In part 1 of this article, we uncovered some of the real reasons why there are so many broke lawyers, and what savvy lawyers need to know to avoid falling into the pit.
Today, we are going to get into specifics of 3 key strategies for success that struggling or broke lawyers can use to attain and sustain profitability.
Let’s be clear . . . Competing on price is NOT a strategy for the long-term success of your law practice.
It diminishes your value in your client’s eyes, not to mention your self-worth, and it will eat you alive over the life of your career, particularly when you’re struggling to keep the lights on.
When there are more lawyers than demand for legal services, you risk becoming a commodity.
In your client’s mind, “a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer . . .” and depending on your practice area, they probably wish they never had to call you in the first place.
That’s a dismal situation. . . but we can fix it.
The way we fix it is 1) Niching, 2) Positioning, and 3) Differentiating your law practice
In my last article, we discussed the power and necessity of choosing a durable niche with an ever-expanding market-base, a clear need or desire for your services, and a willingness/ability to pay. (Read that article here.)
The essence of ‘niching’ is proactively setting yourself up in a durable practice area that you are relatively passionate about, able to be great at, and allows you to weather the up markets, down markets, and any which way the economy goes because there is always a growing need for your services.
I say ‘proactively’ because successful lawyers and successful entrepreneurs, in general, never simply ‘end up.’ They always do their homework before risking their investment capital, time, and life energy. I say ‘relatively’ because if you only focus on passion, and miss the economic durability, you’re trapping yourself and will hate your career.
Once you’ve established yourself in a niche, and you feel you can drill deep for the duration of your career – then it’s time to become the ‘go-to’ lawyer for that practice area in your community.
Becoming THE ‘go-to’ lawyer requires a bit more sophistication than only doing excellent work and hoping word gets around.
Word of mouth is ONE marketing strategy, and a darn good one. But it’s not enough.
Let’s say you are a divorce lawyer, and you want people to call you instead of the lawyer down the street.
What are you doing to position yourself as the preferred lawyer to call? What differentiates you and your firm from the dozens of look-alike firms in your area?
Since most prospects are time-poor and cash-sensitive, they need to know what makes you better than the competition before they even call.
There’s an axiom that says: The more you do in lead generation, the less you have to do in client engagement.
The most successful lawyers we work with set up systems (part of the ‘drilling deep’ strategy discussed in Part 1 of this article) to attract hot prospects to call their office, and then pre-screen them so that they end up engaging nearly every prospect with whom they meet.
The system does the heavy lifting, and they reap the rewards of not wasting time with tire kickers. The prospects come in pre-sold with just a few final questions to help seal the deal.
Part of these systems is positioning themselves as the best at what they do, and the trick is, they position themselves relative to their particular niche.
Going back to the “Door Lawyer” example in Part 1, the big fear is that if you only market to 30-something Jewish women with two school-age kids who are looking for advice about divorcing their cheating husbands in Anytown, USA . . . Then you’ll miss all the rest of the fish in the sea.
That’s a major, major error, and a rookie mistake you’ll only learn to correct by testing this advice. The truth is, the more clearly you set yourself apart as the ‘go-to’ for a specific niche of people, the more you’ll attract all sorts of people who fall just outside the bulls-eye circle of your target market.
You’ll still attract non-Jewish women who may or may not have children of various ages and be looking to divorce their husband for whatever reason, in any nearby location. You will probably attract plenty of men, as well. Especially when word of mouth gets around.
But picture the advertisement:
“Divorces. You need em. We got em. …Lawyers-R-Us”
In this case, your prospect is just another file on your desk. Not an individual with unique needs and concerns that ONLY YOU can address. You run a mill, and you crank out whatever cases you can get.
Maybe you’re cheaper – but remember, competing on price is NOT a success strategy.
Picture this advertisement:
“Considering Divorce? Concerned about your children? We’re here with answers to the tough legal and financial questions you face. We are the (insert adjective) Mother’s Legal Counsel of (insert county).”
This second ad has focus, gravity, and, therefore, power. When the right reader sees it, she gets it. It’s for her. She’ll call this ad over the first one 99% of the time if she remotely fits the demographic profile.
That’s positioning. And it must permeate all your marketing, communications, and interfaces with your prospects and clients to feel congruent and maintain the rapport that ultimately engages clients.
It’s the difference between a puddle that thins out to the edges and evaporates vs. putting parameters around that same body of water and creating a deep, powerful channel that can turn the water wheel and generate revenue for you.
Differentiation – A surefire strategy to save yourself from falling into the pit of broke lawyers
The other factor that will ensure you are not lumped in with all the other lawyers out there, and allow you to charge far more for your services (which IS a success strategy) is Differentiation, which is distinct from Positioning.
Differentiation is, quite simply, what makes you different from your competition. Technically, it comes down to meaningful and valued ways of distinguishing your services from the guy down the street.
Just because you serve a particular niche and have a fancy marketing strategy doesn’t mean your service is ultimately much different from your competition; you must differentiate.
Areas that you can differentiate yourself include:
Product is the actual deliverable you hand your client when all is said and done. What makes it distinct from the guy down the street?
Packaging like folder, design, color, formatting, organization of documents, quality of paper, the timing of delivery, presentation. It all adds up to the difference between raving fans and disappointed clients who don’t refer and drag out payments.
Service is a natural place to differentiate yourself because, ultimately, you’re in a service business.
What can you do to serve your clients in a boutique way that exemplifies how you feel about them and your mission as a lawyer? Is the service well-orchestrated or slip-shod and frustrating for your clients? How are your client communications handled? Does your staff uniformly match the standards your clients expect?
If you want to position yourself as the ‘go-to’ lawyer, you’ve got to align your service ethic and ensure quality service with every client.
Hours of Operation are a simple way of differentiating yourself.
If you’ve identified a niche that is most available after working hours, then you set yourself apart from the lawyers working strictly 9-5 and attract clients who are grateful you can meet when they are free.
Price – Remember, I said you can charge more when you’re well differentiated?
Well, one key factor that you can use is charging premium pricing for boutique service.
Yes, some people WANT to pay more for concierge-level services, which don’t cost all the much more to deliver, but allow what marketers call price elasticity. This stretches the perceived value much higher than all the other commodity lawyers selling on low prices and leading your prospects to associate that with perceived equivalent levels of service. “You get what you pay for.” (Of course, you better have the service and product level to match the price!)
Going back to the question of niching from Part 1 of the article, one way of differentiating your firm is by choosing a niche that allows you to bill very differently than all the other lawyers.
Most lawyers are stuck in the world of billable hours and hate it as much as their clients. We’ve discovered a niche with a recurring monthly revenue model that clients ADORE. (And no, it’s not Estate Planning, and it’s not flat fee.)
Adore is a strong word, and I meant to get your attention.
Most people hate paying lawyers on the billable hour model. All the more when the bills are unexpected and pricey.
The niche we’ve discovered that works brilliantly is an ongoing, outsourced, general counsel model for smaller businesses. These clients love regular support and a fixed monthly bill that they can easily budget. And, the lawyers who operate in this niche love that they aren’t ‘nickel and diming’ their clients in 6-minute increments they have to track and itemize on every invoice.
They also like the recurring revenue that even a flat fee, one-off transaction-model doesn’t generally provide.
Are you ready to differentiate?
If you’re ready to become the lawyer you’ve always wanted to be, make plenty of money while you do it and finally feel fulfilled by your practice – book a call with a Law Business Advisor – and get your personalized roadmap to building a profitable, sustainable law practice.