How accountants attract law firm clients
In two prior posts, we’ve gone over why attorneys make for great clients. And we’ve also covered how accountants can help lawyers beyond just bookkeeping and accounting. Now, we’d like to discuss how to attract law firm clients in the first place.
Lawyers are Just Like You
Lawyers by definition are highly educated, detail oriented clients who expect the same sort of professionalism from you as they deliver to their own clients. Just like accountants. Demonstrating that you speak “their language” and understand how they operate and invoice will go a long way toward securing their trust. An example is to have a general understanding of how attorneys compensate themselves: how they invoice, how they pay themselves and what insights can they get from that data. It will differ from law firm to law firm, but they all follow basic concepts of who originated the work, who was the working attorney and what is the overhead. Larger firms will have more complex profit sharing based on partner status.
Productize Your Offering
In your initial meeting with a law firm, you’ll be more apt to secure their business if you tell them how you work and exactly what that would look like — specific to this client. If you can productize your work, for example: my offering costs $x / month and I will do these specific things for you, you give them a framework with which they can understand how their money will be spent. This is critical. They will be hiring you to create workflows and consistently repeatable tasks. Let the attorney know your process and what they can expect in terms of cost, both onboarding and ongoing.
Along with productization, you can offer additional services. Your core offering might be monthly account reconciliation and reporting. You could add outsourced invoicing or compensation reports. You don’t want to nickel and dime them, but you can offer value-added services that will increase your profitability with the client and make you and your team more valuable.
Note: Compensation reports may be part of the monthly reports or if it is complicated, can be an add-on. There also could be timekeeper reports and client profitability reports. The success for most service providers is about managing clients’ expectations. When they understand that you do more than just bookkeeping and have expertise with law firms, and that you can give them extra advice (through reporting) – you will be the more desirable candidate as they search for an accountant.
Understand the Legal Industry
It’s also important to be familiar with legal industry software. You don’t need to be an expert, but a law firm will need either a practice management tool that includes invoicing or they will want a stand-alone. You can use this know-how and possible certification (depending on the vendor) as a sales tool. This doesn’t mean you can’t adopt to a different tool based on the client’s preference, but by developing a list of preferred tools, you’re beginning to speak their language.
This also creates an opportunity to develop the best practices and basic workflows in your organization, thus making your team more efficient in servicing your clients. Remember, if your client uses an inefficient time tracking tool that doesn’t speak to QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop, you will inherit inefficient workflows and manual work. This may not be the client you want. Understanding how this tool will integrate with the overall accounting workflow is crucial.
You’ll also need to understand how a law firm operates:
- Who the players are, what they do and their seniority. Make sure you know the difference between an associate, paralegal and partner.
- What kind of law they practice and how that impacts their invoicing and accounting.
- How they bill (hourly vs. fixed fee)
- Do they work with trust / retainers
Identify the size and type of firm that fits best for you.
Solo, Solo + (solo attorney plus staff), micro (2-4 partners), small law (5-10 partners) or larger firms. Each group has their own needs and accounting requirements. Don’t think you can be all things to all firms. Pick your niche and be perfectly clear as to why you are best suited for these folks.
You can also decide if you want to work with specific niches of law. General Practice, Defense, Family Law, Transactional, Estate Planning, Litigation, etc. While most of these firms bill hourly, you will see differences based on the law practice. As an example, Estate planners will have a heavy use of fixed fee work vs. a transactional attorney that bill hourly. Understanding these subtle differences goes a long ways to building trust and rapport with the firm.
Creating Client Flow
Part of sustaining your accounting practice is to make sure you have a consistent stream of clients. Many accountants rely on networking to generate referrals, but social media and SEO marketing can also help get you there.
For most accountants, social media is about being found online. So, what you really need to consider is how a prospective client — a lawyer — would find you. Online search is the most important marketing effort an accountant needs to get right.
True social media efforts are comprehensive and require SEO optimized websites, a true content production schedule and a very methodical social media posting routine. It’s time consuming, requires investment and is highly competitive. This doesn’t mean that search can’t be of service to you, but you need to think about how to get clients or how you want to get clients. If it is referral, than you need to be found. If it is search, then you need basic SEO and SEM tactics.
A few tips. An accountant’s social media / digital marketing activities are directly related to three agendas:
- Being Found: If I search “Law Firm Accountant Dallas” I see a slew of information that helps me both qualify and contact that specific accountant. While I know XYZ Accountant didn’t proactively drive these search results, it happened organically from her website and other web locations, (Linkedin, news articles, YouTube, etc.). Every accountant should make sure their information is accurate and complete in the following locations:
- If you are already a law firm accountant or have some other “consumer” facing practice, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) can be very useful as it relates to folks specifically looking for legal services on the web. You would actually pay for those folks that click your search links.
All accountants should execute the first tip really well. You’ll need a current headshot, a short two-sentence bio, a longer 10-14 sentence bio, and your contact info.
If you want to engage law firms, make sure you speak directly to what lawyers are looking for: Get specific about how you know the legal industry and can add value to their bottom line. The lawyer will engage when they find a vendor that speaks to their needs. Remember, you’re not closing a deal when someone looks up your bio, you’re just trying to get them to make the first call.
You should also consider a service like Refer.com. They help facilitate a process that drives referrals. This process will make sense to accountants and work within their core competency.
Every accountant needs to deal with search engine optimization and social media marketing. LeanLaw can point you in the right direction, get you in front of experts and give you viable alternatives if sales coaching for law for your accounting or bookkeeping firm seems overwhelming. If you want this kind of thoughtful, curated-for-you advice, give us a call / email / IM at LeanLaw. Our mission is to help you have a lean law practice: efficient and cost effective.
Have you read our other blog posts for accountants?
- Why Attorneys Are Great Clients For Accountants
- Accounting for Lawyers: How Accountants Can Help Attorneys
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