Whenever I read materials on marketing, I'm always told to try to identify my 'ideal client'. Apparently, once I start focusing on taking ‘ideal clients’, my business will flourish like never before.
So I’ve been thinking: What kind of client would be the most profitable for an immigration lawyer like myself?
In theory, my ‘ideal client’ would be someone whose matter fits nicely into one of my favoured areas of practise. By always taking on the same sort of file, I would never have to learn to do anything new, and I could re-use the same documents, and just change all the names. I could also offload much of the work to a legal secretary, so I could take on more files, to maximise my billings. My ideal client would be easy to deal with, not ‘needy’ and would certainly never cry in my office. That would just make the appointment longer, having to hand out tissues.
If I was better at listening to marketing advice, undoubtedly I would be driving a nicer car.
If I did listen to what the marketing specialist were telling me, I wouldn't take on refugee clients whose matters requires triple the amount of work then Legal Aid Ontario will pay me. I would also only do pro bono work for the marketing value, rather than because I felt that I was doing something meaningful. In addition, I wouldn't routinely ‘waste’ half an hour in appointments simply chatting with clients about their lives.
Clearly, I’m looking for something different in my ‘ideal client’.
Perhaps this has something to do with my personal journey which lead me to this point in my life. I recently gave an interview (which you can check out at this link), where I explained that I started out my career as a family lawyer. After that I took some time to stay at home with my three (according to my law clerk) hilarious children. I was then offered a part-time position working with an immigration lawyer. This was perfect for maintaining balance while re-entering the practice of law after a long absence.
I've never looked back. Family law was fun, but immigration law is amazing. I get to assist individuals and their families from all over the world. I love hearing the stories of these incredible people. They add a different, but just as important value to my practise as a lawyer.
So with this in mind, if I had to make a list of the qualities embodied by my ‘ideal client’, this is what it would look like:
The ‘Ideal Client’
Is someone who is interesting, friendly, and has had unique life experiences. I love it when clients teach me something I didn't know before. I may not get to travel the world, but the world comes to me through the stories of the people I meet.
Brings me lunch (I keep taking on chefs and cooks as clients for this very reason!)
Answers my emails, and gets me the information and documents I need promptly. This way I can help with the client’s application without having to nag. With three teenagers at home, I already do enough nagging.
Realizes I am human, and that I make mistakes. Points out typos graciously.
Forgives me if I can't get reply to emails as quickly as I would like, and understands that I have kids and that some of my clients have experienced traumatic life events and require additional care, and because of this doesn’t mind waiting a day or two for me to respond to lengthier inquiries.
Reads my newsletters, and occasionally sends me an email telling me that he or she has learned something new from what I've written.
Tells friends and family to come see me if they have immigration issues.
Once his or her matter is complete, writes me a very nice review on Google or provides me with a testimonial for my website.
Even after no longer being my client, sends me pictures of new puppies and babies, lets me know about a new job or a plan to marry. The ‘ideal clients’ know that I continue to care even after their legal matters are finished.
And despite what all the marketing materials tell me, I think the best way to get my ideal client is to strive to be an ideal lawyer. In my view, this is someone who genuinely cares about her clients and their families. She will not hesitate to spend evenings and weekends reading the latest Federal court cases, government releases, and Twitter posts to always be on top of what’s happening in immigration law. She also tries her very best to get back to people the very same day, and apologizes profusely if she cannot. She’s a lawyer who tries her very best in everything she does, because that's the most I can do.