Learn what you need to be doing now to ensure your firm avoids one of the most common law firm setbacks.
So do you know what almost every solo lawyer has in common with The Beatles, U2, The Who, The Doors, Guns N’ Roses and Jay-Z?
The sophomore slump.
In a musical context, it’s when a band or artist releases a second album that performs poorly as compared to their first.
What is the sophomore slump for lawyers?
This issue of the legal version of the sophomore slump came up last month in our Mastermind Group. It was presented to the group as a challenge with building cash reserves.
But after some discussion with group members, it became more apparent that the lack of cash reserves was not the root problem, but instead, it was inefficient marketing in the second year of a law practice: the sophomore slump for lawyers.
It usually shows up for new solos sometime in the second or third full year of practice and, more often than not, it looks something like this:
The lawyer goes solo and tells all their friends and contacts about the launch of their firm.
Then, many lawyers take a shotgun approach to marketing which generates some quick results. They try every single marketing tactic they can think of, trying to cast a “wide-net”. This will result in closing easy, “low hanging fruit” leads.
The sudden burst of clients will cause the lawyer to think that their practice has stabilized and will continue to grow at this pace. From here, the attorney makes additional financial commitments (hires staff, gets a bigger office, etc.), but quickly realizes that the practice isn’t growing at the same pace as before.
The attorney, who now is likely busy with client work and has committed to overhead, must find the time to put more strategic, and scalable, marketing systems in place to break through the plateau.
In a lot of ways, this is the worst of any plateaus you may face in a solo practice. It will require you to:
- Significantly improve your marketing skills, which is time-consuming.
- Develop entirely new marketing systems, which is also time-consuming, front-loaded work that, often, does not produce results for months.
- Ultimately, this plateau will demand a lot of long hours, probably for a six month period. This will be amplified if you do not have someone (such as a part-time or freelance employee) to help with new marketing demands.
Down the road, you will encounter other business plateau’s, but by that point, you will have some strategic systems in place that will limit their impact. You’ll likely have a team to help execute plans, and any change required to get you through the plateau will likely be a small adjustment to what you are already doing well, rather than a complete overhaul of your marketing systems.
Many of us have been here. I have been here. This seems to be an unexpected stop in the journey to your eventual success as a solo.
10 tips that will help you avoid the sophomore slump
The good news is, the sophomore slump is completely avoidable, provided you use your time wisely. You most likely won’t be buried in client work yet, so devote that time to establishing a strong marketing base for your practice and get yourself ready for success. Here are some tips that will help:
- Use your first 6 months in practice more strategically. You will have a lot of downtime – use this to put scalable marketing systems in place.
- Take time to develop your client avatar. Your avatar is a fictional person that represents your ideal client. It will be much easier to connect with your ideal client if you have a better understanding of who your avatar is, where they get their information and what they value.
- Develop your “referral source” avatar. This is a very similar process as the client avatar, but instead, the focus is on finding the best referral sources. For most lawyers, their referral avatars are other lawyers.
- Get a mentor in your practice area. The right mentor will not only help you with client work and mold you into a better lawyer, but they will also help you to avoid mistakes and run a more efficient and effective business overall.
- Join a mastermind group. The lawyer from the beginning of this article discovered their sophomore slump issue thanks to their mastermind group. Joining a group such as this will help you stay accountable, helping your firm to grow while avoiding different obstacles along the way.
- Choose 2-3 marketing strategies that you know will produce for your practice area, and become an expert in them.
Make sure one or two of the strategies are scalable. For example, networking is not scalable, it requires one-to-one interactions and there are only so many hours in a day.
Some scalable marketing strategies include speaking engagements, social media, PR, content marketing and paid advertising (PPC, Adwords, social media ads).
Note: if some component of your strategy involves online/content marketing, then you will need to optimize your website to capture leads (online forms), and to continually market to those leads until they are ready to buy from you (or refer a friend).
- Put a follow-up system (ideally, one you can delegate to an assistant) in place for:
- Referral Sources
- Networking contacts
- Make a budget. Strike a balance between reinvesting in your practice and paying yourself first.
- Plan for your growth. You never want to be at this plateau again, and growing your practice will help ensure that it doesn’t. So to get there, you will need to devote a percentage of your time to marketing and growing your firm as a whole. As the head of your firm, you need be the driving force behind growing your practice.
- Be patient. The effort you put in may not be seen for 6, 12 even 18 months, but the strategies you will be developing are scalable. With that in mind, you need to remember to be patient and wait for the results to flow.
Remember, you don’t want to be held back by a plateau ever again, so put the work in now, be patient, wait for the results and scale up from there.
Hopefully, by following these tips, you’ll end up on the express train to success, quickly whizzing by the sophomore slump.