How to Get Your First Client as a New Lawyer-Today!
My name is Nate Webb, I'm a lawyer with over a decade of experience practicing civil and criminal law in the Seattle, WA area. I wanted to help out new lawyers become successful in practice as a sole practitioner and those who just want to start their own practice even if they have been a lawyer for several years. I have created a fail-proof way to generate income as a lawyer in this blog post "How to Get Your First Client as a New Lawyer." At first I thought I might create an eBook and try and make some money but figured that I should help out my fellow “new” lawyers. Welcome to your career!
I've been in this game of lawyer marketing for some time now and picked up more than a few tidbits and have created this quick blogpost on the topic. Even if you don't have a great marketing mind, if you follow the simple steps in my "How to Get Your First Client as a New Lawyer" you will start making money as a lawyer. The majority of new lawyers didn't graduate at the top of their class and even if they did, many of them have law school debt looming over their head. These send out a bevy of resumes in hopes of landing that first job as a brand-new lawyer to make mom and dad and everyone else so proud. The truth is the vast majority of graduates don't land a job in their first six months and many take even longer than that. The competition for those "cushy" civil jobs are fierce and with the number of law school graduates increasing annually, it is very difficult to succeed as a lawyer. Even if you land that job on the 21st floor of the large downtown building you are most likely putting in 80+ hours for that $100k job and when you do the math, you are likely making less than $20 per hour as a lawyer while the partners are billing at $350 plus. You ready to work hard or work smart?
Most new lawyers search out a job at a firm to garner experience in order to see how things are done in the courtroom, in the office, how to conduct client consultations and how to advertise. Instead of putting in time for someone else, wouldn't you rather be putting in time for yourself, making your own name and brand recognition. There are many lawyers who have been practicing for several years or even a decade or more who want to break out but just don't know where to start. This blogpost is for you as well.
A little background on me: The first major firm I worked at was a criminal defense firm with a great reputation and they primarily relied upon past client and current lawyer referrals to generate business. The firm had a very uncomplicated website and primarily spent money in advertising in the monthly lawyer only magazine. That was well and good for getting referrals from other lawyers for your niche, but that didn't generate new clients who really didn't even know where to start looking for an attorney. This was back in the early 2000s so not surprisingly that marketing concept began to fail and the firm disbanded.
Just prior to the breaking up of this firm I had decided to leave and become a solo practitioner and have never looked back. I started off slowly gathering clients using many different approaches and since then I have consistently generated well over $1,000,000 in personal net earnings (meaning after I pay Uncle Sam, advertising, the light bill, employees, etc.) adding up the past several years.
Are you ready to start making money as a lawyer today! You have worked hard to get where you are, now take advantage of your hard work by putting that law degree it to use right now! But, wait a minute, where do I get my clients? Here's how:
Part I – website
Do I need a website? Yes, yes and hell yes. If you don't have a website, you might as well go as stand on the corner of the courthouse with a sign that says, “Will work for $40,000” (likely illegal under the RPCs) because word of mouth referrals is dead is today's world. I've seen people ask about recommendations on various social media groups and even though they may actually get a referral, they will still use a search engine in the end and your website had better show up.
How do I get a website? The first thing you need to do is come up with a name. You might ask, how do I get a name. Getting a name for your site requires you obtain a “domain name.” This is a unique name for your site and you can use various domain hosting sites to see which ones are available and make your purchase. A couple of good suggestions are: www.godaddy.com, www.squarespace.com and www.bluehost.com. I would specifically use a .com rather than some other option like a .co or .org or .biz. as .coms just simply rank better organically. If you don't know what organically is, just give it a quick Google search and this blog will still be here waiting.
Okay, you have the domain name, now what. You need to create an actual site using some sort of design program, Wordpress or other type of design software. There are so many options for creating a website that you can get lost. Let me narrow down a couple of choices, keeping in mind I get nothing from them in return: www.lawlytics.com (an Arizona based company who specializes in lawyer websites) and www.wix.com (a website design and hosting company which enables you to easily learn and implement your own style and content). Like I said you can spend countless hours weeding through design choices but I have found these to be very useful for my purposes. The main point is you absolutely must get online even if you have no organic presence, you can work on organic presence and SEO by adding content later, but just get something up so that your potential clients can find you today.
To create your site, you don't need to know JS or HTML, you simply use either of these recommended website design/hosting choices and they make it is easy to add content. You just select the design and their tools and support will assist you with creating your site. Select a professional design and theme, add some content specific to your niche or area of law, get a phone number and publish your site. Publishing your site is easy once you are within the design sites, they have simple tools to show you how it all works.
