This is very important irrespective of whether you already have a practice, or whether you are still in law school. It is unfortunate that our education system does not inculcate this very essential knowledge. Most advanced legal markets have bar councils that teach their lawyers to practice management and training on how to market yourself is a very important part of that.
Even when you go to an elite foreign university for higher education, you will be guided on these techniques at length and made to spend a lot of time networking in person, instilling these lessons. Unfortunately, many Indian students are not able to take full advantage of such training because they are taught from their childhood that good people do not have to market themselves!
We have an anti-marketing mindset as a society and it puts artificial mental restraints on us and slows down success. Good lawyers with good marketing will always succeed more than good lawyers with bad marketing.
Yes, you are not supposed to advertise your practice, but there are absolutely enough legal ways to market yourself. Let’s take a look at how you could go about it.
How to decide your target audience
It is always better to target a specific kind of clients and people for your law practice rather than directing your efforts at the entire world. You do not want to spread yourself too thin. Your time and resources are limited. It is a good idea to start small, and then make an impact on that target group and then it is always possible to add another target group when you feel that you have already done a good job with your initial target group.
Deciding the right target group goes to the core of your business strategy. What are the skills you have? How much are you going to charge? Do those people have enough paying capacity? Do they have enough headache to actually hire your services and pay you for the same?
These questions must be answered.
For example, there are many freelancers who have grievances about not being paid on time. But are they willing to hire a lawyer to solve that problem? If yes, how much will they pay?
Compare this with a person who has bought a house. He paid for 1000 sq metres of floor area, but after delivery realized that he has received on 900 sq mtrs. Will he be ready to spend 1 lakh rupees on hiring a lawyer and getting compensation from the builder?
What if this person did not get delivery of the house at all? What about his willingness to hire a lawyer and pay a fee at that time?
There are different groups of people with different kind of problems and different kind of budgets and willingness to pay.
Before you select a group to target, you must do your homework and figure out who would be a suitable target. Another important factor for selecting a target group is your own skills obviously. What are the legal skills that you are very good at? What are the solutions you are very confident about? In what directions do you want to build your career and practice?
Does your interest align with the audience you are contemplating to target? This is a very important question as you may get bored in a few years otherwise, in which case you have to start all over again.
You must also consider the health and outlook of an industry. For example, jute mills are not doing so well. If you start building your practice amongst jute mills, that may not be such a great idea. Same goes for tea gardens, though once upon a time they used to be marquee clients.
On the other hand, industries like technology, media, and entertainment, education, M&A etc are burgeoning and growing very fast. It makes sense to pick an area of practice that has fantastic growth outlook.
There are lawyers who are focussing on areas like agritech or drone companies and are able to build great practices!
Where and how to start marketing
Once the target group is defined, what should we do next?
We need to deeply understand the legal needs of our target group. We need to understand the legal problems they face and what solutions they may need better than themselves.
This is called market research.
The best way to find this out is to go meet these people who are your potential clients. My coach recommends me to talk to at least 20 people who are potential clients before I launch any products or services. Meet them, or call them, and ask them open-ended questions. It is better to go to friends or acquaintances or through some references because people may not easily open up about the real legal problems they are facing to complete strangers.
However, remember, it is your job to get into the psyche of the interviewees and potential client and understand what are their dreams and nightmares, what they are willing to pay for and what their experience with other lawyers or legal professionals has been like.
Once you understand these pain points and aspiration points, you will be able to come up with a strategy as to what services you can offer, what are the things you should talk about in your marketing (whether it is a blog post, social media update, personal conversation, pitch or a conference talk) and what fears and objections to address so that you can bag that client. Understanding your target market is a very essential step. You can go and do this actively, or do it passively like most lawyers do (they wait for clients to come to them and explain everything rather than reaching out). However, obviously, those who do it proactively also grow faster.
The managing partner of a leading law firm had told me a fascinating story once. When he was a young and struggling lawyer, he once was invited by a friend who was a District Forest Officer to come and explain some complex environmental laws. He went and delivered a workshop. Then he realized an opportunity and travelled across India doing many such workshops for free. Soon he knew all the forest officials personally, and even people in the environment ministry.
