February 01, 2015

Back-to-Basics Business Tips

Peggy Gruenke

Lately, there is so much talk about legal technology, I think it becomes a distraction from developing some of the basic skills needed to build a solid foundation and improve your practice. So here are a few tips for getting back to basics and taking charge of your practice.

Write a Simple Business Plan

For you, not the bank or a potential business partner. The goal is for you as a business owner to see the big picture and understand exactly who you are, why you’re unique, and who you are equipped to serve.

Know Where Your Good Clients Come From

Focus your business development on where the good business is coming from. This means you have to ask them how they find you. Most good clients will come from one of three sources:

  • Your current or prior clients
  • Other lawyers or referral sources that you know and trust
  • Your family and friends

Capture and track this data.

Take Care of Your Referral Sources

When you get a new client from one of the above good referral sources, what are you doing to thank them? Pick up the phone and call them—now, not next week. Let them hear the excitement in your voice for the new client they referred.

Concentrate on Client Service

Make sure it is exceptional, not just great. It sounds, and is, so basic. It’s also simple and very memorable. Step back and look at all the ways your clients are interacting with your firm. Your website; the initial phone call; email conversations. How responsive are you to their needs? Do you actually return phone calls?

All Businesses Need Systems. What Are Yours, and Have You Developed Them?

Understand the power of building processes to increase efficiency and deliver better product. Within your business, you have tasks you do repeatedly. The purpose of documenting what you do is to improve it and do it more efficiently. There is power to writing down the steps you have to do in order to file a bankruptcy, or to do an eviction. Seeing it on paper opens up windows for doing it better or faster.

You’ll Never Develop Clients Sitting Behind Your Desk

Get out and leverage your referral sources and networking activities. Look for networking events—they are abundant in most cities.


One of the best free marketing tools is to volunteer. All of us are engaged in some sort of civic activity, be it scholastic, religious, extracurricular, or social. All of these organizations need volunteers for leadership roles or projects. Why shouldn’t that person be you? All it takes is a little time, and it will open the door for future legal work. Appointments to nonprofit boards are also a great reason to issue a press release.

Billing Early, Often, and Strategically

Clients appreciate the services you provide, but it is really the value that you are providing that is most important. To that end, bill when their perceived value is the greatest. As each day goes by after an event, your value gets diminished. Send an invoice to a client after a favorable result or a productive phone call. If you send out that bill two weeks after that phone call, the client will not perceive the value to be as high. And who made up the rule to only bill once a month?

The End of an Engagement Is a Marketing Opportunity

The end of the case doesn’t mean the end of the relationship. Your present clients are your absolute best referral sources, especially immediately after the matter is closed when your value is the highest. Conduct an informal survey to get feedback and send them a closing letter reminding them of your practice areas. Ask for a review on one of the relevant sites, likes Google or Avvo. Keep the relationship alive and add a to-do to your calendar to pick up the phone and call them in four to six weeks. That would be a memorable moment.

Choose two or three of these back to basic tips to add to your practice and set the technology stuff aside. Remember, you are building a career in a profession where Know, Like, and Trust are attributes for a strong foundation.


Peggy Gruenke

Peggy Gruenke is owner of LegalBizSuccess, a company whose mission is to help solo and small firm lawyers build better businesses. Peggy is active in the ABA GPSolo Division, where she heads the technology committee and is vice-chair of the national conference committee. Follow her on Twitter @PeggyGruenke.