Quarantine is not optimal. Neither for businesses, nor their customers. That’s true of law firms, as well — even if they remain essential businesses, that may open physical offices during this time. Just because you can open to the public doesn’t mean that you want to, or that the public will want to come out to see you. So, most law firms are getting virtual, in a pinch.
Many lawyers are still in shock over all that has happened. Some law firms have shut down intake, reduced marketing efforts and focused on anything other than substantive work. And, while that might not cause economic harm to law firms right away, it will at some point.
Law firms should instead be focused on continuing to build revenue opportunities, in new ways; and, here are some suggestions for doing so:
1) Focus on or Convert to Recession-Proof, Recession-Resistant Practice Areas.
There are practices areas that are resilient to economic downturn, that law firms can now shift all or some of their energy toward. Bankruptcy law is generally up in a down economy. So, are foreclosures. This would, then, be an opportune time to ramp up those sorts of practice areas, or adjust other practice areas to accommodate for this change, e.g. — moving from home closing to foreclosure work, or refinances. This is not a situation where you necessarily have to completely revamp your law practice. Subtle shifts during this time can create income pockets for you to engage, that you might not otherwise have had access to.
2) Recalibrate Your Existing Practice Areas.
As alluded to above, this is not solely about adopting new practice areas with a hard focus on relevancy during a down economy. This is also about adjusting your existing practice areas to make them more appealing to clients with compelling needs during the pandemic. As noted in the last section, foreclosure work is likely to increase as home sales fall. But also, commercial lessors are now in a bind, with tenants refusing to pay rent for spaces that can’t actually be occupied. That segment of the market is ripe for litigation and contract work. Similarly, this is an effective time for divorce lawyers to push mediation, or for estate planning attorneys to recommend trusts (which don’t have to be notarized, and can avoid the probate process), or for litigation attorneys to promote offsite video depositions, etc.
3) Highlight New Opportunities in Virtual Practice.
There is also the opportunity for law firms to position themselves as experts in the new virtual practice of law, which seems finally here to stay, even as pandemic-related social distancing measures begin to lift. If ever there was a time for law firms to be, and to present as, tech-forward, it’s right now. If your law firm is the first in the area to understand and apply your state’s remote notarization executive order, trumpet that from the heavens — it’s a massive competitive advantage. Or, maybe you’ve locked down a new process for managing telephonic or video hearing options in the court system before anybody else. Even absent new developments, now is a good time to double down on your knowledge of secure collaboration methods, which is foremost in the public mind currently, as everyone is moving social interactions to the web.
4) Create/Tighten Your Online Intake Process.
Without the fallback option for law firm lead generation and management: in-person networking and referrals, it’s essential that your online intake procedures are tight and effective. If you’re not able to provide potential clients with engagement online, calls to action and omnichannel contact options, you’re going to lose opportunities to convert leads, and so revenue, down the line. If there is one place where law firms consistently hemorrhage revenue, it’s at the online intake level, where lack of awareness and response kills potential attorney-client relationships before they can even start. This is the time to make sure your web contact forms actually work, to start to develop marketing automation and to collect and act on intake data.
5) Revive Your Marketing with a Renewed Focus on Practical Guidance.
Lawyers who do content marketing well already understand the value of providing relevant information in response to potential client inquiries. That’s even more important now. But today, you also need to build out messaging related to the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, your clients and potential clients know that you are open and sanitizing your printer several times a day — but, what about their cases and potential cases? The more practical information you can provide about how the status of claims has changed, the better. How has transactional practice been affected by the pandemic? What do existing clients need to know? What should potential clients expect? If I’m a legal consumer, and I want to get a will completed: what can be done now, and what must be done later? If I’m a legal consumer who wants a divorce, what do I need to understand about collaborative law as an option? This is the time to cultivate leads by providing up-to-date information on the public health crisis as it relates to legal services.
. . .
Just because large swaths of the economy are shuttered, your law firm need not follow suit.
This is the time to act decisively and to work aggressively to make certain that your law firm can continue to thrive. Step into the void, where others are mired in inaction, and become a solution point.
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications, including his column, ‘Managing,’ for Attorney at Work, and his ‘Law Practice Confidential’ advice column for Lawyerist. Jared is the author of the American Bar Association publication ‘Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers’. He is the host of the Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson; and, he tries to sneak Rolos when no one is looking.