e9. Blake Chapman, Life Planning Law – Practical Advice for A Strong Work Life Balance

September 4, 2020
By: Matthew Laurin

Blake Chapman is the Founder of Life Planning Law, a wills and estate planning law firm based in Ontario, Canada. He’s also a self-described Marketing & SEO Nerd, believing that great lawyering also means doing great business. Before Blake started his firm, he pursued a Doctorate in Behavioral Economics and Law and currently holds a Ph.D., Masters, and J.D in Law.

 
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Who is Blake Chapman
  • What motivated Blake to start Life Planning Law 
  • The resources Blake used to learn how to market his firm 
  • How Blake helps other attorneys with their marketing 
  • Mistakes lawyers make with their websites 
  • Why responsiveness is critical to your marketing 
  • Blake shares why he chose the Wills and Estate Planning niche 
  • Blake’s advice for how to start your solo practice

In this episode…

Your solo practice can either drain your resources or generate enough revenue to support your dreams and lifestyle. The critical difference is in how you go about it. From how you market your firm to the way you handle your customer service, Blake Chapman says that you stand a better chance of knowing your clients and serving them on a deeper level as a solo practice. How do you go about this?

Listen to this episode of the Esq.Marketing Podcast with Matthew Laurin as he hosts Blake Chapman of Life Planning Law. They talk about how Blake has succeeded in making his solo practice support his dreams and lifestyle and how you can do the same.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Esq Marketing, your firm’s strategic search marketing partner. Esq Marketing helps law firms generate more clients and cases using search marketing and helping them land on the first page on Google so that clients can find you right away. We help companies ranging from those with 10 or less members to those with over 50 in their team, essentially creating a marketing department for them to help them reach potential clients with ease.

 

Episode Transcript

Intro

You’re listening to the Esq.Marketing Podcast hosted by Matthew Laurin, President of Esq.Marketing, where he features successful solo and SMB law firms from all over the United States. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Matthew Laurin

Hey, I’m Matthew Laurin, President of Esq.Marketing and you’re listening. You’re listening to the Esq.Marketing Podcast where we feature successful solo and SMB law firms from all over the United States and today outside the United States. This episode is brought to you by Esq.Marketing, we help law firms generate more clients and cases using search, marketing, and Speaking of successful law firms today I have the pleasure of speaking with Blake Chapman Blake is the owner of Life Planning Law, a wills and estate planning law firm based in Ontario, Canada. Before Blake founded his firm he did a Doctorate in Behavioral Economics and Law and he currently holds a PhD, Masters and J.D in law. Blake, welcome to the show.

Blake Chapman

Happy to be here.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, we’re just talking before the show. I know, a lot of schooling. And you were talking, it was kind of interesting our conversation about branding yourself, when you’re going into a tenure track at home, you know, with all that schooling, they don’t really touch on marketing a whole lot, which is super important for people found in their firms. Where did you when you when you got out of school, did you figure out you kind of had to take on this other part of your education where you had to figure out how to how to start your firm and how to market it and how to promote it.

Blake Chapman

As soon as I kind of decided that an academic life wasn’t going to be for me. At that point, it was okay, you know, this business I’m going to start is going to support my family. I better do it right. And so I better figure out how the hell to do it. Yeah. And so I did a lot of reading on marketing, branding, starting your own practice. And really, I mean, if you’re going to do it, you got to do research. And you know, if lawyers are good at anything, it’s It’s research. So you should be able to figure it out. And you know, a lot of it does come down to testing it once you open it, like you’re not going to be perfect when you start your practice. I certainly wasn’t, I look back at some of the things I did when I started and I’m horrified with the things I did, both on the marketing and just on like the client experience and the systems I had in place, but you know, you get better over time. You just got to learn from your mistakes and move on.

