Law Firm Marketers’ Longevity: 4 Reasons It Matters to Law Firms

In the past few months, I’ve met many law firm marketing directors who have been with their firms 3, 5, 7 years and more. This underscores the significant evolution of law firm marketing over the past 20-plus years, which is when I entered the field.

Indeed, when I first launched my firm, marketing efforts were much less sophisticated than they are today. It’s safe to say, we’ve come a long, long way, which serves as a testament to the acceptance, integration and success law firm marketing has had on the legal industry.

Prior to the turn of the millennium, marketing directors for law firms were nowhere near as prevalent as they are now. Those that did hold these titles faced a myriad of challenges, as often the firms really didn’t know what to do with a marketing director. In equally as many other cases, partners’ expectations and those of the director were less than aligned.  This, coupled with the advent of the digital world, made for a revolving door scenario at many firms, as marketing directors came and went.

Fortunately, it seems that, for the most part, we may have gotten past that period of uncertainty. Marketing directors are now viewed as essential contributors to a law firm’s future success.  In addition, law firms now recognize that seeing results takes time.  This points to a continuing evolution not only of law firm marketing, but also of how law firms embrace and understand the role that marketing plays in establishing and maintaining a thriving practice.

What does this mean for law firms and lawyers?  Here are 4 main takeaways.

  1. The increasing longevity of law firm marketing directors points to the fact that firms are becoming much more sophisticated about marketing and about how to make it work for them.
  2. At one point, an in-house marketing professional or outside agency might have given a firm a competitive edge. Today, it’s the entry level price of keeping up. For those going it alone, it’s that much harder.
  3. Law firm marketing professionals today – in-house and agencies — are more sophisticated than ever with a keen understanding of what works when marketing their lawyers’ services. This means they can bring your firm more power than ever.
  4. In-house law firm marketing and business development professionals have much more experience working in tandem with outside marketing professionals and vice versa. This combination augments a firm’s resources and reach.

Service Partners: Avoid Becoming a “Sitting Duck”

“All that’s left is service partners,” was how the managing partner of a successful law firm described the continued demise of another brand name firm. This got me thinking…

Over the years, I’ve seen so many law firm business development professionals try to motivate lawyers to market. I’ve seen an equal number of law firms pressure their attorneys to segue from being a service partner to a rainmaker— even a mistmaker. However, I’d never heard a successful lawyer make such a strong case for wanting to get out of the service partner category.

In effect, he was saying that the attorneys who had built a book of business and could get out, had gotten out. Indeed, the rainmakers, able to control their own destiny, as opposed to having it controlled by others, had hightailed it out of the firm. Those remaining (AKA service providers), were basically just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Unfortunate but true, service partners do not command the same respect as rainmakers. While firms need both to survive, when rainmakers leave a firm, service partners become sitting ducks. With no book of business and slim odds that service partners will magically transform into rainmakers overnight, the firm struggles to survive. Therein lies the danger for both the firm and those left to shut the lights out.

The managing partner’s comment about only service partners remaining in a dying firm certainly underscores just how necessary it is for attorneys to have some of their own clients. Sure, it requires some elbow grease, and it will require consistency and a time investment, but frankly, it’s not optional.

Take comfort though, as almost every lawyer can develop business, if they decide to do so; however, it will take time, and panicking over job insecurity won’t help. So, it’s crucial to start taking the steps now to safeguard your ability to control your future.

Dangers of Having a Dated Website

“Having prospects look at our website is like having me walk into a client meeting in sweatpants.”  This is the way a successful financial service professional described to me how she felt about her firm’s outdated website. The comment came from a well-established investment banker, who also happened to be a woman. I say this because she is the only woman at her firm in this professional capacity, with an enviable track record, and it seems even more of a reason the firm would want to heed her cry for an updated website. Women like her are not exactly easy to find in a male-dominated industry. To put it another way: it’s reasonable to presume she was hired not only for her financial experience and expertise, but also to add diversity. Oh, and by the way, she also spent her early career in marketing, so she has a good grasp on the foundations of that field as well.

She used this colorful description to not only emphasize how this professional service firm’s website was hurting them, but also to tell them that a strong referral source had told her the same thing. He almost didn’t refer a piece of business to her because their website paled in comparison to that of their competitors.

This illustrates just how important a strong and vibrant website is to any professional services firm.  Regardless of what field you’re in — law, finance, real estate or another professional service — websites matter. This financial firm’s website is not the worst we’ve seen; however, it does not come near to reflecting the caliber of the firm’s financial services professionals. Many of their competitors’ sites outshine them.

To this firm’s credit, they have engaged someone to work on their website, but it remains unclear what that means. Will they be building new website or just updating this one?

