The American Bar Association held its annual meeting in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. I was asked to serve on a panel of coaches, recruiters and career consultants in a program called “Career Advice Live.” It was directed to attorneys with one to six years of experience. My topic was Legal Marketing. The program called for each panelist to deliver two practical tips to the young attorneys within two minutes. Ouch! What valuable information about legal marketing can be conveyed in so short a time? I came up with two simple tips that I shared with the attorneys. Judging from the feedback I received at the break out sessions, they were helpful.
Tip Number One: Learn the basic principles of legal marketing.
Yes, I know this is obvious but the vast majority of attorneys have no clue about how to market their law practice effectively. My advice was to treat legal marketing the way you would any other skill needed to practice law. Fifty hours is the number I recommended. Fifty hours spent studying basic marketing principles, professional service marketing in particular and, specifically, legal marketing. Fifty hours is about the same amount of time you would spend in a college or law school course. That should be enough to get the basics and give you a good foundation for developing a workable marketing plan.
How to do it? Well, attorneys are smart and this isn’t rocket science. Consider it as a course you get to design yourself. Call it Legal Marketing 101. You are able to set the curriculum and plan how you will go about learning the subject. There is a lot of information available for you through the ABA, state bar associations, websites, blogs, basic marketing books, even You Tube videos. Just decide what will be the most effective and efficient way for you to learn the subject. Then, faithfully, like you would show up for a class, put in the fifty hours. If you complete your personal Legal Marketing 101 course you should have the knowledge that you need. A wise investment of fifty hours and one that will provide financial dividends for many years to come.
Tip Number Two: Set a marketing budget of time and money.
Creating a legal marketing plan can be intimidating. There is so much to consider that it is easy to be confused and overwhelmed. In fact, the reason most attorneys don’t market is that they haven’t prepared a written marketing plan to go by. Creating a marketing plan is too detailed to be explained in a blog post but this tip should give you a head start.
Before you begin considering all of the marketing ideas you have heard, actions you can take, contacts to develop, marketing tools you could use, strategies to develop each practice area, etc., GET REAL. You only have so much time and so much money to devote to your marketing campaign. Before you do anything else, decide what your legal marketing time budget and money budget will be. That will reduce the overwhelm and help you focus on what will give you the best return on your investment. You will be forced to work within your budget and that will guide you in deciding how to most effectively market your practice.
My recommendation to the attorneys at the program was to set a yearly money marketing budget. This makes it easier to take into consideration annual or periodic expenses such as club or association memberships, conferences and meetings. Also add expenses that occur more frequently such as business meetings and prospect lunches. A good rule to go by is that if the principle purpose of the expense is to develop business, it should be included in the annual money marketing budget.
The other budget item I recommended is a time marketing budget. For most law practices this is more important. You need to determine how much time on a weekly basis (no carry forwards or carry backs) you will spend, at a minimum, marketing your law firm. This number will help you be realistic. That great idea you had to write an write a trade journal article to attract business may not seem quite such a good investment if it will take you 40 hours to complete and your total weekly time marketing budget is 5 hours. There may be more practical and time efficient ways to generate business.
Those were my marketing tips to the young attorneys. I hope they will be helpful to you in developing your legal marketing strategy.
Have a Great Practice!