When I started my law firm, my greatest fear was that I would not be able to get any clients. It turns out that getting clients is not that difficult; it just takes hustle. In the first year of my practice, I worked when I had clients, and tried to get clients when I didn’t have work to do. I did a lot more of the latter.

At the time (five years ago), there wasn’t as much noise from social media gurus. Most of my business came from the tried-and-true “techniques” of networking and teaching. Despite all the noise from the gurus and consultants, I still believe these must be the foundation of any successful law firm marketing plan. But social media and blogs can be an important part.

If you are starting your firm, or if you recently did so, here is what worked for me to get clients during my law firm’s first year.

Tell everyone

The best way to get business right away is to tell everyone you know what it is that you are doing, and that you are open for business. You can do this with an e-mail, letter, or postcard; just make it clear what you do, consider offering a package deal, and make sure you ask for business.

Make it clear what you (want to) do. Don’t be a general practitioner, at least not for this letter or e-mail. If you tell a bunch of non-lawyer friends that you have a “general practice” or do “litigation,” you aren’t helping them identify a good client. If you tell them you do wills and estate planning, or that you handle auto accident cases, you make it easy for them to identify a good client. Make it easy for people to hire you or refer business to you by making it clear what you do.

Offer a package deal. If you are an estate planner, offer an “Estate Plan Assessment.” If you handle DUIs, offer a “Jailhouse Consultation.” Or whatever. Be creative, give it a name, and make it a cut-out or print-out coupon. Do it for free if you want to, but don’t be afraid to charge. You want to mimic sales offered by the retail industry, where coupon clippers can show up, present a coupon and some money, and get something for it.

Ask for business. Your letter should not be an announcement. It should be a request to your friends and family to send you clients so you can make money. Tell them what you want them to do. Give the coupon to a friend. Use it yourself. Make copies and hand them out at church. Tell your friends you are in business. Call now. Whatever. Ask for what you want.

Start a blog

I started a blog when I started my firm because I am a compulsive writer, and it seemed like a good way to pull in search engine traffic. That turned out to be the case, but not right away. Starting a blog is a long-term law firm marketing endeavor. Expect that it will take 3–9 months for you to realize any consistent benefit from it. But it will pay off if you keep at it. Now, my online presence—driven by my blog—is a healthy chunk of my referrals.

Post at least weekly for a year. Much less, and it probably isn’t worth blogging. After that, you can slow down a bit, but my goal is still two posts per week, and more when I can.

You’ll notice I’m not giving special attention to social media. That is because, while I enjoy it, I haven’t found it to be particularly effective as a standalone law firm marketing tool. But I have found it to be an effective part of an online marketing strategy. Make sure to pipe your blog posts into Twitter and a Facebook page, but you don’t need to do much more than that, unless you want to.

As for where to start blogging, it doesn’t much matter. I started Caveat Emptor on Blogger, then moved it to WordPress at my own hosting later on. Just grab a cool domain name for your blog, and start writing.

Have a lot of coffee, lunch, and beer

In other words, get to know—or reconnect with—a lot of people. During year one, I focused on networking with two types of people: (1) potential referral sources; and (2) entrepreneurs and business (law firm) owners. It helps to talk to people who have been there, for starters. Learn what software they use, what kind of marketing they have gotten great results from, etc.

But equally important, talk to potential referral sources. If you want estate planning work, talk to every financial advisor, family lawyer, and personal injury lawyer in town. Give them a pamphlet or a stack of business cards for their clients.

And follow up. Days or weeks later, touch base. Keep up the relationships over time. Add them to your Facebook friends and follow them on Twitter. Keep them on your radar so that you stay on theirs, so that when they have someone they could refer to you, they think of you.

Teach lawyers and potential clients

Teaching continuing legal education seminars may be an option. If you have a unique practice like I did—defending debt collectors—you can get a lot of business from teaching people what you do. Or, as I often put it, teaching people how to refer you cases by talking in great detail about the cases you handle.

But before I taught anything substantive, I taught lawyers about blogging, technology, and marketing. The reason is that everything I know about law practice technology takes place in the context of my law practice. So as I talk about being paperless, I necessarily talk about how that works in my consumer rights practice. Even when I presented at seminars on technology, I would get referrals for business.

Or arrange your own seminars. Find groups of potential clients or referral sources, and teach them. Talk to business owners about intellectual property issues, or young parents about estate planning.

Teaching is an incredibly good way to put yourself on the radar of lawyers and others who will refer you cases. Every time I teach a seminar, I get a few referrals over the following weeks.

Above all, hustle

Succeeding with a new firm takes work. I did my share of sitting on the couch watching movies, but usually with my laptop in hand, and blogging. Work hard when you have a client, and work hard on law firm marketing when you don’t (and in your spare time when you do). There is a direct correlation between how hard you work and how much money you make as you get your business up and running.



  1. Great comprehensive post. I think Facebook and LinkedIn has helped primarily with one area you mentioned — keeping in touch with people who you should be networking with anyways. Don’t get be wrong — I think those two tools are very valuable. But your post reminds us how important real world networking is, even in the age of social media.

    One other piece of advice I would chime in is to keep your costs low initially. You’ve blogged previously on how to spend a small amount in start up costs. That’s important, so that you can continue to keep your doors open even before a lot of clients are coming through the door.

  2. Avatar Susan Gainen says:

    Sound advice, both for start-ups and career changers. There is no substitute for talking to people.

    Thank you, Sam.

  3. Great advice, particularly “have a coffee, lunch or beer.” Nothing beats face time with your prospects. Nothing by a million miles. When you look at how business is generated in the business of law, it’s face time with the people you want to do business with. -ae

  4. Avatar joe flanders says:

    I know this is an old post, but I wanted to say that I couldn’t agree more with this advice. I have also found that if you want to make it as a lawyer – whether on your own or at a firm – you have to hustle for business. It is just that simple and just that difficult.

  5. One year in and I am feeling relatively good about how things have gone so far. But the fact is I’m not exactly sure how things are supposed to look. How many clients should I be signing? How much income should I have. This is how I’ll gauge the next year.

    • Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

      You’ll find that all these things are relative. There is no “supposed to.” There are just the numbers that work for you. You should sign up as many clients as you can handle—and want to handle. No more. You will make however much those clients pay you. You will work as hard as those clients need you to.

  6. Avatar William Foster says:

    I am a bankruptcy attorney. I started my bankruptcy law practice one year ago to the day. I am bring most clients through Google Adwords but it is expensive. My ROI is not good. I have to take on more clients than I feel comfortable with in order to get a minimal return. I have gone through two Adwords Experts. I am not happy with the results. I would like to learn more about email marketing. I wonder if there is a way to do it without being spammy. Where do you get the lists?

    • Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

      If you want to do it without being spammy, you should probably start by building our own list from people who want to hear from you. That’s what effective email marketing looks like. Blasting out emails to lists of strangers is spam by most people’s definition.

      We’ve got some ideas for building your list. For a bankruptcy lawyer, I think publishing a personal finance blog is one of the more promising opportunities to built an email list, but there’s also a lot of competition in that space. You might have better luck doing presentations about personal finance, debt collection options, bankruptcy, etc. in your town.

  7. Avatar William Foster says:

    Thanks for the link with ideas on how to build a list. I like the idea of including a lead magnet on the website. I get a lot of visitors who read my blog but don’t become clients because they are not ready to proceed. I could see the benefit of sending out an occasional newsletters via email so that once they are ready, I will be on their mind.

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