Divorce With Dignity (DWD) is a national network of divorce support professionals including attorneys, paralegals, legal document assistants, and mediators. We are dedicated to helping people obtain peaceful divorce in a cost-effective, holistic, and supportive way. We offer one-on-one training in setting up and managing your own Divorce With Dignity business, either as part of your law firm services or as a stand-alone business. The training includes the following tips, and much, much more. Here are five important aspects of starting a law firm or legal document services business.
1. Write a business plan
Having a business plan in writing helps you organize and prioritize your efforts so that you can make the best use of your time and financial resources. It doesn’t have to be long and involved. In fact, one that I think is especially helpful is “The One Page Business Plan” by Jim Horan, available at Amazon and most bookstores. It’s simple, so it doesn’t get into areas such as your competition and projecting financial data, but it can really help you build a plan based on your vision and keep you on track. Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) also has resources and seminars on writing a business plan.
If you join the DWD Network, we work with you to develop your business plan during your training and then support you with monthly coaching calls to keep you accountable.
2. Get set up
You’ll need to select a name, develop your business cards and brochures, find an office space, and get your office set up for business.
If you join our DWD Network, we provide you with retainer agreements, brochures, sample letters and client packets—everything you need to service your clients including the legal forms. We’ll discuss various types of office spaces, and teach you how to set up your office. And you will have the right to use the Divorce With Dignity name, which is memorable, descriptive, well-known, and highly regarded.
3. Price your services
Figuring out what to charge when starting a law firm or a legal services business is a complex task. Traditionally, attorneys charge by the hour but nowadays customers are looking for ways to negotiate the rates, and perhaps even get a set price depending on the service performed. It’s up to you how you want to formulate your pricing structure.
If you join the DWD Network, we work with you to develop your pricing for your various services as part of your training. It is so important to price correctly and not try to price too low as you will not be able to sustain and build a successful business if your prices are not correct.
4. Client relations
Your best advertising is word-of-mouth: referrals from previous clients. In fact, your aim should be to build your referral business so that eventually all your clients come from referrals. To accomplish this you must treat your clients very well and with great care. Do more than what is expected, and do it with a smile!
Make sure your clients are very clear on what your fees are, and how and when they are to be paid. Also make sure they know that the court filing fees are extra. Have them sign your retainer agreement and give them a copy. This will prevent misunderstandings and consequent bad feelings.
Don’t hesitate to refund a fee if there’s a problem. If a client has a negative experience, they’re going to tell other people and post a negative comment on social media. Do everything you can to resolve any problem and make your client happy. Building good will is going to pay you back ten-fold in the long run.
5. Marketing, marketing, and more marketing
Statistics show that one of the factors in the failure rate of new businesses is poor marketing. I recommend developing an annual marketing plan, similar to your one-page business plan. In the first few years, you should devote at least 50% of your time to marketing. Here are some methods that should be part of your marketing plan:
- Networking organizations – Join at least one networking group and stick with it. One that I highly recommend is BNI (Business Networking International). They have chapters all over the world and many areas have several chapters to choose from.
- Social media – Set up your local Google and Yahoo pages, a Facebook profile and business page, and profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yelp. And of course have a website. Keep your social media fresh with weekly blogs, freebie articles, and frequent status updates. You need to take daily/weekly/monthly actions to get business through social media.
- Referrals from other attorneys – Make contact with local attorneys who don’t practice family law, and suggest you both refer clients back and forth to each other.
Whatever your marketing plan includes, be sure to track where your clients come from so you know how to spend your advertising money wisely.
All DWD Affiliates go through a six-week program to help them with their local marketing, which is taught by a Get Clients Now certified coach. And, each Affiliate has a personal webpage on the Divorce With Dignity website.
As you can see, joining the DWD Network offers great benefits to someone interested in starting a law firm or legal document services business. Please visit our website to learn more.
The author of this blog is not an attorney and the information contained in these blogs should not be considered legal advice. The information provided here is based on the experience of the author and some of her clients whose actual names are not mentioned. Do not hesitate to seek the advice of an attorney if you have any legal questions.