The other day I received an email from a former coworker announcing that he’s recently made the move into solo practice. While he builds his own book of business, he’ll be assisting another attorney with his case load. That work will provide him with about 25% of his pre-solo practice salary. To make up the difference, he’ll need to find his own clients. As anyone who has ever entered solo practice knows, that is easier said than done.
Since he knew I had recently entered solo practice, he asked for any advice I could provide. By his own words he currently has “virtually no internet presence” and wanted to know where he should start in establishing himself and his new practice online. I immediately put together a road map for establishing his practice online. It was only intended as a start as there is a lot of ground work I’d recommend for any attorney starting a new practice. Still, after sending him my tips, I realized that other attorneys might find them useful as well. If you’re considering launching your own new practice, or simply want to establish a respectable Internet presence for your existing practice, here are a few places to start.
Hanging Your Online Shingle
First, I believe it’s important to create at least a basic website for any new firm. I don’t believe that law firm websites need to be flashy. In fact, I think of law firm websites as little more than the equivalent of virtual business cards. They should have your contact information on them (things like a phone number and definitely your email address) along with a basic profile including your practice areas. Aside from that I only think a website needs a space for you to post blog posts. If you’re looking to create a cheap and simple website to get started, you can check out our post about creating your own site using about.me and flavors.me.
Get Local On The World Wide Web
My friend mentioned that he planned to focus his practice in immigration law. For that reason, it made sense to me that he would want to make sure that his new firm appears in local search results when people are seeking immigration attorneys in his area. By adding your practice to the service, your business will appear on localized Google search results and Google Maps. According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online and 20% of all searches are local in nature. This means that by signing up with Google Places your legal practice is more likely to appear in the results of a search performed by an individual located in your area than attorneys who aren’t signed up with the service or attorneys located far away from the person performing the search.
It’s easy to add your business to Google Places. Go to http://google.com/places to get started. Click the link to add your business and then begin by adding all of your business information including your address and practice areas (i.e. “category”). The first category must be one of Google’s pre-made categories (such as “Attorney”), but you can add custom categories after that (such as “Entertainment Attorney” or “Immigration Attorney”).
Build Your Web-Based Network
LinkedIn is a popular social network for professionals for good reasons. It allows you to easily connect with former colleagues, coworkers, and clients. If your active on LinkedIn and provide regular updates to your network, you’ll remind your colleagues that you exist and that you’re now engaged in your own private practice. With luck they’ll provide referrals to your practice. At the very least it provides a relatively easy way to connect with your professional network. Where you may not feel comfortable adding some former clients or coworkers to your Facebook account, you should have no such reservations about connecting with them on LinkedIn.
But as valuable as connecting with your existing connections on LinkedIn may be, LinkedIn Groups may prove even more valuable. Many attorneys entering solo practice feel like they are now on their own for better and worse. You have no one to turn to when you have questions or want the advice of someone else who has been there. For those reasons, new attorneys should immediately join LinkedIn Groups related to their practice area, for solo practitioners, and other industry specific groups. Doing so will allow you to grow your network, but will also provide a forum where you can ask questions, seek advice, and discuss issues related to your relevant areas.
Get Connected With Clients
There are plenty of tools available to attorneys looking to connect with new clients. For example, you should sign up with Bar Association groups and services that connect attorneys with clients including our very own On Call service. The On Call service connects individuals seeking legal advice with attorneys who specialize in the relevant areas. Not every connection will lead to a paying gig, but it doesn’t cost anything to sign up for the service, and you’ll be connected with potential paying clients. We continuously receive enthusiastic feedback from the attorneys who use the service. Honestly, there is no good reason not to sign up with the service.
Following those first four tips, I think is a good start for establishing an online presence for any website. Obviously, there are many more ways attorneys can leverage social media and other online services to expand their practice (by using Twitter and Facebook for example). Nonetheless, are there other important web services that you think attorneys starting out should invest time? Let us know in the comments.
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