Putting your legal knowledge to work for your clients, but where does one find these clients?
Once you decide starting your own firm is right for you an important next step is generating clients! But how does one go about getting their name out there? Check out this listing of ideas and resources to let clients know (via the proper channels) you are ready and willing to assist them with their legal needs.
Most importantly, before making any advertising or marketing decisions, please be sure to reference the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, as well as the many tips and hints to ensure compliance that can be located on The Florida Bar’s website. The relevant Rules and some helpful tools can also be found here:
Attorney Advertising rule Chapter 4-7, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar
Amendments to the Advertising Rules, effective January 31, 2013
New Advertising Rules Adopted, effective May 1, 2013
Summary of the new Lawyer Advertising rules, effective May 1, 2013
Lawyer Advertising Filing Requirements
Once you are sure what you want to do is in line with the Rules, you have several avenues in which to proceed, as well as many price points in which to do so.
Search engines themselves offer easy to use platforms to increase your online presence to potential clients:
Online Reviews & Profiles
What about those lawyer sites that allow clients or other lawyers to rate your services, should you create a profile? Many of these sites will have information about what they believe your practice to be, whether its correct or not. If you have a few minutes, it might be a good idea to enter some basic information about your practice. Here are some to consider:
There are many options here…do you need one right away? How much do you want to invest in a website? Can social media and personal contacts be of a greater benefit than a website? If you decide a website is right for you, please remember that the Advertising Rules, Rule 4-7, applies to all forms of advertising, including your website! While websites can cost into the thousands, there are some ways to create a simple, inexpensive, or even free, websites. Check out the following options to get you started:
Where can you get the most exposure to potential clients? It may not always be online, especially on the local level. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Most lawyers will agree that a personal referral is the best way to build your practice. It takes time to build these referral sources and the best way to do that is to do good work and have that work recognized by other lawyers, clients and business people. This has always been frustrating for new lawyers, because how are you supposed to get these referrals if you struggle to get the legal work to show how great you are? Unfortunately, this sometimes takes a little while, but its good to know what you can and cannot do when it comes to a referral from another lawyer:
For fee sharing information, be sure to reference the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar
Local Bar Associations
Referrals from other lawyers may be your best asset once your name gets out there. A great way to meet lawyers of a diverse age range and practice group is to attend a local bar event. In addition to having monthly lunches, CLEs, speakers and a wealth of other resources, it is also a wonderful networking opportunity. Most Local Bar Associations also have a Young Lawyers group so you can engage with your local peers as well. These associations typically have an annual fee, however some groups offer lower rates for newer or government lawyers, so don’t be afraid to ask! For a list of Local Bar Associations throughout the State, check out this link.
Pro Bono/Low Bono Work
Doing pro bono work is not only rewarding, but a great way to gain experience and meet people in your community. The Florida Bar is currently reviewing and expanding its pro bono services and working to provide a greater access to justice. If you would like to learn more about pro bono work or would like to participate in a variety of programs, you can find more information at the links below:
American Inns of Court
Most areas throughout the State have an established American Inns of Court. Inns is designed to “promote the goals of legal excellence, civility, professionalism, and ethics.” In a time when professionalism can be lacking, Inns can be an important bridge between opposing lawyers, judges and government lawyers with whom you might not practice.
To find out more information about the American Inns of Court and to find an Inn near you visit their website at http://home.innsofcourt.org/
If you are targeting your legal services to a specific market, or have an interest in an event, either as a participant or spectator, consider sponsoring the event as a way to let others in the community know that you have opened an office in the area. Many events advertise on merchandise, the radio, in the local paper, news or social media, allowing your sponsorship of a single event to reach potential clients through several different news mediums.
Print, Television & Billboards
Locally printed and distributed magazines can be an effective way to reach a local target market. These magazines could be recapping events and people in the area, or related to a specific industry, i.e. medical, construction, marine, etc. If you know you would like to represent clients in a specific industry, putting your advertising dollars to work in a specific area can be beneficial. Additionally, local television advertisements or well-placed billboards can gain you great name recognition. However, they will likely also cost far more than you might be willing to spend when you are first getting started, but may be a good investment a few years down the road!
Local Civic & Business Groups
A great way to learn about your community and the businesses that serve the community is by joining a local business group. You might consider joining the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, a business roundtable, or an industry specific group if your practice concentrates on a specific industry. Not only will you be meeting potential clients, but you will also be contributing to your community as a whole and learning about the place in which you have chosen to grow your business.
Again, the internet offers a wide range of designs and price points for business cards, so first decide what is right for your business. Including both a phone number and e-mail address is advisable in order to give potential clients an easy means of contacting you.
To find some quick and easy places to order business cards in various quantities check out these online resources:
The social networking revolution has impacted the legal world as well. In the beginning, it was the wild west, but it has slowly but surely become more regulated by The Florida Bar. While social media can be an impactful way to reach potential clients, be wary of potential pitfalls. Check out The Florida Bar’s guidelines below:
Often times the best referral sources are other local lawyers who have seen you in action and think of you when referring out a case. Joining the local bar association in your area is a great way to meet other local lawyers of all ages, practice areas and experience levels. Who knows, you might meet a new referral source, business partner, mentor or friend simply by attending some of their events! Depending on where you practice, your local bar association might be more or less active, but getting involved is a great place to start! Some local bars even have their own referral networks! Please see the current local Bar referral services throughout the state listed below:
The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service
The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service Coverage Areas
ABA: Lawyer Referral & Information Service
Palm Beach County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Dade County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Broward County Bar Association Lawyer Referral & Information Service
Hillsborough County Lawyer Referral & Information Service
St. Petersburg Bar Association
Clearwater Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Lee County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Collier County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Tallahassee Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Jacksonville Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Orange County Bar Association Lawyer Referral & Information Service
Paid online or brick and mortar referral sources can be fraught with peril: proceed with caution! There are questionable referral services out there, so do your research before you sign up for any service provided by a private vendor. Currently, a member of the Florida Bar is only allowed to receive referrals from a Lawyer Referral Service if that service is owned by a member of the Bar. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court rejected The Florida Bar’s proposed revisions to Rule 4-7.22.
ORDER- September 24, 2015- rejecting The Florida Bar’s proposed changes to the Lawyer Referral Service Rule
See some pertinent articles on The Florida Bar News website.