LFMM 015 Transcript: Starting a Law Firm from Scratch

Click here to go to the show notes from episode 15

Hello! And welcome to episode fifteen of the Law Firm Marketing Mastery Podcast, where we get more clients, make more money, step-by-step. I’m your host, Christopher Small, and this week I’m going to talk about how I’d start a law firm from scratch if I had to do it all over again. And, in the tip of the week I’m going to talk about the most important rule in law firm marketing.

Before we get to that, well, first, before we get to anything, I want to wish you well, hope that whomever you are rooting for in the super bowl wins, hope the commercials are exciting, and enjoyable.

This podcast is being recorded before the super bowl, it’s actually Sunday right now, about an hour and a half before the super bowl starts, and I’ve got my bloody marry in my hand, rooting for the Ravens, for no other reason than the 49ers are Seattle Seahawks’ arch enemy. So I’m rooting for the Ravens and hope they win.

So, hope you guys have a good time, hope you ate too much food and had some drinks.

Let’s get down to business. First, the… Oh, before we get to that, again, also I want to remind you about the Law Firm Marketing Mastery newsletter. I’ve got the final numbers from 2012 put together for my law firm – those will only be shared with people that are on the newsletter list. I’ve also got January 2013 income and expense numbers put together which I’ll be putting out probably today or tomorrow. And then, if you sign up for the newsletter, one of the perks that you get is you get an invitation to my free live webinar this month which is going to be about how to use Google+ for your law firm; how to use Google+ to get some Google love for your website and get some Google love from your network and a couple other things.

So this should be pretty exciting, should be pretty fun, and hope you join me for that. But the only way to do that is if you go sign up for the newsletter, so go to lawfirmmarketingmastery.com on the right side of the site, right up at the top you’ll see an opt-in form for the newsletter, just fill that out and you’re on the list and you get the invite and you get this other great information, so go do that today.

Week in Review

All right, so my week in review. So, last week, we had another first. Seems like we’re having all kinds of firsts – I sent out my first email marketing piece to my list. I’ve been compiling email lists of basically anybody that calls and gets a consult, obviously clients that sign up, also just building up my network, other attorneys, other people I meet, and…

So yesterday  we sent them out an email piece about a traffic ticket discount that they could get up until Valentine’s Day, and that went out to about almost eighteen hundred people I think, and I’m pleased to say it’s already worked, we’ve already got one client signed up from it and that’s pretty cool.

We use MailChimp for that and the think about mail chimp is kind of like AWeber but you think about MailChimp is you can import a list from outside. AWeber only allows the double opt-in where someone has to actually enter their email address to ask for your information and then they have to confirm that request through another email. MailChimp allows you to just import your list of contacts and then send something out.

So, we did that, which was pretty exciting, and again, I’ve been thinking about doing that for a long time and finally I just decided we were going to do it. It took about three hours, worth the work with me and my assistant and it went out, we’re already making money of it.

So, just another lesson there to, you know, don’t wait until today to get started, get started yesterday.

What else? Making some more adjustments to the website, you know, the way that I kind of do that is, I make some adjustments to a website, I let it sit for three or four months, and then I’ll go back and look at it again. And there almost always something that I want to change, almost always something that I want to kind of tweak a little bit, and that’s the case again. So looking at the traffic website, looking at the DUI website and I am going to be making some changes to those, some design changes, some text changes. I’m also going to going to be building them out a little bit more.

One of the things that I’ve really fallen back on that I’ve kind of come up short on is kind of building those sites out, and that’s kind of one of those deals where you know, it’s better to get one project done at a time and then move on to the next project than have ten projects going on at once that take ten times as long to get done.

Because, until they get done, they’re not doing any work for you, and that’s kind of the case with my websites. I haven’t built them out the way they should. I’ve been trying to do a hundred different things at once, and I think my websites have suffered because of that. So I’ve been working on that too, and then…what else?

Oh yeah, the last thing I’ve been doing is not a marketing thing, it’s a management aspect for my firm and that is putting together the final touches on my procedures, policies and procedures list for the new associate DUI attorney that I’m going to try to work into the firm the next couple of months. I’ve got a guy that’s on short time, part time, kind of “of council,” sort of like a contract attorney spot, and I want to create a process for working through our DUI cases that we could do with every single case, so that:

a) He is got a good temple to work from;

b) So that we can work effectively and efficiently; and

c) So I can promote that to potential clients.

