Friday, August 10, 2007

Legal Marketing - What Your Firm Needs (Part 1)

I am amazed that many law firms (and other professional service companies) still do not "get it" when it comes to marketing, business development, sales, public relations, and networking. There has been so much discussion about his in the legal profession over the past decade that one would imagine that these highly educated people would realize that their firm is a B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S, and they should run it like a business!

There I said it, your law firm is no different than the companies you represent. You are bound by the same laws of the universe that effect businesses large and small around the world: You need clients, you need them to pay you for your services, you need to spend less on your expenses than you bring in throughout the year (AKA - profit!), and you need more paying clients in line so that you can keep your doors open. That other stuff you think is important is nice, but it is all extra.

No lawyer would tell their corporate client to fire all the sales and marketing people. That is how companies find, qualify, engage and retain customers. Why is it then that they downgrade these functions inside their own firms?

I recently had a firm tell me they were looking to hire a marketing professional. They wanted someone who was experienced, motivated, and had a business mind / personality. Oh, and they wanted to pay around $35, 000 per year.

WHAT??? Why don't they just admit "We do not want to value this person as an important part of our firm. We are looking for someone just out of college who will suck it up and work hard for a small sum of money while we treat them like crap. Also, once they learn the job and can start to provide real value, we hope that they will leave us for another firm or another industry who will pay them what they are worth. Thus we can start over and find someone else dumb enough to work for us at this low salary. Finally, we need someone who can handle being yelled at by attorneys, because we all know that will happen regularly during their tenure at this firm."

If your firm wants to achieve greater success in your marketing you have to stop thinking of staff members without law degrees as sub-human. Realize that people with a variety of different backgrounds can contribute to your overall success. Think about "why" you have a marketing or business development position in the first place. What is it hat you want to accomplish and how can this person work with you to achieve the goals? You already have enough legal secretaries who you can yell at, so you don't need to treat you marketing staff in a disrespectful manner. (You should not treat anyone poorly, but that might be more than I can ask of some of your partners...not you...I am sure you are not the problem attorney!)

Once you know what you want to accomplish with your marketing efforts, it makes it easier to rationalize paying a professional salary for the "right" person who can impact the success of your office and beyond. Sales people in the top companies (Cisco, IBM, etc....) make as much or more money than lawyers (yep, it is true!). The right person on your team can catapult you to the top of your business community, but this person will not magically bring in new clients. You need to be their business partner if you want success. There is no magic. They can strategize with partners and associates developing plans that will lead to additional business. And who does not like the sound of additional business?

I think that legal marketing/legal business development (aka, SALES...but most of you are not ready to think about yourselves as salespeople...YET!!!) are still in a discovery stage in the legal profession. Firms are more comfortable with the concepts of these important business disciplines, but are still tentative to embrace them. If you entertain thoughts of "what will the other firms say or do" then you are destined to be mediocre in your marketing. Be bold and act like a business!

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Have A Great Day.



thomsinger said...

I got an email from a lawyer who did not like my comment about:

"we need someone who can handle being yelled at by attorneys, because we all know that will happen regularly during their tenure at this firm."

I actually added this because I know someone who recently interviewed for a job where she was asked if she had ever been yelled at by a lawyer at ther last firm, and how she handles such things. Yes, in a job interview this was a question. What does that say about the firm and the industry?

I emailed the lawyer back and told him this, and he said that would never happen at his firm. He works for an Am Law 100 tell me what you think....Never at his firm???? Me thinks he protests too much!

Glenn said...

It's not just attorneys, Thom. Doctors also fall prey to this. They seem to think that because they are so skilled in fighting diseases that they are equally skilled in marketing, HR, and other professions.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!