How Do I Find Clients for My Own Law Practice?

Q: I am thinking of starting my own law practice. How do you find clients or drum up your own business? Do you find it helpful to speak at Bar Association or trade association events and network with other lawyers? Do you find that it is more effective to have seminars targeted to potential clients?

A: Effective marketing depends 100 percent on the clientele you want to attract. The first bit of advice, then, is to define your market. Anything that comes in the door is not a sound strategy! It is better to understand the needs of your clients and position yourself so that they are aware of you and have confidence in you and your experience than to solicit people randomly.

Once you know what kind of practice you want to develop, and the people you'll need to attract to build it, figure out where and with whom potential clients congregate, and what they read and care about. Then, join whatever organizations they join, read the publications they read and meet the people they know.

Once you're part of their community, offer to speak for free on your area of expertise. (Paid seminars seldom generate enough of an audience to cover costs.) But select your message carefully and prepare an information-packed presentation. You want to convey to potential clients that you have the smarts to solve their problems, the ability to translate legal lingo into plain English, and a personality that won't make them sorry they hired you. Handouts covering the material you present can be produced that include your contact information. Potential clients may need time to consider hiring you, or they may refer back to the document when a problem arises or their situation changes. At minimum be certain to carry plenty of business cards to these events, and frankly everywhere else you go.

At the same time, get active in your local bar association . Many self-employed lawyers without an existing book of business build their practices through referrals from other lawyers. In fact, I attributed the success of my own law practice to joining my local bar association, proposing and starting a new service for the elderly, and eventually being elected president of the young lawyers section.

Your fellow attorneys may also have valuable information about their marketing efforts in your area. Speak to practitioners that have a similar kind of client but practice a different area of law. They may be willing to share insight into local organizations, introduce you to community leaders, or collaborate with you in preparing seminars and presentations that cover multiple areas of law, or the interaction between your respective areas of practice. These activites not only promote your business to the clients but also significantly increase the chance that you will receive referrals from your partner, since they will quickly think of you when their clients have legal issues in your area of practice and have confidence in your ability to assist them.