Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Clients, clients, clients

I've talked to several people about basic preliminaries rega trickydick05/11/17
I work at a WC defense firm. The key will be like any oth qdllc05/12/17
I've always said workers' compensation was personal injury f trickydick05/13/17
Strong internet presence. adamb05/12/17
I assume a website goes without saying. But the brutal SEO c trickydick05/13/17
do it yourself seo or use a service? tttsolo05/14/17
Word of mouth in your community, networking events (so other isthisit05/12/17
Yes, word of mouth referrals are the single greatest client trickydick05/13/17
Word of mouth is very inportant. So are judges who like you adamb05/15/17
This. Too many newer solos and small firms burn buckets of m mrtor05/15/17
Sounds like a good plan. Shouldn't take more than a decade t trickydick05/16/17
pro-tip: Have some kind of network in place where you can dingbat05/12/17
What you and dingbat mentioned about the lapse in time from karlfarbman05/12/17
That's the one thing I can't do. If I steal files from the m trickydick05/16/17
Can you advertise in Facebook and key off people who are com doublefriedchicken05/13/17
Idea: Run for a low-level elected office like community coll passportfan305/13/17
I am not on my own, yet, but have been thinking about it for orange905/13/17
Bartenders? That's among the most interesting advice I've go trickydick05/16/17
On the subject of SEO, I had discussions about it a while ba dingbat05/15/17
That seems almost as expensive as conventional advertising b trickydick05/16/17
trickydick (May 11, 2017 - 8:48 pm)

I've talked to several people about basic preliminaries regarding starting my own workers' compensation and personal injury solo practice. I've gotten a wide range of advice and have yet to settle on certain basic points, but invariably everyone brings up the issue of client sources as if though I haven't given any thought to this key issue so I'm making this thread to gather some experiences from solos who have managed to get enough clients to avoid going broke.

What worked for you?

Bear in mind that these areas of law are different in one critical respect to most other fields of law. There are no upfront costs to the client, it's all contingency. In personal injury cases, there are some situations where you may call upon a client to front the costs of certain expenses, but those are rare situations.

People looking for attorneys in these fields are more concerned with assurances than anything else. Two in particular. How much money will they get? How long will it take to get that money?

Unfortunately for them and for me, it is not only impossible to provide definitive answers to these questions, it is unethical and, depending on the facts, illegal.

But I think the better the overview you give them of the potential course their case can take and the more attention you give them as the case progresses, the happier they will be and the more likely they are to stick with you through to the end. The kind of attention I'm hoping to give them exceeds anything possible at your typical mill with thousands of pending cases.

Of course mills have so many cases because this is a volume business. It's hard to make big money in these fields with only one hundred to two hundred cases a year, but that's why I'm so deadset on keeping overhead low. My focus will be on client satisfaction and quick resolution of cases. That should set me apart from the mills, for better and for worse.

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qdllc (May 12, 2017 - 3:18 am)

I work at a WC defense firm.

The key will be like any other contingency
/PI practice...know how to spot winning cases. We have several claimant counsel who clearly don't know what they are doing...which makes our job easy.

Unless there is a type of database that gives a good idea of what a claim is worth in your area, make no promises. In a clearly compensible claim, related medicals will be paid, as well as TTD and TPD for time lost from work not already paid by the employer.

Then is the question of permanent disability (PPD or TPD). Then you need to know your AMA guidelines (6th ed.). Claimant counsel typically tries to use numbers from "plaintiff-friendly" doctors, but the other side will go to conservative doctors for IMEs that produce lower numbers. So, it's a gamble what happens unless the defense side gets the same general numbers...then they are eager to settle close to what you're asking.

I don't know if any of this helps, there you go.

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trickydick (May 13, 2017 - 2:54 pm)

I've always said workers' compensation was personal injury for dummies.

There are only two issues that are up for dipsute, whether the applicant was an employee and whether the applicant was injured within the course and scope of employment. These are simple issues that can be resolved very quickly.

In California we use the 5th edition of the AMA Guides for whatever reason. Few if any doctors are familiar with the correct way of utilizing the AMA Guides to determine whole person impairment since the methodology was only adopted by the legislature about 12 years ago. There's often some way to rebut their findings if you really understand the AMA Guides. Even if you can't undermine a negative report, the report only calculates whole person impairment. The attorney can still manipulate the future earning capacity, occupation, and age variables in the final calculation to increase the final permanent disability rate.

In the end, the qualified medical evaluator's report (comp equivalent of an IME) isn't binding and and if it's really prejudicial to your client's case, you can take your odds at trial. If you can find enough holes in the QME report and your own doctor had some idea of what he was doing, you can still come out ahead.

The comp system is broken in California, to be sure, but it is still far easier, more efficient, and less costly than even a simple personal injury case. Rudimentary discovery procedures, no jury trials, no expert testimony at trials, the liens for medical treatment are all for the insurance carrier to resolve, a standard framework for calculating damages, and on and on.

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adamb (May 12, 2017 - 8:12 am)

Strong internet presence.

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trickydick (May 13, 2017 - 2:36 pm)

I assume a website goes without saying. But the brutal SEO competition favors the big firms and if you're not on page one of google then you don't exist.

A friend of mine who is toying with going solo has fiddled around with putting up adds on sites like Craigslist and hasn't gotten anywhere so that hardly sounds like a winner.

Beyond that, all I can imagine is paying for online ads. Overall, it sounds like online advertising is a lot like old school advertising in that in that it favors the big fish.

