According to the Lectric Law Library, the American Bar Association (ABA) was established on August 21, 1878 in New York, but the purpose for its foundation was murky.

A constitution defined the ABA’s purpose as “the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the administration of justice and a uniformity of legislation throughout the country.” The word “marketing” wasn’t mentioned; the concept of lawyer website design had not been dreamed up and marketing strategies for lawyers such as seo or ppc were unheard of.

Over time, as the ABA’s influence spread, it became evident that members needed more than professional affiliation. They needed marketing direction, too. As a result, the marketing of legal services became an essential business component over time. It’s expected to play an even bigger role in the future, which is why this guide to legal marketing can help you boost the profile of your firm as competition grows stiffer.

Why do lawyers need legal marketing services?

According to attorney Daniel Roberts, whose website CoachingforLawyers.com advises professionals on ways to do business, attorney marketing services can be the difference between “lawyers who are successful and those who aren’t”. Roberts explains that successful attorneys must master “the art of rainmaking” if they are to survive. Lawyer marketing best practices serve as tools for acquiring clients, underwriting firms and giving them unique personalities.

The subject of legal marketing services had become so important by 2013, the ABA commissioned Roberts to produce a video presentation that gave attorneys eager to learn the art of legal marketing important tips on the subject. These topics included essentials–like writing marketing plans, identifying a firm’s strengths and weaknesses and communicating with potential clients. Also stressed was the proper use of contemporary media, promotion, affiliation with professional associations and committing to following that marketing plan faithfully.

What are the biggest challenges contemporary law firms face today?

His resume is impressive: legal industry consultant Kent Zimmermann served as “a former general counsel and chief executive officer and advisor to leaders of Am Law 100, 200, Global 100 and leading specialty firms.” As a lawyer marketing expert, he understands the marketing challenges attorneys and firms face as competition for business relies more heavily on legal marketing services. Zimmermann urges firms to monitor these challenges:

  • Mergers and acquisitions mean firms lose the “identities” marketing efforts have worked hard to establish.
  • Firms are addressing overcapacity and “high quality bench strength in higher rate areas.”
  • All practices should have a lawyer marketing expert grounded in AI and cyber security matters to compete.
  • Less loyalty among “sophisticated clients” are on the rise; practices must address this.
  • Law firm data breaches are expected to accelerate leaving information systems vulnerable.
  • Profitability will remain a priority, particularly for “high performing firms.”
  • Firms are shrinking “their non-equity tier” and partnership criteria is being redefined.
  • Successful practices must carefully analyze client lists, culling those who become liabilities.
  • Conceiving, altering and updating marketing efforts is essential to staying competitive.
  • Firms striving to be “too many things to too many people” may not survive, which is why the role of lawyer marketing consultant is so important within firms who don’t employ in-house legal marketing experts.

Top 10 Strategies and Tactics for Law Firms

When discussion facilitator Ross Fishman produced a symposium for the ABA and published it on the organization’s website, he offered marketing tips for lawyers that are essential for survival:

  1. Determine what’s currently hot in law firm marketing and figure out if it makes sense for your practice. Prioritize online marketing for lawyers resources.
  2. Investigate other legal firms to see what they are not doing and fill those holes if your practice can do it.
  3. Prioritize initiatives of professional legal marketers to avoid spending money on services that don’t pay off.
  4. Allocate a minimum of 2.5-percent of your revenue to your marketing efforts.
  5. Incentivize clients to recommend your firm. Word of mouth remains a powerful marketing conduit.
  6. Market your services to specific professions to gain industry footholds. Trade associations, clubs and organizations are great conduits for reaching these markets.
  7. It’s still a good idea to rent lists—particularly if you set stringent parameters when dealing with list brokers.
  8. Engage in public service activities to improve your visibility and enhance your image and new business will likely flow your way.
  9. Stay humble. Thompson Reuters Australia reported an alarming trend: U.S. client satisfaction queries concluded that clients had grown sick and tired of the arrogance and inflexibility of attorneys and were were turning to practices where lawyers took time to listen.
  10. LexisNexis recommends scheduling free visits to client’s offices, a simple move that can pay big dividends.

Future trends every law firm marketer should know about

1. Branding will continue to dominate

Branding efforts must remain front and center for law firms eager to differentiate themselves from the crowd. As competition heats up, branding efforts should, too. Firms “have begun bifurcating their marketing efforts like corporate America, creating a defined “sales” function that many are calling “business development,” writes Fishman. If your firm isn’t committed to branding, hire a lawyer marketing consultant to get you there or prepare to suffer the consequences.

