Most think of cross-marketing in the context of a big law firm when the transactional client needs litigation services. However, lawyers in small firms and even solo practitioners can cross-market to offer clients topnotch legal services and increase profits.
Family Advocate: Marketing Your Family Law Practice (Buy Issue)Some call it cross-marketing, others call it cross-selling. It is the provision of additional services to existing clients. At our firm we call it cross-pollination: the transfer of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another. Sometimes the exchange involves our domestic relations area and another legal specialty within our firm and at other times we cross-market with nonlawyer "partners" who are an integral part of our domestic relations team. No matter what the name, cross-marketing should be part of a marketing strategy to expand your client base and the range of services to existing clients.

Cross-marketing is nothing more than letting others in your firm or with whom you have "partner" like relationships know what you can do for their clients and what those people can do for yours. Simply put, it is just good public relations, externally to those on your team and to attorneys and staff inside your firm. There is nothing worse than a domestic relations secretary who turns down the accident case of a former client because she doesn't know that the firm handles personal injury cases, too.

The hardest part of cross-marketing is letting the client know about additional services you or your "partners" offer without seeming pushy. As a first step, be educated about other practice areas in your firm and make sure that others are educated about your practice and your clients.

Set the stage for marketing

Know the accomplishments of the attorneys in your office.
  • Create an effective in-house communication system that fosters an exchange of information about clients, including requests for assistance in an area you may not be competent to service.

  • Send out new client memos to all lawyers and include the client's business or other significant information.

  • Set up a system for the routine and consistent sharing of information regarding clients and their potential legal needs, including but not limited to regular meetings with other sections of the firm.

  • Develop a database of client businesses and special interests.

  • Have regular staff meetings that include a meal to ensure a captive audience of all nonlawyer staff and to educate everyone about all areas in which your firm specializes.

  • Offer cross-marketing incentives to nonlawyer staff.

  • Make alliances with law firms that specialize in areas about which you have no special expertise.

  • Develop a database of client businesses and special interests

  • Create a detailed list of legal services for which you make referrals. Meet regularly with referral sources to discuss new clients and possible partnership opportunities.

  • Make alliances or develop a network with other specialists—accountants, therapists, psychologists, insurance agents, real estate appraisers, financial advisors—and make them an integral part of your team during the dissolution litigation process.

  • Offer free education about your specialty to your network of specialists, including speaking engagements or written materials.

  • Cosponsor seminars or coauthor articles with your external partners.

Learn even more about your clients

Once you have educated yourself about the legal services your partners can offer, educate yourself about clients' other legal or related needs. This may be the easiest part of cross-marketing.

  • Be a good listener—inquire about your client's hobbies, interests, businesses, children, and family relationships.

  • Visit your client's place of business or meet somewhere other than your office to find out more about your client.

  • Train your staff to be good listeners. Often a client or potential client speaks with your legal staff well before talking with you. Your staff may even be the point of referral. Make sure staff members are educated about exactly how and where to refer a potential client.

  • During litigation and at its close, ask the client what worked well and what you could do better. Suggest other legal issues your client should address at the close of representation, including the writing of a new will, changing insurance beneficiaries, and the like.

  • Continue to maintain relationships with former clients so that if and when future legal needs arise, you will be there to offer assistance.

One of the biggest obstacles to cross-marketing is the fear of losing clients to another attorney. This should not be a problem in the family law area because you may be the first and only lawyer with which your client has ever had contact. Position yourself to become "the lawyer" to whom your former client turns whenever future legal issues arise.

Finally, once you are educated about your firm services and the services of your nonlawyer partners, educate your client or potential client about those services.

  • Have eye-catching and effective marketing materials in your waiting room, including traditional firm brochures and other biographical materials regarding firm attorneys, but also think outside the box: provide newspaper or magazine articles or other easily displayable material detailing your firm's successes or establishing your authority in certain areas.

  • Inform your client about all of your firm's legal services during the initial meeting.

  • Tell your client about external services you will use in litigating the case properly, including the hiring of accountants, therapists, financial advisors, real estate agents, and the like.

  • Maintain a catchy Web site and regularly refer your clients to it for information, including articles written by you and other lawyers in the firm and links to other services offered by your external "partners."

  • Hold an event or cosponsor an event and invite current and former clients. Have other partners attend to educate your clients about other practice areas in your firm.

  • Include clients and former clients when sending out announcements and other mailings.

  • Send out comprehensive close-out letters, not only detailing what a client needs to do with regard to the domestic relations case, but also other services offered by your firm.

Of course, cross-pollination will never work if the client is not satisfied with your services and you have been unable to build a trusting relationship in the first place. By being attentive to a client's needs and delivering outstanding legal services during the initial representation, you will have planted the seeds to develop future legal relationships between your client and your partners. FA

Laura C. Belleau is a partner in the law firm of Karp Heurlin Weiss. She is a certified domestic relations specialist through the State Bar of Arizona, a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and a member of the family law sections of the Arizona and American Bar Associations. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Ms. Belleau is a frequent presenter on family-law-related issues and serves as a judge pro tempore for the Superior Court of Pima County in domestic relations matters.

Published in Family Advocate, Volume 29, No. 2, Fall 2006. © 2006 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.