By Larry Bodine
There’s nothing like a picture postcard to remind people that you’re thinking of them. So Blank Rome produced a series of unique ones to put the firm front of mind with the country’s top law students. The postcards are whimsical but at the same time deliver precise message points about the 500-lawyer firm. The first in the series has views of the three cities in which Blank Rome has its largest offices– New York, Washington and Philadelphia–to reinforce the firm’s national platform. Other cards highlight the firm’s culture and entrepreneurial style of doing business. For example, one illustrates the firm’s commitment to pro bono by showing a determined terrier trying to lift a giant barbell above the caption “Pulling Our Weight.” Another, focusing on the firm’s government relations practice, has three eagles screeching on a mountaintop with the caption “Talk More. Squawk Less.” An excellent campaign to capture a generation that has a short attention span but lauds the innovative.
To improve its client service, DLA Piper used a series of focus groups to inquire into what corporate counsel like and dislike about private law firms. With full knowledge that they were being recorded, the participants, all in-house lawyers at major corporations, generated 16 hours of videotape that gave the firm unvarnished, powerful evidence of what makes clients happy—and what doesn’t. Allen Chichester, chief marketing officer of DLA Piper in Chicago, edited down the footage into a riveting nine-minute program. The first airing was at the firm’s 300-lawyer partner’s retreat. “When I played it, you could have heard a pin drop,” he says. “It really made the partners stop and think.” Since then, he plays the video to incoming associates to launch their law practices with the right service orientation. “I wanted to get them early, so that we could start people with good habits.” Good client service habits—now that’s good thinking!
I’m amazed when I talk to law firm partners about strategic marketing plans and they tell me, “We don’t really have one.” Some may think they have one, but it’s really lurking in the marketing director’s mind instead of being written down. Or it’s conveyed in a single PowerPoint slide. Or buried in some marketing committee’s notes, drafted years ago and forgotten. In corporate America, every successful company has a strategic marketing plan guiding its future. But the vast majority of U.S. law firms have no such plan in place. This is like an airplane pilot without a flight plan, or an ocean liner captain without charts. A business development strategy will generate new clients, increase billings and boost originations. So you want to be ahead of the pack? When someone asks if your firm has a marketing plan in place, the answer cannot be “no.”