There’s a lot more to becoming a successful divorce lawyer than it may seem.
As I’ve grown my own practice and trained divorce lawyers around the country to grow theirs, I’ve discovered that there are a few consistent mistakes that all new divorce lawyers make that prevent them from finding the success that they want. Even though you went to law school for three years and took at least one family law course, don’t assume that you know all there is to know about marketing your family law practice-even if you have been practicing law for a while. There’s a lot more to growing a successful divorce practice than it might at first seem.
#5 – Don’t Market First to Financial Professionals and Marriage Counselors.
Marketing to such professionals right out of the gate is the most difficult path to ramping up your new divorce practice. Unless you have a special connection to them, reputable financial and mental health professionals have already established their trusting relationships with the leading divorce lawyers in any given city and it will be a long time before they are likely to recognize the value you can bring to their clients. They are also extremely concerned about their reputations and hesitant to refer to an attorney whom they don’t yet know.
A newly-minted divorce lawyer will be far more successful marketing to the young lawyers whom they already know (perhaps from law school? from the Young Lawyers’ Division?) who are launching practices in areas unrelated to the divorce arena. These folks often need a family lawyer to whom they can refer their clients, someone whom they know, like, and trust not to steal their clients in unrelated matters.
Also, reaching out to specialists in other areas unrelated to divorce makes a lot of sense. I’ve had more clients referred to me over the years by personal care professionals (such as nail technicians, hairdressers, weight loss experts, and cosmetic surgeons) than by any other type of professional. I focus more on effective marketing techniques in my book, From Rookie to Rainmaker, How to Grow Your Law Business, available at http://www.openpalmpress.com/product/rookie-rainmaker-grow-law-business/.
#4 –Research, Buy, and Learn Your Family Law Software.
Software that computes your child support and organizes potential equitable distribution schedules, among other things, is certainly the most common software used by divorce lawyers, after QuickBooks and Time Slips (and similar accounting and client management programs). Yet I can’t tell you how many young lawyers work hard to bring in their first divorce cases and, when they do, are completely overwhelmed by the decisions: 1) which family law software to buy and 2) how to employ it, once they do. Such tools often require a steep learning curve that one only masters with practice. Do yourself a favor and research which software to buy before you find yourself under the gun with a client who wants answers now. Then create fictitious situations to process and practice using the software. Don’t get caught flat-footed when a complicated case suddenly appears on your desk.
#3 – Get Your Office Systems in Place.
When young divorce lawyers start out, they’re so focused on signing their first clients that they forget that they had better know what to do with them when they do! Before you even think about marketing, you should create your new client onboarding procedures, as well as a structure for how you will work together. Spend some time on constructing client processes for different scenarios so that you (and your staff, if you have one) are well prepared for your first cases. These systems are critical to creating a successful law practice. You can learn more about how to set up these systems in one of my recent best-selling books From Lawyer To Law Firm at http://www.openpalmpress.com/product/lawyer-law-firm-manage-successful-law-business/.
#2 – Dedicate Either Time or Money (or Both) to Your Startup.
It’s a well-known cliché that when you start any business, you have to have at least one of two things – time or money. If you have the time, you can do your own paperwork, build your own website, manage your own social media, perform your own accounting, and otherwise do-it-yourself on almost all aspects of building your business. But if you’re not willing to dedicate the hours (maybe you have small children at home who need you, or you came out of a big law firm where it was all done for you and you just don’t have the interest), you’re not likely to have the bandwidth for all that. In that case, you had better have the funds to hire people to get it done for you. Although you can run a successful law firm today without a legal assistant and without a physical office, no business can be legitimate now without a quality website and a social media presence. Other critical startup costs will include software, insurance, corporate formation documents, etc.
#1 – Don’t Become a Divorce Lawyer Because It’s Easy.
By far, the biggest mistake I’ve seen any divorce lawyer make is to pursue the divorce niche because they think it will be easy. If that’s your primary motivator, you will fail. This work is hard! It’s emotional, time-consuming, complex, and sometimes overwhelming. Dealing with clients who, as the judges say, are at their very worst in divorce court will burn you out in record time if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing and why you do it. The most successful family lawyers have been personally touched by divorce; they are compelled to have a positive impact on the system and to help people during the worst time of their lives to have more successful outcomes. That’s why their pitches are so appealing! (To find out more about how to craft a truly marketable pitch, read my book, From Rookie to Rainmaker, How to Grow Your Law Business, available at http://www.openpalmpress.com/product/rookie-rainmaker-grow-law-business/.
If you’re considering becoming a divorce lawyer or adding a divorce niche to your practice, be aware of these mistakes and ensure that you go in with your eyes wide open. And if you’re looking for more resources to help you build a successful law business, check out our books at http://www.openpalmpress.com/product/.
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About this week’s author Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.