Then he pitched to clients who had environmental work. Soon he had exporters, importers mining companies and factories lining up to him for getting various clearances, fighting show cause notices and other environmental cases.
Do you see why that happened? He had acquired a tremendous understanding of the industry from the forest and environmental officials, which allowed him to craft the right services and approach the right people to get those mandates.
You need to go to the people you are going to work for, have deep conversations, gather information, and then come up with a strategy as to how you can deliver a lot of value to your target audience so that they have no doubt about your expertise.
How to make connections
There is no doubt that people have to have a way to discover you and understand what you can do for them. There are many ways to do this. However, remember that the quality of interaction is more valuable than just quantity.
The most well known and perhaps well-received way is face to face meetings. These meetings work best when you come through a good reference. This works well when your per client or per transaction fee is high enough to justify the effort that goes into such meetings. Even law firm partners and independent lawyers, especially on the transaction side, do such business development meetings regularly. Sometime they will travel to other countries and meet the lawyers and industry people there and share information about their practice.
However, there are other ways in which you can reach out to more people at once. Speaking in conferences is one very good example. So would be blogging, being active on social media such as Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, as well as youtube.
You can also become part of various communities and groups, through which you can build trust and connections fast. I know some lawyers who get many clients through networks like Art of Living, ISKCON and various religious communities. There are others who are approached because they are members of certain clubs, industry organizations or even political parties.
There are indeed innumerable ways to build quality connections that involve mutual trust and recognition.
However, unless you can demonstrate your value, and actually have skills to back up your claims and deliver results, your connections alone will not get your work. So let’s get to that part now.
What is my qualification for writing this? I started ClikLawyer, a legal services platform (not a law practice though), and was able to take it to 7 lakhs per month revenue within a few months. I had to shut down that business due to my own illness, moving away from Delhi to Goa to recuperate and my co-founder quitting, and in order to focus on my primary work at iPleaders and LawSikho, but the principles below hold good and will help any lawyer to build an independent practice or a law firm if they apply these methods with integrity, consistency, and acumen.
How to establish your credentials with potential clients
What do people see when they google your name?
Your potential clients are definitely going to Google you. What they see at that point can be very critical.
Similarly, people are going to ask around about you before hiring you for a critical case or negotiation. What people are saying about you in the market would, therefore, be very important.
You need to plan for these things.
Credentials like having studied in an NLU or Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard definitely help. So does your history of employment or major victories and losses that people may have heard of. These all form part of your credentials. However, these are not be all and end all.
You can positively influence what conversations people are having about you out there.
One thing is obvious. Definitely work on your Google footprint. If you Google my name, you will find my carefully curated profiles, as well as a bunch of articles, come on the first few pages. You will get a sense of who I am and what I do and what I stand for.
Your credentials must be easily accessible and visible on platforms like Linkedin, Twitter, and even your personal or law firm website. Also remember, apart from obvious things like your educational qualification or previous job experience, there are other ways to establish credentials. For example, I have written in and have been quoted by top publications, from Hindustan Times, Times of India, Huffington Post, The Wire etc. I have also taken workshops and delivered lectures at India’s top institutes like IITs, ISB, IIM, and NITs. That also increases my credibility.
Your best credential would be happy clients who are grateful for the work you have done for them. You can use their testimonials too.
What would increase your credibility? Do not obsess over what you cannot do. Focus on what is under your control. I will not worry about getting a masters from Harvard right now. After all, there is so much I can do to buttress up my credentials.
How to pitch your USP
What is your USP, i.e. unique selling proposition? What makes you stand out? You need to understand this well and communicate to the market.
This morning I read a story about a law firm in Bangalore that only hires women lawyers. Since this firm deals mostly with women’s issues, this is a creative way to communicate with their female clients that they can feel safe with this law firm.
What are the usual USPs?
- Great client support
- Fast turn around
- High quality
Remember that you cannot be everything for everyone. That will lead to disaster. Decide what you want to be known for. I do not recommend low cost as a USP though usually, most people find it an easy option. Anybody can claim that they are cheap, and probably still not deserve even the cheap price they charge.
