Date and Time
Most important areas of challenge for independent lawyers and small law firm owners
- Identification of new practice areas: How to identify emerging areas in this lockdown? Which areas will be most profitable? What is the total opportunity size in these areas? Out of multiple emerging areas, which ones should you decide to foray into?
- Learning the skills to serve clients in those areas: How should you acquire the skills to serve clients in those areas? Do you need years of experience working in a law firm, or training under a senior? What is the best way to learn? When is the best time to start? What if the practice area itself is a new one? What is the strategy to compete against big firms and senior lawyers?
- Reaching out to new clients: What are the best ways to reach out to potential clients? Does blogging, guest posting, building one’s own website and social media profile work? Is it possible to meet potential clients during this COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing era?
- Adherence to BCI Regulations on prohibition of solicitation: Isn’t direct and indirect solicitation prohibited by the Bar Council of India? How can I legally promote myself without risking losing my license to practice and thus endangering my career?
- Creation of a track record: Why would a client trust me with his or her work? Why would the client be willing to pay me? How can I get a client without having performed work in a particular area? How can I demonstrate my superior understanding of the area?
- Providing value without providing ‘free service’: How do I protect my time from clients who want legal services for free? How do I provide clients sufficient value to get the mandate, without providing my services at no cost?
- How to obtain legal work from potential clients: When I approach potential clients for legal work, most refuse. How do I identify their needs? How can I obtain a ‘Yes’ from them?
- Price quotes and proposals: How much should I charge clients? Is charging less a good idea? How can I charge more to clients, yet demonstrate superior value? Should I give discounts if the client negotiates with me?
- Managing client expectations during delivery: Clients expect me to do much more than I initially proposed, and at the cheapest price. How should I ensure a balance between my time, and their expectations? How do I ensure that my practice is profitable?
Most common mistakes made by lawyers in the client-onboarding process
- Not narrowing down the client’s concern to the actual services needed: Client queries may be very general, off point or vague. You need to ask the right questions to identify the most important needs and propose viable solutions. Without advanced knowledge and practice, lawyers often fail to do that.
- Not steering the interaction forward: When a potential client approaches, you need to act fast. If the interaction started over a mail, you also need to quickly escalate to a call and then maybe a meeting. In times of pandemic or when meeting is impossible, it could be a zoom call. You cannot wait to receive an advance first before you execute.
- Not generating value to inspire trust: You need to give a lot of value to the client at this stage - free advice and suggestions which demonstrate your legal brilliance. You don’t need to do the work at this stage.
- Agreeing to discounts to get the client’s mandate: Often, some lawyers become too desperate for work, agree to bad terms, or lower their fee quote so much to get the work that clients lose any respect for them. You cannot come across as coarse, desperate and lacking finesse.
- Not limiting the scope of work out of fear of losing the client: To say a ‘yes’ to a client request or quote a fee without defining or limiting their exact scope of work in writing. This leads to a very exhausting experience. The client often expects more work than what they paid for - often, taking you for granted. Clients get upset because they feel that you are being unfair, whereas you simply failed to communicate adequately. You also feel exhausted while serving the client.
- Not creating a trail of references or validation: A client who approaches you may not give you the mandate in the first few interactions. The client may be searching for the right lawyer. If you fail to close, it does not mean that you have lost the client. Often, clients return after a bad experience, or after they see your continuous work on a particular area, or after they speak to a reference.
- Further, what you need at this stage is a clear requirement analysis form or an information requisition form to capture client needs.
Myths That Need Not Stop You
- I need to be trained for several years under a senior or at a law firm before I can start serving my own clients.
- I should not specialize early in my career. By specializing I will lose clients and it will be hard to manage.
- I need to be born in an elite legal family to succeed in the profession - first generation lawyers are destined to struggle.
- Business development is solicitation and therefore illegal. If we follow the footsteps of successful lawyers of the previous generation, we will succeed.
