Why Law Firm Partners Need To Stop Pushing Marketing & Business Development Down Their Priority Lists

by Eria

If you follow some of the law firm-focused discussion groups on LinkedIn, you’ll inevitably read some that moan about the low priority given to marketing and business development in many law firms.

I have mentioned before that one of the reasons why marketing is poorly planned and executed in law firms is because not enough time is set aside to do it properly. This is the case in many firms that could afford to commit resources to marketing, but don’t.

There are many reasons put forward to explain this. The most common ones are:

  1. The typical law firm partnership structure means too much tension is created between partners who want to drive new busines development and take the glory for winning new clients, and marketing / business development guys who want to streamline firm-wide processes, systemise communications and be more consistent for the benefit of the WHOLE firm;
  2. Many law firms have to bring in outside people to fill in this function, but they then can’t fit into the culture that exists;
  3. Marketing and business development is not seen as a leadership role within law firms. Partners are kings, and such roles are seen simply as ‘sales’ functions which many lawyers detest.

Whatever the reasons, marketing and business development suffers, and the reliance on networking, getting referrals from clients and joining a series of pitch contests (the equivalent of a beauty parade) means no effort is made to change things.

With the rapid regulatory changes taking place and competition for clients increasing, many law firms simply have to re-think their marketing and business development/sales strategies.

Marketing serves one key function – it draws out hot prospects that, crucially, have money to spend on legal services and are actively looking for (or very interested in finding) lawyers to help deal with a specific problem.

Business development / sales builds on marketing. This is all about relationship management with one clear goal – to move prospects identified by a law firm’s marketing efforts from simply being interested to signing on the dotted line as a client.

Each of the these requires more than planning a networking event and hoping you can sell your services to potential clients. If you are a law firm partner, can you count the number of times you have tried to close down what you thought was a good opportunity and then found out you really wasted your time? Your prospects were not ready for you or could not afford your services.

Think of the proposals you have got yourself involved in which took you away from speaking to better prospects or actually delivering great client work?

A lot of this is because there is no systemised marketing system in place to identify the best prospects in the first place, and no-one (internally or externally) with a marketing hat on at a leadership/partner level to make sure that marketing is a priority across the whole firm, is consistent, measurable and helps the whole law firm (not just specific partners).

With no effective marketing taking place in the first place, follow up business development or sales activity can seem like a tyre kicking exercise – loads of conversations, meetings, or proposals that don’t result in the desired growth managing partners desire.

The solution to this is to give marketing a higher priority in law firms. This, however, does not mean simply churning out more brochures or arranging / sponsoring more networking events which is what quite a few law firms do.

It means creating a systematic process to consitently communicate to a target niche and, more importantly, get the hot prospects you are looking for to self-select themselves and make an informed decision to contact you.

How you communicate depends on how your prospects search for information or law firms and how they use technology to help them. A combination of offline and online / social media communication strategies is needed.

One fact will stand out for successful law firms in 2013: social media marketing will stop being a totally different activity to everything else that happens in terms of attracting great clients.  When done properly, it will seamlessly fit into the normal operations of a law firm and stop being seen as a burden.

The way things are going – pushing marketing down the list of activities to do and not giving it the resources it needs to be effective will mean many law firms will struggle to attract great leads and potentially lose some fantastic clients.

 

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