The creation of a different type of nationwide online practice.
Lisa Fraley used to be a health care lawyer and litigator, until she realized that type of work “wasn’t where my soul wanted to be.” So she walked away from her job at a prestigious law firm and instead dove into training to become a life coach and then a holistic health coach.
Along with her legal education, she’s participated in a variety of online business and professional certification programs: B-School, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Coach U and Holistic MBA, among others.
And then something crazy happened—the holistic health coaches and entrepreneurs participating alongside her in the training programs kept contacting her for legal advice. She found herself in a completely new world—coaching online entrepreneurs on how to legally protect themselves and their businesses.
So Fraley became a virtual lawyer and Legal Coach, a term she coined and trademarked. Her business is currently 80% referrals and 20% active marketing.
This case study details how Fraley markets her online legal business and brings in new clients.
1. You’re a virtual lawyer—what does that mean?
I’m a Legal Coach—I combine being an attorney with being a holistic health coach.
What happened was I went through training at Coach U and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition thinking I’d be coming out as a holistic health and life coach. Then as I was creating my health coaching practice I had all of these health coaches contacting me and saying, ‘Lisa, you’re a lawyer. We need help knowing what to do to set up our practices. We have no idea where to begin. Can you help us?’
At first I thought, ‘No! I ran away from law. That’s why I’m becoming a health coach.’ But then it dawned on me to combine the two because as an online entrepreneur myself, I totally understood the issues these health coaches were dealing with.
So I combined the two to become a Legal Coach. Now I do legal coaching and health coaching.
I love that we can pull the different pieces of ourselves and the interests that we have to create our own version of a business. I’m really enjoying it.
2. What services do you provide as a virtual lawyer?
It’s a lot of business consulting and strategy, and giving legal tips. In the virtual world we have to be really clear about what we do and what we don’t do.
It’s a balance of knowing where to draw the line. When we are giving people legal advice as a virtual lawyer we’re doing it on topics that aren’t state-specific.
Being a virtual lawyer is a new thing; we don’t have many laws regulating us right now. So I feel we need to have more integrity, and be more ethical and clearer with our ethical boundaries to make sure that we are abiding by state laws.
For example, I won’t represent someone against someone else, and I won’t file something in a court of law in a different state except the one where I’m licensed to practice.
3. As a virtual lawyer, what is the biggest challenge you have when it comes to bringing in new clients?
Most of the work I do right now is one-on-one because I want to make sure online entrepreneurs are empowered by understanding their legal documents and understanding what it is they need in place in their business.
I think the challenge for me going forward is how to move from a one-to-one model to a one-to-many model, and creating some group programs and downloadable programs.
So the biggest challenge in that is being able to reach the greatest number of people in a way that still feels personalized and not cookie-cutter.
4. How did you build up the referral part of your practice? What did you do to get started?
Since I started out as a health coach and a life coach myself, I have a number of colleagues and friends who are also health coaches and life coaches, and they were actually the ones who approached me. They said, ‘Lisa, you’re a lawyer. You understand us, and we need help knowing what to put in place in our businesses to have basic legal protection.’
They would ask me things like, ‘do I need a disclaimer?’ and ‘should I form an LLC?’ I also used the online networking groups I was part of through the training programs I’ve done to get new clients. Relationship building is the reason I have a referral practice.
5. What online marketing techniques have worked best for you?
Guest posting on other people’s blogs has been great.
Another thing that’s worked really well is partnering with other coaches who serve entrepreneurs and online business owners, and letting them use me and my content as a bonus gift for their programs.
For example, I’ve done a lot of podcast interviews where people who work with online entrepreneurs in a group program will gift a group Q&A session with me as a bonus to their program participants.
I’ll get on the phone or Skype with the group and talk about something like Top Three Most Important Legal Protections for an Online Business, and then I answer their questions.
I come up with different topics that pertain to what they’re studying in each program.
I’ve done at least 10 bonus giveaways at this point. It’s a great way to bring in clients.
