Unfortunately, many law firms are run by people who do not know, or don’t want to know what they are doing when it comes to marketing. We acknowledge that this is a blunt assessment but what makes this assessment worse is that they are often confident that by doing nothing they have their law firm’s marketing sorted and are therefore disengaged to entertain any thought of change.

This is where the opportunity arises – for everyone else this is great news. As a competitor, you have them where you want them – in a state of delusion. As a business owner you can take steps to grow your firm and if your competitor fails to act or react to you, that’s their problem.

So if you have growth aspirations for your law firm, it’s time to stop for a minute and digest what we are saying. This is an opportunity. We want to cut through the clutter and reach those firms interested in growth, not for growth’s sake but to seek better work and improve their lifestyle. To address firm leaders who want to make a change from where you are now.

Ridiculous comments we hear time and again

We are dealing with small and medium sized law firms around the country on a daily basis, most of whom realise the value of marketing and are taking advantage of the opportunities, but this rubbish is trotted out by partners in firms Australia wide, so don’t think it’s not widespread, it is. We have crystallised the comments into the top 4 below:

“I don’t have time to market”

Is a bit like saying “I don’t have time to communicate with you” and is obviously short sighted. When the ‘today’ work runs out – and it inevitably will, the same person will be panicking to get their ‘tomorrow’ work. It’s too late then. Marketing should be categorised into different tasks, with some tasks being done by the lawyers such as relationship marketing, that is, the tasks that require the lawyer to deal with clients or prospects directly. When a lawyer gets very busy with client work this gets hard to do and is put aside. When this happens the firm cannot stop marketing because that should roll on in a pre-planned programmed way.

Marketing tasks that can be delegated such as newsletters, blog articles and social media can and should be maintained on an ongoing basis, so it is not dependent on the lawyer being available to deal with it. There is no reason why this sort of marketing cannot be ‘locked in’.

“We rely on word of mouth”

Getting work from ‘word of mouth’ referrals is fine. The problem with saying this is that it appears to be a strategy to market the firm, when it’s not. Sitting in the chair behind the desk waiting for a referral to call is no marketing plan at all. Your message is to continue to expect your referrers to continue referring but this should be 1% of your marketing plan not 100%.

The likelihood is that the lawyers saying this do so because they don’t know how to market or are unable to adapt to more modern marketing strategies. They need to adapt. Now!

“Everyone knows I’m a lawyer”

The full sentence is “everyone knows I’m a lawyer and therefore I don’t need to do (that awful) marketing”.

The sheer arrogance is breathtaking. Some lawyers dislike the need to market and will robustly defend their position as to why they shouldn’t need to. They may be brilliant as a lawyer but business success or perceived personal appeal doesn’t convert leads into clients.

Every person running a business needs to invest time and money into sensible marketing strategies for that business. The legal profession has been so far behind other businesses in this area that more education is still needed to arrest these silly un-businesslike notions.

Your best friend and your mother will always contact you and they certainly know you’re a lawyer, so we agree with this line as far as your inner circle goes, but the firm won’t grow, in fact it will wither on the vine if this view prevails because no one else cares. If you don’t reach out to your clients and referrers don’t be disappointed when you hear that they get legal updates from one of your competitors and they have sought other legal advice (the hide of them after all you’ve done…).

 “We market by sending out a Christmas card”

Fail! For those lawyers who think sending a Christmas card once a year to some of their clients is enough – it’s not. In fact it’s so far from enough it’s funny to think they’re serious.

If the client has a legal problem for the fortnight after Christmas, congratulations you will be fine but there needs to be more done to cover the other 50 weeks. And then we get into the high cost of stamps, signing and paperwork in this process that interrupts the office. So if all the clients were sent a card that’s going to be time consuming and expensive, if not all get your message that’s a weakness in your marketing plan – so it’s probably a double fail here.

Reported trends from major US law firm marketer

BlackFin, a large US Law firm marketing company reported (including graph below) in December 2016, in terms of marketing trends in 2017 that there would be a revival of email marketing:

“…email marketing might not be the sexiest internet marketing strategy, but it does work and has for a long time. What we love about email marketing is that it gives you the ability to do a lot of great things at once. You can send traffic back to your site, you can stay top-of-mind with past clients and boost referrals, and you can nurture leads and build trust with readers. All in one fell swoop.”

Consider your opportunities

You may have big firms operating nearby and they may enjoy a long standing well-earned reputation. The reality is that not all big firms remain big firms and not all firms, big or small, are necessarily well run.

If you are in competition with firms that do no marketing or little marketing then you have a real opportunity. Remember that even massive and very mature multi nationals like Kodak can miss opportunities and fail to move with the times to their peril, so if it can happen to businesses of that size and stature, it can certainly happen to your competitors.

For local firms not engaging with their clients, contacts and referrers then you have an opportunity to increase your file numbers whilst others decline or flat line.

Realistically nothing will happen overnight. However, if you adopt sensible and proven marketing strategies you will hear your phones ringing, see your enquiry rate increase and your file openings improve over time. It’s prudent to set your firm measurable targets so that you can monitor your enquiries, leads and file openings on a monthly basis.

Naturally you need to be able to service the new and increasing work so you may need to either increase your fees or put on more staff to improve your file numbers or profits.

Time is ticking… over to you

This opportunity is not exclusive to you of course, so if you don’t appeal to what might be their referrers, prospects or clients, then someone else will. If you are not doing this for your own clients well that’s worse because your firm is vulnerable.

In simple terms if you don’t regularly communicate with all your contacts on an ongoing basis (not just people that you are currently doing a matter for) you can’t assume they will think of you when they, or their friends, are looking for legal help.

If you have plans to grow your firm don’t sit on your hands, rather act now before your competitors catch up, if you want to discuss how to go about your firm’s marketing call me for a chat.

About the author

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.