Professionals, independent contractors and B2B people, how do you market your services?

Right now, I’m an articling student (a lawyer apprentice) and will become a lawyer in October. I don’t plan to seek employment in a firm but rather go on my own.

I don’t have to worry very much when it comes to money. I live at home and can meet clients at the courthouse’s meeting rooms or at the clients’ place. The investment required is less than 1000$ upfront for office equipment and about 100$ a month for transportation and communications plus 1300$ a year for bar fees.

Doing law is rather easy when you have the education, the smarts and the personality for it. It’s not what I’m worried about. Getting contracts is. I’m looking to market legal services to businesses. Some people on this board have experience in similar circumstances and I’d like to know what you’ve learned and how you go about it.

IANAL, but I don’t think this is the best way to get your career started. You can’t get contracts without contacts. So unless you have a bunch of business contacts already, where do you expect to find them? You don’t necessarily have to start in a firm. You could apply to the legal department at large companies (like insurance companies or ) and build your own B2B contacts there.

No business I can think of is going to be willing to hire a brand new lawyer freelance-style. I’ve also never heard of a lawyer working out of their own home, that adds another layer of shadiness. Lawyer jobs are actually super-competitive right now (even before the economy tanked). So you have bad timing, the overall job market, and inexperience working against you.

I mean, if you try to start freelancing without your own contacts, you’ll be stuck taking out ads in phone books or newspapers or on websites, or cold-calling businesses. In a firm or at a business, the work comes to YOU.

I agree. Most businesses already have a lawyer, or don’t want to have a lawyer until they need a lawyer – and when they need one, they don’t want someone who just passed the bar (unless you’re being supervised by a senior partner.)

If you wanted to handle personal injury lawsuits or $99 divorce cases, you might be able to market your way into a niche. But rachelellogram is 100% right – no contracts without contacts.

I’m an independent contractor (painting, decorative, plaster) and agree with the above - you need a way to integrate into the local business community to be taken seriously, especially if you’re a wet-behind-the-ears new lawyer working out of a home office.

I’d join whatever professional organizations you can find and start pressing flesh yesterday.

I got lucky - when I moved to a new state with 23 years of experience and no contacts, I ran an ad in the paper for 30 days…a client of a busy, high-end decorator called me and then gave my name to the decorating firm and ten years later that’s still the bulk of my business, along with lots of referrals. Haven’t advertised since. All I do is change the color and texture on walls though: I imagine the bar (heh) will be higher for something like legal services.

First, congratulations on starting on your own. Too many lawyers are afraid to take that risk. As to your question, it matters greatly if you’re in a small town or big city. One of the most famous and successful lawyers I know started in a small town and took any case that came through the door. He eventually earned a reputation as the best in town, and moved onward and upward. In a larger setting, I’d recommend you join bar groups that match your interests (trial lawyers, business lawyers, whatever) and offer to co-counsel cases for a small piece of the fee to gain experience and contacts.

One final thought. Practicing law is harder than you think. Not saying you can’t do it, but you’ll have to work very hard at it if you’re doing it on your own (especially the first few years).

You’re right, getting contacts is crucial. My question was mainly about how to get those contacts and I appreciate your suggestions. If you have others, I’d be glad to hear them.
I’m in Canada in a mid-sized town. In this jurisdiction, the bar is followed by 6 months under an experienced supervisor.

Also, what does “pressing flesh” mean?

A colleague of mine has a son who graduated law school and couldn’t find a job. So he rented an office and hung out his shingle.

Like someone else mentioned, it was a small town and he took any case that walked in the door. He also managed to get some kind of contract with the local judicial system. He’s not rich by any means but he’s doing okay.

I’m a civil engineer and I’ve been in business for myself for 11 years. Most of that time I worked from home. I did have contacts in the business, but a large part of my business has come from meeting people at professional society meetings.

If there is a particular kind of business you are wanting to provide services for, it might be a good idea to participate in their professional society, not just ones for attorneys.

Best of luck to you.

Pro bono work?

Yeah, I’ve thought of offering my services for free at first. A kind of “try me once and see if you like it” offering since most people have difficulty pre-assessing a lawyer.

That wasn’t really what I was talking about. Offering your services for free and then charging is just a good way to convince people you aren’t worth much. I was thinking more about finding a charitable organization or two - there are lots of small ones - that you can help out. A lot of charities have boards, a lot of board members have business contacts.

You’re right about the latter part.

As for the former part, why would not charging for the first task and then charging for subsequent tasks convince people I’m not worth much?