LFMM Podcast #4: How to Make Money
TODAY with Your Law Firm
Hello, and welcome to the Law Firm Marketing Mastery Podcast, where we get more clients, make more money, step-by-step. I’m your host, Christopher Small, and I’m excited to dive into Episode Four, where we are going to talk about ways you can make money with your law firm today. And, in the tip of the week, we are going to talk about the free thing you can get today that will transform your law firm.
What’s New with Me? Radio Advertising!
But first let me give you a little update about what’s going on with me. One of the things that I have been doing in the last couple of weeks is, I have been talking with a radio station about advertising my services, DUI services and traffic ticket defense services. I thought I would talk a little bit about the experience, because it was something that I have never done before, and it might not be anything you have ever done before. And it might be interesting.
The way I hooked up with a radio station to advertise my business is actually kind of interesting. I fixed a traffic ticket for a guy who is in the sales department at the radio station and he thought that we did a good job for him at the time (I think we got his ticket dismissed), and a couple of months later he sent me an email or called me up saying:
You know, we do radio advertising, and maybe you would be interesting in putting an ad on our radio station for your firm.
And, I’ve got to admit, I think this is just me, but I am, for whatever reason, immediately skeptical of any kind of traditional marketing methods. I just think they are outdated. I don’t feel like they work. I feel they are boring.
But here is the thing that I also think about: there are still tons of people advertising on radio, TV, newspapers and everything. And they must be seeing some return in their investment; they must feel like they are making some money or no one would do it, right?
I was curious, I guess, to say the least.
So I set up a meeting with this guy and him and his boss came down to my office. We talked for about an hour or so, and it was actually a good talk because we talked about the business side of my firm, and as you can tell by this podcast, and by the blog, I love talking about business, the business of a law firm and how you can increase your business, how you can maximize the return on your business, and so we talked about these for a long time. It was fantastic.
It was also great because they asked me some questions that are kind of tough to answer. You think you might know about them but when you actually sit down and talk to somebody you don’t actually… you aren’t actually able to articulate what your business is about.
- “Who is your ideal customer?”
- “Where do you really make your money at?”
- What makes your firm different from another traffic ticket firm or other DUI defense firm that is out there?”
And so we talked about that for a long time, for about an hour, and they said they were going to put together a proposal and bring it back to me.
They brought it back and it was exactly what I expected – a traditional radio spot:
Have you been arrested for DUI? Then call 206-999-9999 today to get out of your DUI!”
And that’s not the way I am looking to do it, because I feel that kind of follows everyone else and one of the things I want to do with any of my marketing efforts is to kind of stand out of the crowd.
I told them that I am not really sure so they said: “Hey, we have this thing that we do for potential clients, it’s like a deep dive marketing lunch with our team. It’s free! You come into the radio station, and you sit down with our creative people, we have the sales team, we have the marketing team, come in there and sit down and talk about it, talk about your business, and we will come up with some good stuff. I promise!”
And I was like: “Okay, you know what? It’s free. We get to go talk a little bit more about business with a whole bunch of people, so I’m game!”
I went in there and talked about the business. They asked me about who my potential clients are, where my business comes from, what makes me different, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I really like to talk about. I showed them my website. I kind of showed them my sales funnel, how I expect people to get to the site. They took all of that information and put together another “pitch” for me.
Just this last week on Tuesday the guy that I know and another lady came in and pitched me their ad again. It was catchy, but it was the same thing you might hear at your radio station at home, you know?
Kind of jingly but not really memorable. Not necessarily something that you are going to remember if you ever need a DUI lawyer or a traffic attorney.
And while I’m here I want to point out that the ad they came up with and the discussions that we had always separated the traffic from the DUI, because potential clients are not necessarily the same and when people think they need a DUI attorney they don’t necessarily think of needing a traffic attorney and vice versa. So that’s why they’ve come up with different spots for both of those, because you are kind of trying to appeal to a different audience.
It’s important to think about how to market your law firm. When you are thinking about starting your law firm those are important things to think about because it’s going to make a difference in how your marketing goes and how many clients you get, right?
