Running a law practice as a solo or small is tough. And that’s true no matter if this is day one or year 12.
The law is easy. But the business of law can be crushing. Every day, you’re worried about more than solving your client’s legal problems. You’re focused on marketing, client onboarding, customer service, billing, etc. Basically, being a solo or small means that you’re tasked with executing the roles of many. So how do you do that while keeping your sanity?
Two things. First, you get crystal clear about the business of your practice. Second, you leverage software and automation to scale. There are countless ways to do both of those things. What I’ll share with you here are 10 of my favorite tips and tools I’ve leveraged on my journey as a solo—seven years and counting.
1. Limit your practice area
Here’s the deal: It’s hard to be Cheesecake Factory. It’s tough to make a fantastic burger, a great pasta dish, a delicious fried avocado appetizer, and an amazing cheesecake. Somehow, Cheesecake Factory has done just that.
But doing the same as a solo or small is near impossible. It’s hard to be great at everything. Instead, limit your offerings. Focus your energy on being great at the few. Let go of being mediocre at the many. Once you do that, you’ll free your mind and your practice to become remarkable.
2. Know that your business is secure
Yes, I’m a solo. But I still want nice things. I want to be able to afford to vacation. To buy pre-sliced fruits. To buy two entrees because I can’t decide if I want the oxtail bolognese or the miso-flavored black cod.
What does any of this have to do with knowing that your business is secure? It’s simple. All great customer service starts with knowing that your business is secure. Great customer service causes people to talk about you and your business. The more people talk about you, the more leads come your way. The more leads come your way, the more chances you get to convert leads to clients. And the more clients you get, the more opportunities you get to tell the waiter to bring you all the desserts so you can taste a bit of each.
Seriously. Believing your business is secure, even if it isn’t, frees you from the feeling of scarcity. It allows you to move out of short-term, survival choices into long-term solutions.
3. Be generous
Once I believed my business was secure, I had room to make one of the best decisions for growing my firm. What was that decision?
I decided to send each new client a tin of freshly baked cookies. My clients made a huge decision to hire me to fix the thing they were stressing over. After having made that decision, a sense of relief sets in. You now have the opportunity to confirm it’s okay for them to feel relieved. A tin of cookies with a note that says, “Sit back, relax, and bite into these cookies while I get to work for you” does just that.
I’ve realized three benefits from this tiny bit of generosity. First, clients share stories of receiving their cookies on social media. They tell their friends about it. That leads to more referrals. And as I said earlier, more referrals lead to more entrees.
Second, clients are more forgiving if there’s a bump in their process. It’s hard to be mad at the guy who sent you cookies.
Third, I had permission to charge more for my services. I now believed that my firm offered clients a premium service. Unlike a commodity, the marketplace permits a premium service to charge more and not offer discounts.
Now, on to the tools I love.
Until last year, my firm’s website was built using a customized WordPress template. WordPress is a wonderful tool. It allows you to somewhat quickly launch a website. But WordPress has a steep learning curve. To customize most things, you have to know a few programming languages, like HTML, CSS, and PHP. If you don’t know those programming languages? You’ll need to hire a designer, which costs money and takes time.
Enter Webflow. Webflow allows you to launch a customizable website fast without knowing code. Since switching to Webflow last summer, I’ve been able to go from idea to published landing page in a couple of hours. While knowing code is helpful, it’s not necessary to build a beautiful, super-customized website.
You know you should write more blog posts for your website. Good, comprehensive blog posts bring visitors to your website. The more visitors you get, the more leads you get. The more leads you get…you already know what I’m going to say.
Clearscope has been a game-changer for my blog-writing process and my business overall. It helps me identify the type of content I need to produce and what topics I need to cover to rank for a particular keyword. I first started using this tool in 2019. Since then, organic traffic to my website has increased by 800%.
Here’s how it works. Consider the keyword “trademark lawyer Houston.” You enter the keyword into Clearscope, and it will produce a content brief. The content brief tells you:
- The search volume for that term
- The total word count you should target
- The topics you need to cover in your post
Clearscope gets this information by inserting the given keyword into Google and then scraping the top 30 search results. Basically, Clearscope tells you, “here’s the content Google is currently ranking for this keyword, and here’s what you need to do to write comprehensively about it.”
