Law Firm Marketing:
Legal Skills vs Legal Marketing Skills
OF THIS ARTICLE:
- Some law firm partners view marketing as frustrating
and difficult to manage.
- Clients care most about service; they assume that their
lawyer is competent.
- Service must take on a specific and defined role within the
- Service must be an organizing principle around which the
business of law is conducted.
Interestingly, when partners were asked
what it means to be masterful at practicing law, there was a great deal of
consensus and no one grappled for words. Most said it took committed work, education,
years of experience and, most importantly, a sincere desire to learn.
"You must be fully committed to
practicing law," said a senior partner at a San Francisco firm. "It is a
process. There is a very steep learning curve in the early phase. You cant let the
fear of making mistakes stop you. You need a thick skin. Mistakes happen, so you
cant dwell on them. The key is to learn from your mistakes. To really study them, as
if your professional life depended on it."
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In contrast, when partners were asked what
it means to be masterful at marketing, there was little consensus. Some said it
took "persistence and hustle," while others suggested salesmanship and people
When asked how their firm went about the
process of marketing, some spoke of brochures, seminars and public relations. Others
interpreted "marketing" to mean advertising and mentioned the Internet,
television and radio.
"Practice development is just a nice
way of saying marketing," said Sharon Cooper, a partner at a business litigation
firm. "Marketing is just a nice way of saying sales. Its convincing people you
could do a better job than the next person."
Partners had varying ideas on what
marketing included. They agreed, however, that marketing was both frustrating and
difficult to manage.
What about Service?
At the end of each interview, I asked the
partners whether they thought providing "excellent service" was an important
aspect of the firms marketing. Almost all responded that marketing, indeed, was
about providing clients with "excellent service." But the concept was always an
afterthought. Only a handful of partners mentioned it until I brought it up.
Even after the subject was raised, less
than 10 percent of the partners could provide a working definition of what service meant
at their own firm. But they were even less clear about what service might mean to their
When I asked these senior partners what
distinguished their firms from the restwhat characteristics might offer their
clients an incentive to staythe most common responses were these:
We work hard for our clients.
Were very aggressive.
We handle very big cases.
Were a national firm/a statewide firm/a local firm.
All of these are good answersif this
is what clients want. But the evidence indicates that what clients care about
mostwhat makes them choose one firm over anotheris service.
It was obvious that service was not
at the forefront of the partners minds. Yet, as we will see, the essence of
marketing comes from defining and measuring all aspects of service within the specific
context of the clients needs and wants.
For the small percentage of firms that
understand this reality, there is no ambiguity. Indeed, providing clients with excellent
service is what drives these very successful firms.
"We live or die by the quality of
service we deliver to our clients," said Norman Bollinger, managing partner of a
highly successful Northwest firm. "There is no magic to it. You sit and really listen
to what your clients want from you. Mostly, they want you to know themtheir business
and their challenges. Im convinced that, first and foremost, our firm is in the
people business and, to that end, we practice law."
Without service taking on a specific and
defined role within the firm, it cannot be an organizing principle around which the business
of law is conducted.
Indeed, most of marketing is about
providing superior service within the context of the clients specific needs and
wants. Placing anything before thisincluding four-color brochures, Flash-animated
Web sites, public relations or promotion of any significanceis putting the cart
before the horseway before the horse! And it is the primary reason most
firmsmarketing programs fail before they ever get started.
Brochures, no matter how impressive, are
meaningless if they dont represent the true nature of the firm. However, brochures
and most other forms of promotion can be incredibly powerfulif what you say comes
from what you really are. Indeed, nothing is more compelling and refreshing than the
truth, especially when it comes from the legal profession.
This article is an excerpt from Marketing the
Legal Mind (LMG Press) by Henry Dahut. Henry Dahut is the founder of www.GotTrouble.com,
a law and financial trouble portal. He can be reached at email@example.com and www.henrydahut.com.
This article is reproduced here by Divorce
Marketing Group with their full permission. Copyright - 2007 All Rights Reserved www.HenryDahut.com.This
material is copyrighted and is NOT in the public domain. You may not reproduce or
otherwise publish this material or any part thereof, in any form or manner without prior
written consent of the author.
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