Building a Family Law Practice
Part litigator, part counselor, a family lawyer needs both courtroom skills and empathy. Family law can be both intellectually challenging and emotionally draining, but it’s a practice area where lawyers can feel they truly have made a difference in their clients’ lives.
Choosing a Niche
Family law is a popular practice area, and it may seem like there’s a lot of competition in your community. To minimize this, consider choosing a specific family law niche. A niche allows you to develop expertise in a specific area and market yourself to a target group of clients. Clients will come to you because they want a lawyer who has experience with “their” issue. Possible choices include:
- Adoptions, including foreign adoptions from a particular country
- Family law for same-sex couples, including adoption, custody and divorce
- Representing fathers in custody cases
- Military divorces
- Collaborative divorce
- Divorce mediation
Office, Staff and Resources
Office location can be important for a family law practice. It should be convenient for clients, but you should also be able to get to the courthouse easily. Choose a location that projects the image you want your firm to have. Make the waiting area comfortable for your stressed clients. And make sure you have adequate space for your attorneys, staff and files.
Your legal resources will include practice guides and other legal research materials and court forms. If this is a new practice area, consider seeking out a more experienced attorney who can offer advice and potentially serve as a referral source. Also cultivate an outside team of experts who can be retained when you need non-legal expertise. These experts might include child custody specialists, accountants, business valuation experts, appraisers or psychologists.
Family lawyers spend a lot of time in court, so consider spending some time hanging around the courthouse. Get to know filing clerks, bailiffs and judges’ secretaries. These relationships can be enormously helpful when you have scheduling problems or your case hits a glitch. Observe the family law judges in open court so you can start to understand their style and the types of rulings they make. And work on meeting other family law attorneys who may someday serve as valuable contacts or referral sources.
Marketing a Family Law Practice
Family law clients often find their lawyers through word or mouth or internet searches. Investing in a professional, up to date website and search engine optimization will help your firm rank higher when potential clients search online for a family lawyer. Establishing a niche helps because it can be easier to rank highly in search results for specific terms like “military divorce lawyer” than for the general “divorce lawyer.”
Ask satisfied clients to refer their friends to you. Send a firm newsletter to former clients to help them continue to feel connected to your firm. Include firm news and updates as well as general articles that your clientele would be interested in.
In addition, begin to develop a list of other potential referral sources. Depending on your practice, this might include other lawyers, therapists, clergy, CPAs, financial planners or adoption agencies. Look for professionals who serve the same target client you do, and spend time getting to know them. Refer business to them and ask for referral business. Consider serving on boards of organizations whose members are potential referral sources.
A family law practice can be challenging, but following these guidelines will help your law firm grow and prosper.