I think that’s something that no one else has. I’ve put together a flow chart, I think its seven pages long, on how we can work through every DUI case.

The flow chart starts from the initial observations of the officer all the way through to the breath test and/or blood test, and so I’ve been putting that together, putting the final touches on that, and I’m excited to implement that and see how that works and, you know, hopefully I can get this other guy in here and he can do a good job and we can continue building up the business.

So that is it for me this week. You know, it’s been a pretty good week, I’m excited that the super bowl is here, and I am now excited to talk about our Feature Segment.

Feature Segment

The Feature Segment is “How I would Start a Law Firm from Scratch,” and, more specifically what I would do in the first week of starting a firm if I had to do it all over again.

And this is something that honestly I’m super excited about. It’s something I love talking to people about. Typically I’ll have one lunch or coffee or happy hour week with someone and talk to them about what they’re doing and what they can do to kind of take the next step if they’re starting their firm or what they should do when they’re starting out, and for me this is the most exciting time of starting a law firm, because everything is new, everything is fresh, it’s all fun, and you’re making big strides. So it’s something I’m really excited to talk about.

And I got this idea to talk about this from a podcast I listen to, it’s called “Entrepreneur on Fire”, it’s, the podcast is hosted by John Dumas who is a, just a guy. I don’t know him personally or anything like that, but what he does is he interviews entrepreneurs every single day.

So he puts on a new podcast five days a week and he always asks them kind of the same standard, maybe like 15 questions or so. And the last question that he always asks is basically this, what he asks is in a little bit more, it’s a little bit more intricate, there’s more details with his questions, but basically: “What if you lost everything and you have to start over, you have your knowledge, you have five hundred bucks, and you have a computer. What would you do in the first week, you know, to get going again?”

And since a lot of us out there are starting out or are struggling, and basically might want to hit the reset button and start doing something new, I thought it would be a great topic to talk about today. And although John hasn’t asked me to be in his podcast yet, hint, I would love to come and talk to you, I thought I would answer this question in long form, because usually people get 30 seconds to a minute to answer, but there’s a lot more to it than that, and something I wanted to talk about.

So, here we go. Basically I came up with five things that I would do in the first week if I had to start a law firm from scratch with only five hundred bucks. So I’m just going to, we’re going to run through that list. There are several parts to each, the thing I do, and then that would be it. Okay?

Step 1: Enable Communication

So, the first thing I would do is I would want to make sure that I’ve established open lines of communication, right? You want people to be able to get in touch with you if they want your business, right? If they want to hire you, if they need your help, you want them to be able to talk to you.

And there are two primary ways that we do that these days: email and telephone.

And so those, that step one for me is setting up an email address and a telephone number.

1.1       Email Address

First, with regard to email address, I would go to godaddy.com, I would pick a domain name, they cost about twelve dollars, and I would sign up for that. When it comes to domain names, I would just try to keep it simple. I would try to keep it whatever your law firm name is going to be. So, for example, for me, even though I have Seattle DUI Guys and Seattle Ticket Kings, the business as it’s formed, as an LLC, is CMS Law Firm.

And so, my website, my email address is chris@cmslawfirm.com. And that is what I would do. So you go, first step is go to GoDaddy, get an email address or domain name, actually get a domain name set up, the I would go to HostGator which does web hosting, I would sign up for an account there, it’s like six dollars a month I think, for, I think it’s unlimited websites at this time, you can may even pay like three dollars or something for one website. I’d sign up for that HostGator.

Then, the next thing I would do after I did that is, I would go to Google Apps and I would sign up for a Google Apps account. And what Google Apps does is it allows you to use Google’s email and document service and all of their services, everything that they offer, contacts, drive, all that stuff through your domain name.

So, for example, my email all looks like it’s on a Gmail account, and that’s what Google Apps gets you. And it was free until a couple of months ago. I think now it’s like five dollars a month or twenty dollars a year. I’m not sure because it’s still free for me.

Once I did that, and that will take care of your email right there, so that’s all set up email address.