The great thing about referrals is that the leads are warm. The person that was referred to you already feels some connection to you. Someone they trust vouched for you. Leads from organic traffic are cold. The person searching for help doesn’t know you. They have no reason to trust you. They just happened upon your website from a blog post.
Enter VideoAsk. VideoAsk allows you to have a conversation with leads using video. Instead of a written FAQ section, you can record videos that answer common questions like:
- What services do you offer
- How to schedule a consultation
- What to expect during a consultation
- How much you charge, etc.
I use the tool on my homepage to ask the lead what service they have questions about. From there, they go to a video that explains that service. They also get the choice to watch a longer video or read a blog post about that service or schedule a call with me.
With VideoAsk in place, I’ve experienced several instances where a lead starts our conversation with, “I watched all your videos. I’m ready to hire you.”
The form on your website sucks. And it’s costing you money. It’s too long. It asks irrelevant questions. Or maybe it doesn’t ask enough questions. And it’s probably ugly and not user-friendly. One or all of those reasons decreases the form completion rate on your site. The fewer forms being completed, the less money you make. A well-designed form changes that relationship.
Enter Typeform. Typeform solves all of these problems. It provides you a beautiful, mobile-friendly form that increases completions by asking one question at a time, like a real conversation. Before using Typeform, my form completion rate was around 67%. After changing to Typeform 18 months ago, my completion rate increased to approximately 93%. The increased completion rate has been consistent since that time. As a result, I’ve spoken to hundreds of more leads than I would have if I relied on the generic forms my website had to offer.
You likely use some sort of law practice management software (Clio, MyCase, PracticePanther, etc.) to track leads and client information. No matter which practice management tool you use, they each effectively have the same core functionality: They use a database to store information linked to a particular record.
Airtable is a database, but unlike those other systems, Airtable lets you build a customized solution to give you granular control over what information is collected and how it’s displayed. It also has the added benefit of allowing for a wide range of automation. You can create documents with the click of a button. You can do the same for canned email updates and text messages. You can even use it to get more reviews and testimonials.
Admittedly, Airtable has a somewhat steep learning curve. But three things help with that:
- Airtable has great help documents.
- There’s a robust community where power users freely answer questions from novice users.
- There are several helpful, explanatory YouTube videos from Airtable experts.
Airtable might be a good fit for you if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty while building the LPM tool of your dreams.
Zapier is my secret weapon.
It’s basically internet glue. It lets different software tools talk to each other. I use Zapier to send Typeform submissions to Airtable and to add people to my newsletter. I also use it to do things like:
- Send email updates
- Create retainer agreements
- Send invoice reminders
- Send text messages
- Create client folders in Google Drive/Dropbox
- Complete pdfs
- Register people for webinars
- Order cookies for new clients
Of course, you could have your assistant do all of these things. But Zapier is cheaper. And it has greater data accuracy. It has less chance of typos and other data entry issues because the data is not being re-typed over and over again. Instead, Zapier takes the information from your database and sends it to whichever tool you’re using. So long as the data going in was accurate, the data coming out the other end will be as well.
Like HelloSign and DocuSign, PandaDoc lets you create beautiful documents that can be electronically signed. But where PandaDoc really shines is in allowing you to embed YouTube videos and payment requests into the documents that you send clients.
Here’s an example. When a lead hires me to negotiate a settlement for their student loans, I click a button in Airtable to send them a customized retainer agreement from PandaDoc. The retainer agreement has all of the standard language I would use in a printed agreement. But it also has a video embedded in it that explains the settlement process once more. It also has a section for the client to make a payment. (The payment tool does not support recurring payments.)
The embedded video helps cut down repeat questions from clients; they have a video of me explaining the process to them. And the payment link limits the steps the client needs to take to onboard. They can sign the agreement and pay the invoice in the same document. Without PandaDocs, I’d either have to take the payment over the phone, wait for them to mail me a check, or send them a separate invoice. My goal is to eliminate as many bumps in the onboarding process as possible. PandaDoc helps me do that.
About the Author
Stanley Tate is a student loan lawyer at Tate Esq LLC in St Louis, Missouri. As a team of one, Stanley leverages technology and automation to help over 2,000 student loan borrowers each year. He may be reached at email@example.com