Solo attorney Jennifer Lewis Kannegieter on marketing, blogging, and practice management

Every Friday for the next few weeks I will be posting interviews with solo and small firm attorneys who talked to me about their marketing strategies, online and offline, high tech and old school. Of course, I also asked about the tools they use to manage their practice. If you are interested in being interviewed, please e-mail me.

The first attorney who responded was Jennifer R. Lewis Kannegieter, who started her own law practice last November. She has a blog loosely focused on family law, estate planning, probate, and similar topics, and you can find her on Facebook and mypractice.

Since Kannegieter’s practice is relatively new, she is still feeling her way when it comes to marketing, trying a few different approaches and waiting to see how they work out. She views her website and blog as one of the most important parts of her early marketing plan, and focuses on raising her profile through online and offline networking through personal relationships.

Read on for highlights from the interview.

What kind of law do you practice?

I assist clients with their important personal legal matters, I practice family law, estate planning, and probate. I enjoy learning about my clients and their families and helping them make the decisions that are best for them and their families.

Describe your (formal or informal) marketing plan, both online and offline. In other words, how do you plan to get new clients?

My practice is a lifelong journey. I know that most of my clients will come to me through word of mouth, referred to me by friends, neighbors, former clients, etc., and that will take time. So I guess my overall plan, or my informal plan, is really just to do a good job for my clients, to spend time listening to them and to educate them on the legal process, and for my personal contacts to get to know me as a caring, knowledgeable person who is also a lawyer.

But I also know I do have to do something to get new clients, so I try to get my name out there and establish myself as a lawyer and a resource by maintaining my website and blogging, listing my name on online listings, getting involved with different organizations (professional memberships (MSBA), personal memberships (Monticello Women of Today), and I do a bit of volunteering (teaching information sessions and doing law clinics for Chrysalis, and coaching high school mock trial for Spring Lake Park)).

What unique challenges exist for you in trying to reach your potential clients?

I am a new lawyer, with a new practice, living in a new town (we moved to Monticello, MN, this fall), so I really have been starting from scratch.

Do you have a website?

Yes, (I wasn’t going to make anyone learn how to spell Kannegieter). The website was one thing I really prioritized in starting my practice. I know that whenever I am looking for something, the first thing I do is look on the web.

Did you pay someone to design your website? If so, who designed your website and what did they charge?

My website was designed by my friend, Jason VanSchooneveld, who is just starting to get into some freelance web design. I think I spent about $700 for everything he did for me.

Do you advertise, either online or offline?

I suppose I do, but I haven’t spent any money advertising (yet).

Where do you advertise?

I’ve done some free online listings or advertising on various websites (superpages, Google, Craigslist, etc.).

Have you gotten good results from your advertising? If so, what works best?

I’m not sure I have been around long enough to really know or to determine what works best. I have had clients find me online, meet me through my community involvements, and come to me from personal referrals. Things seem to be picking up, and whatever it is I am doing seems to be working.

Do you blog?

Yes. Or I try to. The blog is on my website, at

Do you consider your blog part of your marketing effort?

Yes, my blog is a marketing effort. My main reason for blogging is because I think it is important for people to be educated on the legal process and their options. So many people get divorced without really understanding the process or long term effects, or people think they need (or don’t need) an estate plan without really understanding why. So I blog to get some of this information out, but I also realize that by blogging I will establish myself as an authority and I do believe it can be a good form of marketing.

How often do you post?

Not as often as I should. I would like to post a couple times a week, sometimes it has been a couple times a month. I think I’m starting to get in the routine of blogging, but when I get busy and stressed with other things, it is really easy to let the blog slip.

What topics do you cover / what do you write about?

I don’t think I am as focused as other loggers, but that’s okay with me. I write about things that interest me and relate to my practice areas. I write about family law, estate planning, and probate, the legal process and information about lawyers (how to find one, what to expect as far as fees, working with a lawyer, etc.), useful legal resources, news articles, etc. I write about things that I want my potential clients to know, so there is a wide range of topics there. And if my blog had a narrower focus, I would probably grow bored with it.

Has it been worthwhile?

I think so. It is good for me to do, I enjoy it. And some people read my blog. But like everything else, I think it takes time to see results.

Do you use online social networking services (ex.: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace)?

Yes. I currently belong to Facebook and mypractice.

Do you consider your online social networking to be part of your marketing effort?

Not really. I joined Facebook years ago, and that has really just been a way to get in touch with high school and college friends. But I also realize that people looking for me online may find me on facebook, and if my facebook friends know about practice, there is the potential of getting referrals. I joined mypractice to check it out, see what happens, and put some faces to names. I don’t really consider online social networking as a direct marketing effort, but I realize that anything I do to get my name and practice information out there is a marketing opportunity.

Any thoughts on online social networking as a marketing method?

I don’t think online social networking is really useful as a direct marketing approach. I don’t believe people use these sites to look for an attorney (or whatever), they use them to find “friends” or “contacts.” But these sites do provide another way to let it be known that you are an attorney, and when people are looking for a lawyer, they will be looking for somebody they can trust, somebody they know. So I suppose online social networking can be an indirect marketing method.

Do you focus on networking offline?

I guess I do, I’m not sure how much of my networking offline is meant to be a marketing effort, or just a way for me to meet and interact with people. (Sometimes being a solo can get lonely.) I try to go to some MSBA section meetings, I belong to an estate planning study group. Sometimes I meet people for coffee or lunch. I have joined the Monticello Women of Today to get to meet people in Monticello. I suppose almost anything I do socially can be considered networking.

How do you track the results of your marketing efforts?

I am trying to keep track of how clients and potential clients come to me, eventually I am sure that will impact how I shape my marketing plan.

What part of your marketing effort have you found to be the most effective?

Most people do check out my website and blog, no matter how they came to me, so I think that has been effective. And maybe half of my clients have come to me as a referral from another client, a friend, or another lawyer.

Overall, what percentage of your time or how many hours per week would you say you spend on marketing?

I would say on average I spend 5-10 hours a week doing something that can be considered marketing, volunteering, networking, blogging, talking to potential clients about my practice. Some weeks I am really busy with marketing activities, some weeks not so much.

Some general thoughts on marketing:

I know that as a solo practitioner, the success of my practice is dependent on my success as an attorney, business owner, and marketer. And to be a really successful marketer, you need to always be “on,” always ready and looking for a marketing opportunity. But at the same time, I am who I am. I’m not good at trying to be something I’m not, and I think if you try too hard to be the always-ready marketer, you can come off as being fake. So I am just trying to figure out how to be able to be a successful marketer while still being myself.

As a matter of personal interest, what do you use for the following?

  • Calendar. A paper monthly calendar, but I think I am going to try Google Calendar.
  • Tasks / to-dos. I like writing lists, sometimes with pen and paper, sometimes on the computer. Some days I spend more time making lists of what I need to do than I spend actually doing anything.
  • Contacts. I am getting to the point I need to find a way to organize contact information. I currently don’t have a centralized location for all my contact information.
  • E-mail. Thunderbird.
  • Word processing / document creation., mostly. I still have Word and sometimes use that. I will be buying a new laptop at some point this year and can’t decide if I will get Word after that, or be completely at that time.
  • PDF creation.
  • Timekeeping. A clock, a pen and paper, and then a spreadsheet.
  • Billing. Spreadsheets.
  • Bookkeeping / accounting. Spreadsheets. As my practice grows I will probably consider something else, but right now bookkeeping is pretty simple.

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