Solo Marketing Makeovers: What’s Your Advice?

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?


  1. Leanna on February 25, 2010 at 10:34 am

    As one of the attorneys profiled in the article, I was very happy with the advice. Yes, I have my blog and it brings me clients, but I was still struggling even with that. It was really helpful for me to spend some time analyzing all of the data I’d been collecting about where my clients came from and how much revenue was coming in from each source – blog, referrals, existing clients, etc.
    It reminded me to do more boots-on-the-ground marketing, because the people in my community who refer clients to me aren’t on Twitter and they don’t read my blog. But they are at the old networking breakfast and when they see me, the remember someone who needs me and they pass my name along to that person.
    I certainly won’t stop blogging, but I have made a concerted effort to get back into my networking groups (the ones that actually generate business) and spend time on Fridays visiting the different assisted livings and nursing homes to remind people who I am and how I can help.
    I think the key is to remember that social media is only one tool in our bucket of practice building techniques. Yes, it’s new and shiny and fun and easy to use, but sometimes you need the trusty old standbys, too.

  2. Jonathan Young on February 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I have been a solo for a year now and researched the move for quite awhile before that.
    I believe that you have to better diversify your approach than what was suggested. For those of us in the currently youngest bracket of attorneys (25-30), social networks are our rotary meetings. They are our networking events. So if you skip out on that you miss out on a whole potential client base. ESPECIALLY, in family and criminal law. I, personally, find networking for the sake of networking events and clubs a waste.
    But I do disagree with your sense that Yellow Pages are a waste. At least in my geographical area. It may be different in a large metro area. I track where my clients have heard about me and my modest directory presence pays dividends.
    We are still in the transitional period as a nation towards getting nearly all of our information from the internet. But we aren’t there yet. Leaving out traditional mediums, like the Yellow Pages, can also, like skipping Facebook, make you lose out on a whole segment of the population. But it is a balancing act and you have to be very careful in how you do it.

  3. Carolyn Elefant on February 25, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Leanna – I think that the article is useful for many lawyers for the same reason that the advice was helpful to you: emphasis on the basics.
    Jonathan – Thanks for making the point about Yellow Pages. I actually have heard that some solos get good results from smaller local directories and such; was not aware that the big volumes are still useful. Glad you pointed it out.

  4. Ben Glass on February 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    some of our members are still having success in YP, but it is very difficult…especially if you are running essentially the same ad everyone else is… I’m not surprised at the lack of advice about social media but to not mention video is, in my view “marketing malpractice”

  5. Andy Arnold on February 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I have been a solo for over 15 years. First, solos always feel every bump in the road; income can be uneven, while expenses stay relatively constant. And, it is a difficult balance to market for new clients and to do the work already in the door. Of course, luck has something to do with success as well. But, if you do it right, you can make a lots of money and have lots of freedom.
    I have learned a bunch of lessons; A niche is important, but having two or three practice areas that you focus on is probably a good idea. It helps if they are related, but in the end, it is better if your areas of practice are something you can be passionate about. But, even cases you are passionate about, must pay: So learn to turn down cases. Consider charging a consultation fee (although I waive it for cases I deem most desirable). And, track the sources of your income.
    Present a professional image, which means getting professionals to design your letterhead, biz cards and website. Spend the money on web design, and focus on SEO. Ben Glass is right, video will become indispensable to an online presence. (I will be rolling out several in the next few weeks.) And personally, I think this means not answering your own phone.
    Social networking is helpful, and I believe Facebook to be superior to Twitter and LinkedIn. A blog can bring in cases and help establish your reputation. But, old fashion networking will always be necessary.
    And finally, kick a little ass. Perhaps this applies to litigation practices, but in the end, law is a competition and winning (in the courtroom) is the quickest way to establish yourself as a go-to-lawyer.

  6. web design norwich on August 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I enjoyed reading your information and I now have some really good tips I can use. Keep up the good work!

    Oh, and just in case you were wondering, this is not an automated system, I am a real person with a real business, who always looks to others for advice, as well as offering his own. Thanks. Chris

Leave a Comment