I chose Small Law in order to serve clients in a way that didn’t necessarily fit outmoded ways of practicing law. I wanted to build a client-centric business model that encouraged personal interaction without the pressures of hourly billing. I wanted to provide a high-value service, without sacrificing quality because I lacked the resources of Big Law.
The question became: “How do I deliver legal services in a way that combines the best of Big Law (efficiency, resources, mentor models) with the potential of Small Law?” One thing became clear: I needed to learn from modern technology and crowd source my practice. I needed to build a network of mentor and peer attorneys whom would serve as the informal “partners”and “associates”of my Small Law firm.
You cannot build your small practice in silo. It is absolutely critical to develop relationships with attorneys in vertical practice areas. Your Small Law practice may not offer the suite of services that your clients need, and other attorneys can fill the gaps. Without these relationships, you will not become the “go to”counsel for clients, you will lose them to larger firms who can provide full scope services and miss out on potential referral streams.
I hacked the Small Law system. Here’s how.
What are the first steps?
First, plan your collaboration strategy. List the services (outside of the scope of your practice) that are most needed by your clients. Identify other Small Law attorneys in those practice areas with whom a referral relationship would be a win-win (meaning they don’t practice in your core areas). Then, shift your mindset, and cultivate the relationship with these other attorneys just as you would your client relationships.
How can technology help you out of Small Law tunnel vision and into a collaborative law practice?
Collaborative technologies make it easier to develop and cultivate relationships with a cohort of attorneys:
First, use a tool like Contactually (a customer relationship management platform) to organize your attorney contacts (remember, you are treating them as clients) track communications, stay updated on their social media updates, share articles and more.
You can set up Google Alerts to easily track the successes, “wins” and important client news of your cohorts. Set up an alert for the attorney’s name as well as their firm. Schedule the Google Alerts to be delivered to your email inbox, or set a tickler to check them once a month.
Next, host monthly masterminds with your Small Law cohorts. Share and exchange information on practice management and business challenges that you are facing. Let the group serve as your board of advisors. Uber Conference will do all of the heavy lifting for you (just when everyone got used to Skype and Google Hangouts). Once you schedule a video conference time, Uber Conference will actually dial your virtual attendees at the scheduled time. It’s perfect for the busy, Small Law attorney.
Use technology to build a resource board with your colleagues. Icebergs is a really great (and free) platform. I use it to share book recommendations, quotes, articles, and podcasts with my team.
Lastly, use tech to send your cohorts a greeting card, just because. Why? Because no one ever does, and you can easily stay one step ahead in cultivating these relationships. Sign up for a free account with Postable to handle the mailing of “handwritten”greeting cards.
Now that you have your tools in place, make sure that you set up a follow-up system that is as automated as possible. After all, you need to stay top of mind with your Small Law cohorts but you still have a practice to run. Schedule automated calendar alerts for the following:
- Birthday reminder
- Monthly reminder to check Google Alerts, update the resource board and schedule a Mastermind video conference
- Bi-monthly reminder to send a card to one person on your list
- Quarterly reminder to schedule coffee or lunch (if the attorney is local).
The most important thing to remember is to create a system that works for you, and modify it as necessary. Use the now-future to your advantage, expand your practice by collaborating with other attorneys and use technology to make Small Law big.