I won’t argue with the fact that redoing a website can be a Herculean task, made all the more difficult in legal and financial service firms, which often approach the undertaking by forming a website committee. But getting a new website up and keeping it current and fresh is critical. And once it’s up, maintaining it through a continuous process of enhancing it so that it reflects your firm in the best way possible is mandatory.

The moral of this story? Your website is the gateway to your firm. Social media has many benefits, but for the most part, all roads lead back to your site. Shouldn’t it tell the best story possible?

Fossil Fears Are Not Forever: Overcome Networking Anxiety Now

I have been to hundreds of networking meetings, and for years have smoothly made my way through countless rooms where I didn’t know a single person when I first arrived.

Even so, to this day I can still get those all too familiar twinges of anxiety beforehand. However, I know that I’m not alone in experiencing this particular anxiety. In fact, it’s a common phenomenon, as I recently learned when speaking with a very successful business professional who happens to develop business for law firms.

When talking about this anxiety, she reassured me that it is “weird” – her word – when someone says they relish walking into a roomful of people they don’t know. That’s because, irrespective of whether you’re a legal, finance or real estate professional, the vast majority of us have some apprehension about walking into a sea of “strangers” despite years of doing it.

I was so curious about this strange phenomenon that I sought out a trusted advisor for her take on this seemingly silly anxiety. She rather aptly termed it a “fossil fear” – the fear and subsequent anxiety of doing something that you’ve done countless times before. The anxiety is a fossil from our “prehistoric” past (which may only be ten years), in which we were first intimidated by meeting new people. In a way, the DNA that maintains that old fear lives on, creating new fear (even though we’ve attended more events than we can count where we didn’t know anyone, and we survived).

All the same, that fear-based DNA stokes new fires of dread even as we gear up for our umpteenth experience with meeting new people. So, what are we to do about it?

Fortunately, we can move past that prehistoric or dated fear, thanks to muscle memory we have built up over time. Indeed, we simply need to tap into our muscle memory, which serves to remind us of things like “You’ve done this before and it turned out beautifully,” or “You’ve spoken publicly more than a dozen times and it’s always been successful,” or “These nerves are going to pass as soon as you start talking to someone about what you do, or asking what they do.”

The biggest challenge, so far as I can tell, lies in building up the muscle memory initially. Just as it takes time to develop biceps or quadriceps or any other muscle, it takes time, dedication and resilience to push past any resistance and take that step out the door to the gym, or through the door of a networking event, business development seminar or speaking engagement.

If you’re an executive, attorney, business leader or other industry professional and you find yourself anxious about attending new events, it’s helpful to remember that these fossil fears are just that – fossils. The fear and anxiety are just withering remains of something that was overcome a long time ago.

They are no match for muscle memory, which is alive and active, and can only grow stronger by the day.

Seven Steps to Prepare for a Media Interview

You just secured a highly-coveted media interview with an outlet that will position you in front of hundreds of potential clients – congratulations, that’s a big win!

In many ways, nailing the perfect interview is like preparing for a first date; sometimes our expectations are very different from the outcome. But remembering a few very simple pointers will prepare you to stay on message, get your point across and create a great rapport with the reporter.

From our experience, below is a list of seven essential tips in order to nail a media interview. If you’d like to really brush up on your interview skills, watch our webinar, which will take you through the process from securing the interview to mastering the follow-up.

Watch the webinar: Media Training Tips

Burst Your Bubble

Have you heard the term “news bubble?” It’s the concept that insular groups of people receive news from their bubble of pre-selected people with whom they share personal views and values.

How about the term “incestuous amplification?” This is when people in these insular groups repeat ideas and opinions to each other, they all agree with these ideas (or they’re not accepted by the group), and they ignore differing perspectives from “outsiders.”

Almost sounds like being in high school again, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this bubble effect and incestuous amplification are real and are currently being played out in politics and the media. We bring this up because if you are a professional service firm, a similar bubble effect could be in play that’s affecting your business. Here’s how:

Though perhaps unintentional, professionals become so vested in what they believe to be true about themselves, their practices and their brands, they create self-generated bubbles and incestuous amplification. They disseminate sales messages and marketing content based on what they believe their audience (end users) should hear, not necessarily on what the end users want or need. Professionals need to pay attention to these external voices as end user perceptions are what impact profits, competitive positioning and, ultimately, the firm’s overall success. So as you’re developing your marketing messaging, remember that perceptions are in the minds of your audience; so write to your audience’s needs, not your own.

In this instance, bursting your own bubble is a good thing!

