Second, you ask a fair question. The last few years have certainly seen an explosion of legal marketing and practice consultants, seminar and teleseminar givers and a variety of self-appointed and "certified" gurus selling themselves and their information to other lawyers. Many are not even lawyers. Some who are (or were) lawyers must sell their marketing services because incomes from their core businesses either never existed, have recently vanished or are slipping away. So, hey, why not be a marketing guru? They see others doing it, maybe even attend one or two of their seminars or marketing conferences to see what's going on, set up a website and, whammo, they are in business. Many have never actually risked a dime marketing and running their own law practices.
Well, I definitely do not need your money this week to pay last week's bills and I've not created some big fat mess of overhead with staff and seminars and tele-seminars all over the place to support infrastructure, nor do I have the time or desire to send three e-mails a week, all pitching the next great thing (i..e., something else that I can sell you). You probably know my story by now. I am a practicing personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in Fairfax, Virginia. I started my own solo practice in 1995 after working for and with someone else for 12 years. I've got a small office about six miles from my house and just a couple of miles from the public high school where three of my kids have graduated and the other six will graduate at some point. I've been married to Sandi since 1981 and in addition to our five biological children, we've adopted four children from China. When I got the "entrepreneurial itch" and started my own practice, I had few cases, a "no fee if no recovery" Yellow Pages ad, and zero knowledge about how to market and build a law practice efficiently.
I learned a few things quickly:
1. Law is one of the most competitive businesses you could be engaged in.
2. There are plenty of vultures out there trying to take your marketing dollar to get your name out there.
3. The legal ethical theorists want you to make your marketing look just like everyone else's.
4. Most lawyer marketing is either so bland as to be worthless or so tasteless as to be harmful to the rest of the hardworking profession.
Fortunately, I was smart enough to understand that just copying what other lawyers were doing with their marketing would amount to nothing more than a huge gamble each month. I started looking at what other successful entrepreneurs were doing to build solid, profitable businesses. I discovered that the most successful business owners were great at marketing their businesses. These men and women simply made a decision to not play in the "we are the best, just choose us; please, oh, please" random chance marketing game.
So I began to change they way I marketed my practice. It was a little scary at first because there was no proven model for this type of marketing for lawyers. I tried to find it! So I went out and spent hundreds of hours and spent tens of thousands of dollars to learn, implement and refine this new way of marketing for lawyers.
I changed everything for my practice, from the message of the website right down to the language we use in speaking to new prospects. Because this had not been done before, it was a HUGE gamble for me.
Today, over 26 years into a very successful law career, the practice thrives, in large part, because of a creative, interesting and compelling marketing program that not only puts my firm in front of other firms in my niche, but puts all of my marketing on autopilot so that I can focus my attention and creativity on turning good cases into great cases for my clients. I no longer worry about where the next case is coming from and, in fact, the most pressing day-to-day problem now is a "capacity problem." I guess I could grow the practice by hiring more people, but I kind of like it the way it is. I come and go as I like, love the clients that I have accepted into my practice and get home in time for dinner. Like I said above, I'm not about to bury myself in overhead if I don't have to.
So why wouldn't I share what I was doing? Here's what was happening:
Lawyers who began to take notice of my marketing and success would call to "pick my brain" or "take me to lunch" in order to get me to show them what I was doing. I enjoyed that for a while. (It was all about my ego!) As my practice got busier and busier and my marketing got more comprehensive, I learned that letting others drop by to "pick my brain" was a huge waste of my time. Most left, and as far as I could tell, they never changed anything. (Too much work, I guess.)
A few, however, asked for more. One day, one of them offered me money to package up what I was doing and give it to them in a notebook. That sounded cool and I immediately jumped to the BIGGER idea: Taking that package and making it available to other lawyers. This would eliminate my having to spend hours on end explaining everything from A-Z, while at the same time permitting those who really want to invest in their marketing education to learn and prosper. This would be "win-win." I would make a little bit of money if they bought, and they could improve their practices if they studied and implemented.
In October 2005, I made the "plunge," putting pencil to paper, and designed Great Legal Marketing. Just four months later, I offered my product to the marketplace by letting a few lawyers with whom I had corresponded over the years know what I was doing. I started small and was vastly underpriced. I began working with a small handful of lawyers and six months later we had our first in-person mastermind group meeting. There we were, eight of us around the table, sharing, for the first time, extraordinary marketing secrets that each of us uses in our own geographic and practice niches.
I was off and running with Great Legal Marketing... but always in the context of a part-time business underneath a full-time law practice and a really full-time family life.