Note: The following is an excerpt from a new eBook titled 15 Ideas for Getting a Jump-Start on 2015 which is freely available with registration.
I’m often asked about the most effective approach to take when building a law practice. While there are many different ways to go about it, my answer is always the same: the best thing you can do is find what will work best for you.
To figure that out takes some introspection and, of course, hard work to see it all come to fruition. But it’s a powerful and usually eye-opening way to learn who you are and where you want to go as an attorney and a practice owner.
These are the questions I asked myself when starting my own practice, and I think they’ll work well for you also.
1. What is my target market?
In other words, who do I want to hire me? When I first started my construction law practice, my target market was large contractors in Southwest Virginia. I did not want to target small subcontractors or home builders. However, as the firm and my experience grew, so did my target market. By the end of my career, I was focused on the Top 100 transportation construction contractors in the United States.
2. What do I want to be hired to do?
At first I wanted those contractors to hire me to litigate their contract disputes. I did not want to handle construction accident cases or anything else covered by insurance. Later in my career I wanted transportation contractors to hire me to negotiate, arbitrate and litigate their contract disputes, help them avoid contract disputes, help them with design-build and innovative financed projects, help them with ethics programs, help them with disadvantaged business enterprise issues and a variety of other day-to-day issues. Again, as your experience grows, so do the reasons you’ll be hired.
3. What do I need to learn to best serve my clients?
By knowing every aspect of your target market’s business, you’ll be better able to serve – and anticipate – their needs. When I first began my practice, I focused on gathering cases. I had notebooks filled with every highway, bridge, rail and airport construction contract case I could find. I also focused on construction management and built a library, and I learned how scheduling was done on big projects. Later I learned how highways and bridges were designed, bid and constructed and what caused failures. Finally, I learned about innovative financing and design-build issues to round out my skill set and knowledge base.
4. How can I become visible and credible to my potential clients?
My first step was writing a law review article and speaking at an ABA Annual Meeting. Soon after, I began speaking at state and local contractor association meetings. That led to speaking at national construction association meetings. That led to me being asked to write a monthly column for Roads and Bridges magazine. By the end of my career, I was clearly known by every contractor in my target market. With today’s growing world of social media, blogs and thought-leadership opportunities, it’s becoming easier – and more important – than ever to make yourself known.
5. What are my best referral sources?
The best referral sources for me were association executives. Thinking outside the box, I also focused on equipment dealers, bankers, accountants and surety brokers who focused on transportation construction. That group became my network.
As you can see, growing a successful practice is as much about asking the right questions as it is having all the right answers for your clients. I sincerely hope this approach to planning can work for you as well.
The complete eBook, with 14 other expert viewpoints, is freely available for download with registration here.
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