Part II – Adwords and Bing
Now you have a website and that of course was a simple thing to point out, but now you need to promote your site, get it show up on search engines. Getting your site to show up organically (under the ads) is very difficult and there are a million and one SEO companies out there who promise to get you “ranked on the first page of Google.” Let me digress for a second (a pet peeve of mine), I literally get 15 emails and phone calls a week promising to get me on the first page of Google (I already am by the way). Anyway, if you have time and want to run them off with a quick mic drop, just ask them the name of their company and then while they are on the phone search “best SEO companies” and if they are not on the first page tell them “why would I choose your company when you don't even show up on the first page of Google yourself?” This usually ends the conversation quickly. Okay, end of digression, now on to getting your site to show up on searches.
Whether you have a one page or hundreds of pages site, to get people to see your site and select you, you must get in front of people, specifically on their mobile devices. In order to get started, you will want to sign up with Google AdWords (www.adwords.google.com) or Bing Ads (www.bingads.microsoft.com). You can literally have your site up and running with an ad in front of potential clients within hours, maybe even quicker. Now you do want to have a professional looking landing page so make sure the page you are pointing/directing a Google or Bing Ad to looks great and inviting.
Sign up with both Google and Bing and follow their instructions on how to create and account and ad. I could write a whole book on what I've found to work best for me, but to quickly get you going, you can literally call Bing or Google support and they will very eagerly walk you through the process or you can watch 1000s of YouTube videos on how to create ads and select keywords, etc.
Okay, Nate, I'm up and running but my ad isn't number 1. Well you need to use Google's Keyword Planner or some other resource to see what keywords people are searching and make sure your bid is competitive. When I say your bid, this means you are bidding on a keyword to show up in a search and the highest bidder wins. The search engines charge you for each “click” called CPC (cost per click). When someone sees your ad and clicks, the search engines make money whether they ultimately choose you or not. Search engines aren't dummies, they know how to make a few billion bucks a year and creating fierce competition among business, it is commonly referred to as capitalism. The highest bidder gets the top spot for the most part.
Typically someone, when creating an ad account, will set a daily budget and once that budget is reached their ads won't show until the next day. The search engines give you the option to use the money quickly (having your ads show in rapid succession when searched and then when your budget is reached, they stop showing) or space out the ads over time. You have to play with your ads to see what works best for you because a DUI lawyer in Seattle may spend significantly more than one in Boise. Be aware that lawyers are competitors so you can easily find yourself bidding $100 or more for one click, yes it's true. Don't fret though you can still show up online by utilizing a slew of other keywords and marketing tactics I will discuss further. This ad approach will get you going and likely your phone ringing right away, landing a consultation is now up to you.
Part III – SEO
SEO or what is called Search Engine Optimization is the golden goose everyone is chasing. It is an enigma what search engines use to place sites organically and there are 1000s upon 1000s of businesses devoted to getting you “ranked on the first page.” For the most part they are just trying to keep up with search engine algorithms just like everyone else, and the fact of the matter is content is king. You also want to regularly keep up with reviewing and adding to or changing your content. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT just list a bunch of keywords in your content, this may have worked 10 years ago but is an SEO killer nowadays.
You can hire someone to do this for you but I would suggest that since you are involved in a professional service industry you do it yourself as the legalese can be lost on web designers and SEO consultants. Just make a note on your calendar to log into your site every Monday or Friday or whatever and make some changes or add some more content to stay relevant and fresh. This of course, only applies to organic listing. You can easily skip this and just use AdWords or Bing Ads and spend money every week and get in front of people. If you want people to find you all over the web though, I would suggest you practice a bit of SEO.
Part IV – to Avvo or not
Several years ago a company based out of Seattle, where I practice, was created and called themselves Avvo. They basically created a system for lawyers to create a profile, get ranked by clients, list achievements, etc. and they would show up in order of who was best. It was a unique way for people to, seemingly, find the best lawyer. They had ranking criteria which included categories like “trustworthiness” (now removed due to legal challenges, which Avvo won by the way). I was literally one of the first advertisers on Avvo because I could see that their plan was pretty smart, have a bunch of lawyers compete amongst themselves on your site, while making money off the whole deal, much like search engines. I even had a long chat with their CEO once about their ranking algorithm. However, for me times have changed and I have since soured on Avvo and no longer advertise with them. Don't get me wrong, you can get some clients from using their site but it is enormously expensive and I personally believe you can get more clients from using the search engines ads.
