How Lawyers Can Use Marketing Strategies to Grow Their Client Base

Like many lawyers, I didn’t learn marketing in law school. I also knew nothing about communications or media relations before law school. When I graduated and started practicing at a matrimonial law firm, there were no internal or external marketing resources, and no direct public relations conversations or plans. or brand image. A founding partner talked about the importance of reputation in connecting with potential clients and how his connections in the legal community resulted in many referrals, but he never mentioned marketing.

Yet, as I attended bar meetings, wrote articles for the partner to publish in a legal journal, and received encouragement to network at Inns of Court sessions, I saw this aspect of legal practice come to light. We didn’t call it marketing or public relations, and it was long before social media, but I understood that the partner was intentionally marketing the practice and publicizing the company’s experience – an effort that resulted in new customer commitments.

When I decided to leave law after a few years, I enrolled in a New York University course on professional services marketing. Luckily, the instructor was Deborah Brightman Farone, a legal marketer extraordinaire past and present – she was inducted into the Legal Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame at the 2022 annual conference of the Legal Marketing Association. organization. Deborah introduced me to the field of law firm marketing, and since then I have worked with hundreds of lawyers and marketers on business development and integrated marketing plans, and helped to integrate marketing into their daily practice.

Most lawyers need to understand what this marketing is all about. I see firsthand their appreciation of the importance of building customer relationships, cross-selling expertise within the company, and networking. However, I don’t see an understanding of legal marketing terms and tactics as often. I think with so much to learn in law school, there just isn’t time to learn the business side of law. Once a lawyer is practicing law, there may be little guidance on how to reach prospects and referral sources, set yourself apart from other lawyers doing similar work, and find time to “market yourself”. “.

I frequently read articles in which lawyers describe their path to becoming a partner or managing a firm or office. The words “PR” or “marketing” may not appear in their responses, but as someone who has advised lawyers on practice growth for over 20 years, I know that positioning as knowledge leaders was instrumental in the success of their relationship. construction and development of the practice. And that, of course, is marketing.

This article will walk you through five steps that I always review with lawyers new to marketing or participating in a firm-wide marketing program.

  1. Recognize the need for education

Obtaining a JD and passing the bar exam prepares a lawyer for the practice of law, but not for the business of law. My colleague Vivian Hood recently wrote, “Law schools focus on teaching the art of law, not so much on the art of relationships. Courses on marketing, public relations, or social media are not part of the law school curriculum. Instead, law school teaches students to read cases and apply precedents, analyze facts and make arguments, spot the real issues and see the red herrings. Likewise, legal writing courses, moot court competitions, internships, and other practical work prepare them for the practice of law. Their understanding of marketing may extend to the billboards they see on the way to work, law firm advertisements in law journals, or bar association networking events.

Lawyers know how to practice law, but don’t know what marketing is or how it supports business development and revenue. Education is the first step towards awareness. Many times I’ve explained how public relations works so that lawyers understand the events that lead to being quoted in a trade publication, or the behind-the-scenes steps that lead to getting a speaking engagement at a public event. ‘industry.

  1. Discuss marketing perceptions

The only way to know how a lawyer views marketing is to ask and then provide advice on valid and appropriate marketing efforts.

Lawyers often avoid marketing because they associate it with sales. My colleague Glennie Green explains, “Most lawyers look at some sort of sale when the idea of ​​marketing and business development comes up. They see car salesmen or aggressive timeshare arguments. But that’s not the right mentality. Business development is not selling. Business development is about cultivating and maintaining relationships.

Relationships can be built in many ways. A common misconception is that marketing success hinges on the ability to be a natural rainmaker who can walk into any room and instantly create business connections. This belief can create unrealistic expectations and undue stress, as rainmakers are few and far between. Relationships can be built and maintained without this unique rainmaker quality. Everyone adapts to situations differently – some of us are introverted, others extrovert, or a combination of traits.

  1. Evaluate the impact of previous experiences

Lawyers can base their perception of marketing on past experiences. Lawyers have told me, “I’ve written many articles in the past, and they’ve never represented new cases.

“I traveled to speak at a conference, and not a single attendee turned out to be a new client.”

“I did an interview with a reporter who misquoted me.”

“I have a LinkedIn profile, but I’m not interested in doing anything with it; it’s like facebook.

Many people fear failure, and many lawyers and transactional litigants are driven by victory. So it’s no surprise that lawyers question the value of something that hasn’t won in the past. Understanding and acknowledging these hesitations can lead to productive discussions about marketing and, more specifically, which techniques might be best suited for the lawyer.

  1. Discuss the time commitment

The legal practice billable hour model can affect a lawyer’s availability to market their practice. Too many business engagements will inevitably frustrate a lawyer and diminish marketing success. It’s better to work with a distinct set of action items that can only take a few minutes a day rather than several hours a week.

Glennie Green has helped lawyers identify their advocates – assistants, paralegals, firm librarians; people with whom they can associate to carry out their actions. A managing partner with a busy practice serves as an example of this effort. “He’s committed to having a number of meetings a month with current and potential referral sources,” she says. “He hires a paralegal in the office to help him schedule these meetings, as well as maintain his marketing calendar. This allows him to stay focused on his practice and manage the practice. He regularly checks his calendar for new dates, and he says he can’t wait to see who he meets next. Once he realized he didn’t have to do it all and asked for help, his marketing plan and goals became not only manageable, but systematic.

  1. Find the comfort zone

Marketing efforts should be tailored to the lawyer’s personality and interests. Everyone has a different level of comfort. Some lawyers love to speak at conferences, while others prefer to research a case and write an analysis for a newspaper. One lawyer may already love engaging on social media, and another may feel pressed for time but would be willing to do a 30-minute interview with a reporter. A lawyer might like to participate in association events or committees. Green explains, “Knowing a lawyer’s trusted areas and recognizing what is causing any discomfort is crucial to establishing the right marketing plan with the flexibility to change direction as needed.

Marketing avenues include website content and branding, social media posts and engagement, media relations, citations and published articles, rankings and awards, conferences and speaking opportunities, networking, events, etc. The questions and conversations I provided lead to more accurate choices of marketing tactics, as well as more informed expectations of results. An integrated marketing and business development program provides lawyers with a selection of tactics, with a deliberate match to their preferences and the flexibility to change as needed.

© Copyright 2008-2022, Jaffe AssociatesNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 103

About Ethel Nester

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