When you first enter the legal profession as a paralegal/entrepreneur, getting the first few clients can seem like an insurmountable task. For those who had visions of an endless steam of clients the instant they opened their practice, reality strikes on the first day of business, as you sit patiently waiting for that phone to ring.
Getting the first clients is important, not only monetarily, but also for self-esteem. I hope to point you in the right direction, specifically if you are new to our profession.
After a few tough first weeks it is important that you do not lose hope. The public needs you! While it seems difficult to build a practice one client at a time, I can vouch for the fact that it can be done. A friendly personality, commitment to detail and pursuit of knowledge will always give you an advantage over others. Self-confidence is an important part of what we do, and relaying that to potential clients is imperative.
New licensees ask me if they should consider doing a case on contingency. Some have even implied that they would be willing to do a case for free, just so they can say they have a client on their list. There is a time and place to do pro-bono work. I created my firm, Lockwood Paralegal Firm, to help the public understand their rights and succeed in their quest for justice.
Your time and expertise, like mine, are worth something! Sure, I have done pro-bono work and even offer free consultations for all potential clients, but I always remember not to sell myself short. I would urge new licensees to take the same approach: you are running a business as a professional with a lot of good advice to give. Do not sell yourself short.
Working on contingency poses a dilemma for new practitioners. While it is lovely to look ahead to a potential profit, I would not advise new licensees to take on contingency cases. Too often, eager new licensees look at cases with rose-coloured glasses, seeing victory for the clients no matter the situation. Having this type of mindset may have you working for free if you are unsuccessful with your case.
It’s better to gain experience with the way the court works, to better evaluate cases as they come in. In a year or two, with much more experience, you will be able to more-accurately assess a case’s chances of success. Lockwood Paralegal Firm takes on contingency cases, but only after thorough vetting. We have been in business for quite some time, and I rely on my experience to assess a case. I did not take any contingency cases during my first year of practice. It was the right decision.
Speaking with new licensees, I have heard creative ways to attract new clients. For example, Muhammad Nisar, from Defense Paralegal, leverages his previous immigration consultant background. He attends immigration seminars and events, which lets him engage with potential clients for his paralegal practice. Others have found clients at the courthouse, or through business associates.
I have always relied on my experience, knowledge and success to get people to come in for a consultation. I do not mind sitting down with anyone, giving my time, and trying to help out any way I can. Being relaxed and confident, while giving genuine advice for free (at the consultation, of course!) was what got me my first few clients. The path to success is through honesty and approachability. I know that struggling new licensees have it in them to get their businesses off the ground.
So, good luck to all of you new licensees! The first few clients are the hardest to come by. After that, let your work speak for itself.
Brett Lockwood is a Richmond Hill paralegal whose practice is wide-ranging.
Visit Lockwood Paralegal, or call at 905-597-4788.