While lawyer referral services such as that of the Alameda County Bar Association remain useful ways for attorneys to market their services to potential clients, some attorneys are finding ever more creative avenues to expand their businesses in this challenging legal market. Last year a Missouri attorney advertised a discount on the popular Groupon (group coupon) deal-of-the-day website. He had offered to draft a will and durable power of attorney for $99, an 87% discount from his usual $750 fee.
Several legal bloggers such as David Drumm, Mark Sweet and Mike Cooper have debated the ethicality of using Groupons to attract clients. For instance, such an arrangement to advertise with Groupon is arguably a fee splitting agreement with a nonlawyer, violating Rule 5.4(a) of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. At present, the state bar associations that have offered opinions on the subject are split as to whether such practice is acceptable: North Carolina finds it unethical while Missouri makes its determinations on a case-by-case basis.
Another recent trend is for attorneys to bid for clients on “reverse auction” sites. Unlike standard auctions where competing bidders force prices upward, in reverse auctions prices are driven down by those seeking to win at the lowest prices. For example, if someone needed a document drafted, numerous lawyers could bid against one another to offer their services at the lowest fee to win the client. Two reverse auction sites, Shpoonkle and ExpertBids, spcialize matching potential clients with attorneys.
These are but two of the many creative ways that attorneys are attempting to reach out to new clients. Other potential methods include using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Several new books have been published on how attorneys can exploit these channels to expand their practices. Recent titles include Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier by Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black and social.lawyers: Transforming Business Development by Jayne Navarre. If you are looking for creative ways to increase your practice, these titles and many others are available for checkout to registered borrowers at the Alameda County Law Library.