We will see what happens. I told them I wanted to try to come up with a concept and they were going to try to come up with some different concepts to kind of step away from doing the same thing that they always do. We will see what happens, and I promise I’ll tell you once I’ve tested it out. You know it’s always important to test what’s going on. I will play it on here for you guys and hopefully get some of your feedback, okay?
Feature Segment: How to Make Money with Your Law Firm Today
All right, so let’s get on to the feature segment – How to make money with your law firm today.
And this is kind of geared toward all of you that might be struggling with your business a little bit. You might have just started out and you’re trying to come up with ways to make some money to just pay the bills and kind of keep afloat until your marketing efforts can start paying off for you. Hopefully today we are going to give you some solutions.
I am also going to talk to you a little bit about some of the things that I did when I first started out that made me money and really did keep me afloat for the first, oh, probably at least the first two months that I opened my business. This kind of stuff kept me afloat and it’s kept me going, okay?
Let’s start right in. The thing that I think we all intuitively understand but that can be said here is that when you first open your law firm, when you first start your law firm, you are not going to necessarily have any business. Unless you break off from a firm that you’ve been established with and clients come with you, you are really going to have get out there hustling for new clients.
And no matter how good you are, unless you’ve got some kind of great ideas that I would love to hear about, it’s going to take you 30-60 days before people start calling you, before people start knowing about you, and in the meantime you are going to need to make some money, right?
When I first started out, I had just moved to Seattle and the idea was I was going to open my law firm and I was going to do criminal defense and eminent domain work.
And quite honestly, what actually happened to me happened almost completely by surprise.
I was out looking for office space. When I first opened up I had a $5000 loan from my brother-in-law, so I had a little bit of startup cash. A very little bit.
I wanted to have an office space because when I originally moved out here to Seattle in November 2008, I didn’t take the Bar exam until February. So, from November to February I really kind of buckled down and worked on the internet marketing side of the firm, but I worked from home.
It was terrible. It was really hard to get work done and I kept watching TV. I am easily distracted, I was eating a bunch, and it was not pretty.
I knew I needed to have an office somewhere, to have a dedicated space to go to work every day and really focus on the task at hand. I started looking around for places and I thought: “I want to get a place… sublease some space from a firm!”
And one of the reasons I wanted to do that was just to get to know some other lawyers, to get the opportunity to ask questions if I had any questions.
Sidenote: some people are going to say they are going to go looking for some side work and we will talk about that coming up, but that wasn’t necessarily something that I was hoping for from the place that I rented my office space from.
I really just wanted to have a place that was doing some of the stuff that I was doing so that I could get my feet wet, kind of learn the ropes, learn how law was practiced in the real world here in Seattle, and bounce ideas off of people.
The First Way to Earn some Extra Cash: Coverage
I ended up renting space downtown from a criminal defense firm, and I really got pretty lucky, which brings us into the first way that you can kind of make some immediate cash when you open your law firm – coverage work.
So, what happened to this firm was, they had an open office space because two or three of their associate attorneys had just literally walked out the door and decided they were going to start their own firm and said: “See you later!”
This firm, though, they had all these cases, and you can already tell here I am going on a bunch of tangents, and this is just how we are going to do it. But this firm, the owner of this particular firm was a really good businessman; he had a great marketing plan and really had his stuff together on the business side, so they were a busy criminal defense firm.
When these guys left they had a bunch of open cases and a bunch of court dates that they needed someone to go to.
And so I guess I kind of showed them right away that I have actually done some criminal defense work before, that I had some experience, even though it wasn’t in the Seattle area, and so they started paying me to go cover some of their court hearings. These were continuances, arraignments, really kind of simple things that anybody can stand in for, anybody could do, but that somebody needs to be there for.
And they paid me $50/hr.
The way we did it was, at the beginning of the month I kept track of my time and at the end of the month we subtracted what I made from the rent that I owed. If there was any extra at the top then they cut me a check.
That coverage alone paid my rent for the first three or four months at least. And it was nice because it got me out into a court room, it got me out kind of seeing what was going on and talking to people and made me some money too. It is nice to have some cash coming in, because I hadn’t really anticipated making a lot of money right away way.
So that’s the first way that you can do it, coverage work, right? You just go find some people in your practice area and you tell them: “Look, if you need some help I am here. And I don’t do any coverage work anymore, but there are people that do it exclusively here.
