What’s in Store for Legal Marketing in 2014?

The annual Marketing Partner Forum held in Naples, Florida, brought together managing partner, marketing partners and senior business development professionals to examine how attorneys and law firms can stay relevant in a very crowded marketplace by providing greater value to clients.

A recap of six of the sessions follows along with the key takeaways. I’d welcome feedback or further discussion.

Legal Industry Trends Panel: Measuring it All

The conference opened with Legal Industry Trends: What Firms Are Doing Now, presented by Sylvia Coulter of LawVision Group and Mark Medice of Peer Monitor. This session explored the 2013 Hildebrandt Institute Marketing and Business Development Survey, highlighting where the legal industry looks to be headed. Below are some of the findings:

The practice areas poised for growth in 2014 include intellectual property, real estate, corporate and litigation.

Demand for legal services in certain practice areas is increasing, but many law firms are not adequately meeting this demand. Hot-button issues include:

  • Firms are losing share to work being brought in-house.
  • The competitive nature of the industry continues to change due to an influx of firms like Axiom presenting themselves as “law redefined.”

In regard to marketing, survey results indicate that for firms with 250 or fewer attorneys:

  • Business development and marketing is centralized in one location.
  • There is one full-time marketing person on staff for every 25 attorneys. This ratio of marketing professionals to attorneys is unlikely to change in 2014, as are the marketing budgets of most law firms.
  • 72% of firms have staff specifically dedicated to managing social media, raising the questions: Is dedicated social media staff effective at generating revenue through client base expansion? How can effectiveness of marketing and business development be determined – through actual activities, or firm revenue?

In addition to gauging effectiveness of marketing tactics, another obstacle can be increasing collaboration between the marketing department and other departments within the firm, such as human resources and recruiting. Suggestions for improving interdepartmental relations include prioritizing marketing, creating metrics and coming up with process/solution improvements. A more strategic approach and an increase in marketing staff were both high on the “wish list” for business development marketing professionals in the law industry.

What do marketers actually do?

Within the industry, the most common tasks of the business development and marketing staff include:

  • Designing marketing materials (Anyone surprised by this?)
  • Organizing events
  • Advertising
  • Responding to requests for proposals
  • Preparing submissions for directories or surveys
  • Social media and public relations

I was particularly surprised by the complete lack of influence that marketing departments have over pricing, which should fall within the scope of their duties.

Looking toward the future

Most importantly, the results of this survey underscore the areas that most firms need to develop in 2014: improving business development and controlling costs. The greatest challenge in business development is creating a culture of attorney engagement and overcoming a lack of resources (budget, time, etc.). Marketing challenges include differentiation, attorney engagement and communicating brand attributes.

Marketing professionals must seek client feedback and explore creative new ideas for appealing to clients. It was fascinating to hear such a straightforward breakdown of where the legal industry stands at the end of 2013 – and where it’s headed this year.


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