Matthew Laurin

Was there a resource that you went to on a regular basis? Like one single resource? Or did you kind of find like blog posts videos all over the internet on how to how to market your firm,

Blake Chapman

honestly, was a lot of googling, okay, okay. Now how to market the firm, you know, I mean, you could you could hire a, I could hire a marketing company at that time, I had no money. Yeah, it wasn’t really an option for me. So I figured I got to kind of bootstrap it and, and learn how to do it myself. And I wasn’t even into like digital marketing at that time. It’s really only been the last few months that I’ve kind of taken a dive into digital marketing, because I looked at the numbers and realized how much of my business comes from Google. And it actually done very little on the Google front. So I figured, wow, if I’ve done practically nothing and getting, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last few years from it, maybe if I actually spent some time on it, I’ll get more. Yeah,

Matthew Laurin

yeah, for sure. And that’s, it’s, that’s interesting. You say that about googling and researching online. I mean, that’s how, that’s how I got started. That’s how a lot of my colleagues got started and how a lot of other attorneys I’ve spoken with got started with digital marketing and promoting their firms is just kind of piecing together information from from different sources and learning about it on the internet. It’s really a great way to and I like how you said testing, because it’s so important to just keep refining your process and try two different things. Because you never get it right first time. It’s always, you know, design, implement, test, and then tweak

Blake Chapman

Have you got a you know, really keep track of what works. And I’m a big stats nerd. So I’m happy to have a giant spreadsheet where I track things. But, you know, I talked to a lot of lawyers and they, you know, do some advertising here and there. And I asked him, you know, what’s the return on investment? I don’t know. Spend $5,000 a year in a local newspaper ad? Does that work? Like does it generate a return on investment? I do that and yes, it does work for me. I tried a different ad size, and it increased the revenue. But you got to know what you’re doing and you got to track what you’re doing.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, yeah, I agree. I agree. I was reading your LinkedIn profile. And you talk about helping other attorneys with their marketing. Is that something that you’re still involved with you You belong to any groups or you reach out to other attorneys to help them

Blake Chapman

I’ve had a lot of sort of one on one meetings with new lawyers or lawyers that are have been lawyers for Long time, but are thinking of going out on their own. And more of, you know, they see that I’ve been relatively successful at building my own practice and building a practice that sort of fits my life and fits my family. And so we sort of have those one on one meetings where I, I’m very candid about what works for me and the process I use, and that maybe they can try some of that or learn from some of it themselves. I thought I thought of starting a blog about it To be honest, because I am fully transparent about what works and what doesn’t and where my revenue comes from. And, you know, I think it’s important for lawyers to share that kind of information with other people. You know, it doesn’t provide any competitive advantage for me necessarily to keep it private. And I want to help new lawyers because there was nobody out there to help me when I started. So I wish I could have had that conversation about some new ideas and some things that work and some things that don’t work.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, that’s great, man. You should start a blog. Um, You know, I’ve a lot of the blogs that I follow that taught me about digital marketing, where I think started with a similar mission, you know, just to kind of put information out there based on someone’s own experiences and, and try to help other other people. And I know it’s like that’s a lot of what we do in our work is just putting out content that helps people do their jobs better.

Blake Chapman

Yeah, it doesn’t even need to be like complicated in depth stuff with you know, jargon that nobody understands. You know, the last couple years all I’ve had on digital marketing is a Google My Business profile. For some good moves. Yes. And a website with some decent content not much like I haven’t had a new blog post in two years. And I’ve gotten Like I said, I over you know, about $200,000 now in revenue from that alone, and I’ve done like nothing. I’m like, it’s like the basic as basic as you can get it. To have a Google My Business profile, ask for a few reviews, and have a decent website. Like this is not rocket science. You don’t need to be a pro at SEO or pay per click ads. Like just just get started on something basic.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, that’s great advice. And you don’t I mean, it’s all super easy stuff. When I talk to people. Sometimes they’re like, you know, they get bogged down in the weeds about doing technical SEO or doing any kind of tricks with with digital advertising and there’s really nothing there’s no rocket science behind it. There’s there’s nothing complicated about it’s really just putting yourself out there doing good work. And yet making decent content making a decent website and over time, you know, traffic business will come.

