How to Get More Clients for Your Law Firm?
March 28, 2023
Law firms are businesses, and like any business, they need customers (paying clients). If a lawyer does not focus on generating new business and attracting clients, their business will be vulnerable to being unsuccessful no matter how good of an attorney they are. Unfortunately, marketing skills and reputation management are not taught in law school. However, that does not mean that your own law firm can't succeed.
This guide from Smokeball will explore how to get clients as a lawyer, and how your search engine marketing and law firm website can help you get new legal clients and other attorneys to refer clients to you.
Before You Start: 5 Steps to Building Your Ideal Client Base
If you’re in the business of offering products or services to your clients, you need to know how to comfortably build your client base to keep growing. But, as an attorney, it can be difficult to strike a balance between serving current clients and bringing in new ones.
So, how can you bring in a larger caseload and generate more potential clients as a lawyer while maintaining trust with your current client base and staying on top of your day-to-day responsibilities?
Step 1. Define Your Target Market
The type of law you practice — family law, divorce law, personal injury law, corporate law, etc. — generally dictates what types of client base you ultimately will work with. That being said, it’s important to take your definition a step further to build not just a client base, but an ideal one - whether you are a new lawyer or have been practicing for years.
To define your target client base, ask yourself:
- What types of clients have I worked with thus far?
- What types of clients have I successfully served? Unsuccessfully?
- What clients have I had a hard time reaching? Why?
- What types of clients do I enjoy working with overall?
Step 2. Understand Your Current Demographics:
Look at your current makeup of clients to understand who you’ve worked with and why. Have you worked with more males? More clients over 50? Children? What about the personalities of these clients? Would you consider your clients to be your target market?
This data is all readily available through Smokeball’s Law Firm Insights. Because every detail of every case you work on is tied to the related Smokeball matter, Law Firm Insights allow you to crunch all your numbers to determine your most frequent client type — and which clients are the most profitable. (They may not be the same group.) This information is crucial to determine your path toward a solid client base.
Step 3. Think about What YOU Want:
Sometimes, law firms focus on the type of clients they feel they should be working with, instead of those they want to work with. Both types of clients can prove rewarding and valuable for different reasons, and it’s OK to define your target client base and desired legal work not just by what’s worked in the past, but who you hope to work with in the future.
Of course, if you work with a team or your partner, be sure to include them in the conversation. Are younger attorneys looking for a challenge - or want to expand to different practice areas? Are your staff exhausted after a business boom during COVID-19 and seeking a steady course? You might be surprised at what they’ll bring to the conversation about getting clients for a law firm.
Step 4. Set Your Marketing Budget
Money matters - and getting that coveted pipeline of prospective clients that convert to new clients for your law firm may not come cheaply. Legal marketing costs for your law firm can vary widely depending on how competitive your legal market is, and where you live. Smart legal marketing efforts can allow you to focus on cost-effective methods (like content for your website over expensive banner ads) to market your legal services. Like with other operational costs, there will be one-time or startup costs, and recurring subscription costs.
Step 5. Prepare Your Marketing Plan
French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's famous quote is not wrong: "A goal without a plan is just a wish.". Your law firm's marketing success hinges on a solid marketing plan. Your plan should include all the elements of the first four steps - and ultimately be your own strategic roadmap for all your marketing channels so potential clients find you, including Google ads, content marketing aimed at organic search results, social media, and even keeping in contact with past clients. Once you create your plan - don't put it on your shelf or bury it in your hard drive. Refer to it often.
How to Get Clients for Your Law Firm?
It is easy to see how experienced, veteran attorneys with decades of experience get clients. Their legal network is vast, and they have the benefit of many years in the industry. But how do new lawyers, or lawyers with a brand new law firm, attract clients? Below are some useful tactics to get more clients as a lawyer.
Nurture Your Referral Network
Want more clients? Especially if you are a new law firm, signing up new clients may be easier when other people send them your way vs. you advertising to potential clients. You can earn referrals for your law firm from previous clients, other lawyers, and professional service providers. Don't underestimate the value of relationships with other attorneys, even those far outside your practice area.
You can generate professional relationships almost anywhere, including Linkedin groups, alumni groups, in your office building, and in bar associations. For example, a divorce lawyer may refer an accident case to a personal injury lawyer. A probate lawyer may refer a case to a tax lawyer. Remember that these professional relationships go both ways - be sure to return the favor and also acknowledge referrals, even if they do not result in a new client for you. If you will be paying referral fees, be sure to follow bar association rules for your state.
How to Build Your Client Base with Referrals
- Get back in touch with old clients or cold clients to see if they could still use your services.
- Reach out to contacts in your address book/network. You never know who might be looking for someone!
- Ask your current clients to refer you to people in their network if they were happy with your services.
- Get involved with various organizations and communities—both online and offline—to expand your network and become a familiar face.
Remember that inbound marketing and word-of-mouth marketing (referral marketing) often go hand-in-hand. You might find that reaching out to your network requires some solid email marketing tactics, which you can build and automate using Smokeball’s leads management tools and integrations to grow your client base - and passively get clients as a lawyer - in your sleep.
Don’t Forget about Networking
It may be easy to come up with excuses to avoid legal networking as a lawyer, especially when those opportunities are after work or on weekends. Extracurricular activities can seem like a waste of time and it may seem like attracting clients via a social group is unlikely to be successful. But remember, you are establishing your position as a go-to lawyer when a potential client needs you in the future - whether it is for a divorce, personal injury case, or probate matter.
