7 Ways for New Lawyers to Get First-Time Clients
By Stephen Seckler, Esq.
If you are like me, selling is not part of your DNA. Attending law school was a way to become a professional rather than a stepping stone to a career in business and, as a result, you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about where to get first-time clients.
How to Get Clients for a Law Firm
The reality is that law IS a business. It’s a profession, but for most attorneys in private practice, success requires the ability to generate work from new legal clients, and this is not a skill that most of us cultivated in law school. So, what’s the trick on how to get clients as an attorney?
If you are relatively new to the practice of law, the good news is that you have time to hone your marketing skills and learn how to get clients as a lawyer. The beginning of your career is a great time to build your reputation and relationships that will lead to work. And as a new lawyer, you can get first-time clients without the pressure that comes later.
Marketing your services is not like selling other goods. People buy professional services from individuals they know, like, and trust. Developing trust with prospective clients or referral sources who will send first-time clients your way takes time. As a new lawyer, time is something that is on your side. Start investing so that you develop the practice you want and deserve down the road.
How Attorneys Get Clients
How do lawyers get new clients? Here are seven things you can do right now to begin that process as you enter the practice of law.
- Begin developing a niche. As a lawyer, you cannot be everything to everyone. If you spread yourself thin because you don’t want to miss any opportunities, you’ll be remembered for nothing. Start identifying the types of legal clients you like to work with and the problems that resonate with you. You may not have a lot of choice about the clients you represent or the work you do as a new associate. But, as you gain experience, you’ll better understand the type of legal work you prefer and where to get legal clients with cases that you enjoy handling. Figuring out where you want to focus your practice and how to get clients as an attorney is important for your long-term success and happiness. Working with new legal clients on matters you find interesting is very energizing. Develop your niche so you aren’t stuck with clients and services you don’t like. Having a niche doesn’t mean that all of your work has to be for these clients. As you begin to discover the types of work you’d like to do, focus on your message rather than giving the kitchen sink. Over time, this targeted approach will help you attract more first-time clients you’re interested in serving.
- Keep in touch with your college and law school friends. Find out what they are doing. Stay in contact with former classmates—even those who weren’t close friends. Building and maintaining a professional relationship with these individuals can help you in the future. As your law school friends advance in their careers, they may move into positions where they can either send clients your way or inform you of potential first-time clients you can help.
- Focus your relationship-building activities on helping others. Networking is not just about taking. It is about building a community of contacts where you can help each other by referring new legal clients. As you cultivate relationships, look for ways to add value. For example, you can be helpful in a business context (introduce them to an accountant or to some other professional resource they need). Helpfulness may also be as simple as recommending a good restaurant, movie, or vacation spot or offering to mentor someone’s child who is applying to the college you attended.
- Get involved in organizations and activities. Seek organizations where you can meet the kinds of professionals who can benefit from your expertise and might eventually become new clients – or referral sources. One of my regular dad jokes is that if you want to marry someone Jewish, don’t hang out at Catholic Singles dances. Activities you choose can include trade associations, nonprofit boards, or even personal hobbies. Seek areas that will put you in contact with the right community where you can build business relationships that will advance your career.
- Be authentic. Choose activities that you enjoy. For example, golf can be a great way to get to know and deepen your relationships with prospective clients and referral sources, but it is a lousy activity if you don’t like golfing. Choose activities that feel authentic to you and where you can be your best self.
- Set aside time every week for marketing and relationship-building. Don’t save marketing for a rainy day when work is slow. Even if it is just one or two hours a week, create a habit of building your reputation and growing your network. This can include writing an article—FAQs that clients ask—and speaking at a business networking group leveraging what was in your FAQs. You can also get involved in a bar association committee or schedule times for coffee or Zoom with people in your network.
- Stay visible on social media. Social media is not a substitute for in-person relationship building. But if you build your connections on LinkedIn and post regularly, you will stay top-of-mind for the people in your network who may refer new clients to your firm. Focus on posting content of value. Comment on your connections’ posts so that you become a part of their conversations.
If you wonder how to get clients for a law firm, remember building a practice is like investing in anything. The sooner you start investing, the sooner you will reap the rewards. If you get started when you are not under duress, you will find marketing and business development more enjoyable. And ultimately, you will build the practice that you want and enjoy. This is how attorneys get clients in the area they are best at and love.
If you are new to the practice of law, there are a lot of competing demands. Focus on becoming the best lawyer you can be by providing great customer service to your internal clients (i.e., the partners) and to the paying clients outside of the firm. But also carve out some time each week for marketing and business development. This is the trick on how to get clients as a lawyer. If you start this process as a first-year associate, you will be way ahead of the game and have a better understanding of how to get clients for a law firm by the time you are a mid-level associate.
Need help growing your client base? Let MyCase assist you.
Stephen E. Seckler, Esq. ([email protected]), is president of Seckler Attorney Coaching. He helps lawyers who are moving up, moving out or stuck in neutral. As Counsel to Counsel, he has coached hundreds of attorneys through career transitions and helped hundreds of lawyers to grow their income and become better leaders. You can listen to his podcast Counsel to Counsel wherever you get your podcasts or follow the link on his website.