According to Thomsen Reuters’ 2020 State of US Small Law Firms report, a majority of solo attorneys receive 50 percent or more of their revenue from new clients.1 In the early stages of the pandemic, Wisconsin firms relied on their existing clients for revenue by offering alternative payment plans, electronic payment options, and alternative fee agreements.2 To thrive during the ongoing pandemic, firms must generate additional revenue from new clients.
Existing Referral Sources
The first step to generating revenue from new clients is to determine existing referral sources.3 Every new-client consultation provides the opportunity to capture helpful data about how that client found the law firm. Did the new client learn about the firm through a referral from another client or group, a blog or article, a website, internet marketing, a phone book, or social media?
Christopher C. Shattuck, Univ. of La Verne College of Law 2009, M.B.A. U.W.-Oshkosh 2015, is manager of Practice411™, the State Bar’s law practice assistance program. If you have questions about the business aspects of your practice, call (800) 957-4670.
Tracking the referral source will help the firm determine the return on investment from marketing activities.4 After determining the realized revenue (not only fees generated but also the amount of fees collected) and subtracting costs (for marketing), firms can determine the sources of valuable new-client referrals.
Claiming or Establishing Free Internet Profiles
Potential clients often will search for businesses on an internet browser before placing a phone call for an initial consultation. Others may look to Avvo or popular social media pages. Creating or establishing a Google My Business Page,5 Avvo profile,6 and social media pages (Facebook,7 LinkedIn,8 Twitter,9 and Instagram10) can be accomplished in a few easy steps, and the process is free. Adding current contact information and linking useful information can help improve search rankings of free internet profiles and search-engine-optimization ratings on search engines.11
Creating a Website
Would you hire a physician, an accountant, or a financial manager who did not have a website? Generating revenue from new clients requires firms to think like prospective clients. Having a website might be the difference between the client reaching out for a potential consultation or choosing to go with a competitor that has a higher search ranking and website presence.
Creating a website does not require an in-depth knowledge of technology. Companies figured out long ago that businesses do not always have the money to pay website designers or time to figure out how to code. Many companies, such as GoDaddy,12 offer website building templates that allow users to choose from customizable stock webpage templates. It is easy to add text, graphics, and links to other pages (if you can use PowerPoint, you can build a website).
Website building templates can be purchased for around $10 per month (note that you’ll need to purchase your domain separately), when billed annually. It’s a worthwhile investment for the visibility and web presence provided for new potential clients.
Learn about State Bar of Wisconsin discounts on marketing services for members. Visit wisbar.org/discounts.
Developing Professional Referrals and Goodwill
Develop professional referral sources. For instance, a law firm that is looking to gain clients for an estate planning practice might start networking with certified public accountants or tax preparers. Clients seeking professional accounting services likely place higher value on referrals to attorneys from other trusted professionals versus seeing online paid advertisements. In fact, two different types of law practices located in different regions of the state credited developing professional centers of influence for building their client-referral bases.13
Most solo and small firm attorneys count on referrals from existing clients to generate new client referrals. Therefore, it is imperative that existing clients have a positive experience with their law firm. One way to easily measure client satisfaction is to conduct a client survey at the end of the representation. Positive feedback is important and helps provide firms with a snapshot of services that clients appreciate. Firms should also take a close look at negative feedback and determine whether the experience was individual to a particular client or represents an area of improvement for the firm.
Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory and Lawyer Referral and Information Service
Referrals from other lawyers are another popular professional referral source. The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory is a place where hundreds of lawyers agree to share their knowledge in particular areas of law with other lawyers through brief consultations by email or phone.14 Wisconsin-licensed attorneys can use and be listed on the service for free. The directory provides a great experience to provide referrals or receive referrals from other attorneys.
In the age of the coronavirus, the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) is a great way to expand your practice and bring new clients to your (virtual) doorstep.15 For a typical year, LRIS screens approximately 30,000 phone calls from the public.16 More than one-half of those calls last year resulted in potential client referrals to LRIS panel member attorneys.17
To sign up, visit the LRIS webpage,18 review the rates (look for special rates for new attorneys) and the rules of panel membership, and enter your information online. Keep in mind that potential clients are screened and then directed to contact your office for a consultation.
Look at your projected end-of-the-year figures and determine where you want to be at the end of next year. Forecast the number of new clients you will need and set realistic goals for your firm. Reward yourself and your staff for meeting benchmarks. Take each new client matter generated from a new referral source as a success and continue to build on that success. Maintaining a positive outlook will help you as you seek to retool your law firm.
Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report encourages attorneys to focus on the aggregation of marginal gains to survive the uncertain times created by the pandemic.19 The concept is based on the process of continuous implementation of small improvements that, compounding over time, will provide meaningful results in law firms.20 By implementing free or low-cost marketing methods into your law firm operations, you will start to see more clients in the long run. If you need advice or help planning, contact the State Bar’s Practice411™ program for a confidential consultation.
Also of Interest
Ready to Put Your Marketing Dollars to Work?
Attend the Practice411™ Lawyer Marketing & Networking Expo, where you’ll hear from industry-leading experts on topics like:
- Addressing Negative Google Reviews
- Successful Networking Strategies
- DIY Website, Social Media, and SEO for Lawyers
- Apps, Software, and Marketing Tips
- Marketing & Networking Diverse Law Firms
- And much more.
The cost to attend this online event is $49 for State Bar of Wisconsin members ($69 for nonmembers). There will be dedicated networking and live Q&A sessions, a virtual vendor hall to talk with exhibitors, and prize giveaways. You will not want to miss this event, so save the date on your calendar: Jan. 13, 2021.
1 See Thomsen Reuters Inst., 2020 State of US Small Law Firms 12 (Sept. 2, 2020).
2 See Christopher C. Shattuck, Law Firm Profitability During a Pandemic, Wis. Law. (July 2020).
3 See Emily Stever Kelchen, Don’t Settle for Snake Oil: Learn Where Your Clients Come From, Wis. Law. (Sept. 2020).
4 See Shattuck, supra note 2.
5 See Google My Business Help, Add or Claims Your Business on Google My Business, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
6 See Avvo, How Do I Claim My Profile?, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
7 See Facebook Help Center, How Do I Claim an Unmanaged Page on Facebook?, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
8 See LinkedIn Help, Claim a LinkedIn Listing Page, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
9 See Twitter Business, How to Use Twitter for Your Business, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
10 See Facebook for Business, Add an Instagram Account to a Business Manager, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
11 See Yoast, Does Social Media Influence Your SEO?, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
12 See GoDaddy, Make Business Happen with a Website, (last visited Oct. 21, 2020).
13 See Shattuck, supra note 2; Christopher C. Shattuck, What’s Hot, What’s Not: Wisconsin Practice Trends 2020, Wis. Law. (Feb. 2020).
14 See InsideTrack, Lawyer-to-Lawyer Directory: Where Nearly 400 Lawyers Have Your Back (Jan. 17, 2018).
15 See Wisbar News, Referral Service Connects Lawyers with Clients in the Age of Coronavirus (April 21, 2020).
20 Id. at 7.