One of the solo practice lawyers I mentor needed some practical legal marketing advice. He asked me to sit in on a meeting with a copywriter he was considering hiring to help with his marketing. There was a free breakfast involved and I like the writer, so I happily agreed to join them.
The goal of the meeting was to help my friend create his “core messaging strategy.” So far so good. My friend, we’ll call him “Josh” because that’s his name, is a new solo and is easily the hardest-working person I know. His wife just gave birth to their third child in January and Josh is working his butt off to provide for his family and pursue this new solo lawyer career.
He’s been happily accepting practically every case that comes along. Now Josh has enough work that he is able to say “no” to the work he really doesn’t want, and to projects that will take too long build competence. So, it’s time to figure out how to strategically say “no” and how to attract the clients he’d really like.
Beyond theory: practical marketing advice
Even though Josh is a good friend, I don’t think he’s read my essay about finding your authentic niche, nailing your elevator speech, the power of acceptance, or any of the other great marketing-related posts here at lawyerist. He’s been too busy billing hours (even though I’ve told him it’s time to move past the billable hour model – but one thing at a time).
I asked Josh to consider the projects that he most enjoyed. He tried to find a way to say they are ALL his favorite. He tried to equivocate. He tried to hedge. I didn’t let him. It turned out that his favorite projects all shared the characteristic of helping his favorite people. We talked about those people and described them as “boot-wearing millionaires.” Josh works with ranchers who tend to lead large agribusiness operations.
Now that we understood the common bond of his target clients, we shifted our focus to the types of projects he likes. Through our discussion, we figured out that there is one type of project happening now that these folks contact Josh to handle – mineral rights leases. After he builds rapport with the clients on the leases, it’s not rare for the rancher to ask Josh to review the estate planning and generational transfer issues. Finally, Josh knows that surface rights issues come up after the lease has been signed. Those three projects are all engagements Josh would enjoy attracting.
Now Josh needs to get busy attracting these projects from these clients. That’s where Karen, the writer, comes into the plan. It’ll be Karen’s job to write three documents, one on mineral rights leasing, one on estate planning for agribusiness families, and one on surface rights issues for the landowner. These documents will be written in a modular fashion so that the content can be used as a feature-article, a series of blog posts, or quickly edited to fit the needs of any publication willing to run the content and distribute Josh’s expertise to his target audience for him. Yes, Josh could probably write these articles himself, but they have to be for the audience, not other lawyers. We lawyers tend to write for other lawyers an not our clients, Josh is no different. Additionally, if Josh could have found the time to write these articles, he probably would have by now—so he needs to hire the help or the project will never be completed.
It’ll be Josh’s job to help identify the publications, then submit the content (although he could hire an intern or virtual assistant to identify publications and do the content submissions.) Josh is on a tight budget, so he needs to invest his limited dollars in sharing the message (copywriting help, travel expenses, and time giving presentations) of his expertise instead of dropping funds into buying business-card-sized advertisements.
Armed with valuable information for his clients and willing to give talks at county extension offices on these topics, Josh should be able to put his expertise in front of the very people he wants to work with and attract as much work on his favorite projects as he can handle.
Now it’s time for him to drop the suit and tie and shift to wearing nice jeans and a crisp denim shirt, but that’s a story for another post (one that might get the lawyer fashion police mad at me…).
- What projects do you enjoy?
- What kind of people (shared characteristics) need those projects?
- What information can you share with those people to establish your expertise? (articles)
- How can you share that information with them? (presentations, non-lawyer journal articles, handouts, free downloads)
What do you do to establish and share your “expert” status?