Let’s say you’re looking at your revenue for the first quarter of 2017 and it seems low – lower than in past years. The logical part of your brain acknowledges the cyclical ebb and flow of your practice and may even be telling you that everything will be ok – business will pick up. However, you just hired a new associate because 2016 was so busy. A few clients have asked you to scale back on your work with them to save money. In the 25 years I have been working with lawyers, most of them at one time or another have confessed to having a deep (irrational) fear of losing all of their clients.
As a fellow worrier, many years ago, I read a Dale Carnegie book entitled, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” One thing I learned was to try and accept the worst that could happen and plan accordingly. In every instance, I found my most significant worries never materialized. I wasted needless energy worrying about what could happen rather than taking proactive steps to make sure “it” didn’t happen. Case in point, I recently facilitated a discussion with a panel of lawyers at one of our local law schools. One question I asked these seasoned, successful attorneys was, “If you woke up tomorrow and all of your clients were gone, how would you rebuild your practice?” Consider the wisdom they shared:
Step Back and Be Objective
If revenue is down, now is a good time to look at your billings over the past few years. Who referred your best clients to you? What do they have in common? For lawyers who prefer an analytical approach, conducting a financial analysis can be very helpful at putting the current situation into perspective.
Marketing Is a Contact Sport
Make a list of your very best contacts from all areas of your life and methodically reach out to them. Limit your contacts to 20 or 30, then create a mini strategy for each person. Develop messages that strongly and clearly communicate the type of work you are looking for, and what a great client looks like for you.
Systems and Processes
A brief lull in the action can provide a wonderful opportunity for you to work on your business rather than in it. Take time to solidify and streamline the processes you use in your practice. Remember your goal is to have efficiencies in place so you don’t have to work so hard when it gets really busy again – and it will, I promise!
Keep Your Name Recognition High
Now is the time for you to publish blogs, update your LinkedIn profile, add new connections, send an e-communication, and post on social media. While some lawyers prefer to crawl into a little cave of their own making and wait it out, taking action will help you feel in control of your practice and will keep you focused exclusively on the goal of driving revenue into your firm.
Joint Marketing With a Referral Source
Pick one of your really solid referral sources and discuss ways in which you could market together. Maybe their business is down too. You could do a presentation together, co-author an article, host a webinar, speak at an association meeting (reaching clients) or a CLE. The beauty of this idea is that you can cross-pollinate your contacts with your referral source’s contacts, giving both of you exposure to one another’s contacts.
Are Clients Smelling What You’re Selling?
Now is also a good time to ensure the services you offer are viewed by your clients as must-have services. Are you solving a problem that keeps your client up at night? If not, you might want to do some retooling. Have there been changes in the economy that have altered the landscape for your clients? You must adapt to these changes and only offer relevant services your clients must have.
In Twin Cities Business, Liz Fedor wrote about one local law firm that decided they needed to figure out how to compete with the plethora of low-cost online legal services. They ran a special for new businesses offering an unbelievable deal. For $17.17, the firm would handle the new business incorporation and offer legal and business advice to the startups. As a result, the firm would establish a valuable relationship with the potential to grow as the company grows.
I know how easy it is to worry about your future revenue, particularly when it’s down. My hope is that you will gain perspective by looking back and doing some analysis and introspection so you can refocus your efforts positively and proactively on the future. And please, don’t panic. It really will all work out.