There are many ways to develop and build a new law practice from the ground up, but the biggest challenge you will face will often be getting your first clients. There are direct and indirect methods of connecting with clients, and it often just takes time. In order to effectively retain clients and make them into valuable referral sources, an attorney has to have the best and most up to date information in their field. The best way to accomplish both of these goals happens to be to network with your fellow attorneys. And that is why the key to starting a solo practice is to know your colleagues!
The Key to Starting a Solo Practice: Network to Get Referrals
There are many things you can do to get more client referrals, but other attorneys tend to be the most reliable source of quality, pre-vetted client leads. You should strive to network with as many other attorneys as possible when you are just starting your own law practice.
Attorneys from Other Areas of Law
Other attorneys serve as a great source of referrals. Despite the large number of attorneys competing in each field, most attorneys do not know the right attorneys when it comes to referring potential cases in niche areas of the law. Bankruptcy, Immigration, and Consumer Law are some areas that require a specialized attorney.
Moreover, these niche areas of the law are specialized even further into narrower niches, such that not every practitioner can accept every incoming referral. For example, a bankruptcy attorney dealing with corporate bankruptcy has different professional experience than one that focuses on consumer bankruptcy.
So the key is to focus on a niche area of law, and network with attorneys from other niches to build up a referral network. Over time, you will have a steady flow of new client leads coming in.
Tip: when introducing yourself to other attorneys, be very specific about the types of work you do. Sometimes the general title of your field will not enlighten the other person about the specifics of your expertise.
Attorneys from Your Own Area of Law
When I first began my practice, I saw other attorneys in my field as my competition and avoided them. This turned out to be a big mistake.
After attending several conferences and repeatedly seeing the same individuals, I eventually began talking and networking with them. These attorneys actually ended up becoming some of my biggest and most consistent sources of referrals.
The reason you should also network with attorneys in your own direct field of law is because colleagues in your field may not be able to handle all of their case flow and they are happy to refer cases to you when necessary. As discussed above, they might not prefer to handle the specific case types that you specialize in, or they may come across a client that is not right for them for whatever reason. Any of these scenarios can lead to more client referrals for you.
Once you develop a trusting relationship with them, attorneys in your area of law can actually be a really great source of clients. They know what you do best, and they’ll be able to provide the perfect types of clients and cases for you. Just make sure you reciprocate the favor when the time comes.
Other Attorneys are Also Great Sources of Information
To be the best practitioner you can be, you have to stay on top of the latest trends in your field. It’s essential that you are knowledgeable and understanding of all types of potential issues your clients will face. Working closely with other attorneys proves to be a great way to stay up to date and provides a valuable information resource.
Networking with attorneys in your field is a great way to become aware of the most up to date information in the industry. Also, it’s generally much easier to ask a colleague your legal question instead of always having to do the legal research from scratch. It can save you precious time and make your life easier.
Once again, it’s important to know attorneys from both your own area and other areas of law for these purposes. Many areas of law overlap significantly, and you could benefit from having sources of knowledge in other areas that are likely to come up during work for your clients. For example, Tax, Immigration, and Criminal law can overlap in many ways. Thus having a sprawling network of attorneys who practice in other fields is essential.
Where To Network with Other Attorneys
Now that you have an idea of the importance of networking with other attorneys when you start your own solo practice, the next step is to figure out how to do it. There are always the traditional, physical ways to meet other attorneys, but the digital world offers new ways as well.
Sites such as Avvo and LinkedIn are great places to find attorneys in various areas of law and in other parts of the country. Moreover, they allow users to freely contact and connect with each other. Make sure to take advantage of this. You will not get a response from everyone, but those who do connect with you will remember you. These new connections can become great sources of referrals, especially if they practice in different legal jurisdictions than you.
Make sure you have a completed, professional looking profile on all your social networking sites. Here are some LinkedIn tips for lawyers, and more info about the value of Avvo when starting your law practice to help you get started.
Tip: When contacting another attorney, make sure not to rely on the introductory language provided by the website. Add your own flavor to the message so you are memorable and so you seem like a real person worth knowing. Also be sure to first complete your personal profile so you don’t look spammy.
Conferences and Meetings
Every week there is a legal conference or event happening somewhere. Make the investment to attend. These could be part of the local bar or specific events for your field. There are also groups that exist solely for networking such as The Esquire Network (TEN) or Provisors.
Join as many of these networking groups as possible, and make it a point to attend regularly. The more people see your face, the more they will feel comfortable around you, and eventually you will establish a strong referral network.
When you go to these meetings do not talk to everyone. Do your best to talk to one to two attorneys and have memorable conversations. The key to developing your relationships is maintaining ongoing communications. Email or call them at regular intervals to develop trust.
Tip: Go to conferences and seminars in other areas and jurisdictions as well. It’s a good idea to meet attorneys that don’t know any lawyers in your area. You may become their key attorney referral in your city.
Remember that networking and referrals are a two-way street. For best results, focus on helping others in developing their practices first. They will be happy to repay you and this creates better connections and true friendship. Some jurisdictions also allow for fee-sharing/referral fees between attorneys, so you can even add to your bottom line and generate more revenue by sending them cases that you would not typically handle.
So there you have it. The key to starting a solo practice is really all about who you know. So get out there and know your colleagues and before you know it, your law practice will be thriving.
John Q. Khosravi is the managing partner of the JQK Law Firm, a boutique immigration law firm in Los Angeles focusing on Family, Business, Investment and Talent based immigration. Contact him at JQKLaw.com.