You may be able to combine networking with providing community service and giving back to non-profits in your community. The more people that you know, the more people that may refer clients to you. Networking is especially important for young attorneys and lawyers new to an area. Connect with other professionals that you meet in real life on LinkedIn and grow a robust professional network.
Make Your Law Firm Easy to Find on the Web
Your digital marketing efforts should make it easy for your target market to find you on the internet. An SEO strategy (initial and ongoing) should be geared toward helping prospective clients find you via search engines. Although Google ads and other paid advertising should be helpful, focus on organic marketing channels like content marketing to help with attracting potential clients and allowing prospects to find your law firm's website.
Establish a Strong Online Presence So Prospective Clients Can Find You
Can prospective clients find you in search engines when they search for their legal matter or your law firm? Referrals are valuable, but limiting your practice to referrals only will severely limit you.
The reality is - the majority of clients find lawyers via the internet. An online presence is more critical than ever. Today, many people use the internet to extensively research their legal matters and their potential attorneys. Prospective new clients may visit your website several times before contacting you. Phone calls to a law firm will be made once there is trust in your legal abilities. Your online presence should include:
- Your law firm website: Lawyers looking to get clients in their target market should establish a strong online presence with a content-rich, high-performance website targeting relevant keywords, and a social media presence that is regularly maintained and updated. Think of your website as your sales pitch - it should establish you as an expert in your practice area and invoke confidence in potential new clients and referring clients. Be sure to include video content, as it will keep people on your website longer and improve your search engine ranking;
- Local Directories: Remember, law firms are businesses and should be marketed as such. Your legal services business should be listed on Google My Business, Yelp, and business directories local to your area;
- Attorney Profiles: Reputation management and online presence intersect in professional lawyer profiles on websites like Avvo, LinkedIn, Justia Lawyer Directory, and Hg.org. Even if you do not pay for premium profile options, or pay for platinum placement, take the time to complete directory listings. Many of these attorney profiles in legal directories rank high in search engine results pages.
Invest in Paid Advertising
If you want new clients tomorrow, paid advertising is tried and true - and fast. Pay-per-click ads on Google, Bing, and social media can drive traffic to your website for any practice area. There are two potential downsides of paid leads:
1) Paid advertising for lawyers is expensive and may be much more expensive than content-driven marketing efforts like legal blogs and website content.
2) You can waste a lot of money if you don't know what you are doing. Clicks on ads for "lawyer" and "attorney can be more than $100 per click - with no guarantee that a click will convert to a paying client for your law firm.
Generate Leads Through Lawyer Directories
Many legal directories exist, including Lawyers.com, Justia.com, Avvo.com, SuperLawyers.com, and countless others. There are two benefits of a legal directory:
1) Legal directories can funnel you leads that could convert to actual law firm clients by directing visitors to your website or a contact form
2) These websites can provide an SEO vote of confidence for Google and other search algorithms to improve your position in search engine results pages.
Remember not all links are beneficial to search engine optimization. Proceed with caution with any directory that appears "spammy"- as these can hurt your marketing efforts. Use tools like Semrush's Backlink Analytics to determine if you actually want a link.
Create Content-Rich Lead Magnets
One of the best ways your law firm can attract clients with your marketing efforts is to offer high-value, content-rich resources that establish you as an expert. To access these tools, which are likely found via a Google search or via social media, potential clients will provide their email (opt-in). These include:
- Free legal guides: These guides can advise people what to do, and what not to do, should they choose to handle their legal matter themselves;
- Ebooks: The possibilities are endless with e-books in subject matter and length, but you can offer your expertise and experience, and provide guidance and advice;
- Checklists: Checklists are excellent for anyone that may start out trying to handle their legal matter themselves (for example: personal injury or divorce cases) and eventually contact a lawyer to get the job done;
- White papers: Law firms can use white papers and fact sheets to establish an individual’s rights concerning complex legal issues.
It may seem counterintuitive to equip potential new clients with the tools to handle their legal matters on their own. However, you are simultaneously establishing your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Ideally, after a potential client realizes (1) their legal situation is complex, and (2) you are qualified to handle it, they will contact you for a consultation. You will already have established trust, and have the potential clients' attention before you even meet.
Get Featured in Your Local Newspaper
Local newspapers offer two possible avenues for exposure to your law firm: paid advertising and editorial presence. If you are in a smaller community with a thriving newspaper, being featured in the newspaper may be a worthwhile pursuit. You can position yourself as a subject matter expert and be available to journalists to comment on local stories. For example, personal injury attorneys may comment on liability issues in traffic accidents, and criminal lawyers may comment on crimes.
Lawyers can also be featured in editorial content, which may be also shared on social media. You may write a letter to the editor on behalf of your law firm discussing a legal topic. If you are a real estate attorney or a tax attorney, you could offer the paper a weekly or monthly column to answer questions or discuss legal topics. Being a local expert offering legal help can advertise your legal services to prospective clients and even generate referrals from other lawyers - for free!
Legal advertising in newspapers may also be a worthwhile avenue to advertise your law practice. Although many attorneys solely focus their advertising efforts on digital media, print ads are not dead. Carefully consider your target audience and your message. Newspaper advertising may be affordable and effective - you won’t know until you try it.
Grow your Law Firm with Smokeball
With legal marketing, there are many paths up the mountain, and many ways to get clients. With a sound digital marketing strategy, getting more legal clients will just be a matter of time, regardless if you are a lawyer starting out or a veteran in the industry.
Fortunately, you don't have to go at it alone. Having a law firm practice management software like Smokeball can simplify your marketing and streamline your overall business processes and improve your client intake process as well. Contact Smokeball today to see how our legal client intake software can help you and your law firm.
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