Throughout my travels around the country conducting seminars and consulting, I listen to lawyers in smaller firms constantly lament their inability to compete on price in today’s legal environment.
They gripe about the newbie who will work for peanuts just to get noticed…
They’re averse to that ubiquitous legal services website (I won’t mention the name, but it rhymes with legal”broom”) that reportedly sucks out nearly $200 million annually from the law market (which also includes your pocket)…
And then there’s the fact that there’s simply an overabundance of lawyers in the United States – about 1 for every 300 people.
It’s no wonder the overwhelming sentiment is… how am I supposed to compete with all that?!
Alas, there’s Good News!
Actually, you can compete. In fact, you can thrive. Being an attorney myself, with nearly 20 years of law and marketing under my belt, and having provided marketing training for over 25,000 lawyers, I can tell you this:
The way to compete with lower-priced competitors is to not compete with them. Remove yourself entirely from that weight class and move up to the next.
Here are four strategies you can use to put your competition in a headlock and jolt revenues in a big way:
- If you charge on a per-hour or flat-fee basis, it’s time to “raise the roof” on your rates. You might find this advice puzzling because it is counter-intuitive. Conventional wisdom suggests that in order to be more competitive, you should discount your prices, not raise them. Well, conventional wisdom is wrong. At least in this case. While discount pricing might work well for Walmart, it doesn’t reflect positively on law firms. Forget discounting entirely – I want you to give your rates a nice boost. How much exactly is up to you. But most firms can comfortably make a price jump without entering into the “exorbitant” territory – that would prompt a not so friendly letter from your state bar which you certainly don’t want.
By upping your fees, you will accomplish three things: first, you will knock out the “bargain basement” competitors because you will have created a new playing field that will attract more affluent clients; second, you will make more money for doing the same exact work (that’s always a beautiful thing); third, in a “perception is reality” world, you will appear to be a more skilled, more capable attorney. Fair or not, this is how people think: if you charge more than the guy next door, then you must be better.
You will be surprised at the lack of resistance you’ll get from higher fees (even from current clients).
- Pepper your marketing with some personality. Why are you hiding who you are as a person? You shouldn’t. Your identity should be front and center in all your marketing. Where’s your photo? What are some of your hobbies? What makes you different, interesting or unique? What’s your story? Let the world know! Stand out. Be memorable. Believe it or not, all these things make you more interesting – more desirable – to perspective clients. Plus, they help create distance between your firm and your competitors. One of the biggest mistakes I see lawyers make is they market themselves in an entirely generic and antiseptic manner. What a wasted opportunity! Give your firm a unique brand identity that no one can touch.
- Find a small pond and be a big fish. Take these attorneys – Samuel Bearman, Jeffrey Lerman and Jeffrey Hoffer. They are the “Flood Claims Attorney,” “The Real Estate Investor Lawyer,” and “The Divorce Lawyer for Men,” respectively. What do they all have in common? Besides using many of my marketing methods, they have all successfully carved out legal niches that give them an irresistible competitive advantage. Lawyers who bill themselves as general practitioners or a “one-stop shop” don’t have a shot at stacking up against these attorneys in their respective niches.
You can do the same.
It’s infinitely more beneficial for you to be a big fish in a small pond than to be one fish among many in a huge pond. Why? Because people are naturally inclined to prefer the services of a specialist over a generalist whenever it is available (think family doctor vs. cardiologist vs. pediatric cardiologist). By going “micro” instead of “macro” you immediately elevate your skill set to that of a specialist, even without using that word. In turn, that allows you to command higher fees and essentially wipe out your lower-priced competition, including that pesky legal “broom” website.
- The power of the media is undeniable. Why are you watching from the sidelines? Back in 1999 when I appeared on the B cover of Lawyers Weekly USA, I had no idea how impactful a feature cover would be for my business. For a long time after, I received calls from attorneys who wanted to know what my secret was for snatching that cover story. Many years later, I even had one lawyer admit, “I had never heard of you before. But once I saw your picture on the front page, I figured you were the best. I want the best.”
My point is, in this ravenous 24-7 media cycle, reporters are constantly hungry for news stories. They need experts. They want “talking heads.” They need commentators. They seek article ideas. These are all roles that you, as an attorney (especially if you follow strategy #3), can fill with relative ease. Getting the media’s attention is easier than you think. Sometimes all it takes is an introductory email and a little luck.
I will go into more depth on wooing the media and generating coverage in a future article. But just remember: clients want “experts,” “specialists” and the “best.” While you should probably avoid using those labels to describe yourself (due to bar rules), the media has no such restriction. Just one media mention can get your PR wheels rolling.
And when the PR wheels start rolling, the big money usually follows suit.
That’s it for now. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming article on how I generated $1.2 million in free publicity on NBC television. The story is amazing! (To this day, I can’t believe that one little PR trick worked so well.)
Nader Anise, Esq. is a leading legal marketing expert, speaker and coach. He has trained more than 25,000 attorneys in all aspects of marketing and has been featured in media outlets throughout the world. Nader makes lawyers millionaires. To know more about Nader Anise please visit here: http://www.lawline.com/faculty/bio.php?id=353