We are all busy practitioners but there is busy and then there is busy.  Effectively marketing your FDP practice will help you improve the quality of the work that comes in and that quality improves the quality of the work that goes out.   The better the work product the more likely that quality work will come in.  It is circular in that respect.  My late senior partner James MacDonald often reminded me that the best marketing is a happy client.   I continue to subscribe to that theory, but in today’s highly competitive world, I believe that we all must do a little bit more.  The question is, what works and what doesn’t work?

First the basics:  beyond the happy client, here is a to do’s list:

  1. Join groups and/or organizations outside your field of expertise.  Contacts in unrelated fields are more likely to refer matters to you.  For years there was one particular social worker who constantly appeared at OBA dinners.   The majority of the audience were family lawyers and this social worker made a lot of valuable contacts.  He received many referrals from those contacts;
  2. Write Articles and Publish.   Your credibility among your peers is elevated by writing skills that lead to publication.
  3. Speak at Programs and CPD.  Again, visibility is critical.  Let your peers know that you are worthy and able to present in your field in a meaningful way.
  4. Say thank you, especially to those who refer and to clients.  Every referral is worthy of at least a genuine thank you.
  5. Remember your referral sources.   Stay in touch in ways that you are comfortable with and don’t forget holiday well wishes at the appropriate times.
  6. Be the best that you can be.  Sounds easy but it isn’t.  Every professional contact, every client meeting is an opportunity for you to shine.  Don’t miss the opportunities.
  7. Volunteer.  Beyond the obvious importance of giving back to your community in a way that you are comfortable with, contacts made while volunteering are valuable.
  8. Connect with Peers.  Make contacts among more senior members of your profession.  Not only is mentoring critical but as these senior members begin to wind down their practices, there is great opportunity for files to be passed down to you.  Also, there may be opportunities to work on files with that person.  Great learning opportunity.

What about the social media world?  A word of caution.  There are plethora of companies and individuals on the internet making wild promises of “making you or your firm number 1”!   There are lots of people on the net who want your money.   You can achieve visibility on the internet without spending a fortune.  Linkedin and Facebook offer great opportunities.  Have a Facebook page for your company or firm. Have a profile on Linkedin.   Make sure that your company or firm website is attractive and publish content on the site.  Clients surfing the net are drawn to content.  This brings us back to writing and publishing.  Meaningful and informative content published on your website can and will promote you and your company or firm.  Update your site often and use a consultant.  It is worth the investment to make your website a magnet to surfers.  Consider a Twitter account and use it.

Here’s a surprise (to some of you).  Your billings and collections methods are opportunities for marketing.  The best work done for a client can be forgotten if you over bill or if your collection methods are not respectful and client focused. Marketing your practice calls for rational and orderly billing methods.  Spell them out in the beginning of your professional relationship, bill regularly and listen to client complaints about your billings.  Be accommodating and open to adjustments when called for.   Quality work for a client together with fair and reasonable billings are almost a guarantee of a client ready to refer new clients to you given the opportunity.

In closing my advice to you is to market in a manner consistent with who you are and how you want the public to perceive you.   For myself, I could never be pictured on the side of a bus or on TV promising to “fight for you” (although the side of bus may be good for my ego).  Choose carefully and in accordance with your comfort level.   Project through marketing your company or firm mission statement.  Focus on mission will bring in the type of clients you want.  You will be busy and you will be “good” busy.  Best of luck.

Gary S. Joseph leads the Family Law Firm of MacDonald & Partners LLP as Managing Partner and Chair. He is a   Certified Specialist in Family Law.  He was called to the Ontario Bar (1978) and is a Member of the Alberta Bar (1985).  He also received his LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Osgoode Hall Law School.

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