.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Office..."toney" Wacker Drive

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin writes in its August 29, 2005 issue that the toney address for law firms is now WACKER DRIVE. And guess who just signed a lease for an office at 125 S. Wacker? The ("toney) Olson Law Firm, LLC! Okay, so it's not toney because we're there but still, I'm excited. See my earlier post, but we decided to go with the executive suite concept that also has locations in Schaumburg and Oak Brook Terrace.

Business Development and Hiring

There's an interesting article in the August 15, 2005 National Law Journal entitled, Focusing on Business Development, which discusses how many large law firms are hiring more and more nonlawyers to support business development and marketing. The gist of the piece is that marketing departments at law firms are getting larger and that many of these marketing professionals are also helping train lawyers how to pitch themselves.

The article stimulated a couple thoughts from me.

First, as a youngish lawyer in my third year of practice, I do not have that indignation about sales/marketing that I see in many older lawyers. I have actually started to do some paid advertising myself. A good resource in the Chicago area is the Legal Marketing Association. I am not a member, however, their people have presented at a number of conferences and I have actually used many of their ideas and surveys.

Second, question, what's the best mix of employees at smallish law firms? How many lawyers? Nonlawyers? What are the proper roles of the nonlawyers? I am thinking a good about this question right now as I consider making my initial hires. I'm torn between sort of an office manager and marketing person versus a pure legal assistant/secretary. Right now I'm leaning to the office manager/marketing person mainly because it seems to me I need to do a better job on billing/accounting and making sure I have clients and then when things get to really be hopping, add the legal person. Also, I think there should be greater separation between billing/collection and lawyers. I don't want my legal advice to be affected by my knowledge that this client might be behind in payments...leave that to the unbiased office manager. Your thoughts?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

People Marketing - Orange Crush Idea #1

Recent weeks have been spent heavily on developing a very focused marketing plan. This is my current thinking on hitting different groups of people.

1. Individuals. I have recently been reading Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi which is a pretty good general networking book. I'm not sure I can meet the aspiration of NEVER eating alone but I am aggressively pursuing the goal of having at least one social meal and/or activity each week. Also, I have honed my "elevator speech." I have struggled with having a concise and effective pitch when someone asks me, "What kind of law do you practice?" This is my elevator speech:

We represent elderly persons regarding estate and long-term care planning, guardianships and different facets regarding SS, Medicare and Medicaid. We represent persons in domestic relations cases such as dissolution of marriage, custody litigation and child support and any of the innumerable items stemming from divorce. And we represent mid-sized landlords regarding leasing and evictions…plus the still frequent real estate transaction.

2. Lawyer-to-Lawyer. I still have unanswered questions regarding this type of marketing. I have had success using the Illinois State Bar Association's mentor program (for much beyond marketing as well). The two or three mentors I work with have provided a number of referrals to my firm. Additionally I am trying to get together with as many younger lawyers and law school friends as possible. I have observed a good deal of lawyer to lawyer referrals perhaps when there's an area of law which one doesn't deal in or simply when representation is not convenient geographically. I am curious regarding anyones success with the different lawyer-to-lawyer print ads in the different bar publications. Are these cost-effective??

3. Paid advertising. I have decided to place some rather inexpensive paid ads in a couple of niche publications that focus in our practice areas. There's a publication called Senior News that goes out to senior citizens. Also, a local church with which we have an affiliation does some advertising. Last, I am a member of the Chicago Area Real Estate Investors Association which has a monthly newsletter.

Monday, August 08, 2005

In Bill Gates' honor...

This weekend I am taking my first Diet Orange Crush weekend in honor of the great William H. Gates, III. My wife is heading up to see her parents so I will have four-five days to myself to think. The things I want to think about are:

1. Law firm organization. What's the most effective way to organize employees in a law firm? What's the most effective physical organization?

2. Legal marketing. How can we effectively market our elder law practice.

3. Family life. How can I create a balance that is God-honoring, wife-honoring, and also allows me to pursue the frenetic and competitive pace of life I enjoy?

End of representation marketing

During these late summer doldrums in Chicago I have been taking a pretty heavy marketing focus. As a relatively new sole practitioner (launched April 4, 2005) I'm in the midst of an important transition from my initial client group which were mainly client's from my last firm job to the current and future group of pure The Olson Law Firm, LLC clients. I am focused on this question:

Other than a quality result on the substance of the legal representation, what are the most effective ways to generate return business from former clients and also to generate new client referrals from those former clients?

This is what I'm currently doing in the way of end of representation marketing:

1. Close file letter which includes an overview of the various services our firm provides and also includes an overt request for referrals.

2. Two or more business cards enclosed.

3. Twenty-five dollar Target gift card enclosed.

4. Survey to gauge client perception of our legal services.

Some other ideas I'm planning are some sort of discount coupon for return clients, magnets or pens or key chains to keep our name out there, and a better firm presentation perhaps just a nice glossy pamphlet or biographical card. Ideas?

Monday, August 01, 2005

How to office?

My law firm is dealing with a bit of uncertainty which just came about recently. We have been and currently are officed in a lawyer suite at 120 S. State Street. However, very recently the floor's owner (and also a practicing attorney) has decided to join a larger law firm after many years as a sole practitioner and he is also actively trying to rent out the floor and/or sell it. A small part of me is frustrated because we really haven't been at this location too long and just the thought of physically moving is not too appealing. However, on a positive note the pending change has really engaged my thinking as to how a small law firm should be officed and organized. I have been looking at very traditional office options via classified ads in the Law Bulletin. I like the idea of a lawyer suite for a bit of camaraderie. What is proving even more intriguing are these "new" executive suite concepts. We are considering My Office Suite. The set-up seems appealing on a number of levels but notably because it offers you multiple office locations as part of your lease. We could have an "main" office in Chicago but then they also have the same set-up in Oak Brook Terrace and Schaumbug where we can use an office or various conference rooms free of charge. This is appealing as a person whose life is really very suburban focused but likes having access to the Chicago legal community. They also provide the onsite pool of clerical support (granted you pay for it) which seems potentially helpful to a small firm with limited support staff. We haven't made a final decision but we do want to get settled by September 1 or October 1.

Tribune article regarding blogging

Here's an article from today's Tribune regarding the value of blogging. It's nothing new if you've been blogging for any length of time (we're always about 6 months behind here in the midwest, right?) but it does re-emphasize the personalization which blogs provide for small, service-oriented businesses. If you're a small law firm...start your blog!