March 01, 2018

TAPAs: Real-World Tips for Finding Clients

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Photo by on Unsplash


In the past we have offered tips on technology tools to market your practice, but this time some of our tips focus on getting out in the community and marketing yourself in the “flesh.” There is a good reason to redirect your attention from your screen back to the real world. Your competitors are already online holding up digital billboards and vying for the attention of your potential clients (PCs). If you do not have an online presence established already, then you need to put it together now. Check out Jason P. Lisi’s January column (here) or Lisa Salazar’s book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Internet Marketing (here) to get started. Assuming you do have an online presence established, then you certainly have noticed how crowded the Internet highway is these days. Your goal should be to build enough of an online presence to establish your credibility (you will want some place to direct a PC to learn more about you), but then focus your efforts on picking up clients in the real world. We have some tips on how to do both, below.

Tip 1: Meet your PCs where they are. We mentioned the crowded Internet highway earlier, but keep in mind those who bought into pay-per-click advertising in the early days have seen exponential growth in the cost per click to improve rankings. In 2008 you could land your website in the top three spots of a Google search for less than $3 per click. In 2015 the most expensive cost-per-click search term was “San Antonio Car Wreck Attorney” at $670.44, followed by “Accident Attorney Riverside VA” at $626.90. Some 78 of the top 100 search terms are law-related. This is not a competition you want to enter. While your colleagues sit at the computer and fight to climb the top of the search chart, try looking where your ideal client is. If you practice business law, you may want to check out the U.S. Small Business Administration for information on local chapter activities. Consider offering members a webinar on a particular on-trend topic, or sign up to attend an event if there is one in your area. If your practice area focuses on estate planning, consider attending events with financial planners for potential referrals. Planning for financial security in the future goes hand in hand with planning beyond the future.

Tip 2: Let your current clients know you appreciate referrals. Clients who came from referrals are usually more loyal than clients who were not from referrals, and most seasoned lawyers will tell you most of their clients come from referrals. Usually lawyers ask a client for referrals at the end of their representation, by saying something along the lines of, “If you hear of anyone who needs my services, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.” The problem with this is the clients you are “asking” for referrals are probably busy people with plenty on their plate; referring people to you is not going to rank high on their to-do list. Also, it is not very descriptive of the type of referrals you are looking for. If you are an immigration lawyer, you may try saying “if you know of anyone else who is having trouble getting their green card, feel free to pass my information along to them.” You want to use the language they would use in the referral request—clients are more likely to recognize a potential client for you if they understand what you are looking for, such as people with “green card issues” versus people with “immigration issues.”

Tip 3: Talk about your work. Take advantage of every opportunity to talk about your work—such as holding a seminar or writing an article for a community newsletter. Be genuinely interested in the work when you talk to people about it. The fact that you are out talking about it alone can convince PCs of your expertise on the matter, and your enthusiasm about a topic that relates to them will help lay the foundation for a meaningful connection.

Tip 4: Get out there and form relationships. To grow your client list, you need to get out and meet new people. You need to form real-world relationships, and not just with PCs but with other attorneys as well. Going to bar association and legal organization events is a great way to get referrals. Don’t go in thinking that attorneys in your area of practice need to be avoided, either. You would be surprised how busy other solo attorneys can get, and how often they need another attorney with a similar practice to refer people to when they get overwhelmed. These relationships are important, too.

Tip 5: Market your niche online. PCs are more likely to trust a lawyer who has focused his or her practice in the area where they need assistance. For instance, if you focus on helping small businesses with employee stock ownership plans, make sure to include this information in your marketing rather than simply marketing yourself as a business lawyer. It seems counter-intuitive—the more general you are, the wider your pool of PCs should be. But each client comes with a unique problem and wants to know an attorney can effectively assist with that problem. If Sammy Suesem is online looking for an attorney, he is unlikely to go on to his search engine of choice and type in “attorney.” Even if he did, what would draw his attention to you over any other generic, non-distinguishable lawyer website. Rather, he is more likely to search for something like “car wreck attorney” or, even more likely, “car wreck attorney Houston.” This means your marketing efforts need to shed light on the type of law you focus on.

We hope these tips give you some ideas to grow you client list this spring. Get socializing!


Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association and the Alameda County Bar Association. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is Editor-in-Chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo eReport. He serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience Magazine and has served on the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. He also serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He teaches at California State University of the East Bay. He may be reached at


Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Young Lawyers Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport. She may be reached at