- Successful lawyers only need to possess core legal skills and don’t need any management/ customer service/ technology/ marketing/ administration to run our practice profitably.
- It is better to practice in the Supreme Court or High Court rather than tribunals or lower courts.
- Big clients will prefer to go to big law firms only. I must charge less than big law firm partners to get work from a client
- I have to pay my juniors less. It would take a long time to train and onboard junior lawyers
- I live in a small city or town - there is no work here and absence of good opportunities
- Expectation of clients or seniors is very high
- The market is bad and clients are unwilling to pay. There is nothing that I can do about it.
- Clients try to take advantage of lawyers
- Courts are shut due to pandemic - how can I run a profitable practice in these times?
5 pillars for developing new clients in a recessionary economy
#1 - Full-blown digital presence, legally
If clients are looking for their problems online, your practice and your work must have an online presence.
What do you need to do to be present online? A list of the minimum five aspects is provided below:
- LinkedIn and social media
- YouTube channel and periodic trainings for educating your target audience
- Writing articles and guest posts on relevant topics
- Periodic newsletter for your mailing list subscribers
Make sure you DO NOT advertise and that you include appropriate disclaimers on your website to operate in alignment with BCI rules.
Most people struggle with use of technology and identification of a suitable content strategy to reach out frequently enough to an audience.
You cannot research for days before you put up a LinkedIn post. It has to be simple, quick and natural.
You cannot afford to conduct research for weeks before shipping out a video, it has to be faster.
You cannot wait for your website to be developed in 6 months by a developer, and then wait another month or two every time that you want updates.
How can you accomplish this in a manageable way?
You will figure it out in the workshop.
#2 - Creation of a digital track record in emerging areas of practice
A track record of your work is very important to build your credibility with your target audience. The best way to build a track record is to create different forms of content on the practical issues that are faced by clients with respect to your area of practice. This sounds too obvious, but most lawyers struggle to write and create content in a relatable manner.
The two most common mistakes lawyers make here are:
- Writing criticisms of regulatory or judicial decisions, without explaining the implications on day-to-day problems of clients
- Focussing on academic or policy arguments
- Publishing in journals which do not focus on their target audience - essentially, if they want to work on shareholders agreements, they should publish on Yourstory or other startup websites rather than Harvard Law Review.
Key challenges that lawyers face in making this shift are:
- Understanding of the subject area of law (in India and globally - most lawyers do not consciously follow global developments in a particular field of law merely because they cannot practice foreign laws)
- Knowledge of the practical problems faced by clients (much of this is ignored by young lawyers on the ground that it pertains to ‘commercials’)
- Knowledge of the services they can provide, practice and guidance (so that their client is not the guinea pig!). Prior knowledge also increases the likelihood that you will interact confidently and secure the mandate.
- Understanding of related/ ancillary issues that may arise (for example, in tax laws)
- Identification of possible workarounds with respect to any such ancillary concerns, so that the client can take a commercial decision.
Other lawyers have a fear of sharing knowledge or wonder what will happen if a reader takes their article on face value, believing it to be legal advice.
#3 - Low cost ‘Gateway Services’ for an entry point
What can a client try out? How can they experience your services and understand more about the quality of your work? Would your services meet the needs of the stakeholders in the company, or will it simply be full of technical legalese?
To be able to move past this barrier, you need to identify a few gateway services. What is a ‘gateway service’?
A gateway service is a low-cost entry point for a client. For example:
- An Employment/ HR Policies training for the employees
- A negotiation training for sales and business teams
- An intellectual property contracts/ disputes training for content acquisition teams of a media company
- Training on disciplinary proceedings for HR managers
- Free legal health-checkup for raising angel investment or venture capital
- A POSH Training for ICC members, management team or employee sensitization
These gateway services need to be pre-identified based on your area of interest. You need to prepare and practice delivering the same gateway service repeatedly and get better at it over time.
Also, as you learn the gateway service, do not forget to acquire the skills required to deliver the work once the client engages you!
