LFMM 003 Transcript: 3 Starting a Law Firm and Marketing a Law Firm Lessons
3 Lessons I learned from My DUI Trial that Apply to Marketing Your Law Firm
Hello everybody, and welcome to episode 3 of the Law Firm Marketing Mastery Podcast, where we get more clients, make more money, step-by-step. I’m your host, Christopher Small. Let’s dive right in.
Reader Comment Answered – Start General or Pick a Niche?
In the first segment today I’m going to answer a reader comment from the blog. Earlier today I wrote a blog post (you can read it here) about one of the most important things to starting a successful law firm. It was a little bit marketing focused, but it was definitely very “starting a law firm” kind of focused.
The topic of the post was that you need to pick a niche, need to pick a spot, pick a practice area and stick to it. The reason being, you really need to be able to identify your ideal clients so that you can market your services to your ideal client.
And one of the easiest ways to do that is to pick a practice area, right? It’s going to really help you pair down the market so that you can really focus on people that are going to be out there and willing to give you money, okay?
So today I got a reader comment that I haven’t responded to yet on my blog, which I will, but I thought it would be helpful to talk about it on here.
What he basically said is that he was reading Foonberg’s Book – “How to Start & Build a Law Practice” – which I own and I read myself, and he mentioned that in Foonberg’s book the advice is to start general and then you can use those experiences in kind of doing a little bit of everything to decide what you like and the focus going from there.
Now I agree with Foonberg in one sense; you may not like your first choice in law. I was lucky enough to start off in small law firms when I started my career, and that offered me the opportunity to try a bunch of different things.
But when you are starting your law firm it’s about doing the law that you like, but it’s also about paying the bills. First of all you got to be able to make money, you’ve got to eat, and you need to be able to service your clients in a good way.
And if you are worried about money all the time it’s not going to work.
And the other things is, when you do general practice like that, when you are trying to service everyone, you literally end up servicing no one. When people ask you what you do, you say: “Oh, I do Estate plenty, I do criminal defense, contracts, business law, etc.” No one knows what you do so no one knows to call you when they have a problem. Specializing is really the name of the game – I think.
And so I would want to talk a little bit about that and comment on this reader’s comment. Thank you for your comment by the way, really appreciate it. If you would like to comment on the blog I would love your comments. I love discussing these things with everyone, I love talking business, I wanted a comment on that topic niche practice or general practice.
And my thoughts on the whole decision making process are this: pick something that you think you are going to like. It doesn’t matter what it is – estate planning, it could be anything really, family law, criminal defenses, traffic tickets. You could do specifically divorce, you could do adoption, you could do contract law, business formation, tax, bankruptcy.
It doesn’t matter, but you need to pick something and you need to focus on it for a while, right? That way you could market your practice to specific people, you could hopefully start to make a little bit of money, get a little bit of cash in your pocket, and then, if you decide that you don’t like it, you can pivot.
Pivoting just means switching gears. That’s exactly what I did when I started my practice. When I opened up was doing DUI, traffic tickets and I was doing eminent domain.
And to be honest with you my focus at that time was on eminent domain because it’s what I had been doing at the time. It’s what I would like to do, I would like to do the other two practice areas too, but my focus for the last year and a half or so had been on eminent domain and so I really wanted to do eminent domain.
Well, I got here in Seattle and the market was not set up the way that it was in Kansas. The opportunities to get business weren’t necessarily there the same way that they were in Kansas. Quite frankly I just lost interest, so I just dropped it, I changed my focus to DUI and traffic tickets and that’s what I am today.
Quite honestly if I decided I didn’t like it (DUI and traffic), I could probably move out of that niche and move onto something else. And to be honest with you, if I decided I didn’t like it, if I decided to do something else, what I probably would do is hire someone to take over those duties for me.
Right now I am making good money. If you subscribe to my newsletter you know I am doing okay, so I could use that opportunity to pivot, start a new section of the firm, starting a new branch of the firm, or just go and start a new firm and continue reaping the benefits of the work I have already done when it comes to DUI defense and traffic defense.
And so this discussion also brings me back to kind of one of the reasons why I am working on my new book: “How to Start a Law Firm.” Foonberg’s book was probably good in 1997, but if you read it, and like I said I have read it, and I used some things out of it, it’s really missing one big critical factor: technology.
