California Counties Represent Growing Markets for Law Firms

Despite some highly publicized news about the decline of California, it continues to have by far the largest number of residents in the country, and along with Texas and Florida accounts for over a quarter of the total U.S. population. Los Angeles maintained a real GDP of approximately $726 billion in 2019, with Orange County and San Diego, the second and third most populous counties in the state, accumulating $233 billion and $222 billion, respectively.

Data from last year’s census show growth toward the south and west, with Texas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon gaining seats in Congress. But despite slower growth in California, the state still represents a huge portion of the American economy. If it were its own country, the state would be ranked the fifth largest in the world, beating out the United Kingdom, India, and France. Los Angeles alone has a larger GDP than countries like Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. Orange County and San Diego each land ahead of Bangladesh, Iraq, and New Zealand, with Orange County comparable to the entire economy of Greece.

The Inland Empire, including San Bernadino and Riverside counties, also has about 4.5 million residents, almost half the population of L.A. County. These numbers signal emerging markets to which law firms, especially those already practicing in the surrounding counties, should pay close attention. Larger law firms are increasingly recognizing that Southern California counties represent major opportunities for growth, not to mention the possibilities of expanding into Northern California.

For those firms that treat West L.A. and Pasadena like they’re worlds apart, or L.A. and Orange County as if they’re in different galaxies, the risk of losing out on clients and handicapping yourself in the competition for talent is only increasing. Too many law firms impose psychological barriers on their expansion. Please stop thinking about serving a location outside of your neighborhood as if the only way to get to a second or third office is to walk there on your hands.

2020 Is Not the Year to Put Holiday Cards and Gifts on Autopilot

Gift giving will be a bit more complicated this year for law firms, so start planning now.

With fewer people in offices this holiday season, the usual routine of having partners, associates, and paralegals sign the same card and send it off to someone’s workplace might not be an option. A nice electronic card may not be your first choice, but combined with the selective use of gifts, this can be an effective way to stay in touch without creating a hassle.

Mail delivery may also be impacted, so take that into account when setting your deadlines. And the addresses you have on file won’t be very useful if they mostly include now-empty office buildings. This year, it’ll be important to have your key contacts’ home addresses, and to obtain these without crossing any professional boundaries, you should simply ask your clients and referral sources for the best mailing addresses for them right now.

Your firm may need to pay more attention to cash flow due to the pandemic’s economic effects, so getting a jump-start on the process presents a great opportunity to set a more formal budget too.

As you reach out this year, it’ll be important to have special sensitivity toward anyone in your network who may have contracted the virus, lost a loved one, been furloughed or laid off from a job, or been displaced by any of the recent fires. This is a valuable moment to show that you and your firm are there to help.

This is a particularly good time to consider comforting treats like baked goods and non-perishable food for those stuck at home. Making a charitable gift on someone else’s behalf can be a good alternative that bypasses the need to locate a mailing address. This is especially useful if you happen to know a certain cause that person is passionate about. Be mindful also of those who have been taking care of school-aged children or elderly relatives. In difficult times, a thoughtful, personalized message combined with a gift card can be appropriate.

Although shifting work routines and family responsibilities are requiring a lot of us right now, efforts to connect will be especially meaningful this holiday season.

Marketing: Professionals Must Define Needs

If you’re waiting for potential clients to voice a need right now, you may be waiting a while. And they’ll be losing out in the meantime.

Even under the best of circumstances, clients are often shortsighted or mistaken about what is in their self-interest. As a professional, you are likely more attuned to the consequences of inaction than your clients are. You recognize that, in this moment when many are especially reluctant to spend money, addressing issues sooner rather than later will be well worth the upfront costs. All the unknowns will make a lot of business owners want to hit the pause button when it’s more important than ever to deal with certain problems.

During a crisis, it’s crucial for business development that professionals define the needs they serve. Landlords without rent coming in probably aren’t looking to hire a law firm even though a workout could save them from foreclosure. Likewise, retailers seeing a huge drop in sales probably aren’t looking to pay their employment lawyer. It’s up to the lawyer to explain the benefits of an updated employment handbook and new training processes, as well as the costs associated with non-compliance when it comes to the new rules around paid sick leave.

You, as the provider of such preventative measures and other valuable solutions, should take it upon yourself to anticipate these needs and articulate them in your messaging. The people you’re speaking to will likely be feeling the instinct to crawl into their shells, and it’s your job to clearly explain why that isn’t in their best interest.