#4 - New-Age Onboarding Plan for the Digital Era
Most lawyers fail to transition clients from the first conversation to defining the scope of work, having the client’s agreement on the fee quote, securing the mandate and obtaining the advance. We are listing down the abilities you need to develop and the tools that you can use for this purpose (will be explained in the workshop).
- A clear understanding of a client’s most important needs and priorities, by asking questions is important to narrow down to the real issues. You will also be able to distinguish high-value work from low value work. You will learn how to do this with the help of the information requisition form or the requirement analysis form.
- A written roadmap for different phases: This provides a level of transparency that most lawyers cannot match. You can even charge a small sum to read all documents and prepare this roadmap. Do not be afraid that the client will take this roadmap and go to a different lawyer. Some may do it, but most will see a lot of value in this, and love how organized and transparent you are.
For example, let’s say someone has come to you for evicting a tenant who is refusing to vacate a residential property illegally. Instead of quoting 10 lakhs for the entire matter, you can break it down to small parts. Let’s say part 1 is to give a legal notice. And you offer to do the same for a small fee.
- Breakdown of steps for each phase: This means an ability to define a finite scope of work, estimate the steps and the time and effort that it will take (for each step). Every piece of legal work has multiple steps. Drafting a contract as per a client’s requirements has a minimum of 5 steps. This will enable the client to understand your quote. You need to know these steps beforehand, which is only possible once you possess the knowledge and the training to perform the work.
- Provide a schedule of delivery. This step is important to set client expectations about delivery with clarity and have realistic timelines. Most lawyers fail to give a clear schedule and explain the delays involved due to court process etc. This does not help much with building confidence with a client. Make sure you explain timelines and potential delays involved in your roadmap, and the client will see this as a great sign that you are highly trustworthy. Yes, the timeline may be uncertain, and in that case you will provide as much information as possible so that the client can make an informed decision.
- Advance. It is easy to talk, but until a client pays he or she is not your client. Money has to hit the account. When you are providing value, it is standard to ask for 50% advance before work begins. No work can start before advance is received, or else you will end up with the wrong kind of clients. Share your engagement letter with the terms of the advance. Do not work with clients who will not pay an advance. Work harder at lead generation, brand building, but simply say no to working without advance. It can be less than 50%, but it can’t be zero!
- Continue to share examples of validation and stay engaged: When a potential client does not give them the mandate, some lawyers do not stay in touch with that person. Every client does not give you the matter in the first set of interactions, so it is important that the conversation is on. While you do not intend to work for free, continue to stay in touch and provide some value. It is crucial to know what they are up to, and continue to share markers of validation around you - your articles, social media posts, your appearance on TV debates or newspaper articles, Google search results, etc.
#5 - Training, practice and mentors so that delivery does not suffer
Apart from mindset blocks, do you know the biggest reason that stops lawyers from making progress on the pillars above?
It is the absence of industry knowledge, technical skills and lack of mentorship on each of the steps mentioned above - to create a digital presence, a track record, to onboard clients, and then to deliver services.
Knowledge, skills and mentorship can help you with the following steps:
- Identification of industry needs
- Understanding of specific services that clients want
- Identification of the aspects that the client values most
- Having ‘opener conversations’ that enable the clients connect the service with their interest
- Delivery of valuable gateway services
- Creation of elaborate roadmaps and factoring in unknowns
- Delivery of superior services
How much can you earn if you do this well?
If you work for 8 hours a day, six days a week, you have an average of 192 working hours available in a month.
If you generate enough value for a client to charge INR 1500 per hour of your work, you can technically work for 40 hours, and earn an additional INR 60,000.
INR 1500 per hour is not a lot at all. Most clients are very happy to pay that, provided a lawyer can clearly break down the work and provide an estimate of time.
Lawyers struggle to do that owing to lack of knowledge, the wrong mindset, planning and even lack of delivery skills.
Now, here’s what your week would look like, when you do this.
