As a lawyer who is brand new to running a freelance business from home, I notice a comforting solidarity with our whole profession. Responding to COVID-19, we are all in a place where we have been forced to change, adapt, and embrace new ways of working and living. To varying degrees, we are all in the throes of transition.
Rigidity is a common lawyer characteristic. It is easy to rely on checklists, guidelines, policies, and tried-and-true advice. We expect that these formulas will achieve the intended result because we followed a ‘plan.’ Sometimes, however, we realize that there is no pre-charted course forward from where we are. This is true for most of us right now. We have to figure things out as we go. How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Acknowledge the Negatives
It is difficult to embrace change when we are focussed on all the negatives that change has caused, but we do have to process our losses. There are likely real downsides to COVID-induced changes. Perhaps you have experienced loss of income, extra work, loneliness, health anxieties, a steep learning curve with new processes, and difficulties while working from home.
Grant yourself permission to grieve your losses. It is helpful to largely focus on the positives, but we know it is counter-productive to repress our negative emotions. This is an unprecedented time. It is understandable to struggle. Only when we have acknowledged our struggles can we move forward. If you feel like you are drowning, stop to calmly reflect on why you are feeling down. If this reflection is easier while accompanied by a pint of ice cream, a glass of wine, a run, or a bubble bath, indulge (responsibly, of course). Consider this a break-up with life as you know it. You have certainly waded through adversity before, and you will triumph again!
2.Focus on the Positives
So, you have allowed yourself a brief pity party. It is time to move on. There are things to be grateful for, and I am sure some of them might be COVID-related too. For me, I have enjoyed more time with my husband. With less running around in the evenings and weekends, we have had time to learn to bake bread, read books, garden, enjoy our neighbourhood, and obsessively watch a few law enforcement TV dramas. I have reconnected on a heart-level with things I took for granted, like long visits with friends and going to church. I have also felt confirmed in my vocation of at-home remote work. Starting a home-based business seems more acceptable now.
What positive changes have you noticed in your own life and work lately? If it helps, physically make a list of good things. If you cannot easily think of big things, acknowledge the little things, like a good cup of morning coffee. Make brainstorming the positives a regular and intentional focus to lift you out of your blues.
3.Translate Reflections to Future Plans Values
It can be hard to make plans in times of uncertainty. When I cannot predict the future to a degree that allows me to make concrete plans, I find it helpful to translate my reflections on positives and negatives to values that I can focus on going forward.
For example, we had to cancel a trip to Scotland that was scheduled for this month. While this was a loss to grieve, my disappointment highlighted a value I did not know I held: celebrating our family heritage. While we cannot plan a rescheduled trip in the immediate future, we can plan to let that value steer us towards cultural celebration. On the day when we were supposed to leave, we donned the family tartan, ate Scottish trifle, and had a wee dram of the good stuff.
I have talked to countless lawyers who are used to working in big offices and have had to work from home temporarily. Most of them enjoy it. Some of them might use this newly discovered self-knowledge to consider how they can advocate for more flexible working arrangements when things go back to ‘normal.’ While we cannot always plan ahead concretely, we can lean into our values and focus on how we can implement them in the future. This future-focus can greatly assist us in challenging times.
4.Maintain Empathy and Help Others
This is the simplest and most important suggestion for times of change, so it will be this post’s concluding word. As I have heard others say, we are all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. Quite simply, remember to be kind, and remember that everyone is doing the best they can. Comparison will not help you or others. You always have something to offer, and it is also okay to ask for help. If you need a hand with legal research assistance, please reach out to Flex Legal Network!
Kathleen is a freelance lawyer with Flex Legal. She assists lawyers with legal research and all their drafting needs. You can read more about Kathleen's experience here.
Business development and marketing should still be a top priority for lawyers and law firms in 2020. Now is not the time to go silent! But forget the tone-deaf pushy selling and self-interested promotion. That is never going to work, especially during a pandemic.
