Lessons from Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp

Last week I spoke at the King County Bar Association Solo/Small Firm Success Strategies CLE.  I participated in the Basic Training/Bootcamp Track for newly admitted lawyers, and was fortunate enough to follow Joseph Shaub, a terrific speaker.  Joe’s presentation was peppered with great marketing tips which I’d like to share.

What Are You Good At?

Joe challenged the audience of newly admitted lawyers to come up with a marketing plan that suited their personality.  In Joe’s words:  Think about what you’re good at – everyone is good at something.  Are you a:

  • Writer?
  • Speaker?
  • Schmoozer?
  • One-on-one advisor?
  • Joiner of organizations?
  • Leader of organizations?

Find your strength – that is your marketing plan.  Do what you do well.   Find what is unique about you.   If you go outside your comfort zone, it won’t work.

How to Woo and Keep Clients

Joe also described David Maister’s four step process for wooing and keeping clients, which goes far beyond most lawyer’s perceptions of client service:

Court Clients

Tend to your clients needs.  Offer pleasant surroundings, greet clients warmly, and make clients comfortable.  Your office should be inviting and professional.  If you have a family law practice and your clients bring young children to appointments, have coloring books and other suitable toys on hand. 


Clients should come away thrilled with your work.  Be prompt and responsive.  Take a personal interest in your clients.  Draft bills that are informative and justify the fees you are charging.  Remember – most clients don’t see any of the work you are doing.  Your bills should paint a clear picture. 


Maintain a relationship with your clients after the work is done.  Make a call or drop clients a letter or e-mail nine to twelve months after the file is closed.  Ask how they are doing. 


Is there any greater gift?  Most clients just want to tell you their story.  Let them share it with you in their own words, without unnecessary interruption.  Also lend an ear to the market at large.  What are you hearing?  With the current economic crisis, many people have postponed filing for divorce – they simply can’t afford it.  Can you adjust your practice in some way to accommodate this reality?   

How to Create a Professional Mission Statement

Joe shared a 30 minute exercise for creating a mission statement, courtesy of Washington attorney Terry Leahy.  This is one of the easiest approaches I’ve ever seen to this potentially daunting task.  Here it is.

Part One (Ten Minutes)

Rank the values listed below on a scale of 1 to 4:  1 not important, 2 important, 3 very important, 4 extremely important.

Achievement, ambition, adventure, affection, beauty, broadmindedness, cheerfulness, cleanliness, competence, competitiveness, comfortable life, cooperation, courage, creativity, discipline, economic security, equality, exciting life, fame, family happiness, family security, forgiveness, freedom, friendship, happiness, health, helpfulness, inner harmony, integrity, involvement, intellectual, logic, loving, loyalty, mature love, national security, order, peace, personal development, pleasure, polite, power, recognition, religion, responsible, salvation, self-respect, wealth, and wisdom.

Part Two (Five Minutes)

Identify the values you ranked as very or extremely important.  Make a list of each (very important values grouped together; extremely important values grouped together).

Part Three (Ten Minutes – Allow Two Minutes Per Question)

Next, complete the following five statements.  Write down the first thought that comes to mind.

  1. What I always dreamed of being or doing was:
  2. My three or more greatest gifts or talents are:
  3. The things I feel quite passionate about are:
  4. The most satisfying moment in my professional/educational life so far was when:
  5. What made that moment personally satisfying to me was:

Part Four (Allow Five Minutes)

Using the answers from Part Three, complete the following sentence: 

My mission is to apply my gifts (which are                                        ,                               , and                                                                )* in advancing that which I deeply value (                                                           ,                                               , and                                                    )** in the service of                                                                  .***

* See your answers to Part Three, item 2.

**See your answers to Part Three, item 3.

***Consider all the values you listed as extremely important from Part Two.  Also consider persons or groups you deeply desire to serve and/or causes or ideals you deeply wish to advance.

In closing, Joe reminded the group to stay true to themselves and strive to develop a practice consistent with their personal values.  Good advice, I’d say! 

Copyright 2009 Beverly Michaelis

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp

  1. Pingback: Business Essentials « Oregon Law Practice Management

  2. Pingback: How to Write a Mission Statement in 30 Minutes or Less « Oregon Law Practice Management

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