If you are just about to start your first law firm / practice, one of the first questions probably is how to approach potential clients and get them onboard. The principles laid out bellow, proven and borrowed from the start-up world, are also applicable if you are a seasoned practitioner, and are looking for ways to increase your client base. Hence, if you are wondering how to find new clients, you must first of all Reflect, Focus and Define.
You probably have had some goals in mind when you have decided to start-up your law practice. These may relate to your business, but also to your desired lifestyle. For example, how do you imagine your work-life balance? What is your targeted revenue from year 1 to year 3? How do you envision growth for your law practice and team?
Of course, it is not mandatory (nor possible) for you to have every single detail figured out. For starters it is enough if you have some general idea for your life & business within the next 1-3 years. Since now you are not only a lawyer but also an entrepreneur. Hence, you (should) realize that your private life & your business are “married”, and therefore you (should) aim for those spouses to live happily-ever-after.
Focus: practice area, industry, stage.
At the very start you have limited resources. Hence, focusing on a few practice areas will help you use your time in the most effective way in the pursuit of new clients. At first, decide which legal areas you would like to practice. Is it IP, Corporate, Tax Law or something else?
Following that, decide upon the industry segment you would like to serve. It may be Energy, Real-estate, IT Companies, etc. It is your call. Finally, decide upon the stage of the clients / companies which you would like to serve. For instance, you may want to work mainly with start-up companies or work with the established players, or anywhere in between.
Define: your target client’s profile.
This exercise will help you find your target niche. For example, you may realize that you would prefer to render services to start-up energy companies, and help them with their IP strategy.
Now you have the idea regarding the target niche, you can start your research on where to find clients coming from it. The adage is “go where your target audience is” and it holds both in the offline and online world. With the niche in mind, you will likely find industry events conferences, etc. which gather representatives from that segment. Likewise, you will know what kind of online forums to search for in order to “meet” your target group.
Finally: get active.
Finding clients for your law practice is all about marketing. Actual legal work comes only after you have been successful in marketing. The sooner you realize that, the better off you will be.
Now I understand that some/most jurisdictions prohibit advertising, and I certainly am not advocating that approach. Marketing is much more, and it would, for instance, require you to attend conferences which gather, for example, IT Start-up companies.
In this case you may wish to go to local pitching events, get affiliated to tech-accelerators and/or other institutional investors. Approach tech-founders in this example, and see if you can help them. Can you offer some advice free of charge? Let them have you in mind, and they may approach you down the road.
There are also ways for you to be active in the online world – offer some advice online free of charge, write-up blog posts on the topics interesting to your target group, answer questions on Quora, etc. This does take effort, and it requires discipline, but it pays in the long run.
Having in mind all the activity and efforts that you need to invest your time in, it becomes clear why it is so important to reflect, focus & define as early as possible. Without clear focus, you will be paralyzed and will not know how to move next. Lacking focus used to be great in the old days when lawyers could afford to sit and wait for the phone to ring. Nowadays, when you actually have to become a hunter, better know who your potential clients are, what circles do they move in, and what are their needs.