Targeting clients for growth
Being in the enviable position of having a good book of business requires a lot more than luck, said Laura Calloway, director of the Alabama State Bar’s Practice Management Assistance Program. It takes thought, careful planning and plenty of hard work to make sure that you are positioned in the right place at the right time to land the right clients. But first you need to know what you’re looking for to recognize it when you see it. Here are the simple steps you can follow to become that lawyer, according to Calloway in a recent Law Practice Magazine article.
Do some market research. Use resources such as your local chamber of commerce, area business magazines and the Internet to discover the major industries and the major players in those industries within your county or metro area.
Delve into population demographic data to create a profile of the various potential client groups all around you. And look at trends in your area. Are new businesses opening every day or do existing ones seem to be going under? Is the bulk of the population aging or becoming younger? What is the median income of people in your community? Are there more single people or families with children?
This type of information should give you an insight into the type of legal services that are needed or will soon be needed and may not be offered by other lawyers in the area.
Envision the perfect client. Dare to dream of having nothing but a stable of great clients and cases — and then visualize exactly what they would look like, demographically speaking. Establish a written set of criteria that a case must meet before you will agree to take it.
Your policy should state clearly and in some detail what kind of cases the firm will and will not take, including dollar value or other limits the cases must meet, and include a prohibition on taking cases outside the policy without the approval of a screening committee or other mechanism. The policy should go on to specify that a signed fee agreement is required and should set out the minimum retainer or cost deposit needed, or other financial arrangements as are appropriate given the type of matter.
Use intake forms. Always use an intake form when interviewing a potential new client. Intake forms can help you by making sure that you get all the information you need to open the file and get started on the case, but they are just as helpful in determining whether you should agree to take a particular case. Include questions that will help you more easily identify cases that meet the minimum criteria you have previously set.
You should also consider drafting your intake forms to help determine the client’s creditworthiness, such as where the client works, how much he or she earns, the length of current residence and home ownership status. Questions of this type are useful, not only for the actual information they provide about the potential client but also for the feel they help you get for the client’s willingness to be open and responsive to your requests for sensitive information. Written intake policies and forms will help you weed out the clients and cases that don’t fit in with your plan.
Develop a referral network. Invariably, potential clients who don’t fit into your game plan will seek your help. Someone may not be a good fit for your client roster right now, but that doesn’t mean that he or she might not become a good client in the future. So don’t burn bridges. Get to know several other lawyers in your area and find out what their perfect practice would look like. Then forge relationships that will allow you to have good alternatives for referring the clients and cases that aren’t quite what you are seeking.
Law Practice Magazine is a publication of the ABA Law Practice Management Section.
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