Customer Satisfaction

You know how a bad customer service experience can put you in a really bad mood?  Well, I recently had two really pleasant experiences while shopping that got me thinking…

I had to return two items, one to Saks Fifth Avenue and one to Neiman Marcus—stores at which I rarely shop (seriously). I had purchased one item at Saks a little over a month earlier and I remembered at the time of the sale the cashier telling me they had a 30-day return policy.  On the evening of what happened to be the 32nd day later, I decided I wanted to return the item; but then thinking the store’s policy would be strict, I decided to not even bother trying to make the return.  A friend of mine in apparel retail told me that these days stores are much more flexible in their policies (online competition, etc.).  She said I should at least try.

I walked into Saks with the item, telling myself “Okay, you’re not going to get heated about this if they say, ‘No, we can’t take it back.’ You’re just going to say, ‘Thank you very much’ and walk out.” Braced for a “no go,” I walked in, showed the salesperson the item, said it had been a little over 30 days and handed her the receipt.  She didn’t even look at it; rather, she just took the item back and credited my card. She was very pleasant and I was out of there in about 10 minutes.

From there, I went to Neiman’s to return the other item.  I had ordered a couple of things online and I wanted to keep one and return one.  I walked over to a salesperson and explained what I wanted, thinking I’d be sent to the bowels of the store, but she took the item and receipt; she scanned whatever she had to scan, processed the refund and again, I was out of the store in 10 minutes.

I have to say that I was floored by both experiences, and how the world has changed. Even boutiques near me that for years allowed no returns or exchanges have been forced to do so. What also got me thinking was how competition raises the bar. What if one of the stores I went to had taken their item back but the other wouldn’t?  How would I have felt? I would have been a lot less inclined to purchase from that store again.

It also got me thinking about the whole issue of customer service as it applies to our business and that of our clients. Today, you have to hustle just to stay even and devote even more energy if you want to differentiate your business.  You certainly don’t want to be the one that elicits a response of, “I’m never working with them again!”

Fortunately for Saks and Neiman Marcus, I’m still a customer—and a happy one at that.

Build Connections and Move Prospect Relationships Along

Building relationships and connections takes time. Many lawyers, CPAs and other professionals are unrealistic about how quickly they can win new or additional business from prospects. It’s really a step-by-step process and every communication with a prospect or client is a touch point to move that relationship along.

Sally J. Schmidt, in her article, “Building Relationships with Contacts,” shares some creative and valuable examples of creating relationships and winning business:

• When you meet someone who works at a company that could be a good source of business, set up a Google alert on that person as well as the company. That way, when something pops up about them, you have a good reason (and opportunity) to follow up with them.

• When a financial institution client has only used you and your firm for a one-off project, offer to provide some free services; for example, in-house training for loan officers or CLE for the legal department. This helps more people in the organization understand what you do; they see your expertise and as a result, they get to know you better. All good reasons for giving you more business.

The Art of Working with the Media Involves Plenty of Work

Public relations professionals ardently wish that PR were more science than art so that it could be easily predicted. The truth is, though, that PR is more art than science, and sometimes art is frustrating.

I was prompted to this observation by a recent interaction: Berbay Marketing & PR pitched a story for a client who happens to be in a technology industry. We got some responses from reporters, including from the Wall Street Journal – exciting news for us and our client.

As often happens, the project evolved over several months, first with our offering of information, followed by answering more questions that helped the journalist decide it was worth pursuing an article. The reporter did interview our client and said he would be writing a story after he did more research. The anticipation built as the reporter called back a couple more times with more questions.

Our client provided all the information the reporter asked for, even supplying illustrations and photographs for the article. This is exactly how we want it to work. The reporter said the article would run in the next few days – no later than the weekend. We checked the paper every day, but no story.

Finally, publication! We all hungrily read the article. The reporter was thorough, having interviewed many people. In fact, he quoted a competitor of our client. The one thing the story did not include was a quote from our client, who was understandably disappointed.

So was I. Here’s what I told my client post-publication:

There are no guarantees when you work with the media. Reporters and their organizations are independent entities, and no matter how helpful you are to them, they will never promise publication of the information you so willingly provide. It’s simply part of the deal when working with journalists.

Still, although they won’t always admit it, reporters have feelings, and they appreciate working with reasonable people. The groundwork you and your PR agency do builds a relationship. Your expectation is to (usually) gain some notice for your investment in the relationship. The reporter acknowledges this and when he does stories in the future, he will call you because you are a great resource. You are in the Rolodex.

Next time a reporter calls, you will get an opportunity to tell your story and convey your message. You can’t control how it will be used – whether it will be used at all – or what the headline says. Once you position yourself as a person of knowledge and expertise, however, you are more likely than not to be quoted in influential media – and to be happy with the result.

Like most artistic endeavors, it’s worth pursuing despite the challenges and the occasional heartache.

Berbay Marketing & PR
2001 South Barrington Avenue, Suite 305 • Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310)-405-7345 Fax: (310)-914-4201 •

© Berbay Marketing & Public Relations 2017 All Rights Reserved.