There is not mention of the internet, no mention obviously of Facebook, because I don’t think it existed when the book was written. There is no mention of internet marketing and creating a name for yourself on the internet. There is no mention of Google and Adwords or any of those. And let’s be honest here: if you sit down and think about it, you know how to make a business card that looks good; you know what you need to start your firm from a mechanical standpoint: a scanner; a printer; a laptop; maybe some office space if you want – that’s what this book is full of, things like that, which are practical and I guess help us feel good, but at the end of the day starting a successful law firm is all about getting clients and getting clients is all about marketing your law firm.
And that’s why I started this podcast. That’s why I started my blog, and that’s what is really lacking in most of all of those books these days. So, hopefully I can address some of those things in my book, which I really, really want to get out. But that’s a big project, and when you start thinking about things like that they just continue to grow and grow, it seems like.
I think at some point I will need to take my own advice, just put together a book that is good enough to get to you guys, good enough to help you all out, and then just work on it to make it better, continue to allow it to grow over time. Because quite frankly there is nothing out there right now that I think addresses the needs of someone that’s starting a law firm.
And it’s really necessary to anyone that’s out there because there are certain things that you need to think about and certain things that you can do in advance to really get a leg up on your own business and your competitors, and that’s just not there right now.
I am going to put that together and get it to you.
Feature Segment of the Week: 3 Lessons I Learned from My DUI Trial that Apply to Starting and Marketing a Law Firm
Okay, onto our featured segment, which I haven’t even identified yet. The feature segment is 3 Lessons I learned from a DUI Trial that Apply to Starting and Marketing a Law Firm.
If you listened to the podcast last week, you know I talked about my upcoming DUI trial and how some of the things that setting a case for trial and taking each case to trial kind of compares to staring a law firm: having to do with overcoming fear; being the underdog and accepting that role and just going for it; doing your best and seeing what happens and not being afraid to fail.
Well the trial is over. It happened last Thursday and Friday, and I must honestly tell you I lost. My client was found guilty of DUI. We tried our best, but it was a tough case and it’s one of those things when sometimes you have to take it to trial.
Here is a quick background on the facts, just to give you an idea of what we were doing. With the DUI there was a single car accident, my client was driving the vehicle and someone came upon the accident and called 911 to get help because the car was broken. There was an accident. So the officer showed up and my client was already out of the car and they subsequently arrested her for DUI. They took her to the hospital because she had some injuries to her face, and they gave her blood test.
The blood test came back 0.23. So her blood test was three times the legal limit in the state of Washington and everywhere else: 0.08.
The offer sucked, so we took the case to trial.
There were some issues with the reliability and the accuracy of the blood test, there were some questions with regards to what her actual state was at the time of driving, and the offer was terrible. It wasn’t something that forced my client to take the deal over taking the chance to go to trial, so we took it to trial. And ultimately, like I said, we lost.
But you know what? There is something to be said for going forward, there is something for taking a chance and doing your best and in my line of work all you can do is your best. A lot of the times we are the underdogs. The law is against us. Sometimes the facts are against us. Public opinion is certainly against people accused of drunk driving. But if you don’t fight you don’t win. It’s the same with starting a law firm. If you don’t get out there and try you are not going to see success.
I wanted to talk to you about some of the lessons I think all of us can take out of that trial and apply it to both starting a law firm and then marketing your law firm, because there are a few.
Lesson 1 From the Trial: The Power of Systems
Lesson one has to do with starting a law firm and the importance of implementing systems and standard operating procedures as soon as you can. I started my firm when it was just me. I was the only one there answering phones. I was doing everything.
I started writing down the way that I wanted everything done from start to finish, which includes: the way that people answer the phone; the information that they take from potential clients and current clients; the way that meetings are setup and handled; calendaring; all that kind of stuff. Everything has written policies and procedures and I did that because I wanted someone to be able to come in and hit the ground running, to be able to follow the set of standard operating procedures that we have, have an idea what to do from day one.
Sure, there is learning for everyone but with a set of standard operating procedures like that. But, with a set of processes that people can follow, things can run smoothly while you are gone and it’s often easy for you to check in and check out when you are away from the office for two days like I was with this trial. I was basically in the court room for two days and last week the office survived, phone calls were answered and potential clients were taken care of, and regular clients and any issues that popped up while I wasn’t there were taken care of.
Of course, it’s nice to have an assistant because then she can kind of run things when I am gone, answer the phone and things like that. But, even if I didn’t have someone like that, having a set of policies and procedures in place would help you keep things under control, all right?
