This month’s ABA Journal features a piece on the results of marketing makeovers provided to three solos brave enough to bare their practices for all to see. The article summarizes the advice given by two marketing experts to three different solos and follows up six months later to see how they’re doing.
I had mixed impressions about the article. On the one hand, I felt that it offered a realistic view of some of the challenges of solo practice. All of the lawyers depicted have been practicing solo for five years or more, are highly qualified and love what they do. Yet, they still struggle to keep abreast of the rolling hills and valleys that comprise the terrain of solo practice. It’s a very realistic view, and one that’s often overlooked with so much emphasis on get rich quick schemes, and I’m glad that the article exposed it. Still, on the upside, these solos are still in business with the future looking bright, in spite of a few bumps in the road (low overhead and agility make for good shock absorbers) whereas several big firms collapsed or downsized substantially.
So while I liked some of the realism of the piece, nevertheless, much of the advice offered to the solos seemed awfully old fashioned. The marketers did not suggest to any of the three solos that they incorporate social media, Google ads, video or other Web 2.0 and Internet trends that are so common. (The sole exception came in the form of a recommendation to one of the solos who is fluent in Spanish, to offer a bi-lingual version of her blog (which I thought was a great idea). Instead, most of advice focused on old school activities like building and reinforcing referral networks and following up religiously after networking events or seminars. In fact, one of the marketers advised a cash-strapped criminal defense solo hurting for business to take out ads in the Yellow Pages or perhaps a church bulletin. To me, a Yellow Pages ad seems like a waste of money – not only is circulation way down (when’s the last time you consulted the Yellow Pages for any service provider?), but unless you can afford a full page ad, you’re likely not to be noticed. If you’re going to throw down money on ads (which I don’t really advise any), it would be better spent on Google ads or even some of the emerging social media ads rather than the Yellow Pages.
On the positive side, the article emphasized the tried and true measures that have always been effective. These include time management and measuring results to eliminate efforts that are time intensive but don’t produce revenue, seeking out referral sources and cultivating those that have been helpful, keeping up to date with substantive law and considering one’s legacy as an inspiration to stay on task with marketing.
What do you think of the advice given in the article? Can lawyers promote their practices without social media at all? And what suggestions might you have for the lawyers profiled?