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Building the Law Practice of Your Dreams

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This was not your usual workday lunch.

One of the most successful personal injury lawyers in New York agreed to have lunch with me. We were complete strangers and I was totally up-front with him from the get-go: I told him that I was there to find out what has made him a success. I was going to pick his mind and hopefully leave with a couple of gold nuggets that I could use for my practice. I call this “Modeling the Masters”—and it’s surprising to some that top-caliber lawyers are willing to share their best tips and advice.

As I walked into this lawyer’s office, a few things stood out right away: his desk was spotless. There were no papers strewn across his desk—in fact, there was nothing on it. The lawyer’s office was organized and clean and it’s my guess it always looked that way. Before the usual exchange of pleasantries, one thing was clear: this lawyer’s work day was structured down to the minute with an agenda that he set in advance (I know this because it took months to get a lunch date with him).

As we got to know each other over lunch, I asked very bluntly for the two or three things that made him successful. Rather than worn-out clichés of “work hard” or “never give up”, the lawyer gave it to me straight. The lawyer held nothing back by telling me that he had tried just about every marketing tactic and for the most part, they didn’t work.

An Epiphany

Where can you find an investment where you can invest $1 and get $10 in return?

When the lawyer was struggling to launch his practice, he settled a big case and used the funds to focus on one marketing tactic: radio ads. The lawyer didn’t just dabble with radio ads, he went all in by spending $100,000 (even when money was tight).

The radio ads weren’t loud or obnoxious, but conveyed a clear message: “We care about you.” Each radio ad had a different story and one ad was more successful than the next. New personal injury leads came in and the lawyer began experimenting with new ads and investing more money in radio.

Over a two hour lunch, the lawyer confided in me: for every dollar he spent on radio ads, he made $10 in return. Wow! Where else can you find an investment where you can invest $1 and get $10 in return? Nowhere! But this never would have happened if the lawyer hadn’t experimented with different types of marketing and eventually find one tactic that worked in spades.

The Real Key to Success

You’re thinking just what I was thinking: building a great injury law firm can’t really be that simple. And you’re right, it’s not that simple. The lawyer confided in me that many have tried to copy his marketing tactics with little success. Lawyers enter the world of radio advertising and are chewed up and spit out in short order—they spend big bucks for 3-4 months, get no return on investment and move on to something else.

That’s when the lawyer started chuckling and shared with me the gold nugget that I came for: he knew these other lawyers would fail. You can’t spend 3-4 months on a market medium like radio ads and expect to see instant results. The lawyer shared with me, “You have to drive it into the ground.

As it turned out, the lawyer took a year or two to see any results from his radio ads. But the results were nothing short of amazing and the lawyer kept pouring more gas on the fire. The lawyer’s total commitment to a single marketing tactic launched one of the most successful personal injury practices in the state.

Why Copycat Marketing Sucks

The gold nugget from one of the most successful lawyers in our State was two-fold:

#1Experiment with a lot of marketing tactics and find out what works best for you.

#2Once you find something that works, drive the sucker into the ground.

But it’s a mistake to think that just because a marketing tactic worked for one lawyer that it will work for you. We have different practices and our ideal clients and prospects may be completely different—you may want the slip and fall or motor vehicle clients, while others (like me) try to get cases involving severe injuries caused by medical malpractice. Marketing that works for the lawyer down the street may be a total waste of money for you. That’s why copycat marketing sucks.

In June 2010, I sat in a large conference hall at the annual seminar of Great Legal Marketing. The speakers gave great tips for internet marketing and mass marketing tactics and while I loved the content, I realized that the “ideal client” of the mass marketers was very different from mine. My best cases didn’t come from injury victims—they came from lawyer referrals.

But not just any lawyer—my ideal client is a personal injury lawyer who doesn’t do medical malpractice. An “Ideal Client” who won’t just refer a single case, but will refer a steady stream of new cases for the rest of my career. So I decided to stop spending money on mass marketing (yes, that means no yellow pages ad) and I began focusing every dollar marketing to personal injury lawyers in New York.

Driving the Sucker into the Ground!

For every newsletter, I receive two to three new referrals from lawyers

In January 2010, I began writing a monthly newsletter for lawyers, Lawyer Alert. At first, I was skeptical about the value of a lawyer newsletter, so I limited my expenses and time by doing quarterly newsletter. Turns out a quarterly newsletter accomplished nothing and after a year, I was ready to give up.

But rather than giving up, I cranked it up to a monthly newsletter and after about 12 months, I finally started seeing the results. Lawyer Alert is mailed to 714 lawyers on the 28th day of every month and it helps keep me “top of mind” with my top referral partners, so when the big malpractice comes in, they will know whom to call (yes, I have ulterior motives). For every newsletter, I receive two to three new referrals from lawyers and the return on investment for my newsletter has been far better than any other marketing tactic.

It’s been three years since I started a monthly Lawyer Alert and there is no doubt it is the best thing I’ve ever done in my career. Had I given up with the quarterly newsletter, Lawyer Alert would not exist. Driving the sucker into the ground is why Lawyer Alert exists!

Begin with Your ideal client

It all starts with a picture of your ideal client. Who is the person or lawyer who sends your best cases to you? You need to be crystal clear about who that person(s) is and write down their names and draw a picture of them.

Be very precise by listing your ideal clients’ age range, geographic region and in some cases, their practice areas and size of their law firm. The list of your ideal client might just be five or 10 people, but if they refer you a steady stream of new cases, that’s all you need. Once you’ve got a clear picture of your ideal client, it’s time to market like crazy to them.

Providing content-rich, valuable information to your ideal clients is the best way to market to your ideal clients. Give your ideal clients something they can use to grow their business--this might consist of seminars, newsletters, parties or podcasts. But the key is to experiment with different marketing tactics, find what works best in bringing new cases to you, and discard the rest.

Paying It Forward

We’re all tempted to hold back our top secrets and that makes sense, you’ve worked hard to find marketing and business tactics that work for you. You’d be crazy to just give your secrets away, right? Well, maybe, but that’s exactly what the most successful lawyers do…and come to think of it, that might explain why they’re successful

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