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Changing Law Firms? 7 Things to Remember That You May Have Overlooked
Many industries are experiencing higher rates of turnover as employees change companies and positions with greater frequency, and the legal industry is no exception. Here is a list of seven things to remember when you decide to switch law firms.
Perhaps you are interested in a new practice area, or have been offered more pay. Maybe you are a solo lawyer joining a larger firm, or a big firm lawyer hanging your shingle. Your family might be moving to a new location, or you may have a lateral opportunity with greater partnership prospects. Whatever the motivation may be, law firm transitions frequently involve many moving pieces and require great attention to detail.
The full list of things to address when moving firms may seem endless: from client notifications and trust account implications to conflicts checks, ethical concerns, insurance implications, and more, you have many big picture items on your radar. However, with so much to manage, you might also overlook some less pressing matters that may still impact your practice’s long-term success and growth in the future.
Keep reading this post for seven things you may have overlooked, but should add to your checklist, when switching law firms.
1. Edit Your Profiles in Lawyer and Business Directories
Your profiles in the various business directories and lawyer and law firm directories are very important parts of a well-rounded legal marketing strategy. These directories help potential clients locate and contact your firm. If you do not update your listings, you may be missing out on these leads as they contact your old firm, or move on to another lawyer when they cannot reach you.
Business and lawyer directories also aid your firm’s overall SEO (search engine optimization) efforts in multiple ways. Having accurate information on these profiles is a critical part of NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency online, which is very important for your business profile rankings in Google Search and Google Maps. Additionally, some directories offer editorial links to your law firm website, which may help improve its search engine rankings.
Likewise, maintaining complete and accurate online profiles is a key part of promoting and managing a strong digital reputation for you and your law firm.
Because you may not look at these profiles every day, it is easy to forget about updating them as you transition and move into your new role. However, you should add updating this information to your list. Having accurate contact information, as well as other related information about your practice such as your practice areas and experience, helps set your practice up for future growth and legal marketing success.
If you are moving into a new practice area or building your practice in a new location, you may want to consider enhancing these profiles with paid or premium placements, such as the Justia Premium Placements available for Justia Lawyer Directory profiles. This can help you increase your online visibility for more leads and grow your changing practice more quickly.
2. Update Your Law Firm Website
If you are a solo attorney joining a bigger firm or a small firm being acquired by a larger firm, you will likely need to update your law firm website to reflect this change in circumstances.
First, you will need to decide whether you are going to keep your current website up, and if so, who will own the website. If you have done significant work on your website content and/or building editorial outside links, you may not want to just take it down or redirect it to your new law firm’s website. If you do decide to keep the website, you could modify the branding to focus on yourself as an individual lawyer who is part of a larger firm.
If you decide not to keep your website, then you might want to temporarily put up a static page advising of the closure or acquisition of your firm, an email address where you can be reached, and information about how someone can request their file materials. After a period of time, you may want to fully shut down the website and redirect your site to your new law firm’s website.
If you are not a solo attorney joining a larger firm or a law firm being acquired by another firm, your previous employer will likely remove any profile you may have had on their website without further action on your part. However, if it remains on their website, you will want to reach out and ask to have it removed in order to avoid confusion for your current and future clients.
At your new firm, they may or may not have attorney profiles on their website. If they do, then you likely will need to assist in preparing a biography to include with your profile. As discussed in other Justia Onward posts, duplicate content can negatively impact your SEO efforts. Therefore, when writing this bio you want it to be original, high-quality content and not just a copy-paste of information you have posted elsewhere online.
3. Change Your Social Media Accounts
Just like your law firm website and directory profiles, social media accounts contain lots of information that will likely need updating once you change firms. How you address this change will likely vary based on whether the account is a firm account for your former practice (in the case of closing a solo practice or being acquired by another firm) or a professional account for yourself as a lawyer (not to be confused with any informal professional accounts).
If the account is a firm account for your former practice, you will likely need to treat it like your website. Decide if you want to keep the profile. If so, rebrand it as necessary. If not, then you should add information advising of your firm’s closure or acquisition. Later, consider deleting the page altogether.
If it is a professional account for you as an individual lawyer, you will almost certainly need to update your contact information, including your phone number, email, and street address. You may also need to change information about your employer, or imagery that may be associated with your previous firm, such as a cover photo.
4. Manage Paid Advertising Assets
The nature of your prior practice and your role in that practice will likely influence the mix of paid advertising assets you must consider during your move to a new role. For instance, if you were operating your own firm previously, you may have pay-per-click ad campaigns, a commercial, a billboard, or other paid marketing assets. These will all need to be addressed as part of your transition to a new firm.
If you are making a simpler transition from one firm to another that does not require unwinding your prior practice in some way, then you likely have fewer paid advertising assets to consider. However, you probably still need to address some smaller advertising assets. For example, have you ordered new business cards? Will your new firm handle that, or do you need to take care of it? After all, you do not want to find yourself in a situation where you need a business card and don’t have one with any accurate information.
5. Check Your Signature Blocks
As an attorney, signature blocks are likely everywhere in your practice. You have one on every pleading you file and likely in all your correspondence (both email and traditional mail). If you are not fully transitioning to a new email account, you will want to be sure you update your signature block to your new contact information. It is a good idea to draw attention to this change in correspondence with people who may have previously contacted you at that address. However, even if moving to a new primary professional email account, you should ideally add a note to your email signature before the move advising people that your contact information will be changing.
Likewise, you will want to ensure any letterhead you may be using accurately reflects your current law firm and contact information. Don’t forget to update your information in any forms you may use for creating pleadings. Updating this signature block may not impact your legal marketing efforts as much as some of the other items on this list, but it will have a big impact on your practice.
6. Don’t Forget the Voicemail
You may be leaving your old landline behind, but your cell phone number frequently will stay with you, even as you transition to a new firm. Don’t forget to update that voicemail message if you mention your employer! You don’t want to tell callers that they have reached an attorney as Smith & Jones when you are working for Moore & Law.
Likewise, consider whether you need to make a note on your old landline about how you can be reached now and whether the number will be forwarded elsewhere.
7. Follow Your State Bar’s Notification Procedures
This one may seem obvious, but you will almost certainly need to notify your state bar association (or other licensing organization) of your transition. Most bar associations have requirements that you keep an updated address, phone number, and email address on file as part of your ethical obligations. However, this update may not be at the top of your list when you are worried about client matters and remaining diligent in your representation through a period of change. The timeline for reporting changes in information may vary from state to state, so be sure you check the rules of your local jurisdiction(s) to avoid inadvertently running afoul of any notification requirements.
Bonus Tip: Join New Professional Organizations
In the early days of your new role, you may want to join new organizations that will help you increase your visibility and expand your professional network, especially if you are moving into a new practice area or a new location. For example, if you were previously a personal injury attorney and are now moving into bankruptcy law, you may want to join the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). As another illustration, if you are a professional relocating to a new city, you may want to look into opportunities to join more general business and professional associations.
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
As you embark on a new journey with a new law firm, you want to set your practice up to succeed. By adding these seven things to your transition checklist, you are one (or seven) steps closer to starting this new chapter on the right foot!