26 Jun Why employed solicitors need to start building their own practice now!
It used to be a ‘nice to have’, but now it’s pretty much essential: employed solicitors need to market!
Everything that is happening and has happened in legal practice over the last ten years emphasises the extent to which employed solicitors need to start building their own client-facing skills, their own networks and their own practice as early as possible in their careers. The trends which support this include:
- the systemisation of legal work
- the commoditisation of many legal services
- ever stiffer competition for clients and referral streams
- the shortage of jobs for younger solicitors
- the dynamic fluidity of the market – with practices failing, starting, merging and restructuring everywhere
- the growth of law practice flexible resourcing in terms of part-times, casuals, consultants and contractors
- ever higher turnover rates and quicker job moves
For me, everything points to the need for employed solicitors to do more in the marketing and business development space – for both themselves and for their practice.
Why practices need employed solicitors to build their own practices
There’s more than one way to market, but with ever stiffer competition, law practices need to look at every opportunity open to them.
Even acknowledging the growth in importance of digital marketing, established law practices still generate 80% of their opportunities from traditional, organic sources such as client referrals, professional referrals and strategic alliances, networking and channel marketing.
This activity is primarily linked to the individual – and there are natural limits to how much principals can do in terms of both time and the number of reciprocal referral relationships that can effectively be nurtured. Those referral relationships and networks will likely be centred around personal factors, matching demographics and rapport matches: it can be very difficult, for example, for a mature principal to build the same easy rapport with younger generations of clients and referrers.
This is where employed solicitors can help. Yes there are mindset challenges, time and productivity challenges, training etc., but tasking employed solicitors with doing more marketing can help blast through the principal bottleneck and release opportunities with new referrers, new networks and new markets.
Why employed solicitors need to market for themselves
It can be a struggle to get all employed solicitors to embrace the marketing challenge – but they will only be doing themselves a favour.
Both individual and practice success depends increasingly less on legal knowledge and skills, and increasingly more on client-facing and business skills. Legal knowledge and expertise are increasingly easy to acquire, so making the difference more and more are the ability to communicate value, convert opportunities, generate referrals, build networks and more.
Solicitors need these skills not just to do their current job effectively, but to justify their value to current employers, increase their appeal to future employers and give themselves the option of starting their own practice. Employed solicitors cannot rely on staying in the same role for any period of time – and need to give themselves choices career by developing the appropriate skills.
What if they build their own practice – but then take it with them?
What if we help them ‘build a practice’, but then they leave and take clients with them?
Yes, a good question, but for me the advantages easily outweigh the risks. Which would you choose:
- an employed solicitor with limited practice building skills who will likely lose you clients and diminish opportunities for as long as they work with you?
- an employed solicitor with practice building skills who brings you new clients and opportunities for as long as they work with you – with the likelihood that you will retain a significant chunk of those clients and opportunities after they leave?
OK, so let them go, wish them luck and work on retaining as many clients and referrers as you can. Then recruit someone else who can open up yet more opportunities for you.
Want to learn more?
Register now for Practice building essentials – a workshop for junior solicitors, Brisbane, July 19.
Or contact me on 0404 266174 / [email protected].com.au to discuss in-house training for your team.