One of the things you can do is to sign up for the listserve that your Bar association puts out, if they put one out, and just kind of be on a lookout for someone that says: “Hey, you know what? I have a hearing today, can anyone stand in for me?” – “Yeah, I can stand in for you for $100 bucks.” – “Okay, fine.”
And you just made yourself $100 bucks.
At the beginning the important part really is just to make some money. You just need to live another day so you can keep pumping up your marketing efforts and then hopefully bring in the clients sooner rather than later.
But that is one great way that you can make money and you can do it really in any practice area that requires some court time. Bankruptcy law is a good one, criminal defense obviously is a good one, traffic tickets are a good one, family law maybe… trying to think some other things that people need some coverage for. But those are good, and to be quite honest with you, the things that you are covering you don’t need to be an expert on, so if you are starting out doing estate planning you want to make some cash, cover some arraignments for a criminal defense firm you can make some easy money, okay?
The Second Way to Earn some Extra Cash: Appointed Work
All right, let’s talk about the second way that you can make a little bit of money. This actually gets you some experience AND gets you some cash in your pocket too.
And that is appointed work.
Appointed work is the kind of work where someone needs the help of an attorney, and they can’t afford an attorney, so the state basically provides you with one. Now, this happens in criminal defense, but it also happens in other places too.
It happens with family law where there are custody issues and things like that, it can happen in personal injury cases potentially, if someone needs some kind of guardian ad litem. There are also some housing project type of opportunities that are out there for you. But again, the key here is you want to stay within your practice area if you can because the more experience that you can get in the court that you are going to be working in the better.
But at the end of the day you want to make something that is going to get you some money and you want to do something that is going to get you out there, kind of get you feeling like a lawyer and to get you working. So, when you are first starting out every little bit counts, and that’s a great way to do it.
For me… I signed up for the appointment list and I didn’t really go after it as hard as some other people do. I didn’t want to become reliant on the appointed work and use that as an excuse not to go market my firm.
So I, in a way, I feel like the appointed work is kind of pro bono because it pays me a fraction of what a private case would pay, and an appointed client – in a criminal defense arena – gets a level of service that they don’t give at the public defender simply because the public defenders don’t have the time to devote to every case that I have, right?
When they (clients) call I answer, we can set meetings up and that’s much, much harder to do with public defenders. I still take those cases from time to time, but again, it’s important if you get into this kind of work that you focus on your marketing efforts and don’t just let them go to wayside just because you got this appointment work coming in. Because one of the things that is important – and this relates to all of your marketing efforts – is not to become too reliant on one income stream, right?
Because at any moment that income stream is going to be taken away and then what are you going to do?
For example, I was reading some article about the New York State appointment list, and I could be completely wrong but I think they re-vamped their criminal defense appointment cases practices where they really cut the rates down a lot or they did something like that. And you know, that really destroyed a lot of people’s lives out there because they became reliant on the money that those appointment cases brought in, and now poof, they are gone!
And this relates directly to my experience with Google that I have already talked about, right? I mean I was heavily reliant on Google and the search engine optimization route, and Google made some changes that for a time really dried up on me.
That was a real awakening when I clicked on Google and put my terms in there and it was gone,
I was like: “What am I going to do?” Well, you got to diversify so if you can get on Google that is fantastic but you need to have some other things going on too so that way you are not tied to any income stream in particular.
The Third Way to Earn some Extra Cash: Contract Work
Third, and finally, is contract work.
Contract work is kind of like coverage work, but the difference with contract work is that you are actually doing some work on a specific case for another lawyer or another law firm that needs some extra help.
So, for example, let’s say, because I am a criminal defense attorney, let’s say I have a big motion or an appeal that I wanted to write or something. And I didn’t have the time to do all the background research that I needed. I would hire someone from outside the firm who is a practicing lawyer to do that research for me and organize it, put it together, and then get it to me in a way that I could use it easily. And I would pay that person $30 bucks an hour, $40 bucks an hour, maybe $50 bucks an hour, depending on how good they were and how important the work was to me.
