Running your own legal practice can be daunting for any attorney, but it can be especially difficult for new and transitioning estate planners. This may be due, in part, to the knowledge gap between what attorneys learn in law school and what they need to know in order to run a law practice. To fill these gaps, it’s important to educate oneself on what the current best practices are (so they can be implemented), as well as what the common pitfalls are (so they can be avoided). Here are some basic tips for fresh-faced law graduates or transitioning attorneys looking to build their own estate planning practice.
1. Don’t go it alone.
Like all areas of law, the estate planning field is organic rather than static. As estate planning strategies are completely dependent upon current legislation and legal precedent, attorneys must stay on top of, and better yet, anticipate these developments in order to provide competent legal guidance. Trying to do this alone, especially as a new estate planner, isn't the best strategy. A more savvy approach involves finding an attorney (or two) who has a successful estate planning practice and is willing to mentor you. Not only can a mentor provide you with practical, substantive advice, but they can also be your co-counsel until you feel comfortable enough to handle matters on your own. To find a mentor, consider joining your local estate planning council where you can network with and learn from like-minded professionals. You may also wish to join online listservs, such as the ABA’s Real Property Trust and Estate section. WealthCounsel also offers a nationwide community of estate planning attorneys, who will help you navigate this complicated area of law.
2. Have an elevator speech ready.
A common pitfall that even seasoned estate planners make is not treating every social interaction as a potential marketing opportunity, whether you are at a cocktail party with friends or at your child’s school event. In order to do this, it’s imperative to have your elevator speech ready. An elevator speech is a short, persuasive speech you use to capture the interest of your listener. When crafting your speech, think about your unique selling position, that is, what makes you unique and stand out from other competitors. Don’t just say, “I’m an estate planning attorney.” Instead go with something like, “I help families protect their wealth and keep it safe for future generations” or perhaps, “I help families build their financial legacy.” Ultimately, you want to be memorable but succinct. Remember, anytime someone asks you what you do, that’s an opportunity to utilize your elevator speech and hook a potential client.
3. Cast a wide net.
When it comes to attracting and engaging clients, many attorneys will make the mistake of thinking either too short-term or too long-term about their marketing efforts. In order to start covering overhead costs, newer practices do need to focus on immediately bringing in clients. But, they also need to invest time and energy into marketing techniques that lay the groundwork for acquiring future clients.
To start finding potential clients now, attorneys can turn to retail marketing, which involves promoting awareness about your services directly within your community. One way of doing this is to give presentations to different organizations within your city. Possible ideas to get started with are:
- Working with your local library, senior center, churches, temples, or chambers of commerce to give patrons presentations on the importance of estate planning.
- Calling your child’s school or contacting PTA organizations in other school districts to discuss giving a presentation to parents on topics, such as the importance of naming guardians and protecting assets for their minor children through wills and trusts.
- Using Facebook Live and other forms of social media for delivering online presentations on estate planning topics to your followers, as well as to a wider audience. Be sure to check your state’s ethical rules regarding social media advertising.
Another technique you should immediately incorporate into your marketing arsenal is referral marketing. This oldie (but goodie) method involves establishing relationships with other professionals who are likely to refer their clients to you. Because it may take time to see any return on investment, it’s important to begin establishing these relationships now, so that they have time to grow. While you work on determining which referral sources are the most lucrative, begin by establishing relationships with a variety of referral sources, such as accountants, financial advisors, insurance professionals, and attorneys in noncompeting fields. Referral relationships that are mutually beneficial tend to be more successful. So, it’s important to follow up regularly with them, share tips to help them grow their own practice, and even refer clients of your own to them.
Building a successful practice takes time, resources, and effort.
Download our Insight Brief “5 Essentials for New Estate Planning Attorneys” for a list of essentials to start a successful estate planning practice.
4. Invest in intelligent technology.
Some of the most important decisions you should make at the time you start your estate planning practice involve the processes you will use to draft and store your documents. When it comes to document drafting it’s important to avoid both the “cut and paste” method (which is a recipe for a malpractice lawsuit) and the “starting from scratch” method (which is the most inefficient drafting method). To avoid these pitfalls, consider investing in a legal drafting software, such as Wealth Docx®, which automates the drafting process and produces high-quality documents in a fraction of the time.
Another worthy investment should be in creating a website for your practice. A website establishes your credibility by giving potential customers information about your practice and what you can do to help them. Also consider investing in a document scanner, which will allow you to have a paperless office and keep all of your files easily accessible on your computer.
WealthCounsel offers a number of resources to new and transitioning attorneys. Whether you need state-of-the-art drafting software, legal education, practice development help, or a community of fellow attorneys to turn to for practice advice and guidance. We want to be the one resource you’ll ever need. Click here to learn how to join the WealthCounsel Family.