Lesson 2 from the Trial: A Man of Many Hats
This leads us to lesson number two: that when you start and run a law firm you are not just a lawyer, you are a business owner, you are a manager, you are an accountant, you are in the marketing department, you are everything. And those responsibilities don’t stop just because you are locked in court all day, so it’s important to know that your job is going to be harder than the other guy’s job sometimes.
For example, I know I was talking to the prosecutor and he told me he went to bed at 9 o’clock, got a great night sleep and he is feeling good. And then I said: “Yeah? That’s fantastic, I went to bed at 2 AM, I woke up at 6 and I am here ready to rock and roll.”
And I was ready to go, but I had to take care of these responsibilities. I needed to take care of the things that were going on with the firm. Thankfully that included signing up three new DUI clients and I think four or five traffic tickets, which was nice. It was a great week from a business perspective, but it also made it a busy week for me, and that is just something that you are going to have to be ready for when you are opening your firm.
You are going to have to push it a little bit. You are going to have to work hard. You are going to have to do more than other people do to reap the benefits that come along with owning your own business, right?
You know the great thing is you get to work hard and you get to keep all the money that you make. You get the satisfaction of working the cases the way that you want, setting the phone up the way that you want, you do all those things in exactly the way that you want and because of that you bear the responsibility that comes with setting the business the way you want.
Lesson 3 from the Trial: Learning from Failure
Lesson number three is… and I am kind of going back to what… it’s not exactly what I talked about, but it’s close, and lesson number 3 is taking the opportunity to pick yourself up when you fail, learn some important lessons, and move on so that you are better the next time.
If any of you have ever done a trial, if you have ever done anything that involves preparing and then doing something while you are thinking on your feet, then you know that when you look back there area always things that you wish you would have done differently.
There are always times that you think: “Man, if I just had an extra 10 seconds I could have come up with exactly what I wanted to say and maybe it would have made a difference!” or “I can’t believe I missed that one thing even though it may have been timely at the time, I can’t believe I missed that and maybe that would have made a difference.”
Well if you are like 90% of the people in the world you don’t even get there because you never even go out and take the chance. But if you are going to be a successful business owner, if you want to be a successful marketer of your law firm then you are going to embrace the opportunity to fail, you are going to see that as an opportunity to get better. You are going to look at the situation when you are done, and whether you succeed or whether you fail you are going to take the opportunity to learn from it, to tweak what you are doing to get better, to pick yourself up and go after it again.
I got another trial scheduled in January and I can’t wait to go get after it again. I mean, I learned some important lessons from this trial, and I am going to implement them and I am going to use them the next time and I am going to get better. And then, whether I win or lose this next one I am going to learn some lessons and I am going to pick it up and go do it again the next time.
And that’s exactly what you need to do when you own a law firm. Every day you have to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes. You’ve got to not rest on your victories, and you’ve got to get out there and take care of some business, basically.
And sometimes it doesn’t feel great, sometimes your ego is going to hurt, sometimes you are going to feel that you look a little bit like an idiot, but that is what this life is all about, right? Putting yourself out there and getting yourself to succeed, sometimes you’ve got to pull yourself out there or you are just going to be coasting along and that’s not fun, right?
And another thing I can tell you that goes along the lines of these lessons that I learned is that every time you get out there, every time you stick your neck out, every time you give yourself the opportunity to fail, it’s less scary, right? It is still scary. No one likes to fail. That still kind of triggers that evolutionary flight response. But it gets a little easier, you know?
You learn to harness those feelings and use them for good instead of allowing them to paralyze you. So don’t be afraid to get out there and push yourself. Try to push the envelope and fail, learn from those failures and get better.
Okay, that’s it for segment two. I hope that you can learn through me. You know what I do and apply some of the stuff to your law firm and your marketing efforts and hopefully get more clients.
The Tool of the Week
On to segment number three, which I am calling this week’s “Tool of the Week.” Maybe I will change it next week, I don’t know.
This week it is the tool of the week and the tool of the week that I want to talk about is Google Analytics. If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, it is a free tool that Google has created that allows you to really see what generates your traffic, where your traffic comes from and who your traffic is to your website, to your blog, any web property that you have.
And if you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website and your blog right now you should do it today. It’s easy, it’s free, and it can provide a tremendous insight into the good things about your website and the bad things about your website.
Just to give you an idea of a couple of things that you can see, first of all one of the things that we all like to know about is traffic, right? Where the people are coming from, how they are finding your site and what pages are they looking out while they are there.
