Mind Your Business

4 ways to grow your new law firm without overextending yourself

  • Print

man holding up four fingers in suit

Image from Shutterstock.

Branching off on your own to run a law firm is a thrilling experience. On one hand, it can be liberating to leave an established firm to create your own brand. On the other hand, knowing that everything rests on your shoulders can be overwhelming in the early stages of establishing your business. Whether you started a firm because you wanted a better work-life balance or because you were tired of working for someone else, every firm leader eventually asks themselves: “What can I do to grow my firm and bring in more clients?”

But before you start drafting a plan to expand your firm into new territories or practice new areas of law, it’s important that you don’t fall into the habit of overworking yourself in order to achieve your business goals.

1. Define a legal marketing strategy

You need to devise a legal marketing strategy so you know which aspects of your brand need to be improved to grow your firm and attract new clients. Identifying the most strategic areas to focus on will prevent you from spending too much time tweaking things that don’t really move the needle.

Your legal marketing strategy should outline the specific goals and metrics that need to be tracked to make sure your brand is reaching the right people and conveying a compelling message to the customer base you’re trying to draw in. This means determining if you want to “market” your entire legal team, just yourself as a firm leader, or a specific practice area.

You should also reassess your target audience and ask whether you want more clients in a certain geographic location, from a specific industry or a range of circumstances that people might encounter and need your services.

Next, identify your main competitors and take a close look at how they are marketing themselves. Brainstorm which qualities your firm has that sets you apart from them and will likely connect with the target audience you defined. Take the ideas you came up with during the brainstorming session and create actionable tasks that can be done to showcase why you’re an authority in your area of law.

Mind Your Business logo

2. Add legal support and delegate tasks

Adding an administrative assistant or paralegal to your firm is crucial to ensuring you have enough bandwidth to keep up with the most critical tasks on your plate. Plus, you will need more hands on deck to help carry out the marketing strategy you designed.

It takes a substantial amount of time to properly execute and refine a marketing strategy that generates growth and increases revenue. Delegating the time-consuming tasks to someone else who can complete them faster will not only help you avoid wasting valuable time and resources, but it will also free up more time in your day to assess and tweak your branding strategy and the customer experience you are trying to deliver.

If you don’t have extra support focusing on the specific tasks you laid out in your marketing plan and instead, you try to do it all by yourself, then trying to grow your firm will feel like a constant uphill battle. But with the right combination of people working to achieve the goals you have set, you can feel confident your firm is moving in the right direction while you’re focusing on more urgent tasks that will boost profits.

3. Update your firm’s website

Your firm’s website is the first thing potential clients will see when they look you up on Google, so it needs to be up-to-date, functional and visually appealing. Do you have a new logo, new staff or different types of cases you want to pursue? Then your website needs to reflect these updates in both its design and content so prospective clients have the full picture of your firm.

Redesigning your website doesn’t have to be a major endeavor if you approach it from the correct angle. Sometimes a minor redesign or refresh is all it takes to stay relevant in your market and to expand into new territories. Adding more content like blogs and practice pages, using different geo locations and keywords, and editing metadata and existing content on low-ranking pages can all contribute to making your firm more visible to clients you are trying to target.

Outsourcing your web design and maintenance is the best way to stay on track with your expansion goals because it enables your support team to focus on the core business objectives and day to day matters that keep your firm running smoothly. It’s also cheaper than hiring full-time IT employees because you don’t have to cover expenses like salary, benefits and payroll taxes.

There are plenty of online marketing firms you can find that offer web design and search engine optimization strategy services for a reasonable price. Most of these companies charge a fixed cost each month and offer flexible terms that can be easily negotiated if you decide to upgrade in the future.

Instead of working with multiple agencies, hire one that specializes in websites for law firms. They’ll have a better understanding of the types of cases and clients you want to attract than a general marketing agency. An agency that specializes in law firms will know how to customize your advertising plan and select the right keywords for your SEO strategy to target your ideal clients and cases. They’ll also have a better idea of what an effective landing page should look like for a law firm and can even create video assets for your site that showcase your firm’s expertise.

4. Craft a unique brand story

If you want your firm to grow, then you need a brand story that people will remember. You can’t just stand behind your case results and expect that new clients will come flocking; you need to connect with and engage your target audience in meaningful ways.

Your brand story needs to tell your audience the following things:

  • Why you got into law.
  • What motivates you to fight for people like them.
  • What you do to give back to the community.
  • Why your service is trusted by people of all backgrounds.
  • How your firm has evolved over time.
  • Specific achievements and examples of why you stand out from the crowd.
  • Videos and photos that portray your firm authentically.
  • Content that establishes your credibility, educates your target audience, provides them with entertainment or answers common questions.

You will need to create blogs, podcasts, videos and social media posts to tell your story and get it in front of your target audience. The content you create needs to be part of a cohesive narrative that links back to your brand story and evokes a strong emotional response from the reader/viewer.

Many firms have started using generative AI tools like ChatGPT to help create content for blogs and practice area pages. However, there are several risks of using ChatGPT that attorneys need to be aware of. The big three are inaccuracy, copyright infringement and ChatGPT’s limited data pool.

Although ChatGPT can quickly draft a blog and save you time, you still need to carefully review and fact-check the content it generates to avoid posting generic, or even worse, inaccurate or misleading content.

Writing a brand story and supporting content requires numerous drafts and revisions before you have something good enough to present to the public. You likely don’t have enough time to be a full-time writer, content specialist and firm leader; eventually you’ll burn out and the quality of one or both of these areas will suffer.

Just like redesigning your website, you should outsource this task to a freelance writer or marketing agency. You can tell them what you want to be included in your brand story and they can simplify your message so it’s easier for people to understand before you send it out into the world.

James DeZao is the managing-owning partner of the Law Offices of James DeZao, a full-service law firm based in Parsippany, New Jersey. DeZao primarily focuses on personal injury law, but he also handles cases in a variety of other practice areas, such as medical malpractice, employment law, motor vehicle accidents, corporate law and real estate. DeZao has four children and three grandchildren and enjoys spending time with his family.

Mind Your Business is a series of columns written by lawyers, legal professionals and others within the legal industry. The purpose of these columns is to offer practical guidance for attorneys on how to run their practices, provide information about the latest trends in legal technology and how it can help lawyers work more efficiently, and strategies for building a thriving business.

Interested in contributing a column? Send a query to [email protected].

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.