1.2       Phone System

1.2.1    Google Voice

The next thing that I would do is, I would go to Google Voice, and Google Voice is free, you can get a free phone number from them, just Google “Google Voice” and you can see what I’m talking about. That will give you your business phone number, and what, that’s one of the first things I did when I started my law firm. I set up the Google voice account, and then the way I did was, you can forward that Google voice number to your cell phone.

So what I did was I forwarded the Google voice number to my telephone, to my cellphone, and I set it so that when calls went into that number, it was forwarded to me as the Google voice number, so I could always tell when a work call was coming in.

I couldn’t tell who was calling, but I knew it was a call to that number (my business phone number). That allowed me to answer the phone from my cellphone just like I was in an office: “Thank you for calling CMS Law Firm, this is Chris, how can I help you?”

And that’s the same thing you could do. So you’ve automatically got an office kind of presence, without really having one, right there.

1.2.2    Skype

And, then, the last thing I would do when it comes to communication is sign up for a Skype account. Skype is free, and it’s a great way to make calls and chat with people. You’re going to want this probably when you do some of this networking stuff that we’re going to talk about down the road. It allows you, it’s an easy way to talk to people.

So sign up for Skype. It’s free, and that’s what I would do first. All that would probably take let’s just give it a half a day, for the first day, and we’ve spent twenty-three dollars so far out of our five hundred.

So we’ve got line communication open, spent twenty-three dollars, half of day one is gone.

Step 2: Website

Okay, the second thing that I would do is create instant credibility for myself. And I would do that by putting together a website.

There are several steps that I would do for this.

2.1       Research

Step one is that I would just go out on the internet and I would look for websites that I thought looked cool, or looked like they would appeal to my potential clients, and that appeal to my style, and then I would swipe those.

Basically, so, I would, you know, print out copy of them or just save a copy of it on your desktop so you can look at them all. That will give you a good kind of couple of ideas for what your website is going to look like.

2.2       Rough Draft

Once you did that, then I would just get it a sheet of paper and I would draw out kind of the basic template that you want for your website.

You’re going to include kind of the header image, you’re going to include the sidebar, the content of the first page, and the tool bars, you know, for your navigation bar, all that stuff.

I would literally just draw that out on a sheet of paper, and I’ve done that before, and so what I’m going to do is I’m going to attach a copy of one of my initial law firm website drawings to the show notes of this podcast, so if you want to check that out, lawfirmmarketingmastery.com.

This will be on the front page of the site for a little while, you can find it and you can see an example of what I am talking about there.

So, I would do that, then what I would do is I would create some content for the site. And to start with you’re going to going to have four pages, you’re going to want to have your home page, you’re going to want to have an about page, a contact page, and a frequently asked questions page.

And I would spend the most time on the home page. Obviously, you want to make sure that you craft a message that resonates with your potential clients.

And then you’re “about” page as well. Make sure you put your picture up there, make sure that you talk about yourself as a person, not just as an attorney.

Those are the two most visited pages on the website, home page and the “about” page.

When it comes to frequently asked questions, maybe just write down quickly five of the questions that you get asked most often, or go to avvo.com and just look up some frequently asked questions and answer them on your site. And there you go, you’ve got some good content.

It’s important though when you’re writing these pages that you remember who you’re writing for, remember who your audience is. Your audience is not your colleagues. It’s not your attorney friends. It is potential clients.

So don’t be afraid of having your buddies call you and tell you that your website looks like it is written for an eighth grader and that you should change stuff. If your website is written for an eighth grader, then you’ve probably done the right thing because research has shown that that is about the level of sophistication that you want to have on your site for people, to make sure that people understand it fully and are engaged with it.

And, when it comes to engagement too, don’t be boring. Don’t just copy someone else’s language, because no one cares about that stuff, right? You want to be engaging. You want to be interesting. Tell people something that they want to know. Tell them why you’re different, things like that. So, take some time to do that.

2.3       The Hook – The Free Guide

The other thing that you’re going to want to create while you are in this process is a free guide. And this free guide you can just draft it in Word, then save it as a PDF. It doesn’t have to be super pretty, you just need to make something that you can give to people, for free, that will give them some information that they want to hear.

