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   May/June 2002


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10 Tips for Marketing Your Law Practice

John Kerr

Many lawyers fail to take the first steps in marketing. They may recognize the importance of marketing, but somehow it becomes a to-do list item that never gets checked off in a hectic work life. However, when you have sole responsibility for building your own practice, you must assign a priority to marketing—or you may eventually find that you have no practice left to build.

Assigning a priority to marketing will help move it from the perpetual to-do list to the "done" list. But the task will still move slowly—or not at all—without a roadmap of activities to guide you on the way. Here are 10 simple tips to help position you for marketing success.

• Pay attention to your brand. Your firm’s name is your most important asset. If you use a distinct logo or logotype, ensure that it appears consistently on your letterhead, brochures and other marketing materials. When referring to your firm in writing, use the complete name on first reference, then use a consistent abbreviation throughout the rest of the document. Adopting a consistent style helps make your name more memorable—and it looks professional.

• Keep your clients tops on the list. "One obvious thing that most lawyers don’t do well enough is market to their existing clients," says Charles A. James, of Doster, Robinson, James, Hutchison and Ullom, P.C., in St. Louis. James recommends making an occasional proactive call to clients when there is a development in the law that may interest them. He also advises returning phone calls promptly. "Not returning phone calls is probably the number one complaint I hear about other lawyers," says James. "Lawyers who are successful at eliminating that complaint develop clients who become ‘raving fans.’"

• Develop a speaker’s bureau. You can position yourself as a leader and an expert just by speaking to organizations and clubs in your community. Start by targeting organizations in which your clients are members, as well as those with an interest in your area of specialty. Make a simple phone call to learn if the organization welcomes speakers. Be sure to ask what topics would interest the group, and tailor your remarks accordingly.

• Develop a press kit. This may seem like a big job initially, but once your kit is finished, it will be simple to update it—and the rewards will be great. Fill a presentation folder with the following: your bio material; a background sheet with a couple of paragraphs about your firm and specialties; and copies of any newspaper or magazine clips in which you’re quoted.

• Send news releases. When you win a significant case, have a newsworthy achievement or hire a new associate, announce it. Send releases to your daily newspapers, local business journals and the newsletters of organizations in which you are a member. Be sure to include a contact name and telephone number. Attach your release to your press kit to give reporters a complete information package.

• Position yourself as an expert with the media. When major court cases are in the news, reporters often seek out legal experts for general comment. If you are willing to offer this service, send a letter of introduction to reporters, along with your press kit, in advance of newsworthy trials or judgments.

• Teach your clients something new. If you’ve had particular success making speeches to local organizations, recycle that content by offering informal seminars for your clients. Consider offering a quarterly lunchtime learning program or an occasional after-hours discussion.

• Create a current capabilities brochure. Creating a brochure can be as simple as using predesigned brochure paper and printing copies on your office computer. Use your brochure for prospective clients and situations in which a press kit is too much information. Choose paper that complements your letterhead, business cards and envelopes. Note that current means current, so keep it up-to-date.

• Develop a Web presence. If you don’t already have a Web site, it is time to create one. With a quick Internet search, you can find a number of free Web site providers. When designing your site, you can use the copy you’ve already generated for your press kit and brochure. You can also post your news releases and information for groups seeking a speaker.

• Ask your clients for feedback. If you do nothing else, implement this tip at least once a year. Ask your clients to rate your responsiveness, overall communication, professionalism, strategic counsel and billing clarity. Some firms use independent companies to conduct this research by telephone, but written surveys can also be useful. Most clients will be glad to offer comments, and grateful that you asked for their opinions. The key is then to apply their suggestions!

Implementing these 10 tips will require a modest time investment at the start, but less so on an ongoing basis. You might choose to implement just a few selected tips right away and tackle more as your practice grows. Taken this way, marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It simply has to be a priority.

John Kerr (kerrjm@msn.com) is the owner of Kerr & Associates.