Let’s assume that you spend 8 hours per week, or 32 hours per month, building legal skills and performing industry research, so that you can provide top-notch services to clients. This amount can increase or decrease, but we recommend that you invest sufficient time in your learning.
You need to spend another 25 hours (approximately one hour per day on working days) producing content that builds up your track record, whether it is articles, newsletters, videos or other kinds of content.
You need to spend about 50 hours per month (almost 2 hours every working day) on client calls, preparation of roadmaps, taking Zoom sessions and providing gateway services - essentially, onboarding potential clients.
Make sure you talk to enough people. Remember that not every potential client will convert.
Most lawyers expect a 50-100% conversion rate, approach 4 to 5 leads and quickly stop taking the efforts when nothing materializes.
You cannot expect a conversion ratio of more than 10-20%. So, you must have these advanced conversations (I am not talking about cold calls) with at least 10-20 potential clients every month, so for reasonable chances of you obtaining a mandate from 1 or 2 new clients!
That leaves you with about 40 hours of the month. You will need about 10-20 hours for administrative work, until you delegate it.
I am keeping a buffer of about 20-30 hours for spillovers, especially during delivery. For example, if you have estimated 4 hours for working on a petition but it takes you 6 hours, you can use this buffer.
Some of you may use this time for existing delivery-related work for your current clients. Others may charge higher rates per hour.
Now, if you work for 40 hours in a month (6.5 hours per day at a 6 day week), you can earn anywhere between INR 40,000 to INR 60,000.
What is the next level after this?
- Repetition of the method above to get more work.
- Optimization of time spent across different buckets, to maximize availability for billable work and profile-building.
- Referrals from existing clients.
- Identification of higher value services for existing clients and offering new services to them on your other areas of expertise.
- Transition to retainer arrangements (with appropriate limitations on scope of work) for clients with recurring work.
- Expansion of your delivery capacity, by hiring and creation of processes. Start with delegating administrative and research work.
- Measurement & automation of cost, revenues, profitability, to further tweak the process.
If you have been searching for independent clients during lockdown, you can use this method to start off with an initial income of INR 40,000-60,000 per month. As you become familiar with the process, you will be able to increase your income to INR 1 - 2 lakhs per month.
Further growth is possible by additional hiring, and by converting your practice into a firm, or having a network which enables you to focus on only the highest margin work, without compromise in client delivery.
We are not covering this aspect in the current workshop. You will need this once you accomplish an additional INR 1,00,000 - INR 2,00,000 of income.
What a high-growth small law firm or independent law practice looks like
As an independent lawyer/ small law firm owner, you have a very rare opportunity to build a practice as per your own ambitions and preferences.
- You can choose the areas that you specialize in.
- You can decide how many juniors to hire.
- You can decide how much to scale your practice.
- You can decide how much you want to earn.
- You can decide how many hours you want to work in a day.
- You can decide how many vacations you take in a year.
Thus, if you do things right, you should be able to have ALL four of the following:
- Financial freedom.
- Work-life balance and peace of mind
- A secure flow of incoming clients and new work
- Growing brand name and reputation
Money back guarantee
We are offering a full money-back guarantee if you don’t find the workshop beneficial to you, subject to all of the following conditions being satisfied:
You must attend the session live for the entire duration. If you watch a recording or attend the session for, say, 90 minutes out of 3 hours, you will not be eligible to get the refund.
You must perform the exercise within the due date specified. If you submit after the due date (i.e. 48 hours), you will not be eligible for a refund. The exercise must be completed properly. It must not be incomplete or submitted merely with the intention to claim the refund.
You must claim the refund within 2 days of submission of the exercise.
One 3-hour live class will be held (recording available to those who miss the class) from 7-10 pm.
Access to study materials with templates through our online learning management system (LMS), Android and iOS app (access will remain active for 1 month)
A telephonic consultation on your assignment in the next 15 days
Practical exercises that are directly related to your practice goals
Access to our assignment portal to submit your assignment
Agenda for the Workshop
- Understanding of the Old Mindset vs. New Mindset
- Has Legal Work Reduced or Restructured?