6. You have an email list, correct? How do you get people signed up on it? How often do you send things out to them? Do you have a freebie that you offer to get people to opt-in?
I have a free gift with opt-in on my website, which a lot of people have found to be helpful. My free gift is a piece of content called The Top 3 Legal Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make and What To Do Instead. So that has been a really great tool for getting people to join my list.
You don’t need to have a giant list to be successful online. I don’t even send newsletters out regularly. I send mine randomly; I’m consistently inconsistent.
I’m still working on building my list, but you can have a successful practice without putting every online marketing piece in place. You just have to focus on the techniques that work best for you.
7. You also do free 30-minute calls. How does that help you land new clients?
I offer free 30-minute legal consultations that I call “Legal Chats.” This has been key.
In these calls I give free legal tips. I help them get clear on what their legal needs are and I answer their questions. It’s so helpful for them because they have no idea what they need; they’ve never talked to a lawyer before.
I offer so much information free in those 30-minute consultations because in my business it’s about giving. When I give value first, then even if that person doesn’t work with me, they will a lot of times recommend me to someone they know.
There have been so many times where I had a Legal Chat with someone and then I didn’t hear a peep from them for six months. Then their friend contacts me and says, ‘you met with my friend six months ago. You didn’t work with them, but they loved the conversation they had with you; they said you were so helpful they recommended you to me.’ This happens all the time.
Part of what makes me approachable is that when people talk to me via phone or Skype, they can see that I’m not a typical lawyer; I don’t look like one and I don’t talk like one. But you can’t always get this insight from a website. You sometimes need to have a conversation with a person.
So the free calls are about giving value and letting them get a feel for my style and my personality, and get a sense of who I am. Sometimes we even laugh, which people never expect on a legal call. That is part of my marketing strategy.
Conversations are important to my business—if I never had a conversation with someone I probably wouldn’t have gotten referred to the five other people that they recommended me to.
I have a six-figure practice from doing free calls and getting referrals.
8. You have a seven-step toolkit on your website. Is that something people download or is it just a menu of the services you offer?
Right now it’s a menu of the services I offer, but I’m in the process of putting together a Legal Protection Starter Kit.
The one I’m getting ready to release soon is called Lisa’s Legal Trademark Toolkit. I created it to help people understand trademark and the steps they need to take before filling out a trademark application. This is a self-paced info product that people can do in their own time.
For online entrepreneurs most often our business model is one-to-one legal services, but we need to figure out how to also offer one-to-many services. Anytime you can work with group programs or offer a downloadable legal product you can reach a greater number of people and make a bigger impact.
This passive revenue stream—or passive income—is an important part of being an online business owner.
I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs one-to-one. Now I’d like to reach more people through tools that have a lower price point or that allow them to do the program on their own time.
9. Does being a trailblazer in the virtual lawyer and legal coaching world help you attract people to your business?
Yes. Many people have said, ‘I can’t believe that someone like you exists.’ They’re so relieved that there’s someone who can help them with the legal needs of their holistic business.
It’s a little daunting to be a trailblazer in some ways because there’s no model to follow. You can’t look and see what someone else has done or what works for someone else. So far I haven’t come across any other lawyers who also have coaching certifications.
It’s exciting to blaze a new trail, and I think people are drawn to me for this reason.
10. Do you have any additional tips to share?
As a lawyer you’re taught to represent other people, to advocate on your client’s behalf—so it’s not about you. This is key to marketing your practice online.
When you’re a traditional lawyer in a law firm, it’s sometimes about the firm, but it’s not about you as the lawyer. You’re just the vehicle for getting information to your clients.
But when you’re an online entrepreneur—like a virtual lawyer—you have to be visible. As an online entrepreneur, you are your business.
Your personality is your business, and it defines how you choose to market yourself. Personality is a big part of what attracts people to work with you.
And so it’s about finding ways to be comfortable being visible and being comfortable showing off your personality—because now it is about you as much as it is about the clients you’re working with.
If you aren’t comfortable with being visible, you’re very limited in how you can grow your business online.