Nakia Gray is the owner and founder of a successful virtual law firm: Nakia Gray Legal, P.C. Nakia is committed to helping creative entrepreneurs and artists establish and build a profitable business by protecting and leveraging their creative work. Nakia has over 10 years of marketing and legal experience, including building a successful law practice. She has been recognized as a Top Attorney by Maryland SuperLawyers Magazine and Washington, D.C. SuperLawyers Magazine in each year since 2013.
What are the top three tips that would you give to a lawyer who wants to leverage technology in her efforts to become a successful rainmaker?
The first tip that I would give is to invest in a really good website. Your website is your virtual storefront, and it is often a potential client’s first interaction with you and your firm. It is a powerful part of your business. So take the time and the money to invest in a good website and online presence.
Second, take advantage of the systems that are available to automate your business. People laugh at me because I have a system for everything! I have an intake system, a client management system, and I use an email marketing system. I use every system that you can think of. Some lawyers think that these systems are overly technical or that they will make running a law practice more challenging, but it’s not hard at all. In fact, it makes my life much easier because my business almost runs on autopilot.
So the third tip is actually number one, and that is to take advantage of the ability to use virtual staff. I have a team of virtual employees who work remotely but we are all connected by the internet. I am often amazed at how many solo practitioners or even small firms don’t use this.
What is (or was) different about you, or your firm’s use of technology that has helped you to become a successful rainmaker?
When I worked at a traditional law firm, there was very limited use of technology in marketing. Outside of the firm’s website and an internal email system, we did not use the internet for lead generation or communicating with clients. We were not blogging consistently. We weren’t on social media.
So in growing my virtual practice, I have generated a tremendous amount of business from social media, which is free. Social media is definitely an underutilized marketing tool at many traditional law firms.
My virtual practice is also different from many traditional law firms because I use an automated marketing system, which allows me to make a significant amount of passive income. I recognize that a generation of Millennials is moving into the legal marketplace, and they are very smart and technologically savvy consumers. They believe that they can use the internet to do anything, and so an internet-based marketing system allows me to reach them more efficiently than the methods that are often used at a traditional law firm.
I also have grown my book of business by knowing where my ideal clients are online and being right there with them. For example, because so many of my ideal clients are on Facebook, I do some paid advertising there and I am a member of several Facebook groups. You have to be where your client is.
How much time do you devote to online marketing? In person marketing?
I focus primarily on internet-based marketing, but I don’t discount traditional marketing efforts like local bar association speaking engagements, seminars, and direct mailings. I believe that it is important to market with other lawyers and many of them do traditional marketing.
What types of community activities or professional groups do you leverage to grow your client base?
I am on the board of a few nonprofits. I believe in giving back. I do a lot of community outreach through my church, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the parent-teacher association at my children’s schools. People are always looking for lawyers, so I often get involved in organizations where I may be the only lawyer in the room.
If you could engage in only one type of internet-based marketing activity for the next 12 months what activity would you choose? Why that activity?
I would choose webinars. Video marketing strategies offer a high conversion rate for many reasons. I can use them to establish myself as an expert and to add value to existing client relationships. Also, potential clients get to see me and get a taste of who I am. It really an effective way to give both existing and potential clients that trust factor. Periscope is the newest rage, Blab, which also offers live video streaming, and of course YouTube are all great tools for video marketing.
How did you get your first client?
My very first client was from a Facebook referral. I enrolled in an online business and marketing course for modern entrepreneurs, which included a Facebook group component. It was in this Facebook group that people would constantly ask legal questions and group members would write: “Nakia, you’re a lawyer. You know this. How do I do this or that…” People just started asking me all of these questions and I realized that these people needed a lawyer. I agreed to help one group member copyright his collection of essays and the next thing I knew, people in the group were tagging me in their legal questions and I was the resident lawyer.
Can you provide an example of how you converted a question like that, in a Facebook group, to a paid client?
So a person posted a trademark question in the group and then another group member, who is a client of mine, tagged me in it. I responded to the client who had tagged me by thanking her and then I congratulated the other member on taking such an important step in developing her business and gave her a very brief explanation of trademarking. Then, I posted a link in the group along with an invitation for her to use the link to schedule a free 15-minute information session with me so we could discuss her legal matter a little further.