- The New Framework for Client Development and Delivery
- Where do most conversations fail?
- Self-assessment of where you stand with respect to the new framework
- How to conduct industry research
- Cross-functional skills
- Discussion of important tools:
- Opener conversations
- Requirement Analysis Form/ Brochure
- Gateway services
- Breakdown of services
- Engagement Letter
- Discussion and feedback on the exercise
- Most common roadblocks faced on the journey to build independent clients
- Resources needed
- Ancillary tools and skills necessary (design skills, finance skills, technology)
- Tools: Word, Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Canva, Wix
- How to create your daily agenda and track progress
- How to create a portfolio of work
- How to obtain validation
- How to use an intern and an EA
Identify the following:
- One emerging practice area
- Industry needs in such area
- 2 services that clients will need
- Initial ‘opener’ conversations you would need to have to narrow down to the pain point
- 1 gateway service
- Skills needed to provide the gateway service, manoeuvre opener conversations and to handle delivery
- Create a plan to develop those skills
These reference materials will be available on our learning management system.
- Skills needed for a young lawyer to get work in a post COVID world
- How to get paid contract drafting work for startups
- Examples of work that you can perform for startups
- How to create a roadmap for a potential client
- Questions that you need to ask a potential client before you can perform any contract drafting work
- 20 skills needed to serve startups (Part 1, Part 2)
- Pricing of Legal Services
- What services do clients pay lawyers and advisors for and how to prepare for it
- Challenges of starting a law firm under 30
- How lawyers can get corporate clients
- 5 conversations that lawyers fail to have with potential clients (with note)
- How can independent lawyers obtain retainers of INR 50,000+
- How to convert your law practice into a law firm
- Sample brochure
- Sample engagement letters
- Sample roadmap for legal strategy
- Sample requirement analysis form
- Sample information requisition form for contract drafting work
- List of services for early stage startups
- How to understand about the business of a potential client
- 5 conversations that lawyers fail to have with potential clients
- Cliklawyer brochure
- Shareholders Agreement checklist
- ESOP checklist
- Co-founder Agreement pre drafting checklist
- How to describe your website to a developer: A sample startups page
- Sample game plan format
- Legal services gameplan
- Master Sheet Format for maintaining client information
What is the solution for all these problems?
It will take a while if you want to learn and implement the solutions to all these problems. I assure you that we cannot teach all these in a 3-hour workshop, rather it takes about a year of hard work from your side and ours, in most cases.
We have been training young lawyers on how to build expertise in different practice areas, secure independent clients and build a flourishing law practice for many years now.
Want to know how we can help?
To introduce you to the methodology and get you started on this journey, we are introducing a 3 hour workshop, for the first time, where we will share some powerful approaches and tools you can use to get started on your journey, for the first time.
Will the attendees get personal feedback on their exercises?
You will receive a call to provide you feedback within 15 days of submission of your assignment, only for designated assignments. Feedback for all assignments that we may share with you will not be available given that this is only an introductory workshop.
Above prices are inclusive of all applicable taxes and charges. Option to convert your payment into two instalments is available on checkout page.
What this program is not
It is not a full blown LawSikho course.
It is only a workshop, intended to introduce you to the mindset, make you aware of the challenges and give you some tools to get you started on the path.
Some advanced learners or practitioners may get enough ideas to directly implement the strategies and secure additional mandates, others are likely to need additional help on the areas identified.
Please do not think that participation in this workshop will alone be sufficient to enable you to earn an extra INR 40,000 - INR 60,000 next month, because that is not what we promise.
This is a workshop to provide you a pathway and an action plan, along with tools that will give you an immediate boost in your journey.
If nothing else, you will be able to quantify and understand the gap between where you are and where you need to go, and you will know what you will have to do in order to get there.