If you’re an attorney, you would have to be living under a rock if you hadn’t heard of Black Thursday, when many of the U.S.A.’s largest and most prestigious law firms went on a pink slip rampage. Nobody knows for sure how many bodies were thrown overboard, but estimates are anywhere from 800 to over 1,000 attorneys lost their positions.
What’s even more unsettling are the whispered rumors that this is just the beginning.
It’s not hyperbole to say we are living in extraordinary times.
I’m not saying any of this to scare you. Note the positive headline for this blog post. We feel that now is the time for unprecedented opportunity–for those brave enough to reach out and take it.
You know there are plenty of “solos” out there. Single attorney law practices have existed forever, but they were never able to really compete with the big firms.
Until now, that is.
Extraordinary Times, New Opportunities
There are two forces that work in favor of the solo practitioner, now: the rapid rise of technology and because of that, a sea-change in consumer behavior.
It used to be that a solo just couldn’t muster the kind of marketing money and muscle a big firm could. And that’s still true, in a sense. But what is also true is that it doesn’t matter, anymore, precisely because technology and consumer behavior are changing.
A solo does not beat the big firms by doing the same things they do. A solo beats them by doing things they could never do. Let me tell you a story as an example:
A woman (let’s call her Sarah) is beginning to think she needs to acquire the services of an estate planning and elder care attorney. Where do you think is the first place she is likely to begin her search?
If you guessed the internet, give yourself a gold star, you are correct. Sarah goes to Google and types some words into the search box. What words do you think she types in?
I’m not going to answer that here, but keep that thought in mind as we take a look at the strategies employed the Big Firm and the Solo.
The Big Firm
The Big Firm is as “old school” as it gets: posh offices, senior partners and partners up to the rafters, and a website that hasn’t changed in over five years. After all, to their thinking, what is a website but simply an online brochure? There is no need to change it: their services haven’t changed, nor has their phone number. If you could transform a stuffed shirt into a website, the Big Firm has managed to do so. The Big Firm can afford to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month to pay a marketing firm to run a Google AdWords PPC campaign to keep that phone ringing.
Almost none of the people in the firm know what AdWords is. Every little technological advancement is fought tooth and nail, and most of the firm’s senior partners can barely use email. The younger attorneys have their Blackberries super-glued to their hands, and they seem “with it,” but beyond email and FindLaw, they’re nearly hopeless.
The Big Firm still spends a considerable sum of money every year on Yellow Pages advertising and print ads in the local paper (which is filing for bankruptcy).
The Solo, on the other hand, (let’s call her Amanda) works out of her home office. Amanda’s website is a blog. Every other day or so, she writes a new article and posts it, adding to her already considerable archive of previous posts–all about the same topics: elder care law and estate planning.
Other law blogs and even regular news sites link to her blog, sending her traffic. Reporters call her and email her to get her opinion on a proposed change in nursing home regulations in the area. Other lawyers and even judges in the area read her blog.
Amanda gets an email from the contact form on her blog. Sarah has written to her, saying she did a search online and Amanda’s blog came up number one. Sarah tells Amanda she spent a lot of time reading Amanda’s posts and they have already helped her make some important decisions regarding her parents. Because of this, Sarah would like to set up an appointment to meet with Amanda to discuss the possibility of engaging her legal services. For a real life example and more information, please visit www.theclarklawoffice.com/practice-areas/criminal-law/
The Solo’s Secret Weapon
When Amanda first set up her solo practice, she did all the things she thought she was supposed to do… and it nearly put her out of business. Her “brochureware” website brought in no clients. Nobody found her online when they did a Google search. Nobody looked at the Yellow Pages and saw her expensive ad.
Luckily, a friend of hers who was into “techie stuff” told her about blogs and how single-person and small businesses were using them to market themselves. Amanda looked into it and soon found Blawging Lawyers.
At first, she didn’t know a lot about blogging or how to market a law practice with one, but with the educational materials and support from the instructors and her fellow Blawging Lawyers members, Amanda got up to speed in only a few months.
Now, she’s even using social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which she’s using to send potential clients who also use these services to her blog. Amanda can hardly believe it. The country is slipping into a recession, but she’s doing better than ever.
Meanwhile, the Big Firm is thinking another round of layoffs will be necessary. The senior partners are discussing it.
We invite you to learn more about Blawging Lawyers.