So try and develop some other USPs. Gandhi had built a successful practice in South Africa by quickly settling cases and solving his client’s problems. That is definitely a USP worth having.
Sometimes the USP can be an enviable track record of winning cases or that you are honest and upright and deal fairly with your clients.
You need to have a reason why clients will prefer you over others, and that is what would be your USP.
Difference between marketing to individuals and corporate clients
When you are dealing with clients where you can charge a high fee, for example in an M&A transaction or investment deal, and there are others which have much smaller ticket size. When your ticket size is big, you can afford to go and meet a lot of people and network one on one.
However, if you are looking at a small ticket but the volume of clients, you need methods which can communicate with a large number of people at once.
Speaking at conferences, organizing conferences and events, writing in newspapers or blogs, appearing on TV, building influence an audience on social media – these are examples of communicating with a large number of people at once.
Most lawyers understand that when you are targeting individual customers, such communication is very effective. However, remember that even for corporate clients such communication can be very effective.
The main difference is, however, the sophistication needed for the content you put out there. You can even communicate with in-house lawyers. However, you will have to ensure that you are putting out really high-quality content that amazes, educates or impress your target audience. Without this, it will be hard to succeed in this kind of strategy.
How to demonstrate your strengths without boasting or showing off
Remember that lawyers in India are not allowed to advertise. You cannot just go and boast about the cases you are doing or the kind of clients you have. Nor can you solicit clients until they approach you.
However, what you can absolutely do is educate people, share knowledge with the entire world and root for important causes. It is a part of your freedom of speech! However, doing that will also attract attention to your knowledge and skills, and people will come to you on their own. And this is absolutely legal.
So you market yourself by serving other people, for no cost. You write, make videos or give a speech for no cost. Share your knowledge, brilliance, enthusiasm, voice, and opinion.
Do not boast. Do not ask anyone for work. That is totally unnecessary. If you are good and doing your job well, people come as inbound leads. There is a lot of work after that also, but we will talk about that another day. Most people are struggling with this very first step of how to get people to come and inquire about their services. Let’s solve this part of the puzzle for today.
What are the different methods lawyers use to market themselves?
Answer common questions that your target clients may have
You can write on the internet and share important information relating to common queries of the prospective clients. This is very very effective. Starting your own blog and making it work is very hard. It requires long term commitment over the years to build an audience. For the first 5 years, we barely got any noticeable traffic in the iPleaders blog, but we kept at it. If you have the tenacity to keep writing without seeing any results for a while, by all means, start your own blog.
If you want quick results though, piggyback on other larger platforms
Large platforms such as iPleaders blog or LiveLaw have a large audience and will publish quickly. At iPleaders blog, we have systems that can help you to build an audience and cultivate it over time and not just publish guest posts and forget. The ideal thing would be to run a newsletter on top of your posts so that you can stay in touch with your readers over time.
Endorsement by others (other lawyers as well as former clients)
Social media is an excellent platform where other lawyers, various organizations and even your former clients can validate you. As you can see, there are tons of organizations giving awards and recognition to lawyers. This is exactly what we are talking about. What if your clients were so happy that they blogged about you? What if you were included in important lists of legal influencers? You may not realize, but a lot of law firms and lawyers are spending serious money on publicists who are working on building up their brand in this way. I am not asking you to hire a publicist straight away, but at least take basic measures yourself to strengthen your network which would validate you publicly.
Becoming part of existing networks and community
If I had to go to a new city and build a law practice, I would focus on becoming a part of existing networks and communities. Did you know that almost every city has a salsa social scene, where you can meet the rich and smart people? You will have to learn to dance salsa but why not? The same goes for a golf club or communities like Toastmaster. There may be industry associations also, which you can easily infiltrate by offering to volunteer in organizing events for them. Don’t go for random things, but things you are genuinely interested in. If you love dogs, then volunteer for animal focussed organizations, if your interest is in feminism, there will be organizations and networks that will welcome you with open arms. I have seen lawyers getting a substantial number of clients through networks like Art of Living, ISKCON, and Radhasoami.
