Growing a Law Practice in a Sluggish Economy

By: Keith Bennett

Problems facing all Law Practices – 2008 through 2014

Growing a Law Practice in a Sluggish EconomyGrowing a Law Practice in a bad economy is possible. I have several clients adding associates and growing their checkbooks. Growth requires focus. Starting about the last year of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama Administration 2007-2008 Lawyers, in particular, have faced a harsh environment to grow their practices. Many law practices had to downsize their associates and staff; downsize their offices and search for new sources of income.

The Elusive Search for Busy Law Sections with Good Cash Flow

It is 2014 and lawyers are still struggling under the continued sluggishness of the economy. All law sections seem affected. Business formation, transactional legal work, estate planning, patent, trademark and Intellectual property lawyers are surely suffering. These law sections fight for an economically-downsized pool of potential clients. During brainstorming sessions with attorney-clients on where we want to grow their practices, I’ve had several legal beagles bemoan: “Why didn’t I focus on practicing criminal law!?” — thinking that Criminal Law probably doesn’t slow down in bad times, but may increase.

Criminal Law SUCKS too! – The grass IS NOT greener if most of your clients are behind bars instead of calmly sitting across your desk. Many of my 20+ year criminal lawyers who seek the “perfect client” — which is often a model citizen who has been charged with a serious felony crime of passion (e.g. the husband that shoots his wife discovered in bed with the pool boy – and Mr. Model Citizen owns a million dollar estate) is a good example of the “perfect criminal client” — one who can rustle up a sizable defense fund.

Unfortunately, those once “perfect” criminal law clients can no longer get a ELOC (equity line of credit) on their home to fund a $40,000 – $90,000 typical legal defense. Instead, they will make a grave error and turn to a Public Defender. Let’s face it. That’s sad for the criminal lawyer’s quality of life AND even more sad for the defendant who will likely receive a longer prison and parole sentence.

Time for a Lawyer Joke?

Things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down by court reporters:
ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks. **

I’ve had estate planning and business lawyers brainstorming how to supplement their current cases who will often consider venturing into the sad and depressing world of divorce and/or bankruptcy — as both tend to increase in numbers as the economy remains lethargic. NO! The grass IS NOT greener over there either. The divorce lawyers I know support the statistic that 50% or more of all divorcing couples forgo hiring a lawyer these days, and those who look for divorce or custody representation shop solely on ever-falling “price points” overlooking, it would seem, frivolous and unimportant things like legal skills and experience.

Do I have to relate to you the sad, sad state of Bankruptcy law these days? The recession that began Dec. 2007 through early 2010 was really devastating to law firms. In 2008 the economy was in a death spiral. The “housing bubble.” The “stimulus.” The millions of properties “under water!” Realtors and Mortgage Lenders were the first to hit the unemployment line. “99 weeks” of handouts if you can fog a mirror – followed by politicians buying votes with 26 more weeks 2.4 years watching Price Is Right and eating Bon Bons.

Lawyers were not doing much better than Realtors in years 2007 – 2010. Struggling to stay afloat, lawyers ventured into the murky waters of loan modifications. What could possibly go wrong? Those who did not get slapped down by a state bar disciplinary action often moved on to filing bankruptcy cases to supplement their cash flow. So many lawyers flooded into the bankruptcy market that as bad as the economy was/is, there were not enough clients to go around. Every lawyer and his brother-in-law was advertising on Google, Bing and Yahoo for bankruptcy clients. To get the phone to ring, lawyers published ever-lowering prices: $999 Chapter 7, $799 Chapter 7, $599 Chapter 7, and even $399 Chapter 7! (Filing fees not included…)

Lawyers using price wars for bankruptcy cases

Upshot? It was like the gas wars taking place in the 1950’s where there were gas stations on each corner of a busy intersections. It was stupid then. It is just as stupid now! The Bankruptcy Law market is forever ruined for those lawyers that had built entire law practices over decades around providing quality legal service for bankruptcy clients. Chapter 7 became a “product” more than a competent legal service. It became a “price point” conveyor belt business. Chapter 13 was likewise turned into a price point product: “$1,299 Home Saver: Save your home from foreclosure!”

Clients in financial trouble lost sight of the real value that a quality lawyer can offer by spending real time, one-on-one reviewing their finances, counseling clients on this life-altering dilemma, taking advantage of otherwise missed opportunities to salvage more assets… It became all about price.

No Need to Flail About in New Areas that Your Are not Qualified

Do What You Do Best! Focused SEO practices can find you NEW CLIENTS

Do what you do best.What I have learned working with nearly 1,100 law firms is that you are usually better off staying in your own lane unless it is a conscious decision to branch out or add an associate to address a complimentary law section. Chasing seemingly easy and potentially-lucrative income streams for sake of needed cash flow can be a road better not taken.

Instead, read more articles to learn about SEO and what elements you need to combine in your own Web Marketing Process to start leveraging the Internet to benefit your law practice. It IS NOT rocket science! It is simple and fun. It is also personally rewarding when you can actually witness daily and weekly growth.

You can see, in real time the actual number of potential clients who are finding and visiting your website and learning that (1) you exist, (2) that you offer the legal services that their matter needs, and (3) witness that some of these new visitors will actually reach out and contact you to see if you are a good fit for becoming their new lawyer.

The cute test that economics or math teachers challenge students:

Which would you rather have $100 dollars everyday for 30 days or a penny doubled everyday for 30 days?

If you’ve ever done the math you’d know. This test is useful for identifying unsophisticated, gullible people who are more likely to fall for get-rich-quick schemes. I mean DUDE! Would you really rather have ONLY $3,000.00 instead of $5,368,709.12! ***

Here is a NEW WEBSITE I am actively working: Notice the Web Visitors are more than Doubling EACH Month !!!

Below – is a screenshot I took while updating this article. It is directly analogous to the —$100 a day or Penny doubled each day scenario. If you have time to market your own firm, you could and should have a very similar measuring-tool always “OPEN” on a TAB of your browser so you can monitor how well you are doing with your own web marketing. Whether you do it, or have someone do it for you, web marketing your law practice MUST BE a life-long process no different than opening the mail each day: otherwise you will always face those days of panic when your case load is dwindling and those panicky-fears of the phone not ringing are gnawing at you.

Website Visitor Growth for a New Site.

More Reading: Cost Effective Ways to Prosper in ANY Economy

  • Get New Clients By Structuring a Patterned Lifestyle (READ MORE HERE)
  • Get New Clients with a Website (READ MORE HERE)

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** from a book called Disorder in the Courts Disorder In The Court!

*** Here is the math laid out all proper-like…

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