This general practice firm found at startup two cost-effective ways to bring in a steady flow of new business.
Building a practice is always challenging. That is why when Cameron Gharabiklou and Nicholas Lewis started the Justice Law Group right out of law school, they leveraged every connection they had. They found that one of their best assets were their law school classmates.
As Cameron put it, “A lot of my law school colleagues ended up in the same town in larger firms that dealt more with corporate level matters, and so whenever they had somebody in the firm who needed a referral, I was lucky at having those people refer those individuals to me.”
The biggest challenges Justice Law Group faced as they started were:
- Finding new clients
- Getting those clients to review them so they could leverage the reviews to land more new clients
Find new clients. When Cameron and Nicholas started the Justice Law Group, they had a lot of connections with lawyers at local law firms. Many of these firms had cases that were too small or not in their area of expertise that were farmed out to smaller firms.
Obtain online reviews. Next, they wanted to make sure the clients they did pick up from the larger law firms could be turned into more business. They turned to review services like Yelp to do this.
“Believe it or not, a lot of people still are not savvy enough to use Yelp. Whether they don’t have a Yelp account or they can’t recall it, whether they don’t want to take the time to establish a Yelp account to comment or whether once the matter is done they just don’t want to deal with it. It’s not a large issue in their mind, and so when you ask them to leave a review they say – yeah, sure, absolutely. I’ll definitely take care of that and then it just doesn’t happen.”
Here’s how Justice Law Group handled these challenges.
1. Stay in contact with law school friends for leads
As we mentioned before, sometimes it pays to be the small firm, because the larger firms will not take certain cases that can be solid moneymakers for a small firm.
“It’s pretty common in a larger firm, especially those that handle higher-end litigation. At the end of the day an attorney within the office, which may be anywhere from 10 to 150 attorneys, will shoot out a firm wide e-mail that says – ‘Hey I have a friend or a colleague, or I need a referral for somebody who handles real estate matters. Does anyone have any ideas?’
I was lucky that those were sent in my direction and I responded quickly. I made sure to be on the ball as any person starting a practice would be. And business fell in my lap.”
However, it was not just Justice Law Group receiving leads that led to success. They also did their best to be the first ones to follow up on the leads.
“Whether it’s a referral coming in or a direct phone call from a prospective client, quick turnaround is key. Especially in today’s world with online options, people are calling and reaching out to 5 or 6 different offices within 5 to 10 minutes of the beginning of their search. If they aren’t getting an answer, they’re leaving a voicemail and they’re moving on. So it’s important to get back quickly and much of that is also having the expertise or knowledge to be able to talk to clients about the situation. This is probably the most important aspect. Getting back quickly – if you don’t do that then your knowledge doesn’t matter.”
2. Use Yelp as a way of turning leads into repeat and new business
“We were a referral-based business. We also networked as any small business would and Yelp was something that just started on the side. Yelp was a natural outlet early in the development of the customer referral business.
“People check that information and beyond that, being able to link to our website off of the Yelp reviews is a double plus. People can see the reviews from third parties and then go to our website and see the success we’ve had and get an understanding of who we are, what our biographies are, and review our case studies.”
Justice Law Group has been on Yelp since 2009 and never had a paid account. The key to good traffic on Yelp has more to do with reviews then how much you pay Yelp.
“That’s one thing I’ve always really stuck to. It’s a free account. Yelp reaches out quite a bit [for the paid accounts], especially if you start getting some good reviews. There’s nothing wrong with maximizing the potential reach, but I’ve always stuck to a free account.”
3. Use your website as your biggest promotional tool
“So we exclusively market through Yelp, which is more passive, and then our website. We don’t spend money on advertising, at least as of yet. We don’t put our name in publications, billboards, anything like that. Our website has become our number one source of marketing.
“We have dabbled, and I really stress dabbled, in paid Google ads. We have also dabbled in Facebook advertising. But for the most part what we did from day one was we made an effort to make sure our website was optimized to work well in its natural form. We were lucky in having a close colleague/friend who was willing to work with us on it, and do it in a way that was economically efficient for us. He did a great job. And so our site ranks quite well when you do a natural organic Google search.”
The Justice Law Group website has turned their website into a lead generator — from the case studies and testimonials prominently listed throughout the site to how easy it is to contact the firm about your case.
They use the vCita WordPress plugin (see image).
“It’s important to have a good website. People will search you out, and if you don’t have a good site you’re going to lose business.
“You need to make connections. You need to get out there and network. People need to know who you are. But the bottom line is, you have to be good at what you do. If you don’t produce results from day one then all the other things can only get you so far.
“One of the nice attributes of our website is that we’re able to display our successful client recoveries. People can see what we’ve done and that’s important.”
30% of Justice Law Group’s business now comes from Yelp.“Maybe this is a little naïve but my belief is you can’t control what they say on Yelp. Yes, you can have a paid Yelp account and probably make your Yelp presence a bit stronger, but the goal is to get good reviews. So number one – you need to provide a good service so that you actually have clients who are happy.
“And number two you need to make sure that you have that ask at the end of the representation when you’re shaking hands and everyone is thanking each other and walking away happy. You need to make sure that you ask – hey listen, I’m going to shoot you an e-mail with a link to my Yelp page. I’d really appreciate it if you could leave me a review.”
After having the chance to digest what Justice Law Group did to build their practice, here are the three steps they took for success:
1. They built up a large network of peers who would be a referral engine for their law practice.
2. Getting the referral was not enough. Once they received a lead they would quickly follow up and do their best to help these new clients with their legal challenges.
3. Once they helped clients they then would ask them to review their Yelp page to get more referrals. With just a few really good reviews they have been able to generate 30% of their current business from Yelp.