Professionalism can make or break a solo law firm. Follow these tips to make sure your practice looks the part.
Starting your own solo law firm means you’re going to be starting from scratch. That means it’s on you to set up your email, design a logo, write and build your own website and web content. So most bootstrapped lawyers will use their current resources just to get things going. This means most will resort to using things a personal email address and phone number for business purposes.
But if you’re going to make a great and professional impression with your new clients then you’re going to want to follow these tips.
1. Get a dedicated phone or phone number
Having a dedicated phone, or even easier, a phone number for your business is a no brainer. It allows you to share your contact details without giving out your private phone number. It ensures you don’t accidentally answer a customer’s call with an unprofessional “Yo, what’s up?” or “who’s this?” Plus you probably want your clients to hear a nice and professional voicemail recording, not you pranking them by pretending to pick up.
The cheapest and probably most effective method to go get a dedicated business phone number is to use Google Voice. Google Voice is great because it’s free and you call history and voicemails are logged/stored online. Plus, with Google Voice, you have the ability to record calls, which can definitely come in handy!
2. Get a professional address
When people look up your firm online or send you mail, it doesn’t look great if that address is to your home in the suburbs or apartment in the city.
A cheap and easy solution to this would be to sign up for a virtual office. When renting a virtual office from a provider who offers reception services as part of the package, your clients can go to the suite to drop off packages, and the law firm can receive service of process, mail and hand deliveries, whether the attorney is physically present in the office or not.
3. Consider a Virtual Office in an executive suite as second work location
Your home office may be perfectly adequate to roll up your sleeves and do the “dirty work” of a legal practice (drafting, legal research, telephone negotiations), but meeting clients, employees or adversaries in your home may not be practical.
Or, you may find it helpful from time-to-time to get out of your office and work somewhere else.
Coffee shops can be one alternative, but they can be loud, and the use of public Wi-Fi may present confidentiality concerns. Libraries are quiet, but offer very little privacy and are not great places for meeting. The right virtual office provider should allow you to not only have a place to come in a get some work done, but also give you access to conference rooms where you can meet clients in a private and comfortable setting.
4. Get your own domain name
You need a quick and memorable domain name to make it easier for potential clients to find/remember you online. A lot of services offer free domain names when you sign up, but that usually means a long, wordy, impersonal URL. Your firm will be in a much better position if you buy your own personalized and short domain name instead.
When choosing your domain name, try to keep it short and sweet. People are much more likely to remember a simple domain over a complicated one. The longer and more complicated you make your domain name, the less likely people are going to remember you.
5. Remember, you’re not a web/graphic designer
You went to law school to practice law, not design beautiful and well thought out websites. Web design and graphic design requires a lot of study about how design and functionality intersect to create a great user experience. We often see web design wannabes attempt to “improve” their sites with terrible fonts, awful color palette changes and annoying pop-ups.
Although, getting a professional, usable and beautiful website without any coding is possible! Tools such as Wix or Squarespace offer inexpensive templated websites that allow you to drag and drop your own content, images and other assets. Plus, these tools have access to trusted web designers who can work with you to build a custom theme instead of one of the premade ones. This also makes it easier to change your theme if you ever want to give your website a new look.
6. Take professional photos
Photos are the best way to introduce online visitors to your practice. Big, clear, realistic photos will allow them to virtually understand you and your firm, giving them a clear view of your quality and intricacies.
Like it or not, your photograph is a part of your online brand. Clients want to know who they’re hiring, which includes seeing your face. You might value your privacy, but that should not equate to complete anonymity.
You can hire a local photographer or simply post an ad on Craig’s List looking for local artists without having to break the bank. Both of these options will take professional-grade photos and should be able to handle the post-production touch-ups.
And don’t forget to take some photos out of the office. While they are good to have, the same old lawyer at a desk or in a law library won’t help you stand out, but a photo of you with a person or with your family outside the office can provide a sense of scale and personality as well. Mix both styles of photography to create a complete experience for the potential client.
7. Look the part
Here’s one that doesn’t need much of an explanation: have a good suit. This doesn’t mean you have to have it on every day, but every time you meet a client, potential client, another lawyer/referral source or go to court you need to look the part. This will add credibility and professionalism to your interaction.