4 Secrets Top Rainmakers Use to Fill Their Practice

Marketing Your Law Firm Takes Time, Money and Advanced Planning

By Stephen Fairley

Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company that specializes in helping small and solo law firms generate more referrals and build lifestyle law firms. Over 6,000 attorneys have benefitted from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. For more information visit: www.TheRainmakerInstitute.com or call 888-588-5891.

“In the 20 years I have been an attorney,I have never had to market my law firm,” an attorney I’ll call Ralph informed me.“However, about six months ago my biggest client was bought out by a Fortune 500 company and my revenues dropped from $600,000 to $60,000 in 60 days.I’m 55 years old and I feel like I’m starting over.What can I do to quickly find more clients?” Ralph approached me just before I was scheduled to give a presentation on rainmaking to a New Jersey State Bar audience of 160 attorneys. Since I only had a few minutes before going on stage, I gave him my card and asked him to meet me after the seminar. That evening at dinner I shared with Ralph how our company has studied hundreds of top rainmaker attorneys to discover their secrets to building a financially successful and personally satisfying law practice. I worked with Ralph over the next few months and with a lot of hard work he was able to build relationships with several referral sources who sent him dozens of new cases. He doubled his revenues in less than twelve months.

Fast forward two years. I had just finished up another bar association presentation when Ralph walked up to me.“I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch,Stephen,”he said.“My business has grown so fast I couldn’t keep up with it at first.I’ve had to hire three new people just to serve my clients. I drove in from out of town just to see you again and say thank you.”As Ralph discovered, the field of law firm marketing is highly competitive with more and more attorneys competing for the same clients. In my work with small law firms and solo practitioners, I have found there are at least four common strategies used by top attorneys to generate more referrals and fill their law practice.

Strategy 1. Build Relationships With Strategic Referral Partners

Strategic Referral Partners (SRPs) are people who already have a relationship with the people you want as clients. For example, if your niche is business law for small business owners, possible referral partners would be accountants, financial planners, local bankers, commercial real estate agents, and insurance agents, to name a few.

Here’s the step-by-step referral building system we created that’s used by hundreds of attorneys in a variety of practice areas:

  • Identify several professions or industries that already have trusted relationships with your target market.
  • Build or buy a database of potential referral sources (www. infoUSA.com and www.superpages.com are two great resources).
  • Focus on refining your Unique Competitive Advantage by answering this question:“Why should someone hire me versus any of my competitors?”
  • Create a form letter that includes who you work with, how you are different, and a personal invitation to get together to determine if/how you could work together.
  • Send out 10-20 letters per week.
  • Have your assistant call the people you sent letters to and determine their level of interest in connecting with you.
  • Have your assistant set up appointments for you over lunch or coffee.
  • When you meet with prospective SRPs, find out more about their businesses and how you can help their clients.
  • Ask compelling questions to let them know you are interested in building a mutually beneficial referral relationship, and don’t forget the best question:“How would I know if the person I’m talking to would be a great referral for you?”
  • Ask them if they would be willing to send you referrals.
  • If possible, try to send them a referral in the next 30 days.
  • Follow up every 4-6 weeks to stay connected with them (send them a letter, article of interest, or one of your press releases).

Sounds simple, right? Not really, but it does work. Every week we help attorneys use this exact strategy to meet with two to three

new potential referral sources. Just remember, referrals are a contact sport! You must leave your office and connect with local

professionals in order to build your referral network.

Strategy 2. Build A Powerful Online Presence

The Internet changes everything when it comes to law firm marketing and how consumers and business owners select law firms. Many

attorneys do not realize that most prospects will research them online before they ever hire them (likewise with potential

referral sources).

Having a great website is essential to your law practice. The only thing worse than not having a website is having one that looks

like every other law firm’s. Hire a website development company that specializes in legal websites, but make sure you end up with

a custom-built website, not a template that can also be used by dozens or hundreds of other law firms.

