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Starting a Law Firm | Update on Law Firm Marketing | Mailbag

Daily thoughts on law firm success.

Starting a Law Firm | Update on Law Firm Marketing | Mailbag

This post is from the first blog I started, called “How to Start a Law Firm.” Over the years I’ve moved to different sites a few times and wanted to catalog all of my content in one place. If an article refers to a link and there is no link, sorry, that’s consequence of the move. Enjoy!

Before I get too far, I wanted to tell you I answered a couple of questions and updated my pricing schedule for the new law firm internet marketing service I’m offering. Click on the link to go check it out. I’ve already got one person signed up, there’s only room for one more, and I’m not joking about this when I say it could be a game changer for your practice. But enough about that. Let’s get on to the good stuff.

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I got a couple of good questions from readers, so I thought I’d spend today answering them. I’ve found that this is a good way to talk about some thinks I might not have though about or to readdress an area I may not have been too clear on. If you’ve got a question, leave it as a comment and we’ll talk about it on here. And, since these are reader questions, if you’ve got your own experiences, please share in the comments. The more the merrier!

Starting a Law Firm and the Phone System

Here’s a comment from Anonymous, who says:

Great blog – enjoying the wealth of info.

One question – you have no physical phone lines in your office so is it safe for me to assume that you are using your cell service for Internet connectivity? What type of cell service plan do you have?

This comment came from the post on (link provided for quick reference), and I’ll do my best to answer it, though I’m not precisely sure where the commenter wants me to go with it.

Yes, I don’t have any physical phone lines in my office. I use a combination of Google Voice and Skype for my set up. Google Voice provides the phone number, Skype provides the feel of a physical telephone system (ability to forward, etc.).

As for internet connectivity, it is not safe to assume I am using my cell phone for internet connectivity. Where I live, we have internet delivered through cable, just like TV. I believe it’s called DSL, or was called that. I have internet in my office, set up to a wireless router, that provides all of us with internet service. When a call comes in to Google Voice it is forwarded to my assistant’s Skype number and she then answers it and deals with it as if it came directly to her. If I need to take the call she can forward it to my skype number or to my cell number (I typically have it forwarded to my cell in the office out of pure convenience to myself).

That’s how it works.

To answer your specific question, I have an iPhone 4 through AT&T. I’m on the original data plan that has no limit for $30 a month, and my phone service I think is about $65 a month. That’s it.

Starting a Law Firm and “Dressing for Success”

Another recent comment that I thought I’d talk about comes from Ian, who says:

Hi Jim,

I’ve been following your blog for awhile and I can honestly tell that you have a gift for it. Kudos to you!

Reading your latest post a question popped into my mind that you tangentially touched upon in the past when you talked about your buying an iphone when you started your firm in order to portray the right image with clients.

How important do you think the accoutrements of what people (and other lawyers) perceive as success in a lawyer (the Rolex, the BMW, the Gucci loafers, whatever) are in building up business? We all heard the adage “dress for success” but I’m curious to hear your take on things.

I’m coming to this issue as the driver of a Dodge Caravan (for me it doubles as family vacation vehicle), the wearer of an (admittedly Swiss) watch that cost about $250 and an occasional shopper at Jos A. Bank when they’re running big sales, etc. I gotta admit that even in my mid size town (population 250,000) I sometimes feel a little put down at attorney meetings where the parking lot usually looks like an import car dealership, so I’m wondering what your thoughts were.

Cheers and thanks for all you advice,

Ian

This is a tough question to answer as it may apply differently to different people, depending on your practice area and things like that. But here’s my take.

First things first, first impressions are everything. People are going to decide a lot of things about you, right or wrong, based on what they think of you the first time they meet you. The great thing about this is you have the opportunity to control pretty much all of the variables surrounding meetings. The bad thing is you have the opportunity to control pretty much all of the variable surrounding meetings.

When people meet an attorney for the first time they have a lot of stereotypical things built up in their minds. Some of these things are good, some of them are bad. The key is to sit down and think about what stereotypical things your clients will be thinking and accentuate the good and delete the bad.

For example, I’m in criminal defense. When people think of criminal defense lawyers they typically turn to what they’ve seen on television – well dressed, smooth talker, a “shark,” untrustworthy, sneaky, and some things like that. So, when they first come to meet me they are immediately trying to size me up to see if I fit into their stereotypes – if I fit in the right way I get hired. If I don’t, they’ll “think about it.”

So, I make sure when I meet with clients, almost all the time, I’m wearing a suit. And a suit that makes me look good. The idea is to present an aura of success, of confidence. That’s what they need in their attorney, and that’s one thing that will make them feel comfortable.

Second, I make sure my office is nice, not overly done, and inviting. I want them to feel at ease, feel like I have no problem paying the bills (which I don’t) and feel like I’m sitting in my office slugging it out for my clients on a daily basis (I am). I don’t want it to be over the top because I don’t want them thinking about how I paid for all the stuff I’ve got in my office. I want them to listen to me.

Now, where first impressions aren’t made – the type of car you drive; how much your suit costs (please, though, spend enough money on a suit so that it looks good on you – if you don’t feel like taking on the world in that suit, move on to the next or get it tailored – there’s no reason to look like a slob); and anything else you can think of.

I drive a 1997 Toyota 4Runner. It gets me from point A to point B. When I meet clients and potential clients, I don’t typically show them my car. I also don’t tell them the price or make of my suits. I don’t own a watch. I have nice shoes, because nice shoes make for a nice suit, but I didn’t spend over $200 for them.

I think at the end of the day, it all comes down to meeting client expectations. If you’re worried about impressing other attorneys, I wouldn’t worry about it (unless, of course, they fall into client expectations). Whenever I see some guy with a nice car I don’t think he’s better than me or more successful than me, I just think he’s a car guy (they should see my golf clubs!).

When you’re starting a law firm it’s important to look established, like you’re organized, but it’s not important to throw off a fake air of success. Just put yourselves in your potential client’s or current clients’ shoes and go from there.

That’s it for the mailbag today. What do you think about these two topics? Have a question about something else? Let me know!

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