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tttsolo (May 14, 2017 - 4:53 pm)

do it yourself seo or use a service?

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isthisit (May 12, 2017 - 8:50 am)

Word of mouth in your community, networking events (so other attorneys recommend you), and the Internet.

Get a few favorable results for your clients and they'll recommend you to their pals.

If you build it they will come.

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trickydick (May 13, 2017 - 3:00 pm)

Yes, word of mouth referrals are the single greatest client generators. The mill I work for now has people coming in to sign up because they or their parents had cases with one of the partners back in the 1970's or 1980's or 1990's as improbable as it sounds.

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adamb (May 15, 2017 - 10:28 am)

Word of mouth is very inportant. So are judges who like you and who suggest you to people who initially go pro se or don't qualify for legal aid.

That said - waiting decades for new generations to come knocking is not realistic for getting clients now (I know what you were saying, but you starve unless you get clients now).

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mrtor (May 15, 2017 - 9:49 am)

This. Too many newer solos and small firms burn buckets of money on hard advertising thinking it is the golden key to unlocking the floodgates of prosperity. In reality, people with good cases ask around. Reputation and word of mouth are more powerful than any billboard. Before you strike out on your own, you need an expansive network of clients you have obtained good results for. Not your boss, not your firm -- these clients need to know you got them that result in order to receive dividends in the future. You also need an expansive network of local attorneys who will say your name if someone asks them about a PI/WC case. Absent these networks, your practice will struggle or fail.

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trickydick (May 16, 2017 - 1:46 pm)

Sounds like a good plan. Shouldn't take more than a decade to get there.

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dingbat (May 12, 2017 - 10:08 am)

pro-tip:

Have some kind of network in place where you can do contract work, per diems, part-time, temp work, etc. for other attorneys.

Especially in the beginning you'll have periods with a lot of downtime and no income, so being able to rent yourself out is clutch.

That being said, no down-time. If you're not doing billable work, work on the business of the firm. Work on generating business, figure out how to be more efficient, how to keep costs down, something, just keep busy. If you take time off in the middle of the day because there's not much to do, you'll find yourself doing so more and more often because you'll have less and less to do...

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karlfarbman (May 12, 2017 - 10:16 am)

What you and dingbat mentioned about the lapse in time from when you open until when settlements start coming in seems like your biggest problem. Paying money to even talk to doctors, getting medical records if you need to, filing suit, getting court reporters, etc.- all costs that you can't recoup until the case resolves. It'd probably be really helpful if you could take at least some of your files that are midway through or nearly resolved with you. Otherwise you pretty much have to do other work on the side unless you wanna burn through savings really fast.

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trickydick (May 16, 2017 - 1:51 pm)

That's the one thing I can't do. If I steal files from the mill I work for, they'll make me regret it. These guys know a lot of people in the business (doctors, defense attorneys, referral services, expert witnesses, etc.) and could make my life hell if I chose to go that route. It's not worth the risk.

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doublefriedchicken (May 13, 2017 - 2:51 pm)

Can you advertise in Facebook and key off people who are complaining of an injury?

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passportfan3 (May 13, 2017 - 3:17 pm)

Idea: Run for a low-level elected office like community college board or utility district trustee.

Yeah, come up with a list of campaign promises, but the election is really about creating opportunities to mention your practice. If you talk to 10 voters, I'm guessing at least one will say something about an injury, and you then invite that person to make an appointment at your office.

No normal attorney would ever hang out in front of the grocery store on a Saturday asking shoppers for slip-and-fall business. But if you are handing out campaign flyers, it's not only respectable but protected under the California constitution. See the Pruneyard cases.

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orange9 (May 13, 2017 - 3:39 pm)

I am not on my own, yet, but have been thinking about it for awhile and have made some observations on this topic.

You must have a good web site these days. I recommend paying someone good to make your site stand out. As others have said, SEO and making sure you are on the first page of google is obviously a concern these days.I have a problem with many of the companies, such as Findlaw, who are paid to run your site and provide SEO. Their client base is other law firms, so essentially they have you competing with their other clients, and profit from it.

I am not sure how much Facebook charges for ads, but I see their ads all the time on my page and I actually find it somewhat effective. When I am on my facebook, especially on my phone, I come across real estate listings and they do grab my attention. My office was looking through the capabilities of this sort of advertising and you can direct it to different demographics withinyour geographic region.

Again, there is no better advertising than word of mouth, especially with good results. If you have a free afternoon, eat lunch at a bar. Bartenders know a lot of people with legal issues (something i have noticed), plus there will be other people sitting at the bar who you may be able to strike up conversation with. It is really just a matter of expanding your network to people you wouldn't otherwise associate with who don't already know of you.

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trickydick (May 16, 2017 - 1:49 pm)

Bartenders? That's among the most interesting advice I've gotten in terms of wrangling clients.

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dingbat (May 15, 2017 - 4:53 am)

On the subject of SEO, I had discussions about it a while back, and my brother in law does it for a living. For it to really be effective, you got to be spending about $5k per month in ads, $1000 per month on your SEO specialist. So about $6k per month total costs.

Oh, and it takes about two months to fine tune your campaign

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trickydick (May 16, 2017 - 1:48 pm)

That seems almost as expensive as conventional advertising but probably gives you more of a return on your investment. Overall, I'd rather pour my money into SEO than a bunch of billboards.

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