them solve their problem.
Criminal law is used as an example, but this applies to all areas of law. Lay out the types of cases you want for your practice and build out custom pages and funnels on your website. Follow the example of making those pages helpful to a person facing an eviction, a workers’ compensation issue, an immigration issue or whatever case types you want to attract. When you have these custom funnels built for your website, you can start to build an advertising plan to go after people who are dealing with these different case types. Over the course of 6-12 months, you will also start to generate organic (free) traffic that could potentially turn into consultations if your website is built properly.
8. Setting an Advertising Budget
Budgeting is extremely important when it comes to starting your law firm. You want to make sure you manage your expenses efficiently, so that your firm doesn’t go under. The benefit of online advertising is that you can set your own budget. An attorney has the ability to test the waters and if they have an effective advertising strategy, they can determine if they are getting the return on their spend or not. In testing an advertising channel, a new law firm should start slow and monitor closely.
Marketing and advertising is constantly changing. In 2023, the most effective advertising channel for attorneys is called Google Local Service Ads. In a few years, there may be a different advertising channel that generates revenue the fastest. The important takeaway is to evaluate the current ecosystem and path that a prospect would take when looking for an attorney and to look for the opportunities to advertise in that path.
When determining your advertising budget, you need to take a moment and determine what you are willing to pay to acquire a new client. Yes, everyone wants new business for free, but the reality of the legal industry is that you’re going to have to spend some money to get business. To make this determination, you need to lay out the different case types of services you will be offering and put an estimated price point you will be charging for those services. If you are a criminal defense attorney and you charge $3,500 for a first DUI, then you should be willing to pay a few hundred dollars to get one of those cases. What we typically recommend for a solo or small law firm is to start with a $500 monthly budget as a test. The goal of the test is to prove a specific advertising channel gets you new cases. On that $500 budget, we get our attorneys a few new cases and in turn, they choose to spend more on that advertising channel because the data proves they will get the return on investment.
All in all, in starting your law firm you need to start small with your ad budget. With that budget, run small scale experiments and review the results. If you get a client or two out of that small budget, then you know you can spend more and get more out of it.
9. Generating and Managing Reviews
In a study conducted by Podium, it was determined that 93% of people read online reviews before making a buying decision. This statistic includes the legal industry. You have read on multiple occasions throughout this book that reputation as an attorney is extremely important. Reviews are a way to display your great reputation to your market. Online reviews rarely occur on their own. You have to be an active participant in the review process to make sure you are getting new reviews and are managing those reviews effectively.
First and foremost, you have to initiate the process by requesting reviews from your clients. You will need to create profiles on common review platforms like Google, Yelp, Avvo and others. Some platforms do not want businesses requesting reviews on them. Yelp would be one of those platforms. The most effective platforms to request your clients to leave reviews for you on are Google and Avvo. If you think your client will take the extra step to leave a review for you on both platforms, then ask for it. If you believe the client won’t take the extra step, then give them a link directly to your Google My Business page and ask them to provide feedback there. If you don’t ask for reviews, it is not likely that you will receive reviews. As long as you make the process easy for your clients (giving them direct links to the platforms) then they won’t mind leaving your business a review.
Generating reviews from clients is only one part of the equation. Prospects like to see an interaction between the attorney and their clients. Responding to reviews builds trust with prospects as they are evaluating which attorney to hire. When responding to reviews, you want to make sure that you do not reveal any confidential information regarding the case. You want to take the approach of thanking the client for leaving you a review and you are happy you were able to help them with their problem. Responding to your reviews goes a long way with your current and past clients as well. They took the time to leave you a review, so in turn you should show appreciation for their time by responding to their review.
10. Conducting Opportunity Analysis
What is the biggest opportunity available for your law firm to generate more revenue? Marketing is not a one time setup. You need to constantly be looking for opportunities to improve and grow your business. The methodology we use to identify opportunities for our clients is the “Theory of Constraints”.
The Theory of Constraints model takes a scientific approach to improving results and generating more revenue. This methodology works on the presumption that all complex systems consist of multiple links where one of the links is always the weakest. When looking for a new opportunity to generate more revenue, you will want to look at the current marketing system you have in place and identify which link in the chain is the weakest link. Once you have made that identification, you can then focus your time and efforts on improving that link. When that link is improved, by default there will be a new weak link that needs to be worked on. This is how you get continuous improvement and more revenue over time.
An example of a weak link in the chain could be the conversion rate of your website. The conversion rate of your website is the number of people contacting your firm for a consultation divided by the number of people that land on your website. If your website has a poor conversion rate, then that may be the weak link in the chain and you need to analyze your website data to see why people aren’t contacting your firm. There are hundreds if not thousands of links in the chain that can be used as an example, but the idea is to always be looking for the biggest opportunity in your marketing strategy.
11. Ongoing Experimentation
Historically, marketing strategies have been conducted based on belief. In the current era, there is too much data available to businesses to make decisions on a hunch. If you adopt the Theory of Constraints methodology for improving your firm, you’ll need a way to conduct ongoing experiments. We turn to the tried and tested methodology called the scientific method.
The scientific method evolved over time, with some of history's greatest and most influential minds adding to and refining the process. This process is used to explore observations and answer questions. Following a rigid process like the scientific method isn't widely used because it requires a well thought out experiment which adds to your workload. Although it takes more time to implement, using this process in your law firm’s marketing will bring truth to the forefront and allow you to make smarter decisions with your marketing budget as a whole.
Need Help Evaluating Your Firm & Mapping Out A Marketing Strategy?
There is a lot that goes into determining how much you should spend on marketing and what your marketing strategy should be. It can be overwhelming to try and weigh that nuance and come up with an in-depth strategy while also trying to handle your legal work.
Our team of strategists is here to help you navigate these waters. We spend every day analyzing different law firms' marketing strategies and implementing our strategies for our clients across the legal industry. We have experience across many different areas of law with great success. Contact us for a free marketing evaluation if you need help developing your firm’s marketing strategy.
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Over the course of 12 months, we worked together with The Nava Law Firm to help them increase their revenue by 63% using online marketing.
As a new department with a small staff, the department chair Darius Amiri was in need of a trustworthy marketing partner.
Nava Law Texas is a Criminal Defense firm in El Paso, Texas. As a new startup law firm, the owner Alyssa Nava was in need of a trustworthy marketing partner.
Zazueta Law, PLLC is a Business & Real Estate disputes firm in Phoenix, Arizona. When looking for a trusted partner, Fabian approached us to have a discussion about potentially working together.
Fendon Injury Law, PLLC is a Workers’ Compensation firm in Phoenix, Arizona. As a small firm with a small staff, the managing attorney Donna Fendon was in need of a trustworthy marketing partner.
Lab Coat Marketing was started with the intention of bringing truth to the digital marketing industry. Many law firms need a marketing partner that will look out for their business and approach marketing from the global perspective to make sure they are generating new clients and getting a good overall return on their marketing investment.
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