Why I don't recommend Avvo: First of all, like I stated before you are on a site with all of your competition in one place, what differentiates you from any of them, your Avvo ranking and reviews, that is all. Additionally, if someone sees any negative word written by some client, then you are toast and there is your competitor waiting to be clicked on. Avvo also allows competitors to advertise right on your profile! Crazy right.
Second, Avvo changes their geographic advertising so often it very rarely is effective, they have essentially, at least in my market, spread themselves so thin there is no advantage to using their services for a lawyer any longer.
Lastly, the ROI just isn't there like it used to be. Remember that new night club that opened up and there were lines out the door every night for a few months but then you saw it change to “new management” or a completely new name and theme every six months. This is what Avvo has become. There are so many review sites out there that even though Avvo advertises themselves like crazy and lawyers are willing to spend the money, you are just putting yourself into a smaller bucket so to speak with all of your competitors rather than staying out and having a potential client choose a lawyer from various search engines or Facebook, Twitter, etc. Why would you want to walk into a den of competitors? I literally had this conversation with my last Avvo sales rep. “Hey I am not getting any calls and want to go ahead and cancel.” His response, “Let's keep trying, if I give you a free month can I call you at the end to discuss?” Me, “sure.” One month goes by and the phone call I get is, “Hey this [sales rep] you were right, I didn't see any traffic at all, not one click, I'm going to go ahead and cancel for you.”
Imagine if a client saw a building that said “Lawyers galore inside, every practice area covered,” and there was a building next door that said, “Joe the friendly lawyer here to help.” Who would the client pick? Likely Joe because who wants to sit through 18 consultations with different personalities when Joe is right there outside that slew of lawyers ready to serve you independently. Not a great analogy, but I hope you get my point. Be on the outside, don't jump into a pot of competitors. So, I simply cannot recommend you use Avvo other than to create a profile, but I would never advertise with them, there is zero ROI in my humble opinion.
Part V - Social Media
Now is the day of social media, from the proverbial powerhouses Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, Whatsapp, etc. You better realize that younger people (probably a lot of you new lawyers reading this) use these daily and if you aren't at least on them with some sort of presence, you will fade away, much like the yellow pages did. By the way, DO NOT ADVERTISE IN THE YELLOW PAGES unless your practice is Elder Law (no offense to the elderly) but no one but their grandpa uses a phonebook to find a lawyer any longer.
Facebook ads are a great way to brand yourself, I don't find them to personally work as well as say AdWords, but it gets your name out there and you have to be diligent about rotating ads and posting on social media, it helps with SEO.
Radio and TV are for the high-rollers. Big firms with humongous advertising budgets can afford to toss up a long running radio or television ad. I believe they are effective, but since we are primarily focusing on new lawyers or those jumping into solo practice, I will assume advertising budgets are a bit humble right now. If you have the means, say a rich Uncle or grandma that wants to toss you $50k for a tv ad, have ad it (see what I did there, lol). Serious, stay on top of social media and any changes you see so you can adapt, your clients in the next 10-30 years will only find you there, I promise you!
Part VI – Reviews
In this day and age, the first thing potential new clients (what I like to refer to as PNCs) look at is Google, then they find a law firm, then immediately they search all over the internet for reviews on that firm. It is important to have reviews and obviously positive ones. Luckily, as of this writing I have never had a bad review, but I have read some reviews on colleagues of mine and I have felt the majority of them unfair. Especially when you practice criminal defense, believe it or not you won't get everyone out of their predicament and when a criminal defendant is upset they had to do one day in jail as opposed to the year the lawyer saved them, that isn't a fair review. Again, I digress. Promote satisfied clients to review you primarily on Google and Avvo (again this is all I believe Avvo is good for) but I wouldn't focus on Yelp and Lawyers.com. I don't believe that many new clients search for lawyers on lawyers.com or martindale.com, they use Google, so have a presence there. Also, make sure you have claimed your business profile on Google, it is important for SEO. By the way some of you might be asking me “what about Craigslist?” I say go for it, but the quality clients search Google, that is just my opinion. I got my very first client from Craigslist but that client could only pay me $300 every other month, so take it for what you will.
Well there you have a quick blogpost on how to get your first client. There are many other avenues for obtaining clients, I've seen lawyers send out letters to people recently arrested and use billboards (we don't have a lot of those here, but Vegas baby, have you seen how many lawyer billboards there are there, geez). Anyway, I hope you find some of this information useful and you get your first client today!