John Wait is a second-year attorney in North Carolina, a solo practitioner who has been trying to develop experience and a reputation by serving on the court-appointed criminal defense counsel list (a common recommendation made to new lawyers). He’s worried about obtaining enough clients that way, so he wrote a basic question to the American Bar Association’s “Solosez” listserv:

Here are my ideas [to bring in more clients]:

1. Bite the bullet and pay for traffic ticket lists. Do mailings.

2. Pay for SEO to increase my website’s search engine effectiveness.

3. Continue networking as much as possible.

Not the first time someone has discussed marketing for young attorneys on the internet. E.g., see my own Why It’s Hard For BigLaw Associates To Start Rainmaking.

Brian Tannebaum, a criminal defense lawyer in Miami (his website says he did consulting for CSI: Miami, so we know he’s all about professionalism, not marketing) wrote back:

Don’t buy traffic ticket lists, fire the SEO fraud, and yes, network. Buy lunch for people, sponsor charitable events, speak at the local Rotary club, say hello at your kids school, reconnect with old friends, take a small ad out in the local business journal, get on a Bar committee, write about something interesting.

Time-tested advice (though I’ll asterisk the SEO for a moment), as also reflected by Scott Bovitz’s recollections about changes in the legal profession over the past thirty years (found via Legal Writing Prof):

In 1980, a client found a lawyer by reputation and word of mouth. Martindale Hubbell was a daily tool, and lawyer certification was still a pilot program. Lawyers promoted themselves by public service, getting quoted in the paper, writing articles, and volunteering in organizations. In 2011, clients still find lawyers by reputation and word of mouth. But Martindale Hubbell is now part of LexisNexis. State and national certification programs abound, and lawyer advertising is everywhere. But lawyers still like to be quoted.

I’d also add these ten marketing tips for first-year and second-year associates, particularly:

1. Excel at the Basics

Take every opportunity to learn and hone your lawyering skills. Arrive on time and stay until the job’s done. Ask thoughtful questions. Pay close attention to detail. Meet your deadlines. Seek feedback about your performance. As a first or second year associate, your clients are the partners of the firm. Partners notice when associates are in the office late or when they’re slipping out early on Friday afternoons. Make sure you earn their notice in a positive way by just becoming the best lawyer you can be.

2. Find a Really Good Mentor

Don’t wait on your firm to establish a formal mentor program. Identify and spend time with that lawyer who embodies what you want to be and emulate his or her good behaviors. Since you’re asking your mentor to be generous with his or her time and talents, reciprocate by delivering yours. Find opportunities to do good work for your mentor.

The second point also works well for young lawyers who either decided to or were forced to hang out a shingle: find a mentor. There’s no better teaching or marketing tool. Luke Skywalker and the Karate Kid were nobodies until they were trained by their mentors.

If you don’t have a mentor from law school or family relationships, then find one another way. Bust your behind on a political campaign or charitable cause; that’s a great way to start networking among practicing attorneys, since campaigns are loaded with not just lawyers, but connected lawyers who like to make friends and like to connect people.

Didn’t work? Cold-call some lawyers you respect and ask them if they could possibly meet with you just to discuss, briefly, how to get started. Don’t ask them for a job or for networking; if they like you, they’ll help you with the networking. Cold-call some other lawyers and offer to work for them for free in exchange for some guidance. Maybe rent some office space from them, paying your way, and ask them if they’ll help you informally, maybe even refer you a case or two.

Then, with your mentor’s (sometimes critical) guidance and (maybe verging on cruel) tutelage as often as you can get it, build your practice the way you’d built a cake store or a plumbing business: through superior quality, exceptional customer service, making calls and wearing down your shoe leather. Get your name out there and make sure it’s associated with quality.

Continue Reading Young Lawyer’s Guide To Legal Marketing (And Snark Mentoring)

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