Blake Chapman

Yeah, one of the things I can’t I guess I can’t stand with lawyer websites. And you know, people make these great websites and I’m sure the paid web designers a lot of money to do it. But they don’t actually go into thinking about you know, who is my client gonna be? Be, and what kind of website Do they like? And what kind of information are they looking for? Yes. And, you know, like, are they going to be the kind of person that likes the scales of justice kind of logo that everybody else in the world has? I want to see you in a dark suit looking mean? Honestly, most people don’t want that. Most people want a real person that they can talk to that they’re not intimidated by. Which is why on my website, you know, I’ve a lot of pictures of my family. I love that. That’s who I am. I’m a family guy. And this is what you’re going to get when you work with me. You know, like, right now I’m in my basement, like, I’m not using some fake background to hide that fact. You know, what you see is what you get. And honestly, a lot of people comment on it about how they like that. It’s me and they feel like they see me personally, that I have a friendly face. And so you know, it’s done. It’s done great work for me. And really just about kind of trying to think about what do my clients like and what would I how would I like to be treated? And that’s sort of the one sort of golden rule that I keep coming back to is treat people how you want to be treated. And trust me that will lead to good business.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, that’s, you’re, you’re on the right track. Because when people come to your website, I mean, they see to your wills and estate planning lawyer. And when people are in that mindset, I feel like they, they’re, they’re in a position where they want to protect their family, they’re thinking about the future and and how they’re going to craft their life to help their loved ones. Maybe when they’re gone, or maybe, you know, for whatever reason, whatever happens in the future, and when they come to your website, and they see family and they see caring, you know, that’s, that resonates with them, because that’s what they’re thinking about at the moment. Yeah, if they saw like scales of justice, or a courtroom or, or documents and, and things like that, you know, yeah, it would be relevant to estate planning, but it’s not how they feel it’s not speaking to them and what their mindset is right now. And same thing for other attorney websites like if you’re, you know, a PII lawyer and you’re doing car accident cases, like no one’s carrying about the process, they want to know, someone’s gonna listen to their problems and in fix, you know, the situation that they’re in.

Blake Chapman

And they’re there. They want a person. Right? They want real people. Yeah, and I’m sure the personal injury firms have tested this because they, you know, in the marketing world of law, they’re kind of at the top most competitive area, and most expensive area. But, you know, I go to some personal injury law firm websites, and I see like, pictures of car crashes and stuff and I wonder to myself, I was in a car crash, but I really want to see that kind of picture. Looking for Yeah, I don’t know, I guess I guess they’ve tested it out, but I’m not so sure.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, I think it’s a maybe a borderline between relevance and, and speaking to the consumer, but you’re right. I mean, they, as business owners, sometimes we think we know what people want to see and then When we do research and actually try to figure it out, we, we realized that, that were completely wrong. I know for from other businesses I’ve worked with, we’ve hired, you know, copywriters to do research. And even in, you know, the agency world, we figured out, like, all the stuff we had on our website was completely wrong, you know, especially for attorneys. You know, like most attorneys we work with, they don’t care about, you know, ranking number one or generating leads, like that’s a part of it, but they want transparency and they want open communication and they want responsiveness. So yeah, I agree. It’s, it’s, it’s good to have your site framed in a way where, you know, it just talks about you and it’s real and it’s transparent. I really liked that.

Blake Chapman

Finally, you mentioned the transparency and responsiveness because I just got off the phone with somebody potential client to have contacted a bunch of lawyers, like at least five, and I was the only one that got back to them. Oh, no, it was an easy, easy client to get. Because I was the only one that replied, and I get probably a client a week, who has a lawyer already that has done like their will, that they want to change. And the other word doesn’t get back to them. So they’d rather just start new with somebody that replies to them. And I hear this all the time. And like this is, you know, marketing goes beyond having a website and you know what your brand is? It’s also just about basic client. responsiveness.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, basic, good customer service.

Blake Chapman

Yeah. If you have good customer service that I think that automatically puts you probably in the top 25% of lawyers that are practicing in terms of your marketing, because not many people are doing it. It’s pretty low hanging fruit.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, I’m so I noticed that you, you just focus on the wills and estate planning. Was there a conscious decision to go into just one specific niche, which I think is a good idea, by the way?

