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Home / 2011 Practice Management Guide / How to grow a solo practice on a budget

How to grow a solo practice on a budget

Attorneys recommend a mix of traditional and modern social techniques

By Nancy Crotti
Dolan Media

You can post, link and tweet all you want, but growing a practice on a budget comes down to old-fashioned marketing, according to veteran solo practitioners.

Susan Minsberg, who does commercial litigation, employment and family law in St. Paul, Minn. said she doesn’t discount the value of social media to connect with people and let them know what you do, but warns against relying on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

“Those are only entrees to get to people,” she said. “What’s it’s really all about is building relationships. A lot of times the younger lawyers who have grown up with computers think that it replaces personal relationships and face-to-face relationships, and it doesn’t at all.”

There are several other ways to build important relationships, Minsberg advised.

  • Start with friends and neighbors, letting them know you have hung out your shingle and what areas you specialize in.
  • Get involved with electronic mailing lists and meet-ups of solo and small-practice lawyers in similar and different practice areas. But with those in similar practices, be careful what you post online in case an opponent also is on the mailing list, she advised.
  • Reach out to other solos or small firms you come in contact with. Minsberg told one lawyer she admired the woman’s website. They had coffee and Minsberg said she eventually got some business out of it.
  • Meet lawyers from larger firms. They may be able to pass on work in areas they don’t do or cases that are too small for them.
  • Keep track of where your work is coming from so you know which marketing strategies are working and which are not.
  • Spend four hours a week on marketing, including promoting others’ work when you know it’s of high quality.
  • Blog, write articles and teach seminars
  • Acknowledge that building a practice is a process.

Additional tips

Bob Striker, practice development director for the Minnesota State Bar Association suggested small and solo firms try email marketing through a service such as mailchimp.com. According to its website, Mailchimp offers 12,000 free emails per month for users that have fewer than 2,000 people on their mailing list.

Striker also suggested joining organizations that relate to your practice area and volunteering within those organizations.

“Those typically have a fairly low cost or it’s money worth spending,” he said, “so that you can get experience in areas where you’re practicing, such as a trade group.”

Sometimes marketing style and effectiveness come down to the area of law you practice, said Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Ryan Garry. He said he does not advertise or spend too much money on his website because most of his work is word-of-mouth.

“I guess my version of marketing is trying to do a good job for my clients,” Garry said, “trying to fight very aggressively to win their cases, which in turn, turns into more clients.”

Though it’s hard not to get hung up on the bottom line, Garry said, he encourages solo practitioners and small firms to put in the effort to market their business.

“You can cut, cut, cut,” he said, “but if you spend time growing your business, talking with people and networking with other lawyers, I think that’s time better spent for a young lawyer than time spent cutting costs.”


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