And there are a couple different ways to do this. It depends on your practice area, really, on what you’re on what you’re going to want to say, and it depends on who you’re trying to appeal to as well. That is going to kind of define what the content of your free guide is going to be. But the easiest thing to do to start out with this is just to have a guide that says, you know, “Five Things You Must Know About ‘X’.”

And then just talk about the five most important things that people need to know when they’re looking for your services or when they need your services.

And we’re going to come back to that later, but that’s going to be something that’s going to get people to opt-in, to you, and you’re website. And it’s going to start up the sales process for you. Okay?

2.4       Setting Up Your Website – the Mechanics

The next thing that I would do is I would go to HostGator, which you’ve already signed up for, you’ve already got your domain name in there, and I would install WordPress on your domain, and you can do that for free.

And, by the way, all the stuff that we talked about with the website so far, you can do for free. This is sweat equity kind of stuff.

So, install WordPress. It’s really easy to do. I’m not going to go over it today, but it just involves literally pressing a couple of buttons and they do everything for you. So it’s not complicated.

Okay, once you’ve done that, once you’ve installed WordPress, you know you may want to go in there and put your firm name and stuff in there and start filling out your content. You can do that if you want to create some pages and do that.

2.5       Getting Help for Your Law Firm Website Design

But the next real big step you’re going to want to take is to go to elance.com and you’re going to hire a web developer to design your website.

And this is going to be the biggest spend probably of this whole process, It’s probably going to cost you about one hundred and fifty bucks, and there are two things that you want to remember when you are hiring someone on Elance to build your site for you.

First, you want to make sure that they have a developer license for the Thesis theme. Thesis is a WordPress theme. It’s very well set up for a search optimization, and it’s well set up for developers to make it individualized for a person. So it’s something that most developers use, it’s very commonplace and you can save yourself some money because, with their developer license, then you don’t have to buy Thesis, which I think it’s about another hundred bucks.

So, make sure they have that developer license for Thesis.

And then the second thing that you want to do is when you hire the person, you know, you give them all of the information you’ve already created, you give them the template that you’ve drawn out, you give them the content for the pages that you want and then it’s important though that you don’t give up working with them until you’ve got something that you want. Okay?

Sometimes in this process people won’t understand exactly what you’re saying, so they’ll give it a shot. If it’s not right, tell them and make them fix it. And make them fix it over and over again until it looks the way that you want. Okay?

2.6       AWeber Account and Implementation

The last thing that I would do is I would go to AWeber and I think they give you a free thirty day trial. I would set up a list there, an email list, and then I would set up an opt-in form, and I would give that opt-in code to web developer to put an opt-in on your home page. I would put it honestly right where I put mine in lawfirmmarketingmastery.com.

And what you’re going to use to get people to opt-in is that free guide you created. So you’re going to say something like, you know: “Enter your name and email address to get this free one of a kind guide that answers most important questions related to divorce,” or estate planning or whatever it is.

And what that’s going to do, it’s going to entice people to give you their information and then you can incorporate a specific process to get those people to hire you after they opt in and say: “I’m a potential client because I’m interested in this information.”

Okay? So that’s the second thing I would do, I would probably say that you know, this is probably overall is going to take you a couple of days, but you should be able to do the website stuff that you have to do in a half day, probably max. The elance, the development, is going to take you a couple of days of back and forth but most of that will be waiting on them to put together something then give it back to you.

So right now we’re probably at the end of day one. You know, since you’ve just opened up, it’s probably a ten or twelve hour day, but that’s what we do, and that’s what’s exciting anyway, so day one we’ve already got a website set up, and we’ve got communication channels open.


3.     Finding Potential Clients

Day two would be the start of my marketing efforts.

The third thing that I would do if I opened up, I would get a list of potential clients.

You want to create traffic to your site, you want to let people know that you are out here. There are three different ways that I would do this.

3.1       Buy a List

First I would buy a list of potential clients, and, you know, what your practice area is is going to make a difference on whether or not you can buy a list of potential clients. If you, for example, are a business attorney and you want to work with companies in the Seattle area that have over thirty employees and grosses over fifty million dollars a year, then you can buy that list.

That list is available to you. If you want to buy a list of new parents in the Seattle area to market your estate planning practice, then you can do that.

