How did you go about finding those first clients?
Well, I must say, I did not go out and find them. My first clients were mostly referred to me by my mother, my father, my friends, and anybody else who I could convince to bring me clients.
Most people who graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, back in the 1970s, went to work for the State Attorney’s Office, Public Defenders’ Office, Attorney General’s Office, small law firms, big law firms, corporations. So, one advantage that I had when I graduated from law school was that I was really the only one of my classmates who I knew who had opened their own law practice. I made this fact known to everyone, including my friends from law school, and that is when the business started trickling in. When you get your first clients and you do a great job for them, word starts to spread that you are the best lawyer, and that was essentially the genesis of my law practice.
Certainly, I also had a little bit of luck. For example, the Office Assistant for one of South Florida’s premier roofing companies called my office looking for a lawyer by the name of Wolf who they had been referred to. Of course, I was not the one in which they were referred to, but I got into a great conversation with the guy and was eventually asking me questions such as, “Do you know how to do this kind of law and mechanics liens and all of that?” I said, “Sure, I know everything.” So, that is how I acquired that client.
There was a time when I was handling a small house closing for one of my clients, even though I did not even know how to do closings. There happened to be a credit union that had a lien on the property, so, of course, I had to clear that up. While I was speaking with the General Manager, he asks, “Do you do banking law?” I said, “Sure. What do you want to know?” He says, “Well, we cannot seem to get in touch with our lawyer and we have three hearings in the morning and we do not know what to do.” I told him to send me over the documents and that I will show up in court for them. So, the next day, I showed up in court, I was successful in all three hearings, and that is how the biggest credit union in South Florida became my client for the next fifteen years.
This is how things can get started for anybody. It never hurts to have a little bit of luck. You need to be in the right place at the right time. You need to become adept at selling yourself or convincing potential clients that you have the expertise to handle their matter. You need potential clients to know that you CARE about their matter. You need to be very diligent when it comes to returning phone calls or messages.
Back when I started, there were a lot of great books on how to manage a law office and how to keep and attract clients, and I ended up taking this information to heart. For example, if I am sitting next to somebody on an airplane and we spark up a wonderful conversation, I would never just say goodbye to them without first giving them one of my business cards. You can also send Christmas cards to your clients every year or have promotions for your services. You want your clients to know that you care and that you think about them.
Throughout the course of my career, and I am lucky I learned this early, I have prioritized and continue to prioritize showing my clients that I care. The number one thing people look for in their lawyer is somebody who cares about them and their matter; somebody who is responsive to them. It always nice if you get them satisfactory results, but, sometimes, you may not get the result your client wants, but they will still like you because you showed them that you genuinely care about their matter and they understand that lawyers do not win every case. They now have a sense of warmth toward you. They will not be afraid to call you again.
On the other hand, if you are unresponsive and inattentive to your client, then they are more than likely going to have a problem with you and, if you happen to get an unsatisfactory result for them, then you know you are never going to hear from them again. If you demonstrate that you care about your clients and that you are responsive to your clients, then the word gets out that you are the lawyer to hire. This is how things mushroom into a successful law practice.