2. What worked yesterday will work tomorrow

Listening skills and making investments in client relationships have never been more critical. Sound like your grandfather’s marketing techniques? They are. Clients crave personal interaction because they’re not getting it in today’s isolating environments. For example, spending non-billable time communing with clients pays dividends. Further, autonomy has gone the way of the dinosaur. Says attorney Terri Pepper Gavulic, teamwork is back. She jokes, “[Lawyers] have to learn to play nice in the sandbox” once more.

3. Operate like a business 24/7

Attorney Nat Slavin says that smart law firms will continue to go “vertical” by prioritizing marketing plans. This means finding inefficiencies and getting rid of them, so return on investment (ROI) is maximized. San Francisco-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe conceived their iconic “O” campaign profiled by the “New York Times” nearly 20 years ago yet it remains relevant. Run your firm like a business and you’ll be relevant, too.

4. Legal and Law Firm Blogging Is Key

Do legal firms need blogs? How else will your clients learn about pro bono work you’re doing, cases you’re winning and the client-friendly practices you have added to your marketing plan? Hiring a media specialist who also knows her way around a law library is important to drive your media presence. If you intend to communicate via podcasts and other “intelligence” drivers frequented by clients, you must operate like legal representatives who are tech savvy if you expect to retain this client niche.

5. Recognize the difference between fads and trends

What’s hot today may be cold next week, so be discriminating about the way you allocate marketing resources. Technology continues to evolve at warp speed. Tools of the trade like the Requests for Proposal (RFP) pass in and out of favor, especially in climates populated by clients who make big demands on time and resources. Projected trends will test budgets, thus hiring a marketing consultant to make sure the methods you’re pursuing are trends rather than fads could be some of the best money you’ve ever spent.

6. Play the employment game with finesse

Law school enrollment is dropping, reports “The Atlantic,” thus competition for the best graduates is getting stiffer. Your marketing efforts, in pursuit of viable candidates from which you can cull the best and brightest, are essential and must target the interests of the graduates you seek to recruit. Understanding marketplace dynamics puts you in the driver’s seat because you’ll know exactly how to approach students.

5 ways to make your lawyer digital marketing presence powerful

Betsy McLeod’s “How to market a law firm online” article should be required reading for big and small firms. In her opinion, firms will survive only if they prioritize digital marketing to “attract and convert new clients,” which is why she recommends 5 specific lawyer digital marketing concepts. Ask these questions to see if your firm is primed for future success:

1. Do we look upon our lawyer website design as a babysitter or a 24/7 sales presence?

It’s great to “look pretty,” but if people accessing your site slog along at a snail’s pace, where do you you imagine they will go? Think of navigation as an Internet shopping basket. Consumers are impatient. Your goal is having your website load in 3 seconds so visitors don’t lose interest. While they are there, your lawyer website design must be relevant and powerful because you have so little time to grab attention.

2. Are we willing to invest in lawyer SEO marketing content to boost traffic?

Even technology-averse folks know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In simple terms, every word counts. Word saturation counts. The idea is to imbed copy with critical words that result in search engine pickup. But here’s the dilemma legal marketers face: word use must feel effortless and logical because it takes readers very little time to be distracted by poor grammar or even abandon your site. Remember that lawyer SEO marketing is as much an art as it is a science.

3. Does someone monitor our social media presence so the same marketing message spans all platforms?

More than 57-percent of all U.S. citizens live in a mobile-friendly environment. Your online presence must be designed to fit small real estate. Even a legal website that checks all the right boxes won’t be read if a small screen is a lousy host. If you employ lawyer paid search tools, you can up your chances of success. The right pay-per-click service will drive business, but at a cost. “PPC keywords for lawyers and legal services are expensive, with an average click costing $54.86,” writes McLeod. Lawyer paid search is a cost many practices consider negligible because it pays for itself.

4. Do we use our online marketing for lawyers to manage our reputation, recruit clients and lawyers or just serve as an online presence?

Around 90-percent of consumers not only read online reviews before visiting websites but 88-percent trust reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Advocates of online marketing for lawyers need a presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Just don’t ignore offbeat upstarts like Disruptive Advertising, LYFE Marketing, SociallyIn, Thrive, eBoost and Bad Rhino, too. How to find out which social media platforms are relevant? Do your homework, rely upon your in-house guru or hire a consultant.

5. Has at least one firm member been designated your go-to analytics pro?

Not everyone loves number crunching, but if one firm member is intrigued by analytics, treat him with TLC because you’ll always have an accurate assessment of what’s driving practice business. The success of tomorrow’s law firm could come down to the availability of accurate numbers that track new clients, revenues, lead-to-sale conversion rates, cost-per-lead (CPL), return on marketing investment (ROMI) and booking rates originating with phone calls. After all, you are heading into a future that will be all about analytics. Prepare now and you’ll be ready for challenges that come your way.

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