Rainmaking for Small and Solo Firms: 5 Essential Tips

Heavy rain in the city

Rainmaking, bringing home the bacon, chasing cheddar—whatever you want to call it, most lawyers want to find clients, build trust, and attract new business. But most lawyers are also heads down in practicing law, not marketing themselves.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, especially for solo and small firms, but there are definitely tricks of the trade that can help most solo practitioners or small firms. Below are some of the most valuable tips I and other lawyers at our firm utilize. I hope that you are able to take some of what we’ve learned and apply it to grow your own practice.

1. Follow up, Follow Up Again, Then Follow up Some More

I think we often forget that everything great takes time and that we need to consistently follow up. As a small firm owner, we have limited resources compared to big law. It’s not feasible for us to plaster our name across billboards and metro buses. As such, we must find creative ways to follow up and cultivate the relationships we already have.

Our office frequently sends out handwritten thank you cards, thinking of you emails, birthday cards, and holiday cards to current and past clients as well as colleagues. I have found these simple gestures to be very useful to keep our firm fresh in their minds, which usually translates to additional referrals. If you are able to make contact (even unilateral contact) with your friends, colleagues, and past clients at least one to three times a year, you may see the benefits in both the short and long term.

2. Track Your Referrals

Do you know where your referrals are coming from? If not, I highly suggest you start tracking this information now. If you have a system or software program that easily allows you to do this, now is the best time to take advantage of those features. (For instance, our firm uses MyCase, which allows us to customize a feature to track our referral information). If you are spending money for advertising, promotional products, and marketing, are you consistently assessing your return on investment? Are these channels working for you? Is it worth it, or can you spend the money better elsewhere? If you don’t make it a habit to track your referral sources and learn how clients are finding you, you might continue to spend money in places that are not yielding the right results. Remember, it takes about three seconds for you or your staff to ask callers how they came across your name or your firm’s contact information.

3. Put Yourself Out There

You want people to know who you are. It’s great when people know your firm’s name, but at the end of the day it’s your reputation and name that is important for rainmaking and building a book of business.

How can you gain credibility in your field? Is there a way for you to be the go-to person when someone needs a lawyer in your practice area? I understand that not everyone is comfortable with boldly promoting their own name everywhere they go and with everyone they meet, but if you want people to know you, refer clients to you, or engage in your representation, they must first hear or see your name somewhere in order to actually find you.

I’m not a very outspoken person and I find talking about my achievements to be very uncomfortable. What our firm does instead is announce achievements and good news through our social media accounts (predominately Facebook), and our firm website. As such, our firm, AKW LAW, promotes our attorneys and announces their accomplishments. This is highly effective for solo firms, where owners may not want to constantly tout their own accomplishments and achievements in the first-person point of view.

4. Earn Your Street Cred

Today, most clients are very tech-savvy and will research you before they even pick up the phone or meet with you for the first time. This means you should find a way to separate yourself from the thousands of other lawyers competing for their attention. Here are a few ideas to help you stand out:

  • Speaking at CLEs (Continuing Legal Education)*
  • Authoring articles for publications such as NWSidebar, NWLawyer, King County Bar Bulletin, your organization’s publication
  • Blogging about hot topics or recent developments in your field
  • Joining a local or community bar association and taking an active role on the board
  • Volunteering at an organization with a mission that you would like to advance, and taking a leadership role

*If you’re nervous about speaking in front of an audience by yourself, ask a trusted colleague (with complimentary practice areas) to be a co-speaker.

5. Build Trust

If people like you but they don’t trust you, they will probably not refer clients to you or engage in your representation. Trust is hard to earn and easy to tarnish—so cultivate your relationships while building a trusting bond.

One way I’ve found to build trust is to be honest. No one knows everything, so if you are in a situation where you are not sure of the answer to a question, be candid and let the other person know you will research the issue more thoroughly and get back to them. Yes, this may be scary, but I strongly believe that it’s a better option than making up something for the sake of having an instant answer. Surprisingly, I see many lawyers do this too often—especially during the early stages of their careers.

Want to Learn More About What it Takes to be a Successful Rainmaker?

Start the new year with the goal of bringing in more clients for your practice. Join us Jan. 10, 2019, at the Hotel RL Bellevue for a WSBA MentorLink Mixer to learn about the strategies, best practices, and attributes of a successful rainmaker. Get more details about the mixer.

Space is filling up fast—be sure to RSVP by Friday, Dec. 21.