Blake Chapman

Yep. For sure. So when I was sort of developing my practice, I was going through a lot of Different areas of law that I liked, and I thought I could practice in. And I knew I needed to, as we call in Canada and niche down niches up here. I knew I needed to do that. And so I was, you know, I was thinking, well, I could have like a general practice. But you know, unless I live in a small town, where there’s nobody else, that’s not gonna work. And so I thought about what kind of areas I wanted to practice in, I thought about what kind of areas of law I could do like without an office with keep my overhead low without staff. Because I’m just me, it’s just me here. And I wanted to keep it that way. And I wanted to practice where I didn’t have to go to court because I hate doing that. And a practice that sort of fits my life. And this was kind of the only one and it worked out well and I have no regrets about it. It’s been it’s been a great ride and even recently, I’ve decided to sort of reframe my marketing around the estate planning side of things. Doesn’t mean I’m not doing like probate or estate administration or executor work just means from a marketing point of view online as a strong focus on estate planning now, and I’m finding that almost doubled my business in the last few months alone.

Matthew Laurin

Yeah, yeah, I think there’s, with everything going on in the world, much more focused on people planning for the future. I know it’s affected how I think about it and see a lot of that online. So I have to ask about your high position like your your, your family and home life, work life balance. I have five kids of my own. I also work from home. And I just think it’s neat was that intentional to kind of build a life around that, you know, working from home, being able to spend more time with the family. build your business that way?

Blake Chapman

Yeah, it was intentional. I was the plan initially. You know, I’ve been a graduate student for a long time there and I kind of got used to it. Graduate Student Life of working from home and being your own boss and I wanted that to continue and I wanted to be in my kids lives and walking to school. I wanted to be able to take a Wednesday off if I felt like it. Yeah, and recharge my own schedule. And you know, that’s probably the number one thing that I’m most happy about this How am I scheduling has worked out and how building my own practice has allowed me to build my own family time. Like I think last year I took about 12 weeks of vacation. That’s not real vacation where ignore emails for a week. I do. Yeah, emails, but there weren’t any meetings. There weren’t any projects that I needed to get done or documents I needed to get done. And you know, if you tell people this and you tell clients this, this is what to expect. They get it. You know, I’ll mentioned your client while I’m going on vacation next week, and I’m like, Okay, no problem. Can you get it to me the week after? Yeah, I’m fine with that. Just got to be up front with people.

Matthew Laurin

That’s that’s really great. I it’s neat to see that um, and I bet that provides a lot of happiness and fulfillment in your life. As one final question, like, for new attorneys out there, like so people just graduating or maybe they’re leaving a firm they’ve worked for what’s a good piece of advice you have for them.

Blake Chapman

That’s a tough one.

Matthew Laurin

If they’re gonna, if they’re gonna start like their own firm

Blake Chapman

definitely pick a niche or niche to focus on. I don’t think you can go broad you got to get as narrow as possible. So that you are sort of that guy or the girl that does whatever area of law it is, is people want to work with specialists. They generally don’t want a general practitioner they want to focus on one particular area and feel like they’re getting expert advice. Ah, you know, I would say if you’re thinking of going solo after or with a firm right now, plan in advance, like it’s gonna I worked on my firm like a year before I took on a first client. Now it wasn’t a year solid, but you know, I thought about it constantly. built out my website, so I was ready to go, I had some marketing materials ready to go. And that process during that process, you really figure out what the firm is going to look like, you might have an idea now, but when you actually sort of get into the weeds of doing it, it really starts to take shape, and will help you figure out where to focus your marketing efforts. And dollars and you know, you got to when you starting out dollars are hard to come by. So you really got to be Be careful about it. And you know, there’s a lot of fancy tech out there. I tried probably like six practice management software’s trials when I was getting started. And I ended up using none of them. I ended up I use Excel, probably because I’m a spreadsheet nerd, but it just works for me, right? You got to find out what works for you and like don’t try and fit yourself into somebody else’s world. And just be yourself and trust me, you’ll be happy.

Matthew Laurin

That’s great advice. Great advice. You’ve been listening to Blake Chapman Owner at Life Planning Law, Blake, if people are interested in wills and estate planning, where can they go to learn more about your firm?

Blake Chapman

Yeah, lifeplanninglaw.ca is my website. You can also find me on LinkedIn. And maybe one of these days I’ll start that blog on my marketing efforts and how things work and don’t work. From my perspective.

Matthew Laurin

I think that’s a good idea. Blake thanks for being on the show. 

Blake Chapman

No problem. Thanks.

Conclusion

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