February 28, 2019 Article

Creatively Capturing New Business as a Solo or Small Firm Litigator

Learn how to use your small size to creatively and effectively compete for new clients.

By Meghan A. Rigney

Success in the legal field is not determined by the size of your firm or your Big Law paycheck, but rather by having a strong and growing client base. Today, more and more clients are looking to streamline their legal spending for identical results and a little more client attention, regardless of the size of the firm. This is where the solo and small firm litigators are poised to compete with the large law firms in attracting new clients. However, it is not without its challenges. In 2017 Thomson Reuters conducted its State of U.S. Small Law Firms study, which surveyed over 300 participant attorneys practicing in firms ranging in size from 1–29 attorneys. Approximately 75 percent of the survey participants stated that the greatest challenge facing small firms is acquiring new business. Shockingly, 71 percent of those same participants admitted to failing to address this hurdle. Below are some strategies and practices to overcome these challenges and become competitive in the client marketplace. By implementing these incremental changes, the solo and small firm litigators can widen their client base and achieve great success over time. 

Hire from Different Law Schools

If it isn’t broken, then why fix it? Sadly, that adage does not always ring true. Sure, you may have a good relationship with some of the law schools in your local area from which you usually hire your associates. However, every now and again think about recruiting and hiring associates from law schools with whom you may not have a lot of familiarity. By doing this, you broaden your network and increase the potential for prospective business relationships. Law schools are notorious for keeping track of their alumni and they regularly host networking events. Instead of connecting with alumni from one institution, you can maximize your networking efforts at a variety of colleges and universities. Better yet, contact the career development offices at law schools that you’d be interested in hiring from and subscribe to their mailing lists. From there, be an active recruiter and work to hire law clerks to assist throughout the year or participate in on-campus interviews. By diversifying your hiring practices, you will increase your visibility in the market—especially if it is outside of your region.

Update Your Website

In today’s digital age, a navigable website is key to being taken seriously by potential clients, prospective associates, and competitor firms. How many times have you made a judgment call after looking at someone’s web design? Too often, prospective clients discount a firm’s capabilities based on a cursory review of the website. A website that is not intuitive or hasn’t been updated in a decade reflects poorly on your business; on the other hand, a website with updated bios, contact information, and an accurate description of practice areas and firm accomplishments demonstrates that your firm is capable and professional. Furthermore, a well-designed website highlights that your firm possesses the necessary resources to effectively manage a client’s book of business. Ensure that your website can be viewed clearly on a mobile device and maintains full functionality, enabling a potential client to quickly access your content.  Though maintaining a presence on other forms of social media, such as Twitter or Instagram, may be beneficial, a robust website is a must!

Draft Client Updates

Client alerts allow you to showcase both your legal expertise and your ability to keep abreast of legal developments. By publishing client alerts, you facilitate more traffic to your website as well as highlight your capabilities. These updates can address new decisions in your state or federal district courts or touch on analysis of practice areas and relevant new laws. To start, you can create a Listserv for current clients and disseminate a monthly article. Down the road, offer visitors to your website the opportunity to peruse your firm’s legal updates or blog posts, and subscribe to email updates. Finally, post any articles, alerts, or updates published by your attorneys on LinkedIn. Any number of shares, likes, and comments will draw attention to your firm and increase the potential for new clients!

Present at CLE Events

Sharing your expertise with a group of fellow firm attorneys and in-house counsel is a great way to start a conversation and market yourself and your firm. When presenting, you have the audience’s undivided attention, so put your best foot forward—you’re marketing your knowledge, practice area, and expertise while simultaneously securing free advertising. Remember, not all businesses want to overpay for their legal services. If your presentation is well-done, and you’re knowledgeable and likeable, you might just walk away with some referrals and interested clients.

Publish Articles in Industry-Wide Publications

Publishing in industry-wide publications is key to obtaining referrals from out-of-state firms seeking local counsel, as well as to attracting new business. Companies rely on these publications to identify knowledgeable and sophisticated legal counsel across jurisdictions. Though publishing takes work, a little effort will go a long way in establishing your firm as an expert in the marketplace. 

Be Active Members of Bar Associations

Make sure that you, your partners, and your associates regularly take part in local and national Bar Association activities. Networking events are powerful tools to obtain new business. Yes, everyone there does happen to be a lawyer, but many individuals serve in-house roles at companies large and small, who are always in need of outside counsel. By building relationships with in-house counsel, you increase your referral potential and the likelihood that you attract a new client. Furthermore, relationships with attorneys outside of your firm can identify valuable lateral candidates that may enhance your firm in the years to come.

These simple steps have the potential to yield big earnings for you and your firm. Diversifying your hiring practices, effectively utilizing technology, leveraging your expertise through publications, and targeted networking are the keys to successful business development. Your solo or small firm may not always compete with Big Law, however you can offer the same quality lawyering at a fraction of the price. Capitalize on your expertise and implement these small changes to grow your market presence, as well as your book of business.

Meghan A. Rigney is an associate attorney at Wiedner & McAuliffe, Ltd. in Chicago, Illinois. 

Copyright © 2019, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).