Many lawyers dream of opening their own practice but are at a loss as to how to go about advertising their services or dealing with administrative tasks without the resources of a larger firm. The Maryland State Bar Association recently presented a Legal Summit Series on Solo Practitioner Marketing and Management to address such concerns, offering practical advice to attorneys who want to strike out on their own. The presentation featured Muriel Tinkler, of Tinkler Law LLC. Ms. Tinkler previously worked as a patent attorney for the government, but during the pandemic decided to transition to elder law and estate planning and open her own practice.
Ms. Tinkler noted that opening a solo practice may not be prudent for people who require a stable paycheck or have no savings. For those willing to weather the risks associated with solo practice, she recommended that they begin by examining the resources they may require based on their internal processes and workflows. For example, they will likely need standard forms and filing systems and may need to purchase billing software, automated case management systems, and employ back-office vendors.
Initial client forms solo attorneys may need are call scripts, initial intake forms, and initial consultation questionnaires. They will also likely need engagement or retainer letters, closing letters, and should consider employing website and email disclaimers. Ms. Tinkler also recommends that people track everything, including referrals and referral sources, clients and client types, and make note of which processes work and which don’t, and successful outcomes.
Ms. Tinkler advised that automated case management is essential for solo practitioners, as it helps them to automate redundant steps, keep clients informed and engaged, and ensure that critical legal steps are completed, freeing up time to focus on legal issues. Additionally, outsourcing companies can provide solo practitioners who do not want or need to rent actual physical offices with virtual offices and mailing addresses, virtual receptionists, temp agencies, and back-office drafting solutions.
One of the biggest challenges newly solo attorneys face is getting their first clients. Ms. Tinkler found that most of her initial clients came from her volunteer efforts, Lawyer Referral Information Services, legal insurance and legal discount companies, and referrals from friends and family. She found less success with marketing firms. She advised, though, that people who wish to use marketing firms should expand their searches to all marketing companies, not only those that focus on legal marketing, as good marketing firms often cater to a variety of clients.
Ms. Tinkler suggested some free and low-cost marketing ideas solo attorneys should employ to build their client bases as well. For example, they can network virtually via LinkedIn. They should also build an elevator pitch that they can use to describe their practice and the services they offer to potential clients. She found cold calling and sending mail to referrals helps many attorneys to get clients as well. She recommended asking referrals three questions: have you worked with an attorney before; if so, what did they do wrong; and what can we do better? Finally, lawyers can use their websites to communicate with potential clients and market their practices.
You can view the presentation here.