If you want to buy a list of homes being foreclosed on so you can market your bankruptcy practice, then I’m sure that information is available. All you have to do is start calling around to figure out how to get it. So, buy it.

3.2       Make a List

The second thing I would do for a list of potential clients, is, I would make one. I would make this list. I would do all three of these things that I’m going to talk about too.

So to make it, there’s a couple of different ways to do that.

First I would write down a list of every single person that I know. Everyone, even if they don’t live in your area. That would be family, friends, colleagues, law school classmates, everybody. I would write all those people down. They are part of your marketing list.

And then the second thing that I would do is I would go to Google and I would look for prospective clients, and prospective partners, prospective kind of affiliates. I would just look for anybody that is related to the industry that could help me out. And I would just make a list of all these people. They would become part of my network.

3.3       Ask for a List

And then the third thing that I would do is I would ask for that information and there’s a couple different ways you can do this.

The first is a public disclosure request. For example, if you’re looking, if you are looking for government contractors, if those are going to be your clients for some reason – you can ask for that. Public disclosure requests, you can ask for lists of people that have been arrested, you can ask for lists of people that have gotten traffic tickets, there’s all kinds of information that’s available to the public through the public disclosure request and that’s one way. You can do that.

You can also reach out to your network and ask for referrals. You can ask for lists of people that might need your help, that’s another way to get a list of potential clients, so that’s the next thing that I would do, get a list of potential clients.

4.     Direct Mail Campaign

After that I would create a direct mail campaign. And I would get started with it, and I would send it out.

To put together a direct mail campaign you’re going to want to go and check out The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy. I’ve talked about it a couple of times on previous podcasts. It is a fantastic book. It walks you through, step-by-step, how to create a direct mail campaign and it will also give you a lot of helpful information for writing persuasive copy for your website too. So, get that book.

I would, then, you want to make sure when you’re putting together your direct mail campaign that you’re writing the addresses on, don’t print them out. That looks like it’s an advertisement and you want people to open your letter to read it. So make sure you write your addresses on there.

And then, make sure that you’re following your rules of professional responsibility. Some states are different than others. Some states require you to put things on the outside of the envelope for example like “advertising material,” or something like that. Some don’t. But you want to make sure you’re complying with your rules. You don’t want to get in trouble right off the bat, so follow those rules.

5.     Networking

The last thing that I would do is I would start networking.

Network. Network. Network.

And this would include people that you know. You’re going to network with people that you know, and you’re also going to network with people that you don’t know, okay?

There are two goals when you want to network too. Goal number one is the find a way to help the people that you’re talking too. Find a way to give them business, find a way to give them some helpful information, find a way to make them look better for their network, okay?

And then, the second thing that you want to do is you want to try to make real connections, okay? Don’t go to some networking event and run around and pick up as many business cards as you can, because that’s not going to be effective. You’re not going to remember who those people are, they’re not going to remember who you are, and pretty soon you’re going to have a big stack of business cards on your desk but you’re not going to have any business. You’re not going to have any friends. You’re not going to have any colleagues. You’re just going to have a big stack of business cards. So, don’t do that.

Okay, so what I would do here. First I would go, these are easy things, set up a Twitter account, set up a Facebook account, set up a linked in account, Google+, okay?

Do those things, set those accounts up. Go to Yelp, set up a Yelp account, and fill those out as completely as you can. Add pictures, add your logo, add all this stuff, as much stuff as you can to those, and then I would start giving active, you know?

When it comes to twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn again, this is about giving, you know, not getting, so you want to engage in conversations with other people, you want to present information that’s helpful to other people.

You find an article that’s good, send it out there for everyone to take a look at. If someone writes something that you really liked, then tell them, and tell them something that you learned from it, tell them how you’re going to use it. And that’s the kind of stuff that builds relationships and that’s the kind of stuff that will get your business back. Okay?

So you want to do those things. And then I would spend whatever money I had left, let’s say two hundred bucks, let’s say you somehow spent three hundred bucks on this stuff, so you got two hundred bucks left.

I would schedule coffees; I would schedule meetings with all of those people that you put on your list that are potential referral sources. I would just take them out, I would say look: “Hey I’m new here, I just opened up and, you know, your business is kind of something that may touch my business and I want to make sure that when someone comes to me for your kind of help I have someone I can send them to, and then if someone comes to you that needs my help, maybe you’ll send them to me.”

