Learn how to prevent your virtual law practice from becoming a mediocre operation destined for failure.
When some solo attorneys first launch their law practice, a traditional office space is out of their financial reach or they simply want to work from home. A virtual office is an affordable solution that combines the benefits of an office space and working from home, while also supporting their professional image.
It might seem like the perfect and simple solution; however, there are other things you must consider when deciding to operate your law firm through a virtual office. Otherwise, you run the risk of launching mediocre law practice and you might even set yourself up for failure.
Here are some major mistakes solo attorneys have made when operating a virtual law practice, turning their law firms into mediocre operations:
1. Not taking the time for personal branding
A key part of growing a law practice is establishing what makes you distinct in the marketplace. What do you offer other attorneys in your practice area cannot? This is critical to your selling proposition to a potential client. The best way to communicate what sets you apart from other attorneys is by developing a personal brand.
Too many solo attorneys make lethal brand blunders, including having incomplete social profiles, sloppy websites, not wearing the right professional attire at client meetings and not communicating to clients in a timely manner. Remember that everything about you– from your online presence to your physical appearance– contributes to your reputation.
2. Using your home address as your business address
Attorneys who use their home address as their business address will quickly learn how important it is to maintain a professional image. At first, it might now occur to you to consider how the legal community might perceive your law firm because you’re using a home address. For example, solo attorney Cari Rincker came across another lawyer who told her to put “Suite 2A” in her email signature instead of “Apartment 2A.”
“I also remember being a little embarrassed the first time I was in court in Brooklyn putting my home address on the record,” Rincker said. “I still know some lawyers who use their home address as their business address, but I think it elevates your game to have a professional business address. It will boost your reputation and bolster your credibility among your peers and clients.”
3. Failing to have client meetings in a professional space
The client experience isn’t only about returning emails and performing good work. You have to manage expectations in the way you work with your client and the atmosphere you bring your client into. You can make sure you are meeting those expectations by using a virtual office that feels like a professional law office.
Using a virtual office space that doesn’t look or feel like a law office may signal to clients that you don’t take your practice seriously and, therefore, will not appreciate the seriousness of their case. Meeting clients in a real, professional office space will impress them and help you close new business.
Successful solos are dedicated to maintaining an image of success because that is how they attract and close new business. Even though many solos choose to run a virtual law practice to save money, they shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of their brand to save time or pinch pennies. You must realize that the extra attention to detail helps set you apart and satisfy your clients.
4. Ignoring social media
You can’t run a firm these days without also promoting your business on social media. If you own a law firm without any social media presence, then you’re falling behind your competitors and missing out on valuable opportunities to bring in new clients.
In today’s technology-driven world, clients expect some sort of online presence and social media is the easiest, cheapest and most interactive way to achieve that image. It’s a great way to show potential clients what you are all about when they are deciding on whether or to retain you.
Use social media to support your image as an expert in your practice area by sharing useful content, adding value to conversations and keeping in touch with industry leaders.
5. Not getting out of the home office to meet with other lawyers
Coming into the physical office space of your virtual office rental can become a very useful business development method. While it might seem easier to always work from your home office, working exclusively at home limits opportunities to meet new referral sources.
Neglecting to socialize with other lawyers outside of your home office not only reduces your referral stream, but it also makes it more difficult for you to learn new, effective ways to run your business. From marketing to administrative tasks, other solo lawyers are your best resource for advice on how to manage a successful law firm. You’ll always have the same mediocre practice if you never look for a fresh perspective on how to run things.
6. Not planning properly
Keep in mind that the flexibility of being your own boss doesn’t reduce the number of hours you’ll have to work. It also doesn’t relieve the challenges associated with running your own business.
Solo attorneys who run mediocre practices don’t realize that in order to have a good day, week or year, they must have a plan. They start each day not knowing what needs to be done, they don’t know how to optimize their time and they often miss deadlines. This results in poor work quality and unhappy clients.
7. Not keeping your clients happy
It’s really important to build and maintain an attorney – client relationship, otherwise, you’ll always have a mediocre practice that struggles to bring in new business. How you treat your clients will become a defining part of your reputation, and your current clients should ultimately become some of your biggest brand ambassadors.
Keeping clients happy increasing the likelihood they’ll refer you to their network. Always maintain good communication and show them you appreciate their business. Remember to check in with clients even after you’ve finished representing them in a case. It’s your reputation, credibility and ultimately financial status and security that is on the line.
There is no secret recipe for running a successful solo law firm. For each attorney, certain strategies and situations work and others don’t. But by avoiding these mistakes your virtual law practice will be that much closer to reaching even greater successes.