I recently commented on The Dreams of a Solo to a post here about how the needs versus wants when starting a solo practice are a fine balance that every solo needs to think about before getting in over their heads.
I didn’t have too much difficulty in determining my technology needs from wants. With the web application, I could just use the computer equipment I already had, even though dual monitors would be swell as would a new Blackberry and a MacBook Air. [Note to self: I need to update my tech “wish list” again before birthday.]
The most difficult part for me in determining the needs versus wants in opening my virtual solo was figuring out what advertising I really “needed.” Advertising expenses can quickly get away from you if you count the cost of new office announcements to other attorneys and membership in different organizations as a form of advertising. These don’t even reach the public, just build an attorney network that hopefully results in referrals.
Online versus traditional advertising was my biggest challenge. I erroneously thought that I had to have a listing in the Yellow Pages. Big mistake. Kevin at Real Lawyers Have Blogs recently posted here about how ineffective this is for solos. He’s right. Google is the new phone book. Even if the YP ad came with the online listing that linked to my vlo, it still was not worth the $2,000 plus annual contract. I think I was under the impression from working at my previous firm that it was just what law offices did to have a “presence” locally. Well, if your office is virtual that doesn’t matter so much.
Online directories, such as Lexis’ Lawyers.com also proved to not have a good ROI. Unless you can afford the extra cost to “bump” your listing up to the top (i.e., have a BigLaw advertising budget), I don’t think it was worth the expense. The service occasionally resulted in a prospective client but that wasn’t worth the monthly bill and tacky splash page to my website.
I think it took me a good year of figuring out what I really “needed” for advertising to build a decent client base and then keep the business momentum going. I’m still working out the perfect balance. I suspect that, like everything in life, the need-want balance with my virtual practice will always change a little each year.