But that’s a fantastic way to make some cash when you first start out. And with their coverage work and with this contract work that I am talking about, if you really wanted to do it, it might take a little bit of hassle, you might have to get out there and actually talk to some people, let them know that you are out there, that you are available to do some work, that your rates are competitive, tell them about all the time they can save, all the energy they can save, all the money that they can make, because they can bill you out to a client at $100 bucks an hour and pay you $60 bucks an hour, so they just cash out a little bit, everybody got paid and the client is happy because they are hopefully going to get good work from you, right?
So contract work is a good way to get some extra income, and that’s one of the ways that applies across the board. The appointed work is kind of criminal defense – centric, the coverage work also kind of applies in a strong way to criminal defense, although there are other things you can do, but the contract work applies across the board,
Every single legal industry requires some kind of contract work, so if you can get out there and get it, then you can make some money, start right off before you have your own clients, okay?
Before we finish up with our featured segment I wanted to talk about one pitfall of doing some contract work, doing some coverage work, or doing some appointment work. And I kind of alluded to it a little bit already, but you’ve got to make sure that you don’t take whatever kind of legal work you get and have to do and extend the scope of that work to fill the time that you have open.
For example, in the first month that I went to work, when I didn’t have any clients, it’s really easy to get one case, even if it’s a simple case, and try to fill your entire day up working that case as hard as you can. I make sure that I never do that. What I would do is, I would do the work that was needed in the case, and when that work was done, I would start marketing: I would start writing articles on the Internet; I would start setting up lunches; I would start doing whatever was on my to-do list for marketing.
And I would probably, that first month, I would spend maybe an hour or two on actual legal work and I would spend six hours, eight hours on marketing. It was that big of a difference because I understood that the marketing work was what was going to pay off for me in the end.
Doing the legal work makes you feel good, makes you feel like a lawyer, makes you feel warm and cozy inside, right? But it’s not going to pay the bills. At the end of the day, that one client is not going to pay you $10.000 to fix his traffic ticket or write his will or do his divorce or something like that, or write the contract form.
Whatever it is that you want to do, you are going to have to get more clients, and the way that you do that is by executing your marketing plan. And it’s funny because as I would go around I would see and I would talk to some of the other attorneys that are around and they are always so busy, they are always running around but at the same time you could tell that there was some fear in their eyes, right?
There was some fear that they are not going to be able to pay the bills next month, and I think what happened is they fell under a trap of filling their time with legal work so that they feel good about themselves instead of focusing on the marketing, focusing on bringing in some more business, focusing on doing some of those things where you have to put your business owner hat on and take off your lawyer hat.
So really make sure that you are putting your time in where it needs to be. Obviously you want to do great legal work. If you do great legal work that will get you referrals, that will also help build momentum, but you’ve really got to take care of your business and the only way to do that is to market it.
Tip of the Day – Google Voice
Okay, so let’s end this here with the tip of the day. I made you a promise at the beginning that I was going to give you a free tool that dramatically changes the scope of your law firm and I am going to.
That tip is simply Google Voice.
If you haven’t heard of Google Voice, it is a free service that as you may have guessed. Google puts out where you can basically get a free phone number from Google and you can hold on to that and you can use it forever. It is sort of like Skype, but not like Skype at the same time. Let me just tell you what I do with it, I guess.
When I first started out I got this Google Voice number, and that has been my work number from day one. And the way it works is, when people call, they call that number, it goes to Google and you have a little dashboard in Google Voice where you can choose what you want or calls into that number to do.
When I first started out, when it was just me, I would simply have Google Voice forward it to my cell phone, and what that really allowed me to do is have a business phone with my cell phone without the expense. Because you can choose whether or not the call that routes to your phone from Google Voice shows up as your Google Voice number or as the phone number that called Google Voice, okay? And what it is great about that is I had it setup so that when people called my Google Voice number, the number they called, my phone number showed up on my phone so I always knew what it was a work call.
When a work call would come in I wasn’t able to answer it just like I was part of a team: “Thank you for calling CMS Law Firm, this is Chris, how may I help you?” I was able to answer the phone like that every time, and once the business got a little bit bigger, or it was busy enough that I didn’t have time to answer the phone all the time, I had a virtual receptionist, which maybe I will talk about the next time, or I’ll tell you about it here.