What you want is you just want to meet people, introduce yourself, again, and make those real connections. And give them helpful information.

Another thing that you can do that’s a great way to really get in front of people very quickly is to propose a joint venture with someone where for example you could do a webinar with another attorney and you could present just some helpful information that would help their clients.

You’re not going to be getting paid for it, you’re just going to get a whole bunch of people wo now know that you’re an expert in your field, that they could use your help potentially in some way, and that you’re available if they need that help.

Let’s say for example, a business attorney and an estate planning attorney would be a good match. Because a business attorney would want to make sure his clients were prepared for life and for death, for things like that. And an estate planning attorney would be a good person to have come and speak to their clients.

Same with an insurance broker, for example, may have a bunch of business clients that could use a webinar from a business attorney. The possibilities here are endless. If there’s a connection and you can make it, then set up a time to go and help those people out. And you’d be surprised that some of the people in the group will need your help right now. And then you’ve got instant business and you’re off and running. Okay?

I’d also, I would go to networking events too. I don’t put a lot of stock in them. When I go, I typically just try to have a good time and meet some people to kind of start relationships with, but it is better to be doing something than sitting on your hands. And if you’re not at these events, if you’re not networking, you’d better be working on your website, you’d better be doing some kind of marketing so that you can get going again.

Okay. So those are the things that I would do in the first week of starting a law firm if I had to start over and I only had five hundred bucks. It’s probably what I would if I had an unlimited amount of money too. Because those are the building blocks, the foundation of a good law firm and that’s kind of where I would start.

That’s it. If you have questions, comments, anything, I would really appreciate it if you go to lawfirmmarketingmastery.com and left that there. If you thought this was helpful, go to iTunes, leave me a review. I love reviews, and it’s a good way for me to know that people are getting something good out of this. I didn’t have any reviews, again no new reviews again last week.

I know that there are a lot of you out there, because I went over a thousand downloads for the month last month, which is something that I was shooting for, which was nice, so thank you all for taking the time to listen to what I’m saying, and hopefully some of it’s helping you out.

But if you want to help me out, go leave me a review at iTunes. That would help other people learn about me and tells iTunes that people are listening and that people are enjoying what are hearing.

All right, one final reminder to sign up for the newsletter. I haven’t sent it out this month, like I said before, but it’s going to go out in the next couple of days, so if you want to get that information, if you want to get, find out what’s going on with my firm, and get that for free, then go sign up for the newsletter.

Tip of the Week

Okay, as promised, the Tip of the Week. And this goes back to my email marketing campaign. It’s something that I forgot to do, that I was a little bit grumpy about, that I didn’t do it after the fact, but it’s a good lesson to learn.

And that lesson is, it’s one of the probably the most important marketing rules you have. And that is test, test, and test, right? What I mean by that is you should be split testing as much stuff as you can.

So, for example, in my the traffic marketing piece that I sent out it basically said: “Be our Valentine, If you use this promo code that we’re sending out, you have until February 13th to get 25 dollars off of the traffic ticket.”

And I wanted the other one to be, the split test was going to be a percentage off instead of a monetary figure because I wanted to see what resonated better with people. You know, with eighteen hundred emails going out, that is a pretty good sample size to determine what works and what doesn’t, and I forgot to do that. I just sent it out as one so I’m not going to know this time. We’re going to have to do it again.

And the thing about it is that once that is done, once that first test is done, it doesn’t end there. You do another test after that.

So to give an example again, with my direct mail campaign, we’re already in the fourth version of testing. So we test for about a month, we look at the results, we tweak one, we tweak the worst one, then we go again for about a month. Then we look and we tweak the worst one again, and then we tweak again. You’re constantly kind of refining your message, refining everything about your marketing plan, so that it gets better and better and that helps more and more people.

So, keep that in mind as you are out there working on your marketing goals and marketing plans, that you need to find some way to test and measure what you are doing so that you can do it better the next time.

Okay, thanks for listening. Again if you liked the show, please follow us on iTunes and leave us a review, if you have a question or comment please leave it at lawfirmmarketingmastery.com.

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