Firm Leadership: Learn to Love Marketing Your Legal Practice

by JD Supra Perspectives

Successful professionals take time out of their busy schedules to develop some form of personal marketing plans. Then they do an amazing thing ... they actually implement them.

In today's marketplace, being a good, hardworking lawyer who meets his/her billable hour requirement may not be enough to advance you in the ranks of your law firm. Research is showing that more law firms are tracking performance based on more than just the billable hour. Simply put, you need to develop business. In order to do this, you have to invest non-billable time in activities designed to distinguish yourself from your competitors, establish yourself as an expert in your field and develop personal relationships with potential new clients.

Successful professionals take time out of their busy schedules to develop some form of personal marketing plans. Then they do an amazing thing ... they actually implement them. As we begin the New Year, now may be a good time to reassess your marketing goals. If you don’t have a personal marketing plan, you should develop one sooner rather than later. If you already have a plan, you should review it and update it based on your progress. (For purposes of brevity in this article, we are referring to personal marketing plans but the same principals apply to marketing plans for practice groups and firms.)

The object of a personal marketing plan is to provide an organized system for increasing your visibility, name recognition and relationships with your existing and potential clients. Your efforts, when executed properly, should provide you with a number of benefits, the most important of which is increasing your business and your reputation in your specialty. There are a variety of marketing activities you can employ to achieve your goals. There is no right combination of tactics. You must decide what combination works best for you. In order for your marketing efforts to be effective, you must be committed to a long-term process that is continuous, frequent, and focused.

An effective personal marketing plan consists of three phases:  Analysis, Planning and Execution & Evaluation.

1. Analysis

Many people make the mistake of creating a plan without examining what they do and where they are in their careers.

Applying the necessary time and thoughtfulness to this process will provide crucial insight into your business practice. Simply put, the more you put into this process, the more you will get out of it.

Decide What You Want to Be: Determine what you want to be known for. Do not let others decide this for you. Do you like practicing in a particular area of law? Are you enthusiastic about growing this practice area? Do you like working in a particular industry? Who is your target market? Identify the areas (i.e., specialty, industry, geographic region) in which you want to be known as an expert and narrow your efforts to focus on that goal.

Look in the Mirror: Evaluate why you are not doing marketing activities currently. Do you need training in a certain area, like public speaking or time management? Are you sabotaging your own efforts?  Are you procrastinating?  Are there external or personal factors that you need to address? Be honest with yourself, take responsibility, and problem solve where necessary.

Take Stock:  What type of matters are you working and for whom? Is it profitable? What industries are your clients / contacts in?

2. Planning

Set clear, realistic goals.

When developing your plan make sure to consider the following:

Realistic Goals: Be realistic in your expectations about the results of your marketing efforts. You should not expect to develop a million dollar book of business within a year. Instead, expect to develop and advance relationships with contacts, which, over time and with consistency, ultimately would lead to new business. Set clear, realistic goals. Commit to doing some activities but do not overextend yourself. Keep in mind that it takes a considerable amount of time to prepare for and give a presentation or to write an article.

Challenge Yourself: It is important that you be relatively comfortable in executing whatever marketing tactics you choose. However, if, for example, you are tentative about giving a presentation or writing an article, challenge yourself and commit to doing one. If you are not totally traumatized by the experience, do another one. The more you do, the more comfortable you will become.

Focus Your Efforts: Since your time is so valuable, make sure that you focus your efforts on opportunities that are targeted to your prospective clients. Be careful not to say "yes" to offers that do not put you in front of your target market. Politely decline and refer someone who is more likely to benefit. Honestly assess which of your marketing efforts did, in fact, bring in new opportunities over the last year or two. If having lunch with a few key referral sources on a  regular basis seems to do the trick then make sure that happens. If your opportunities are coming from your clients, then try asking them for more introductions. Switching gears from accepting invitations and extending invitations instead is the goal to working smarter, not harder. This is precisely why it is so important to invest time up front in defining your goals and crafting your plan.

Promote Yourself:  If your firm has an in-house marketing / public relations department, make sure you work with them to promote yourself externally. Also, do not underestimate the power of promoting yourself internally at your law firm as well. Your partners and associates could be a great source of referrals. Take time to get to know them. Moreover, let them get to know you. Invite a lawyer from your firm to a presentation you are giving. Promoting your expertise in your firm is just as important as promoting yourself externally to your target market.

Network, Network, Network: Networking should be part of every lawyer's marketing efforts. Join appropriate organizations with memberships consisting of people you have targeted as potential clients. Make an effort to participate in meetings. Join a committee. This is an excellent way for people to get to know you and the type of person you are. Most importantly, make sure you connect with your existing clients and contacts regularly.

3. Execution & Evaluation of Your Plan

Make a plan and stick to it. Although many lawyers do have some sort of plan, the problem, for most, is in finding the time and motivation to execute the plan. Plan time in your schedule for your marketing activities.

Periodically, evaluate what is working and what is not and, if necessary, readjust your plan.

Get Help: You should enlist assistance in helping you plan and execute your personal marketing plan. Use your marketing department or a personal business coach to help you research and develop opportunities, promote your activities — both inside and outside your firm and, perhaps most importantly, help you with follow-up and hold you accountable to the commitments you made to yourself.

Recycle Your Efforts: Recycle your efforts at every opportunity. Consider translating a legal brief, client memo, or letter into an article or presentation. After giving a presentation, transform it into an article and vice versa. Seek out opportunities where you can revise an existing presentation or article into a new work without investing as much time as you did originally. Extend this approach to other lawyers at your firm in order to utilize all the resources you have.

This year can be the year that makes the difference for you in your career. You can start to bring in the type of clients you value the most and, in the process, improve your overall professional experience.


[Sharen Nocella is the chief marketing officer at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP. She has over 20 years of experience with in-house legal marketing and business development.

Lisa Tierney, CLSC is the founder and president of Tierney Coaching & Consulting. Inc. She is also a certified life strategies coach with a proven track record of successful partnerships with professional service providers who want to achieve success by harnessing their strengths and focusing their efforts.]


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