Many lawyers, mental health professionals and financial specialists have been trained in collaborative practice and want to build their collaborative practice.
Collaborative Practice is a process to settle cases without going to court and is for clients who want an alternative to traditional litigation. It is not for everyone and it is not the responsibility of collaborative professional’s to “sell” Collaborative Practice to their clients. However, many clients and referral sources are unaware that Collaborative Practice exists and have not been educated on how it could benefit them and their families.
As a result, professionals who have been trained in Collaborative Practice are frustrated about the low demand for Collaborative Law. In my consultation with lawyers and collaborative professionals, I often hear, “I want to do more collaborative cases, but my clients are not asking for it.” or “My clients want Collaborative Practice, but their spouse selected a lawyer who is not a collaborative professional.”
The less clients and referral sources understand how Collaborative Practice can help them solve their problems or reach their goals, the less demand there will be for Collaborative Practice. This means that collaborative professionals who want to attract more collaborative clients to their practice will need to implement new strategies for growing their collaborative law practice.
In my experience working with Collaborative professionals in the UK and North America, I have witnessed the characteristics of successful practitioners and have consulted with those who went from few or no collaborative cases to a significant increase in cases in a matter of 6-12 months.
How do you grow a practice that brings value to your clients, fulfillment to your work and is financially profitable? The following are the top ten strategies for growing your collaborative law practice.
- Define a Clear Vision — Start with a clear vision of what you want your practice to look like. To reach a destination, you must first have one. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve, the more likely you will carry out your plan.
- Identify Your Best Clients — Conduct an assessment of your best and worst clients. Know who your ideal clients are and proactively attract these clients to your practice. One of the best ways you can accelerate the growth of your practice is to focus your marketing efforts on the select few who will bring you the maximum return on your time and financial investment. Be clear on who your best clients are, the problems you can solve for these clients and how you are attracting them to your practice.
- Define your Core Message — Try to avoid an “all things to all people” message about your practice. You will be sought out by desirable clients and referral sources by identifying what differentiates you and consistently communicating what you do so others understand the value of your services.
- Clarify what your Practice Stands For — Build on the foundation of your vision, best clients, and core message to create a “brand” for your practice that conveys who you are, who you serve and the value you provide clients.
- Create a Plan — Resist the urge to embark on random or reactive “tasks” without first creating a road map that gives you direction on where you are going. Take a step back from working “in” your practice to create a plan that is realistic, measurable, and focuses on your most important activities. Specify what strategies and tactics you will use to achieve your goal.
- Maximize the Internet for Attracting New Clients — Assess how many referrals you receive from your web site. If you are not achieving 1or more referrals a month, review your web strategy and make sure your web site clearly communicates what you stand for, what sets you apart, who you clients are and what services and value you provide. Pay attention to your visibility on the search engines and the quality of the referrals you receive. Consider building a blog and participate in social networks such as Linkedin to accelerate your search engine optimization. Try not to allow your web site to become dated or only function as an “online brochure.”
- Network with Targeted Referral Sources — Schedule time in your calendar to stay “top of mind” with key referral sources and professionals in your community. Try to maintain a consistent presence with your referral sources and don’t allow the day to day demands of client work to prevent you from proactively maintaining and developing relationships with essential referral sources. The networking you do today will result in new client work in months to come.
- Provide an Exceptional Client Experience — Your number one marketing strategy is word of mouth marketing from satisfied clients and the professionals you work with. If less than 40% of your referrals are coming from past clients and referral sources, you may want to assess your strategy for creating an optimal client experience. Consider using client evaluations and debrief clients after meetings to learn how your client is experiencing the process. A good marketing plan includes ongoing learning, mentoring and seeking new and better ways to deliver exceptional value to your clients.
- Educate the Public – A successful strategy for growing your practice is built on education. In my experience the key to a successful education campaign for Collaborative Practice includes more than educating the public about the features of Collaborative Practice, it includes educating the public on how Collaborative Practice addresses the issues and concerns that clients have. For example in the area of family law, education should include topics on divorce and how to get the best divorce possible. Write articles about children and divorce, managing the cost of divorce and the value of out of court settlement. Submit article to local publications, blogs and internet forums. Include your articles on your web site and give them to prospective clients and referral sources. Speak on topics about reducing the emotional and financial cost of divorce at local and regional association meetings. Pay attention to current and local events; contact the press about relevant human interest stories i.e. Madonna’s divorce and the trend for amicable resolution and settlements that focus on the best interests of the children. The same education strategy should be used for areas outside of family law.
- Make a commitment to your most important goals – You can achieve your Collaborative Practice growth goals by implementing the above strategies. Your results will be realized through a combination of commitment and accountability. Commitment allows you to reach outside of your comfort zone and provides the discipline that will encourage you to execute activities that will produce your desired results. Your level of commitment will determine your success in growing your collaborative practice.