For some people, the very thought of marketing a legal practice seems daunting. But when you think about it, marketing is primarily about making, building and reinforcing relationships. You can do a lot to find new clients and sources of referrals, and to maintain your current network, while staying within your comfort zone, and perhaps even enjoying yourself. Here are a few ideas to help jog your imagination.
Some lawyers generate considerable business or cultivate referral sources through educational activities.
Continuing Legal Education
If you are interested in reaching other lawyers, volunteering to participate in a CLE production can potentially give you a great deal of exposure. Nonprofit CLEs are often hard-pressed to find volunteers who are both qualified and willing to speak.
Educational Workshops and Seminars
You also have the opportunity to organize your own presentations, finding a venue (such as a rented room at a public library) where you can educate prospective clients about their legal needs. It will take some effort to gear up for a presentation, and you'll need to learn how to market your seminars, but you will likely be able to create a presentation that you can reuse in the future with little to no updating.
Law Day Events
You may have the opportunity to participate in a law day event through your state or local bar, in which you can engage with an audience interested in a particular area of law. You may even receive an outline or talking points to help with your presentation.
Lawyers who enjoy writing may find business by publishing articles and other information directed at potential clients or referral sources.
You can look for opportunities to submit articles to magazines and journals that are read by your prospects. A good article may impress people that you're an expert in your field, or bring your name to mind when somebody later asks, "Do you know a lawyer who can help me?"
A journal that targets an industry or hobby may be interested in publishing a legal Q&A column, allowing you to answer questions from their readers. Your local newspaper, or the website that has replaced it, may similarly be interested in accepting contributions or a column. You won't get rich, and in many cases won't get paid at all, but if you properly target your efforts your reward should come in the form of clients.
Many websites (including this one) are looking for quality, original contributions.
You need to be careful about where you submit your material. You want it to be published on a website that generates a considerable amount of traffic - if nobody knows about the site, your article will find few readers, and new content on popular sites tends to fare better in search engines. If you're tenacious you can also build your own site. It will likely be slow going at first, but if your site becomes popular even among a niche market it can be an excellent marketing tool.
Be aware that no respectable site wants to republish information that is already available elsewhere, to publish articles that are low in quality, or to help you publish anchor links to your own website. If you find a website that lets people publish low-quality, spammy articles, odds are you won't get a benefit from publishing on that site.
You don't have to be an exceptionally social person to network through social events.
You can invite somebody out for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dining out allows you to connect with somebody less formally, and to get to know somebody beyond what you are likely to learn in a business setting. Breakfast engagements can potentially save you money over more expensive lunches and dinners, while leaving the rest of your day open.
If you're a sports fan, consider inviting somebody to watch a game with you. You don't necessarily have to go to the live game. You may propose watching the game at a sports bar or similar venue (keeping in mind the noise level) or even your home.
If you're a big fan of theater or concerts, consider inviting those who share your passion to attend an event with you. Look for nonprofit theater groups and concert venues, and see if they offer a VIP package to contributors -- you may be able to offer your prospects access to special events and productions at a reasonable cost.
If you like to engage in charity work, volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet new people while helping your charity. You may also have prospects who would be interested in joining you for a volunteer activity.
If you enjoy participating in sports, you may be able to make great connections by joining a sports team, or by inviting an interested prospect to play golf, tennis, go sailing, or participate in another sport of mutual interest.
If you have prospects who share your interest in a charitable cause, consider inviting them to an event or benefit for the charity. If enough clients are interested and it's in your budget, you can consider buying a table so that you can all be seated together, likely in a good location. You need to be careful when you select a mix of prospects for the same event, but with a well-chosen group you can make strong connections.
While networking is a word that can strike fear into the heart of a lawyer, the rise of the Internet creates new opportunities for networking that even an introvert can enjoy.
Using networks like LinkedIn, you can connect with past, present and future clients, classmates and colleagues, and can invite them to endorse your services. You can write and post informative articles that show off your legal knowledge, or answer questions.
This type of networking can be particularly beneficial to lawyers who are seeking business or referrals from other professionals.