Blog/Podcast: Legal Marketers: Overcome Lawyer Skepticism with These 5 Steps
Marketers and lawyers may come from different worlds, but there’s no reason they can’t work together successfully – all it takes is a little understanding.
Greg Fleischmann, chief marketing officer at Lowenstein Sandler in New York, has spent 20 years advising and working with lawyers, both in-house and as a consultant. He shared some of the things he’s learned over his career on the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast. Here are a few insights he covered with host Sharon Berman:
Build trust by showing off your skills.
Lawyers love to look at the qualifications of their colleagues: the law schools they’ve attended, the matters they’ve worked on and how long they’ve been practicing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — attorneys want to assess the expertise of the people they work with. However, this can lead to some resistance or apprehension when a marketer starts offering advice. Even if you know what you’re doing as a legal marketer, you might need to convince a skeptical lawyer of the same.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that legal marketers need to run out and get a J.D. You can build credibility equally well by emphasizing the parallels between marketing and law. Marketers know how to sell, build relationships, manage projects and generate profits — all things that lawyers need to do, too. Highlight your similarities and the skills you bring to the table, and you’ll create more trust with the lawyers you work with.
Learn how to make cold calls — then stop telling your lawyers to make them.
Cold calls are one of the most dreaded and difficult marketing tasks, but it’s important that every marketer has experience making them. There’s no faster way to learn about sales. Plus, that experience will make you more empathetic when you ask lawyers to get out there and network or follow up with leads.
In reality, cold calls are pretty far down the list of “things that drive business.” Marketing officers shouldn’t ask or expect their lawyers to spend their valuable time calling a list of strangers to have vague conversations that will probably go nowhere. Instead, marketers should encourage lawyers to think about their networks and initiate warm calls and meetings with prospects. Not only is this strategy less stress-inducing, but it’s also more effective — a win for everyone involved.
Don’t push new technology too soon.
So many of the technologies considered essential today didn’t exist just a few years ago. Marketers are constantly pressured to modernize their firms, and in turn, they push their lawyers to not only use technology, but also to promote their use of it to clients. If you’re not talking about and implementing new tech, it feels like you’re not in sync with the greater conversation.
However, as tempting as it may be, it’s typically not a good idea for marketers to come into a new firm and update everything immediately. In general, lawyers are independent people, and are essentially running their own businesses. Making firm-wide changes in this environment isn’t easy, and it certainly can’t be done overnight. Instead, marketers are better off spending their first months at a firm building one-on-one relationships, learning what individual lawyers are doing and understanding what leadership wants to achieve. Change can and should happen if it needs to, but not before you fully understand what you’re working with.
Treat lawyers the way you want them to treat clients.
In the legal world, lawyers don’t call someone for the first time and wind up with a contract. Instead, it’s about long-term relationship building. Marketers are constantly advising attorneys to dig into a prospect’s business and figure out how they can deliver value to them. It’s not easy, but we ask lawyers to do it because it works. So, shouldn’t we treat the lawyers we work with the same way?
Just like their clients, lawyers are busy, and they don’t enjoy feeling like they’re being asked a favor. Don’t try to force lawyers to do something — instead find ways to connect and help solve their problems. Can you share a relevant article about their business? Crunch some numbers and tell them something new about their client base? Not only will these helpful touches benefit your lawyers’ business, but it models the exact approach you want them to take with their networks.
For firm success, lawyers need some direction.
Even though lawyers need autonomy, law firms still need to have some control for long-term success. The solution to a client’s problem isn’t always going to fall completely within the expertise of one lawyer in one practice area. That’s when firms need to step in and incentivize (or perhaps mandate, if possible) teaming across firm silos. This not only delivers the most value to clients, but it also grows revenue across the entire client base. Decentralized firms are great from an entrepreneurial perspective, but this isn’t always the best solution for a client, and it doesn’t position the firm to win in a highly competitive situation.
The necessity of a command-and-control structure might be less apparent when business is good, but that’s exactly when firm leaders need to put these structures in place. By the time the firm starts scrambling for work, it’s too late. Marketers and firm leadership need to find a balance between entrepreneurship and gentle guidance before times get tough.