Describe the problem these clients can expect down the line if they don’t take certain steps now. Then, have something specific and deliverable to offer that will solve this for your audience before it has the chance to become a bigger issue.

While you’re very much aware of the ways you can provide critical support to your clients right now, they may not be. Make these points clear to give them the best chance to weather this crisis and yourself the best chance to help.

COVID-19 Presents Lobbying Opportunities for Law Firms

The rapid expansion of law likely to follow the COVID-19 crisis presents a unique opportunity for smaller firms and solo practitioners to get involved in lobbying efforts. While larger and more established firms have a head start when it comes to decades-old regulations, the establishment of new legislative schemes provides a chance for even footing.

Historically, crises have led to the development of new laws in response to unforeseen issues and vulnerabilities. Litigators, in particular, are in strong positions to expand their advocacy in such times because they’re able to represent clients in these burgeoning areas of law before local, state, and federal bodies. Other attorneys may find that their expertise feeds into one or more of the topics up for debate, and they could use that knowledge in lobbying efforts.

With the sudden surge in unemployment, those who specialize in employment law will be able to jump onto the ground floor of new policy and precedent-setting litigation.

As many renters feel the effects of an economic downturn, real estate lawyers might find ways to weigh in on landlord-tenant matters. The implications of this pandemic will touch a huge number of industries, creating similar lobbying and advocacy opportunities across many practice areas.

As laws are formed following this crisis, lawyers should be looking at how they can utilize their existing specialties and expand their expertise to include these new markets. No one will be an authority initially when it comes to just-developed regulations, so one lawyer has as great a chance as any other to adopt an additional, related specialty. Operating at the forefront of legal change allows a practitioner to establish herself as a trusted source on a given subject when there may not be many. There’s an enormous benefit to being among the first in line.

Succession Planning in the Age of Coronavirus

The increased importance of succession planning that preceded the onset of coronavirus may only ramp up as a result of the pandemic. The difficulties of running a law firm or other professional services company remotely may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some practitioners nearing retirement. And as many practice areas experience declines in demand, firm management may need to consider transitioning or acquiring new ones to pick up the slack.

With stiffening competition, we’ve already seen an onslaught of Big Law mergers over the past several years. At the same time, the attorney population has continued to age, resulting in a disproportionate number of practicing lawyers over the age of fifty. Recent losses in the stock market will undoubtedly motivate some more senior attorneys to push back their retirement date. But, as we’ve witnessed in just these first few weeks, the uncertainty of COVID-19 is leading others to expedite their decision to retire now.

It’s more important than ever to consider succession planning options in your business development strategy. In the coming months, there’s a very real likelihood for many firms that current clients will generate less revenue than they did a month or two ago. While some assistance is available to supplement these gaps and maintain payroll, the reality is that you will need to continue generating new business as the current situation unfolds. While adding new clients should be part of your plan, succession planning, mergers, and acquisitions present especially powerful opportunities to grow during this crisis.

Free Webinar on April 14th: How to Grow During a Crisis Through Succession Planning and M&A

We will be addressing this topic in depth during our next webinar on Tuesday, April 14th at 2 p.m. PST (4 CST/5 EST).

To join us for this no-cost Zoom webinar, please register using the link below:

We look forward to sharing ideas and best practices for this crucial aspect of business development in a crisis.

Why Personal Branding Is a Career Development Strategy

When you first start your legal career, you build your book of business by chasing down clients one-by-one through time-consuming networking efforts. Acquiring business on an individual basis is pretty much unavoidable at this stage, but it shouldn’t be that way for your entire work life.

As you gain expertise in your field, you can take advantage of promotional opportunities that will start to make your name synonymous with your specialties. To some extent, you may always have the typical coffees and lunches as part of your strategy, but wider-reaching speeches, TV interviews, social media exposure, and articles can allow you to become a minor celebrity in your practice areas so that clients request you specifically.

If you’ve authored books on the subject a client needs help with, they’re much more likely to accept higher fees as they feel confident in your qualifications and reputation. You’re unique among your competition, so pricing becomes less of an issue.

The unfortunate truth is that most lawyers never even try to create a personal brand or position themselves where potential clients ask for them by name. Many do twenty years of traditional networking and don’t think to employ these other tools. This works out in your favor if you’re willing to pursue brand-building opportunities that other attorneys may let pass them by.

If you’d rather not add hours and hours of networking events and meetings to your already busy schedule, begin establishing yourself publicly as an expert in your field. As you move forward in your career, the investments you make here will allow you to spend less time seeking new business because new business will come to you.