This approach did two things. First, it allowed me to start building the client relationship without putting too much pressure on the client. Second, even if she never clicked the link, all of the other group members now had access to the link because it is posted in the group.
After the free information session, I just explained the process to her and then I gave her the price of my trademarking package and we proceeded from there.
How did you get your most unexpected client?
A few years ago, I started following a law student on Twitter who had started a blog about the terror of being in law school. She and I would just communicate on Twitter but about a year later, we found out, through Twitter, that we were on vacation in the same city on the same day. So we agreed to meet in person and she introduced me to her friend who was an entertainment attorney. Since that meeting, we all stayed in contact. The entertainment attorney contacted me some time thereafter about one of her clients who was a film maker, and asked me if I was interested in helping her executive produce her client’s film. I of course agreed, and now we are going into film production in a few months.
What other “closing the deal” tips have you found to be effective?
Closing the deal requires confidence. It requires the art of giving value without giving so much that the person does not actually need to hire me. I always speak with authority, but without being bossy. I speak in terms of what we are going to do. For example, “at our next meeting we will…” etc. So the client is already thinking that we are going to work together.
A few years ago, I went back to school and earned a Masters Degree in Strategic Communications at American University. I learned the power of words, and messaging, and communicating and how important it is to use the right words. That course work was invaluable! The way that I speak and what I say, whether in writing or orally, makes such a difference in making the client feel comfortable and confidence is so much of that.
Describe some of the technological obstacles that you had to overcome when you first started your virtual practice? How did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle that I had to overcome was trying to incorporate my old estate planning practice, which included mostly clients who were not tech savvy, into my new virtual practice. What I had to learn was to be true to myself and true to my brand. I am branded as a modern lawyer with a modern law firm. I understand my clients’ online businesses. I get that we don’t have to meet in person. I get that my clients are busy and that they rather just Facetime or Skype. But I was conflicted with being that modern lawyer and still agreeing to meet my estate planning clients at their houses to sign their wills. I had years of building that book of business and it was hard to let it go. I had to get comfortable with the fact that my practice was going to be limited to the clients and legal matters that fit my brand.
In what ways has technology and/or rating based websites like Avvo affected your marketing of legal services?
I don’t really subscribe to Avvo or other rating based websites, but I realize that at some point I will have to embrace them because there is an opportunity to rate every place that consumers go and every service that they purchase. Thankfully, I don’t think that the general public relies on attorney rating websites as much as they rely on websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor for other types of services.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting your career as a lawyer today, what is one thing that you would you do differently?
I would start branding myself, personally, with my own website and blog in law school. Don’t wait until you graduate or get too deep into your career to look for a niche or to create an online presence.
What books, podcasts, or apps would you recommend to a lawyer who is interested in using technology to grow her practice?
- My own book of course: 100 Ways To Market Your Law Practice On A Shoestring Budget by Nakia Gray
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- Pilot to Profit: Navigating Modern Entrepreneurship to Build Your Business Using Online Marketing, Social Media, Content Marketing and Sales by Lisa Larter
- Boss Women Pray: 31 Prayer to Increase Your Success & Spirit: The Comprehensive Prayer Guide for Entrepreneurs & Women in Business by Kachelle Kelly
- The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer
Apps: I use Google Apps for Work for everything! I would also recommend using a system for scheduling like vCita. A case management system like MyCase or Clio. And systems for marketing and project management like 17hats, Asana or Infusionsoft.
Any other rainmaking advice?
My number one tip is to ask for more! As women, we don’t “ask” enough. Ask people for referrals, even people who chose not to hire you. Ask clients for to complete a survey or provide a testimonial before you close their file. If you just ask for more business, then you will get more business!
About the Author
Sakkara Turpin is an attorney at Polakoff LLC, a boutique real estate, leasing, finance and business law firm in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or endorsement by the ABA or Women Rainmakers.
(Feature Image Credit: ShutterStock)