JDB 077: How Can a Solo Lawyer Compete with the Big Law Firms?

Untitled design (1)The numbers just don’t add up.  How can a solo attorney or a small firm really believe that they can compete with the big law firms and their big advertising budgets and in-house marketing departments?

Along time ago I was meeting with a yellow pages saleswoman (this alone should tell you how old this story is) and we were discussing this very topic – competing as a solo bankruptcy attorney against the large local law firm that filed by far the most bankruptcy cases.

The salesperson told me that the big firm’s marketing budget was over $12 million per year – spending on average more than $1 million per month on billboards, yellow pages, bus advertising, Phoenix Suns basketball sponsorship, and the list went on and on.

And there I was choking as I was told it would cost $4,000 per month for a one page ad in the yellow pages.

The question bears repeating, can the small firms even hope to compete with the larger law firms when it comes to attracting clients.

The answer is yes, you can compete, but it will take some work and altering the way you view what you have to offer as compared to your larger well-financed competition.

Here’s how…

Surf the Long Tail

Did you know that approximately 70% of searches are done with “long tail” keywords?  Long tail searches happen when the user searches using a phrase or multiple keywords.  Often lawyers will get discouraged when trying to rank on the coveted first page of Google because the big firms with their big marketing budgets seem to own the top spots.  My suggestion is to forget the big dollar words and instead focus on keywords and phrases where there are a lot of searches but no where near the amount of competition that the big firms are paying for.

Some tools for finding these long tail keywords are:

A great resource for understanding how working towards owning the long tail keywords is the interview I did with the creator of Long Tail Pro and host the Niche Pursuits Podcast Spencer Haws.  I interviewed Spencer back in episode #25.

Narrow Your Niche 

A number of years ago I stumbled upon the fact that a large number of my bankruptcy clients were dealing with a creditor named Midland Funding.  In fact, many of my clients didn’t really have much of a debt problem except for the fact that this one creditor was harassing them and in many cases had filed a lawsuit against them.  I decided to help some of clients in contesting the lawsuit and found out something surprising – I could actually win these cases!  There were numerous evidentiary problems with the cases and a number of times my clients were the victims of identify theft.

So I decided to do some research on keywords related to Midland Funding and found that there was a very large number of people searching for information about this company but very little competition for the main keywords.  Seeing this opportunity I started to write articles for my blog using the keywords related to Midland Funding.  Almost immediately I rose to the top spot for those search terms and I have been able to branch it out from there to include the names of other debt buying companies who also file a lot of consumer collection lawsuits.

When you narrow your niche two things happen: first, it is much easier to market your practice.  As with my Midland Funding example the big firms are going for the big fish, the #1 spot for the main keywords.  By focusing in on some of the more ancillary areas and related terms you can dominate those areas relatively quickly with some well written content.

Second, it is much easier to become an expert on your particular practice area.  Keeping your practice area narrow allows you to really drill down into the minutiae of your practice area and really master the material.  This is good for you but even better for your clients.  As you set yourself apart as the true leader in your practice area you will find it much easier to compete with the larger law firms.

Create a True Brand

When I talk of branding I am not just talking about creating a snazzy logo – although that never hurts.  You need to establish a law practice that can become synonymous with the position that you are advocating in your cases.  This means that you need to stake out a position – you need to have an opinion and express it!  For example, I represent consumers against debt collectors.  This means that not only will you not find me representing debt collectors but you will read in my blog and hear me on my videos telling people that I think a lot of the debt collection companies are dirt bags.  They violate the law, they create unneeded stress and often do so through illegal collection tactics.

I want my client to know that I have chosen sides – that I am their advocate and am all in.  Along those lines I developed the “Consumer Warrior” brand to go with my law practice.  Here is a picture of what my business cards look like:


(Listen to the episode to hear the story behind how I came up with this logo).

The more you are willing to stick your neck out there and be unafraid of having an opinion the more you will stand out from the crowd – and that is what is necessary if you want to compete with big law firms.

Now go do it!

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