You might feel awkward about seeking out business now, but this global crisis does not mean that individuals’ legal problems have magically disappeared. People still need lawyers and the lawyers who are available and visible will be the ones getting the files. Some of our tips to show you are available are below:
1. Reach Out: Virtual Check-Ins
The number one way to get files in the door is to develop professional relationships with people. This has not changed. In the past relationships would be developed over in-person networking and cocktail events, lunches, drinks, etc. We have now evolved to “virtual” development of relationships through emails, phone calls, and video chats.
Reach out to those in your network, or people you have been following on social media, or lawyers you have seen at networking events in the past, and see if there is an interest for a virtual coffee or drink or an old-fashioned phone call.
Also, check in with past and current clients, not with the intention of selling your legal services, but with the intention of listening to them and learning what is going on in their lives and businesses. They may be perfectly fine, or they may be struggling with something. Once you have listened and learned, there could be a way you can help them. If you can’t assist, maybe you know someone else who can. Show you care about their business.
Relationships are key to business development. Do not ignore them now.
2. Set Aside Time Each Week to Work on Business Development
It doesn’t have to be long, but some time should be blocked off in your calendar to address business development and marketing each week. Make a list of the items you want to accomplish during that time. This could include the following: having one virtual coffee with a client or potential referral source; making a list of people you want to reach out to; drafting one blog post; send one tweet or comment on one LinkedIn post, etc. Make your list achievable, otherwise you may get discouraged.
3. Revisit your Website
The majority of people still Google to find a lawyer. When was the last time you updated your website?
Pull up your website and give it an honest and critical look. Ask yourself: Is the website up to date? Does it show that you are open for business? Does it look professional? Does it list all of your and your associates’ accomplishments? People want to hire “experts”, do you look like you know your stuff? Do you use lots of keywords for your practice areas to help with your search engine optimization? Does the website have a solid FAQ page? Is the language clear, free of legalese, and explains in plain language how you help people and what problems you solve?
Position yourself and your firm as a leader in your area. Lawyers can occupy a leadership role in the lives of their clients, especially during a crisis when they need help and advice. Show that you can provide that help and education through your website.
Do you have great online reviews? If not reach out to past clients and see if they are willing to provide some. Then, going forward, whenever you close out a file, send a quick survey or request for feedback to the client.
4. Up Your Social Media Game
In-person networking will be put on hold for the near future. This does not mean that your networking game must suffer. Meet new people over social media. Digital or virtual networking is the new game in town. Look at your or your firm’s social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Do they need to be updated? When was the last time you engaged on social media with other lawyers, potential clients, your ideal clients etc. Search #LawTwitter or #LawyersofInstagram to find other lawyers to follow. Follow businesses who would be your ideal client. Keep up to date on what is going on in their industry.
Now is the time to get more involved on social media if you were not already.
5. Embrace Legal Content Marketing
Hand in hand with networking over social media is creating content that you can share with your followers and connections.
Spend time to brainstorm what your clients’ needs are right now and what might they be down the road? What will be the key business and legal issues for the industry or individuals that you service? Start drafting that content now.
Do not just focus on the negative (i.e the pandemic, economic downturn, etc.) Positive content can be a breath of fresh air. Have some uplifting news to share? Draft a blog post and share it on your social media platforms.
Also, market with all age groups in mind. What works for Boomers might not work for Millennials or Gen-Xers or (Xennials that micro-generation in-between that is often forgotten). Your content can be shared as short informative videos or podcasts or blog posts, or all three.
The main focus of your content should be helping others with information and not about selling your services (although letting others know how they can hire you is important too). Forget the legalese. Make sure you answer the question: how can you help people?
Do you help people with acrimonious divorces? Is one of your strengths settling neighbour boundary disputes? Do you help start-ups with their contract needs?
The focus should be on them and their problems. Provide the content that shows others how you can help them.
Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and wait until this crisis passes before we start our 2020 business development and marketing plan.
Plant the seeds now so the fruit of your labour will grow as we make our way through 2020.
Do you have any other tips in mind? Let us know what works for you.
Are you a busy lawyer looking for experienced help?