I can almost guarantee you that when people get there and they are looking to your “About” page, which we are going to talk about some other time. But the short moral of the story is that your About page needs to be just as good as your homepage because that’s where people go. That’s how you could sell yourself the best, and that’s where you can make a lot of great strides with other people. Your about page needs to be kick-ass, okay?
You can see if people are going directly to your site, if they are coming through a Google search, if they are coming from Twitter, some other blog or some article that you have written, you can see all those things. And, if they are coming from Google you can see the keywords that they used to get there, you can see what pages they landed on, and it’s fantastic.
The other thing that you can see that’s important is you can see how long they stay on your site. That’s called bounce rate. If your bounce rate is really high, if it’s over 60% then you need to seriously consider tweaking your website to grab the attention of your readers more. Because that means that people are leaving your website from that page instead of either clicking for another page or hanging out for a little longer. High bounce rate is bad and you can see that stuff in Google Analytics.
You can also run AB tests or you can show different pages and see how they perform. You can do a whole bunch of other crazy cool stuff that I don’t really know about and quite frankly I need to get someone else here to talk about it, right?
This is completely tangential but it’s my show and I will talk about what I want, I guess. So one of the things I want to do here in the future is trying to get some guests on here, do some interviews and talk to some people that are not law firm owners, that spend all of their time and have really built an expertise in doing a couple of things really good.
Google Analytics is one of those things. There are people out there that can look at your Google Analytics page and tell you all kinds of crazy information, all kinds of stuff that is really important to your new business. We should probably get somebody down here so they can give us like the top five things that we need to be looking at while we are on the Analytics page, maybe how we can setup goals and some things like that to track important statistics and things we didn’t even look at.
Because there is so much data out there and there is so much free tools out there that we can use to really tweak our website, make more money and really kick butt when we are out there, and if we are not utilizing those tools then we are doing a disservice to ourselves, and if we are doing a disservice to ourselves, unless you are a crappy attorney you are doing a disservice to your clients, right? So think about it like that.
Okay, I think that’s going to be it for today. We are at about 25 minutes and I think I have said about all that I wanted to say.
I want to thank you for listening. Join me next Monday for episode 4. If you want more great information on Law Firm Marketing and Starting a Law firm I want you to remind you to check our Facebook page.
As of this time you are going to have to go and Google “Law Firm Marketing Mastery” and Facebook. We don’t have enough fans yet to claim our page, so you are going to have to go search and would love it if you did. Once we get to 25 fans it will be there, I think we are at 12 or 13 right now and the thing about Facebook and the same thing with Twitter is that I don’t put the same thing up on both sites unless it’s post information, but I see those as places where I can provide kind of short snippets of information, great links to other articles that I think are interesting and just other tools and tips that I don’t have but are already written on the blog.
So you can check us out on Facebook, Twitter, that’s kind of my personal slash law firm marketing twitter feed, so I got a whole bunch of crazy stuff out there in addition to business stuff you will see my events on sports and gambling and life, so check it out!
And, finally, I want to remind everybody that you can go subscribe to my newsletter, it’s on my website.
What you get with my newsletter is you get my monthly numbers, so every month I tell you how much money I made, how much money I spent, and I usually will give you some inside information on why I think my firm performed the way it did in that month.
I talk about some new things that I am trying to implement, and it’s something that I really reserved as a treat for people that have taken the opportunity to show their support for what I am doing and show me that they like what’s going on and they are learning something, because I would like to know that, sometimes I feel like I am talking to space like right now. But when people sign up it shows me that they are listening to what I am saying and it’s at least interesting and I would love to have you join us.
So go sign up for that newsletter and one of the other things you get with the newsletter is the invitation to my monthly webinar. I do a monthly webinar aside from these podcasts where I talk about some topic that typically requires the computer to use and actually for the Google Analytics it may be a good spot for that because we can tour around on there and look into the site. But go check that out if you want to get some more information on law firm marketing and starting a law firm.
That’s it for this week. I will see you next week. Please, one last thing: if you like the podcast subscribe to it on iTunes. Leave me a review on iTunes too. That would be fantastic. I would love it. I don’t think I have any reviews yet. I haven’t looked but I can’t wait to get that first one and maybe I will give a shootout on the next show.
Until the next time thank you for visiting the Law Firm Marketing Podcast where we get more clients, make more money, step by step!