However, internet marketing goes way beyond having a great website. Here are some other ways to boost your online presence:

  • Get a Blog! Blogs, also known as weblogs or blawgs, are a great, inexpensive way to get online fast.There are a growing number of journalists who look to “bloggers” as experts.The search engines love blogs because they provide fresh content and are usually very search engine friendly. However, if you are going to have a blog be sure you are ready for the commitment: to work effectively, you must update your blog a minimum of three to five times per week. If you don’t have time to do that, find someone who can help, but make sure it’s unique content otherwise it will not help you with ranking well on the search engines.
  • Online Article Marketing. Did you know there are hundreds of websites that will publish your articles for free? All you have to do is submit them and within a matter of weeks you will begin to see your online presence grow.These short, education-based articles are written specifically for your niche. If you can write 500 words on a topic, you can use this simple strategy.When you search for my name on Google (be sure to spell it correctly), I generally come up on over 350,000 websites. I don’t tell you this to impress you, but to impress upon you that this was not a mistake! It was a marketing strategy and online article marketing is one of the ways I achieved this. For a free special report on how to submit educational articles to online websites, email me at:SFairley@ TheRainmakerInstitute.com and request a free copy of the “Online Article Marketing” report.The report will show you exactly how to use this strategy and even give you the top 30 websites you can submit your articles to.

Strategy 3. Keep In Touch With Clients

The best source of referrals is often a satisfied client, but only if the client remembers you when one of their friends or colleagues needs your help. If you’re like most attorneys, you have helped hundreds of people over the years,so staying connected to them every 4-8 weeks can be an overwhelming task. Here are a few tips we recommend for keeping in touch with your clients:

  • Use a contact management system. Have your assistant enter their contact info into a database program like InfusionsoftforAttorneys.com,ACT!, Goldmine or Salesforce.com. Information is only as useful as it is accessible.
  • Collect their email addresses.Add a place for their email addresses on your intake form.
  • Send out a “Keep In Touch” letter to former clients thanking them for the opportunity to serve them.
  • Conduct an Annual Client Satisfaction Survey.Ask clients what they liked most and least about your firm as well as what upcoming challenges you could assist them with.
  • Offer them a special report or “Top 10 Tips” sheet and request they update their contact information.
  • Send them practical, educational information every 4-6 weeks. Electronic newsletters, called e-zines, are the best way to stay connected. Make them short. Focus on informing, educating and adding value to your clients (do not turn this into a sales pitch). We recommend www.ConstantContact.com to manage your e-zine.

Strategy 4. Answer the Question, “Why Should I Hire You?”

With an estimated 600,000-800,000 attorneys in private practice across the nation,standing apart from your competitors is increasingly difficult. I have asked hundreds of attorneys, “Why should someone hire you versus your competition?” Virtually all of them respond with the same four answers:quality,service,years of experience,and price—none of which has any impact on prospective clients!

Quality is not a feature people will pay extra for. It simply means you meet the minimum level of expectations. For every service you provide there are a thousand other law firms who offer the exact same service. Regardless of how long you’ve been in practice, someone has been there longer.And do you really want to be known as the “Wal-Mart” of law firms—the low cost leader?

Every prospect who walks in your office has the same question: Why should I hire this attorney versus any other one out there.While they may not verbally ask it, they are all thinking it. To be effective, you need to answer the question for them.

Here are three things to emphasize in your response:

  • Focus on the benefits, value, and results.When meeting with a prospective client, emphasize the benefits you offer to clients, the value you bring, and the results you achieve. Be careful not to run afoul of your state’s ethics in advertising regulations.
  • Focus on your service, not the list of services your firm provides. Explain how you serve your clients better by going out of your way for them and by treating every person as a VIP. Ask yourself what kind of “client experience” you want each to have. Be very specific and write down your ideas. Put an action plan into place with your staff to ensure that every experience a prospect or client has with your firm is a positive one.
  • Focus on solutions. People don’t buy legal services; they buy solutions to their legal problems. Prepare a case study of how you found a creative solution to another client’s problem. Explain how you came up with it and the results.

Marketing your law firm is both art and science.There are no magic wands or silver bullets. It takes time, energy, money and advanced planning. It’s important to realize that marketing is a process, not an event. Too many attorneys view marketing is an event you go to or an ad you place in the yellow pages.Top Rainmakers recognize marketing is a process, a systematic approach to building referral relationships, cultivating contacts, and staying connected to clients.