This week on Young, Hungry & Committed, virtual office lawyer and recent law school grad, Vivian Sobers, talks about the 4-step process she used to go from zero clients to getting high profile cases in less than a year.
I may be a lawyer, but that does not mean I am “rational” by any sense of the word.
Would a “rational” person choose to start their own law firm directly after graduating law school and successfully passing the NY Bar Exam?
I knew in my heart I did not have any other choice but to start my own law firm. I am scrappy. I am entrepreneurial. Most importantly, I am solely responsible for my own success. Not everyone is comfortable with that.
I dove into solo practice head first from a 60 foot diving board. I didn’t give myself a chance to second guess my decision. I committed from the beginning.
It was the right decision. But, the decision was immediately followed by a paralyzing fear.
How am I going to get clients?
Client retention is the albatross hanging around every solo practitioner’s neck. While the roads we have taken to arrive to solo practice may be different, we all share the same debilitating insecurity:Client retention is the albatross hanging around every solo practitioner's neck Click To Tweet
What if I am not good enough?
What if I am not good enough to represent clients? What if I am not good enough at marketing to attract clients? What if I am not good enough in my practice area and am subject to malpractice?
What if . . .
Here is what I have learned in my year of solo practice: if you put yourself out there, good things happen.
Stop rolling your eyes.
I know some of you are. But honestly, it’s true. Once you get yourself out there, the universe responds in kind.
Here is how I overcame my insecurities and established a client base.
Incidentally, this will probably be easier for most attorneys who choose to start a practice. I started my firm right out of law school with zero clients and a very small professional network.
Many of you will be leaving a firm and will bring portable business, or at least a network of professional contacts, with you. This gives you a leg-up.
First, I sent an email to all my contacts announcing my firm.
When I say all, I mean all. The email went to basically anyone I had known in personal or professional context.
I was operating under the assumption that the larger the net I cast into the world, the more fish I might catch.
It didn’t work . . . at first.
Two months later, I got a call from a friend of a friend who received my email. After a consultation, they signed the retainer agreement. For the small amount of time invested in creating the email, I reaped a paying dividend.
Second, I casually dropped my firm name into every conversation.
I generally eschew dropping names.
You can only drop a name if you can pick it up.
Well, this was my name. I could definitely pick it up.
My very first client came from mentioning to an old colleague that I had started my own practice.
What did I learn? Networking is the cheapest form of advertisement.Networking is the easiest and cheapest way to get my name out there #soloattorney Click To Tweet
Third, I created an active Internet presence.
I made sure to have a custom email address with a custom domain name and basic website. It was inexpensive (maybe a $500.00 one-time fee).
I think it is shady when a lawyer does not have a website. How do you expect people to find you?
I think it is even shadier when lawyers have @gmail.com or @aol.com email addresses. A non-custom email address just looks less than professional.
Establishing a client base is hard enough. I did not want to work harder to establish credibility every time I passed out a business card.
Perception is everything, and given my position, I had enough issues in that area that were beyond my control.
I created a Facebook page for my firm. I repost every blog I write on my personal and firm Facebook page.
And speaking of blogging, I blog. It creates inbound links to my website and improves its Google ranking. I received a case from my first Young, Hungry and Committed blog post. It was read by a colleague through a Facebook repost.
Finally, I chose to share office space with other lawyers.
By far, the largest percentage of my client base comes from referrals from my office mates.
I got lucky when I chose Law Firm Suites as an office provider. It has far exceeded my expectations.
I chose to use a virtual office because of the minimal upfront cost. My “rent” has been paid 10 times over from their referral system.
I know it sounds like I am schilling for LFS, but, it’s true. Law Firm Suites only rents space to lawyers. They get us. They have networking events and meetings every month for anyone that wants to attend.
It is networking without the awkwardness and slimy feeling. Since everyone there is an attorney, there are more than enough referrals to go around. And trust me; I know how to market myself. Lawyers find my story (going from school to solo) really compelling.
It is a great icebreaker. And, once I get talking, I lose the nervousness. I just get into a “zone.” These networking events (and the community in general), are a great source for knowledge and income.
My name is Vivian Sobers. I’m young. I’m hungry and am always looking for new clients. Despite the challenges that may lie ahead, I’m committed to making this law practice a success.
Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.