Advice for the Startup Law Firm
BY Jason Bland STAFF CONTRIBUTOR
Chances are when you went into law school, you had certain goals you wanted to achieve – some area of interest or passion. While I certainly respect the need for general practice attorneys, when marketing yourself online, you will need to focus.
Get off on the right foot.
If you are just setting up your law firm, now is the time to make all the right decisions. Starting with your name. While it is customary to form a law firm in your own image, there are some risk involved in doing such a thing. You have branding and slogans to think about, and you need to think comprehensively, like a business. Will someone easily remember your name?
Shop carefully when contracting an online marketing and website design firm.
Most search engine optimization companies will base their prices on the competitive nature of the most popular keyphrase. If you are in a major metropolitan area, you should not expect to compete with heavy spending established firms on a startup budget. Instead, think about niche marketing. Look at surrounding suburbs and tap into an audience of new clients that think local. These terms will achieve high placement more easily, which means a faster return on your investment and a smaller marketing cost. Should you ever take on the established firms in your city? Absolutely! But spend a couple years building up your marketing war chest so that you can make a bigger impact.
Search engine optimization is such a unique process. Even if you are contracting with a marketing firm, also subscribe to various blogs like SEOMoz and Search Engine Watch. You want to not only know what your SEO company is doing, you want to understand why.
Think Like a Business
A client of mine who is a former personal injury lawyer once said, “The trouble with attorneys is that they are business owners running businesses like attorneys.”
Lawyers generally have a few practice areas in which they are exceptional performers. But running a law firm is in fact running a business. Rather than thinking of yourself as a crusader, a white knight, or a defender of common good, you should first think of yourself as a company. Without profitability, you will be unable to achieve the good deeds and passions you originally went to law school to accomplish.
When thinking about your law firm as a business, you need to first line up a list of practice areas that you feel you are able to practice best. Establishing pricing structures is something you should work out with a third party. A law firm management or consulting company is were you should look for advice on billing practices, not a marketing company. My expertise is getting clients to your firm. Getting the right price is a different matter.
In similar manner, as I did not claim to be an expert in all things related to running a law firm, you too should not claim to be capable of all things related to the law. Especially on your website. Prospective clients like focused attorneys and Google likes niche focused websites. Make Google and future clients happy, and that leads to new cases.
When thinking like a business you should look at your legal skills as a product. Your online marketing efforts will be geared towards selling that product in your region.
Therefore, you should answer these questions:
- What is your area of expertise?
- Who is your target audience? (consumers, corporations, etc)
- What are the income demographics? (this is especially important)
- What is the cost per case?
- What are your estimated earnings per case?
Those questions are key to building your online presence (and your law firm in general) and also will help you determine a budget for your online marketing strategy.
As a startup law firm you have an opportunity to lay down a solid foundation from day one. Figure out how to use online services like Cloud computing, mobile devices, multiple device and network syncing, and other tools that will be easily expandable when your caseload of 5 turns to 50 then 500. A lot of freely available online tools and resources can make your new firm prepared for growth without spending a fortune.