How many times have you heard something to this effect: “The key to getting clients is to just do great work.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a partial truth, at best.
Clients expect you to do great work.
Clients expect great work. That’s what happens when you pay upwards of $150/hour for someone’s services (and often 2-3 times that amount). There are built-in expectations. So for someone to tell you that if you just do great work, you’ll get more clients, is mostly inaccurate. Because the reality is, if you just do great work you’ll be … meeting expectations. And nobody refers their friends, family, and coworkers to businesses who just meet their expectations.
It is important that you be a good lawyer and do great work for your clients. But you cannot rely on doing great as a means of bringing in more business. Here are some lawyers who have had experience with the theory that all you need for business to come your way is to just do great work:
Nathan: I was at a midsized insurance defense firm at one point. They basically had this theory. 80% of work from one carrier. They did very well. Then the carrier did some internal shifts and they really had a decline in work and ended up scrambling to start marketing. While great work does help bring in clients, I don’t think it’s at an appreciable rate. It’s just luck at that point. You have to make sure you are on potential clients’ radars, and doing that at a low/moderate rate steadily is better than not at all and then if something goes south trying to play catch-up.
That firm imploded down from about 25 attorneys to 10, and I think they are back around 15 now over a 5-ish year period. And now their strategy includes regular marketing efforts. My current firm is very much “do great work and other work will come in,” but they also encourage marketing even if it’s small amounts. And they, from what I understand in my time here and the history, have not had the size/business fluctuation.
Matthew: It’s not great work that finds the clients. Its great work that results in good reviews, that results in word of mouth and SEO.
Kayla: In today’s day and age, law firm marketing is about as many people finding you as possible. It’s not about doing great work. I do great work, and those clients don’t write reviews. I do great work and I have random people demand their money back. I do okay work and they write 5 star reviews.
Combine great work with other marketing efforts
All of the lawyers above have expressed what is the whole truth about doing great work for your clients – if you combine that with other marketing efforts, you can leverage yourself into a better situation. For most corporate and insurance defense lawyers, clients aren’t going to come find you.
For all the work I’ve brought into my firm, none of it has been because some large insurance company came calling: “Hey, Jeremy, we heard you’re a good lawyer and you really make a priority of client communication and collaboration. And we’ve just got to add you as our panel counsel.” Nope. It might happen once in a while. But it’s not something you can count on.
You’ve got to find ways to meet people who could send you business. You have to begin to build up trust with those people and add value for them. Then perhaps when they have a need, they will think of you and send you work. And then the great work you’re doing will result in them continuing to send you work and continuing to be your client.
So here’s the truth about the axiom, “Just do great work”: Doing great work will help you maintain your existing clients, and it may result in those clients recommending you to others, but it is not to be relied upon as the core marketing strategy for your firm.
Photo by Sarah-Rose.