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Practising during a pandemic: How to do more with less

Friday, February 05, 2021 @ 2:42 PM | By Jordan Donich


Jordan Donich %>
Jordan Donich
COVID-19 has been a tailwind to growth and prosperity for many businesses. Tech companies, online retailers, delivery and financial service providers have all benefited at the expense of other sectors. Part of the reason for their prosperity is because they have the size, infrastructure and money to weather lockdowns. This has ultimately concentrated business in fewer hands and created a competitive advantage over smaller organizations. The practice of law is no different.

With courts closed for nearly a year, small law firms and sole practitioners require more money and capital to compete with established legal brands. Why you ask? The pandemic has eliminated many of the free marketing and networking opportunities previously available to new businesses and young lawyers. New lawyers relied on these resources to build a reputation, client base and cultivate referrals. With courts open, young lawyers also had the opportunity to connect with senior lawyers in person, on lunch or had the ability to showcase their talent in court.

In-person events, including Continuing Professional Development seminars and tutorials, were also free marketing and business development resources. These events not only provided lawyers with pertinent and useful training, but also provided natural networking opportunities. With these options gone, smaller law firms require fresh cash to gain exposure through advertising.

Advertising is not cheap, especially digital advertising. Your average Google Ad for lawyers will cost you around $30 per click. You will soon find that many potential clients clicking on your ads are simply looking for free legal information and not paid services. This is just the nature of our work and is a cost of doing business.

To complicate things further, there are plenty of invalid clicks to go around, which are clicks by users intentionally trying to exhaust your marketing budget. All this bleeds money and time without a large enough war chest.

Young lawyers are also staring at a mountain of student debt and an unaffordable housing market. Over time, these headwinds will inevitably concentrate business in fewer firms and create yet another competitive challenge.

While it may seem difficult to survive during the pandemic as a small business or young lawyer, there are still some investments that can be made without breaking the bank:

  1. Start blogging — it’s free, but requires constant time and energy. Over time this will build your credibility, personal brand and expertise in a subject area. Blogging is also a great way to indirectly build referral sources, as other lawyers with clients search for referral sources online. Blogging on current and relevant topics will also help draw attention to your message.
  2. Create an agency agreement with a more established firm and work on contract. You will have to negotiate the right balance between the return on your labour the firm expects and the cost/risk it will incur to supply you with capital-intensive, reliable work. This is a great way to start as a young lawyer and gain valuable mentorship experience. It’s also good for businesses because they don’t have to inherit the full risk of hiring an associate. Special care needs to be given to compliance with Law Society of Ontario marketing rules and LawPRO Insurance, however.
  3. Invest in yourself and know when you have made bad decisions. If it’s a particular area of law that is especially impacted by the pandemic, such as criminal law, get training in other areas. It’s OK to be skilled in more than one area, and many clients like that. Don’t let the present circumstances get you down. Economies grow, contract and change. Accepting impermanence will help you build resiliency as both a lawyer and a business.

Do not be afraid to be a leader or to do things differently. Established firms who fail to adapt may one day be knocking on your door.

Jordan Donich is a lawyer at Donich Law.

Photo credit / ojogabonitoo ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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