It’s Reception HQ and I will put that link in the show notes, Reception HQ – what I did is I would set the Google Voice number to forward it to them, so when somebody called me, it went to them, they answered the phone, thank you for calling, this is (Whoever is there), how may I help you? And then they would ring my phone and tell me who’s there and pass me through if I was available and take a message if I wasn’t.
Then, finally, the other thing that we do is now that I have an assistant in the office. The Google Voice number simply forwards to her Skype number and we use Skype for our phones. And maybe I will take some time do kind of break all these down and explain step by step how everything is connected some other time. But now we just have the Google Voice number forward to my assistant’s Skype. When she leaves for the day she switches it over to Reception HQ so we have somebody answer the phone 24 hours a day and when she gets to the office in the morning she just switches it back and the clients never know.
So go out there today and get a Google Voice number and hold on to it. It is a great free tool to immediately make your business more professional, immediately give you an opportunity to monitor the calls that are coming into your office, and it’s really a great tool to free up your cell phone when you don’t want to answer business calls.
Okay, so before we go I want to ask you one favor, we are in Episode 4 now with our podcast and, I can see by my statistics that there are some of you out there listening. I don’t know if you are listening to the whole episode or not, I hope you are, and I hope you are enjoying it and that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.
I would love it, if you like this podcast, if you don’t, if you want to hear a specific topic, if you have a problem that you want to tell me about, then go to iTunes and leave me a review, please.
You have the opportunity to leave one to five stars or something like that, but it’s a great way for me to really get an idea of whether or not you like what I am saying or if it’s kind of making an impact, or if you don’t like what I am saying, and I really appreciate it. So go to iTunes and search Law Firm Marketing Mastery Podcast and leave me a review.
And also please, while you are there, subscribe so that you automatically get these podcasts when they come out. The plan is to put them out every week. I am a day late this week, but that’s what happens when you have a baby. Honestly sometimes things get a little off schedule.
So the other thing I would like to encourage you to do is go and sign up for my monthly newsletter, you can do that at lawfirmmarketingmastery.com.
What you will get with that newsletter, you will get my monthly income numbers, so I tell you exactly down to the dollar how much money I made, how much money I spent, I usually talk a little bit about what happened that month that led to those numbers, if there was anything big that I did wrong. It’s really a fantastic way for you to see what my firm looks like, and I kind of put my money where my mouth is and show you: “Hey, these things that I am talking about actually do work.”
It’s one of the hardest things out there, to know who to trust, who is telling you things that actually work, and I hope that you like what I am saying. I hope that you try some of the things that I suggest because I am doing them, and they work, so that’s a great way to find out about this. Sign up for the newsletter and you will get that information.
If you sign up for that newsletter it will also get you an invite to my monthly webinars. Those are kind of the little things that I do, I use the screen or whatever, I make a little PowerPoint presentation but it’s a great way to kind of talk to everyone in a way that’s not just a podcast, so sometimes it’s nice to be able to show people what’s going on instead of just talk about it.
For example, I think a couple of months ago I broke down my website. I launched my new website, I threw it out there and I talked about why I did exactly what I did. To get that access please go to lawfirmmarketingmastery.com and sign up for the newsletter. You can see the little signup button on the right.
You can also like me on Facebook. Go to Facebook and search “Law Firm Marketing Mastery,” and my page will show up. Please like it. I am still trying to get the 25, I think we have 14 right now, I am reaching out trying to build it up, get you guys out there so we can talk about some law firm marketing.
And last, but not least go and like me on Twitter. So on Twitter I am @csmall. That’s just my personal Twitter account, but that’s the way I want to do it on Twitter because I think it’s easier and shorter.
It is more informal and what I would like to do with Twitter and with Facebook really is put links to articles that I read, maybe little thoughts of the day that I have that I don’t have the time to really turn into a blog post or a podcast, but I still think they are important, and I still want to talk about them if any of you want to talk about them.
So go do those things. Please leave me a review on iTunes, and I think that’s it for today. So again, thank you for listening to The Law Firm Marketing Podcast. Until next week, I am your host, Christopher Small, take care, have a happy Thanksgiving!