The past year has been unforgiving for many, and lawyers are no exception. The norms of law firm life — strictly logging client hours, attending networking events and conferences, and working long hours in the office — have been rocked to the core. Many lawyers have seen business slow and clients walk away, and we’ve all had to adapt to changes in the way we conduct business. With uncertainty all around, it can be hard to know what steps to take to keep your practice healthy. Here are four tactics to tune up your practice — and avoid unemployment.
Four Tactics to Tune Up Your Practice
You can use these steps to strengthen your practice, retain your clients and even attract new ones.
1. Harness the Power of Video as a Communication Tool
Video is an effective and inexpensive way to stay in front of your clients. We’re all familiar with using videoconference software for live meetings by now. Loom is a video platform you can use to record and send messages instantly.
Rather than sending long emails to current or prospective clients detailing the strategy for their case, I use Loom. It’s more efficient and I’m able to include a personal message to build rapport in the absence of face-to-face communication.
Not quite confident enough to give it a go on your own? Fiverr is a freelance site where you can find someone to quickly create a video for you that won’t break the bank, whether a client video or marketing video.
2. Network (Yes, It Can Be Done Virtually)
Networking during a pandemic is tough. While we miss attending events in person to chat, shake hands and have a cocktail, it’s still possible to get in front of people and put yourself out there — it just takes a little creativity.
LinkedIn groups related to law, professional development and specialty areas are the best option. For example, I belong to a global mobility group for people in the business of or interested in helping people move from one country to another. That’s directly related to what I do as an immigration lawyer.
Beyond LinkedIn, check with your local bar association, national legal organizations and university alumni groups. Chances are those groups are hosting virtual events and it will give you an opportunity to get your name out there.
The best way to connect one-on-one with someone you meet through the new way of networking? Invite them for a virtual cup of coffee.
3. Review Your Spending and Find “Free Money”
Now is the time to cut costs and save money on all the little things. To start, pull the last month’s profit-and-loss statement, say December 2020, and compare it with the same month in the previous year’s P&L, December 2019. Review the report line by line. Where did you spend more money? Did specific expenses increase? Are they worth that increase?
Next, pull your contracts, both short- and long-term, as well as any leases. Are any coming up for renewal? That might be an opportunity to negotiate a lower rate or ask for a discount. You might be surprised at how much money you can save simply by asking.
Take a close look at monthly costs, such as office supplies, cellphone plans and recurring subscriptions. Take an inventory of what is currently in the office and stop auto-ordering those supplies — especially considering fewer people are in the office to use them. If you’re paying employee’s cellphone bills, even if it’s just you and an administrative assistant, call your provider and ask for a bulk discount.
4. Boost Your Profile to Attract New Clients
If you’re struggling to keep or attract clients, consider new ways to increase your visibility and build new relationships. If you have the budget, you could hire a PR pro or a marketing firm, of course. But you can expand your visibility as an expert without spending additional money.
- HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a free service that sends daily emails with a list of topics reporters are seeking to interview people about. If you’re quoted in an article, you can share that content on your website, client newsletter and social media as an example of your expertise and thought leadership. This is an excellent excuse to reach out to your referrals network as well. (See “5 Ways to Leverage HARO to Gain Media Coverage.”)
- Local nonprofit organizations, professional membership organizations and your bar association likely all offer speaking opportunities. Many groups hold monthly meetings, likely virtual, where you can speak to attendees about a specific topic to showcase your expertise.
- LinkedIn is also a resource to find speaking opportunities. You can even crowdsource. Post a status asking your connections to share opportunities they have come across.
With so much uncertainty, it can be hard to know how to prepare for what’s next. These four tactics are a good place to start. Use them as a guide to put yourself in a place to add value to your firm — and stay employed for many years to come.
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