Attorney Marketing Efforts Essential For Client Loyalty

In an era when consolidation and reliance on in-house counsel are becoming more and more common, marketers must continually involve their lawyers in marketing efforts if their firms hope to stay competitive and successful. Whether the focus is on new business development or cross-selling, lawyers -- partners and associates alike -- must learn to see marketing as a continuous, fluid, essential effort, an effort which should extend beyond cold calls and new business pitches.

This extension offers several benefits: increased firm and lawyer visibility, reputation building and support, and extended message outreach. The successful lawyer-based marketing program introduces its participants to all aspects of marketing,encouraging them to author articles for trade and client publications, speak at a conference or meeting, or even be a guest on business talk shows.

Involving lawyers in your firm extends the reach of your marketing program and supplements brochures and tombstone advertising. It can build a positive reputation for the firm as well.

More and more highly successful firms are realizing this marketing reality, and are making the commitment to lawyer-based efforts. They encourage all partners and associates to be proactive. The focus is not on involving the lawyers sporadically for particular pitches, but on incorporating their efforts on a continual, on-going basis.

A solid lawyer-based marketing program depends on the strong foundation of regular partner involvement. This starts the trickle-down process. The more involved and dedicated your senior partners are to the marketing effort, the more enthusiastic the associates will be. Apathy at upper levels translates into reluctant or non-involvement at lower levels.

Even with a strong foundation, there still may be obstacles to overcome. Visions of law firm marketing often bring to mind images of cold calls and television commercials. Expose your lawyers to the other facets of marketing; make sure they know all of the marketing avenues they can pursue.

To whet attorneys appetites for marketing activities, let them know what the competition is doing; circulate articles about (or by) competitors and their firms. Encourage them to establish themselves as expert sources for the media, speak at a meeting or conference, write an informative piece for a trade publication.

Encourage attorneys to pick up the phone and call clients every so often, or drop an article they find interesting and applicable in the mail with a short note. It is these extra efforts that can make your marketing program -- and your firm -- stand out in existing and prospective clients' minds.

Be sure your lawyers know why they are needed: The benefits of their involvement span many areas. Often, lawyers do not participate in the marketing effort simply because they do not know what is expected of them. Let your lawyers know you want them to be involved, and why their involvement is important.

For example, involving lawyers in the marketing effort from the beginning can make a prospective client feel important. Meeting lawyers who will be doing the work also can be reassuring.

Articles lawyers publish become surrogate spokespeople for the firm -- there is an implied authority and expertise in a published story. Appearing in the media as an expert source may not only support a good reputation, but may also introduce the firm, with an implied recommendation, to a wider audience of prospective clients. This wider audience also includes general interest publications, not just those intended for corporate counsel.

In the effort to involve your lawyers in your marketing program, it is important to understand that their reluctance may be due to the fact that they don't feel they posses the necessary skills.

Writing a legal brief is not like writing an article for a client or industry publication, just as a question and answer session in a new business presentation has little in common with a cross-examination. Speaking on a panel at a conference is very different from arguing at a deposition or hearing.

Your lawyers may need skills training or enhancement sessions in vital marketing skills-- personal skills, writing and oral communication skills. Set up help networks, open communication pathways between marketing and legal staff. Offer skills programs and classes, and offer your own help in proofreading, writing and brainstorming.

In addition, be sure to recognize the marketing successes in your firm. Ask the managing partners to send a memo congratulating Senior Associate X on an article or quote. Distribute copies of a magazine in which a firm member has an article. This recognition shows that effort is appreciated, appealing to personal pride and encouraging further effort.

In addition to supporting the lawyer-marketing infrastructure, these announcements serve as a marketing tool for the program, and can attract more lawyers to the effort. Success breed success, and attracts followers.

There are clear benefits to involving lawyers in your firm's marketing program. As you extend the reach of the marketing program, you extend the audience of potential clients you address. While it may be a challenge initially to get lawyers to participate, it is a necessity in today's marketplace, and the results will soon be evident.

Copyright 1995, Association of Legal Administrators. Reprinted with permission from ALA News, February/March 1995.