Blog/Podcast: Secrets for Success from a Journalist Turned Legal Marketer

Every legal marketer has their own best practices and approach to the job — and that’s a beautiful thing, because we can all learn from each other.

Jennifer Mir, a recent guest on the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast, discussed her own approach as Practice Development Director at Munger, Tolles and Olson. She and host Sharon Berman talked about everything from Jennifer’s career switch to why she does not put more than three marketing initiatives on her to-do list. Here are four of the tips she shared:

  1. Think Like a Journalist

Jennifer began her career as a reporter and editor, but she uses many of the same skills as a legal marketer — they’re just applied differently. Like journalists, legal marketers need to fully understand their subject and never stop asking questions, even the difficult ones.

Essentially, in-house marketers are beat reporters, but instead of covering crime or sports, you’re covering your own firm. You should be the expert on everything that goes on in the office, from recruitment to practice area growth to the cases lawyers are working on. You only gain this knowledge by staying curious, so learn about every nook and cranny of the business and build relationships with the lawyers at your firm.

Another important lesson Jennifer learned as a journalist is that everyone has a different perspective, and your approach might be entirely different from someone else’s. That’s not a criticism; it’s just reality. If you’re struggling to reach common ground or get the answers you need, ask yourself: am I viewing this situation only through the lens of my own experiences, or is there another perspective I can try to understand? The answer to this question can be illuminating.

  1. Cut Down Your To-Do List

It’s tempting to compare your firm to others and feel pressured to follow their every move. Certainly, you need to be aware of the competitive landscape and adapt, but that doesn’t mean blindly following the pack. When it comes to marketing, it’s vital that you put your resources into strategies that work for you, no matter what other firms are doing.

Oftentimes, doing less is more effective than trying to do everything. What marketer hasn’t written a long list of initiatives, only to accomplish one or two (and then feel frustrated and disappointed)? Rather than pushing yourself to reach an impossible goal only because other firms are doing it, focus on two or three initiatives that make sense, and give them your undivided thought and attention. Being ambitious but realistic is the key to developing a successful long-term marketing strategy.

  1. Don’t Be Scared of Client Feedback

What is one of the things on Jennifer’s (short) to-do list right now? Launching a client feedback pilot. At Munger Tolles and Olson, they’re starting with a small group of clients who already have good relationships with the firm. Senior lawyers will conduct interviews and bring back the results to share with others.

Despite the benefits client feedback can provide, the legal industry as a whole is behind the times on this. Although it’s a hot topic and some firms are implementing pilots, the majority of lawyers report that they never ask their clients how they’re doing. That’s a wasted opportunity.

In the age of Yelp, people are used to being asked for feedback. It’s almost more unusual when they aren’t asked to offer their opinions. Lawyers are notoriously resistant to new things, but this is one case where marketers need to push their lawyers in the right direction. Beyond just providing data, client feedback can actually be a great relationship- and reputation-builder. Asking for feedback tells clients that you value what they think, making it a win-win for everyone.

  1. Keep Your Humanity as the World Goes Data Crazy

The future is all about data. It’s going to influence every aspect of our lives, and using data to assess, articulate and determine resources will become especially important in the legal industry. Marketers who aren’t already on board will need to get more comfortable on this front.

At the same time, marketers can’t lose their human and business instincts. The industry is only getting more competitive, and firms are going to have to become more strategic and focused. Data plays a part in this, but marketers also have to be clear-eyed about setting realistic goals and keeping their firms on the right path. Marketers are the voice of reason. You have to get comfortable with saying “no” and sharing your instincts with decision-makers, because no one else has the same expertise you do. It’s a difficult job in the professional services world, where there are lots of opinions and politics, but this approach can go a long way in maintaining a competitive advantage.

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