Stop Practicing ‘Door’ Law: Define Your Ideal Client, Define Your Practice
You experience it every day, but you just can’t find the words to describe it. It’s the thing that’s been keeping your law practice afloat for the past three years or so, but it’s also been the bane of your existence. And you know you need to get out from under it, but you just don’t know how. There’s a name for it—it’s called “door” law.
Unfortunately, many solos suffer from it. But there exists a little-known cure for this affliction, and it’s called the “ideal client.”
Let me explain. “Door” law is something that any of us could fall victim to. It’s the relentless desire to make sure our bills get paid, and that we, along with our families, have a roof over our heads and food on the table. It requires us to accept whatever client walks through our office doors or whatever case falls in our laps for fear of failing to meet our personal obligations.
The disease is most rampant among solos who have been practicing one to four years, although many of us still suffer from this well into our fifth, sixth, and seventh years of practice.
But like all good things, the cure for door law calls for some effort on your part, including a strong commitment to seek change, and the ability to say “no” to clients and cases that you know aren’t a good fit. It’s a lengthy exercise that demands reflection, honesty, time, and exceptional recordkeeping. It’s a quest to define your “ideal client.”
Defining Your Ideal Client
“Ideal client does not mean “most perfect client,’” writes Seattle immigration attorney Alexandra Lozano, author of Be the CEO of Your Law Firm. “Rather, the ideal client is the person or entity you wish to serve the most.” Lozano explains that a tightly defined market for your services is the best way to begin the process of attracting the kinds of clients and cases you really want.
But how do you go about defining and achieving ideal client “nirvana”? Well, the answer to this question could be contained within your existing client files. Start by asking yourself:
What types of cases do you enjoy most?
Are there certain types of cases you would like to handle more often?
What types of clients do you most enjoy working with?
What do you know about these particular clients? Gender; Sexual orientation; Religion; Occupation; Age; Education level; Economic status; Marital status; Children or no children; Native language, etc.
--If it’s an entity:
For-profit or nonprofit; Mom and pop or large corporation; Type of industry (Products or services); Solvent or insolvent; Online or brick-and-mortar
Lozano believes you must walk, talk, live, and breathe your ideal client in order to define that person or entity. You can start with a description similar to the following:
A real estate attorney who wants to negotiate leases for small– to medium-sized retail businesses, which are certified minority or women-owned and have been in existence for less than five years with gross revenue of $200,000 to $500,000.
An estate planning attorney who wants to work with clients who have estates of $2 million or more, with various property ownerships and the need for trusts.
An immigration attorney who desires to work with privately owned hospitals in rural areas with a population of 300,000 or less that are in need of foreign physicians and specialists for children.
How Defining Your Client Benefits You
Knowing what drives you to do what you do every day and which types of clients help keep those pistons firing can bring enjoyment back to your chosen life’s work. Defining your ideal client also can help you focus your marketing efforts so fewer dollars are wasted on campaigns that don’t bring in revenue.
Today’s marketing is a complicated game of cat and mouse. What you don’t want to do is spend thousands on Facebook ads if your ideal client rarely spends time on Facebook. Or maybe you’re paying someone to write a weekly blog when your ideal clients could be better reached by holding a “know your rights” seminar at the local church.
With all the talk of SEO, Google AdWords, video marketing, blogging, and numerous social media sites that suck up so much of your time, attorneys can’t help but be overwhelmed. Reflecting on what makes your law practice worthwhile will eventually place you on the right path to a lucrative and enjoyable practice.