First, congratulations are in order for opening your very own law office! Instead of sending flowers, send clients, right? Or if you haven’t yet taken the scary plunge, congratulations for even thinking about opening your own law office. It’s quite exhilarating to be the master of your own business destiny. But most of us, myself included, didn’t realize when we first hung out our shingle that having a successful law practice and being a good lawyer are two completely different things. Even if you have already launched your law firm, the things I would like to share with you in this article will be useful no matter where you are in your practice. Every law firm, from a solo practice to Big Law, works constantly at client development. Although this article is focused on getting your very first client, the tools I discuss will help you get clients throughout your entire legal career.
If You Don’t Ask, You Won’t Receive
The very best way to get your very first client is to ask for a referral. This advice holds true if you are developing another practice area, as I am, or creating a niche practice to supplement your existing law practice. Need clients? Ask for referrals. You may have to ask many people, and you undoubtedly will need to be persistent, but nothing will happen if you don’t ask. Asking isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially if you’re freshly minted from law school and just starting your legal career. But you will be asking for referrals your entire legal career in private practice, so you might as well learn now and start now.
What’s the best way to ask for a referral? First, you need to let everyone know that you exist and are accepting clients. No one will know to send you clients if they don’t know you exist. Getting the word out about who you are and what you do is not only your first priority, it will always be a priority.
Getting the word out can be relatively easy. For example, in my local legal community we have monthly bar lunches where people introduce themselves at the beginning of the bar meeting. At one luncheon meeting, a friend of mine who had just opened her own law firm put several business cards and her announcement postcards on every table. Her announcement cards listed the types of cases she handles. She stood up at the call for introductions and proudly announced she had started her own law firm. She also put a business card advertisement in our local bar newsletter. These efforts were apparently effective because she’s now very busy.
Let’s say your legal community is so large that it would be impossible to gain the floor at a meeting or litter the tables with your literature. Or maybe your legal community doesn’t have regular meetings or a newsletter. Or maybe an advertisement is too expensive. Then you have to tell people in different ways that you exist. The more ways you get the word out about who you are and what you do, the more likely it is you will receive your very first client referral.