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In this legal economy, more and more attorneys are going solo. Some are recent graduates who are forced into hanging their own shingle. Others have ten years of legal experience at a big firm but need a change.
Regardless of your legal experience, here are some basic business tips to get things rolling.
Invest in your website
Recent studies have indicated that the consumers are increasingly likely to search for goods and services online. The good news is that creating a nice website is not as daunting as you think. If you have some tech-savvy, designing and maintaining your own site is very doable. If you elect to build your own, be sure to follow this checklist for creating your own website.
If you are willing to invest some money into your site, hiring a professional to design and maintain your site can be worth it. The upside is that you can have a really spiffy site fast. The downside is that it costs more and you may incur regular maintenance and upkeep fees.
A nice alternative is using an online service that can build an appealing site for less than a professional designer. Design experience and budget are important considerations, but make sure your site looks good.
Whatever route you choose, once your site is up and running, spend some time viewing your website through a multi-browser lens to make sure everything looks correct—not every potential client uses Chrome or Safari.
Find a support network
Ideally, share office space with experienced attorneys who work in a similar practice area. If you cannot find attorneys with similar practices, then find attorneys who you think can help mentor you. Even if you already have ten years of legal experience, you probably do not have ten years of business experience. Being able to walk across the hall and ask questions is invaluable—whether you are asking about accounting issues or procedural concerns.
As noted above, the ideal space will allow you to work around attorneys in the same (or similar) practice area. But you should also strive to find attorneys that you get along with and will feel comfortable around. If you do not feel comfortable enough to ask your office mate a question, you might as well work in solitude.
In this economy, you should be able to shop around for a space and find one that is best suited for what you want.
Network, network, network
For most attorneys, a large portion of their business is referrals from other attorneys. When you first start out, spending $40 on lunch might seem like a a tough expense to swallow. But compare that to time spend on other types of marketing—blogging and social media. Even though those efforts do not literally take money out of your pocket, that is time you could spend on something else. In other words, other types of marketing are not free.
If you needed an excuse to reconnect with old classmates and professors, this is it. Many times they will refer you to someone else who works in a similar area—someone who can potentially refer cases down the road.
If your pocketbook is completely pinched, then suggest having coffee or grabbing a drink during a cheap happy hour. The point is to spread the word and get the buzz going. It might take some time, but it will pay off.
Whoever you talk to, be sure to tell them what types of cases you want—which makes it even easier for them to refer the right cases.