Activating referral networks
you are part of many communities already. Before you go out looking for new communities, at least activate your own existing communities. Does your family know what you do? That’s not enough. Can they explain what you do with pride to their friends and family? What about your school friends? Do they know in what situations they can call you or refer people to you? What about your college batchmates? In most cases, people have no idea what you do. This is why sharing your articles or youtube videos with these networks will activate them and sensitize them about what you do and you can expect a stream of referral from them after that. In the early days of practice, this can be a goldmine. I had a rule I followed for 3 months. I used to make 5 calls every day to people from my past, and reconnect with them. And then I told them what I did and asked to refer anybody if they came across anyone suitable. This was extremely powerful!
Doing public interest matters
Please spend at least 30% of your time in the initial days doing public interest and pro bono matters. What if you went to jail and helped people who could not find or pay a lawyer to post their bail? How about you get dozens of people out? You can’t imagine what will happen if you do this. Every time someone gets out of jail because of you, for no cost, they will tell dozens of other people about what a good, honest and brilliant lawyer you are out of gratitude. There is nothing that can beat such word of mouth publicity.
Social media enhances your online visibility and makes you approachable. It is a low-cost effective method to reach a wider set of target audience. However, to gain credibility, it is imperative that the posts must be curated to establish thought leadership. Don’t react to the random noise. Don’t be a passive consumer. On social media, it works best when you stand for something. Take Gautam Bhatia for example. The 2011 NLS graduate has built up a name on Twitter and across media platforms as someone who writes regular commentary on constitutional law, live tweets court proceedings and provides valuable insights into the working of Indian constitution.
What value could you offer?
Different online social platforms require a different engagement style.
While Facebook can be used for direct engagement with potential clients to address their queries, it also has a review system in place, Favourable feedback drives potential clients in engaging you for your services. Likewise, LinkedIn being a professional network is best suited to engage in professional discussions. Professional groups are more active on LinkedIn as compared to other networks. Make the right connections on LinkedIn within your target market. Don’t write a profile like a Resume just to highlight your education and practice areas. Your profile must stand out in terms of what value proposition and problem-solving skills you bring to the table to your target audience.
Lawyer hiring websites
There is a lot of legal work up for grabs online. Contract drafting and enforcement is one skill that you can leverage when it comes to being hired online. Whether it be money recovery claims, providing trademark registration services online, tech space helps in connecting a potential client with a network of lawyers. Do explore these legal services marketplaces, they can definitely refer you more clients if you build a good presence there.
Your own website/blog
You definitely need to have a great and updated website. Not having one suggests that you are not good enough or important enough to have one. Spend some money getting the branding and content writing. You should hire professionals to do it. Consider having a blog even if you post just a dozen articles – this is for potential clients or referring lawyers who visit your website to discover what your real areas of interest and expertise are.
Attending events and giving guest lectures
– It can not only turn out to be a rejuvenating experience in terms of updating yourself with industry knowledge and gaining new insights but it provides immense opportunities to network and collaborates.
– Giving guest lectures is one of the ways through which you can demonstrate your expertise in the subject enhancing your credibility. A good keynote given in such conferences has good recall value amongst your peers. Most importantly, it shows your activeness to gain and contribute in terms of knowledge in your field.
To conclude, Marketing yourself as a lawyer involves building trust and credibility in the eyes of the potential client.
Visibility is only one aspect of it. Your degree of competence and performance add up to the overall picture when it comes to retaining your client base. Digital and offline mediums are a great way to start new relationships but the legal profession is still a very personal one. Connecting is a person whenever possible will go a long way.
We have a course on practice management. Do check it out. You would learn a lot more about the subject, just go through the syllabus to understand what you need to learn on your own even if you don’t want to do a course.
Also, if you want to short circuit the long learning process of the legal profession and learn 10x faster, check out these courses:
- Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws
- Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
- Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)
- Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations
Executive Certificate Course
- Certificate Course in Advanced Civil Litigation: Practice, Procedure and Drafting
- Certificate Course in Advanced Corporate Taxation
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