AS I WELCOME YOU to this issue of Law Practice, it’s worth pointing out that every shape and size of law practice must adopt a multipronged approach to marketing. All too often, the focus can be too heavy on nonclients or, at other times, safely marketing from afar. However, nothing drives new revenue quite like the highest level of client service.
More on that in a bit, but first, a word on branding. Remember when many multinamed large firms went to two names? Even when a firm brands itself with one single name, having (at least theoretically) achieved the industry prominence of entertainers Beyoncé, Bono and Madonna, the business still isn’t bulletproof. Just ask single-named-gone-defunct firms Howrey, Thelen and Dreier.
Having an awareness of something and demonstratively buying into what it does are two ends of the spectrum. This is the heart of marketing: Progressing along the continuum may seem complicated, but movement is completely attainable. Make no mistake, while there are only a handful of law firms that clients may hire purely for their reputation, building awareness of the organization as a respectable institution remains critical. If not, there would only be value in hanging the solo’s shingle, and more than a century of law firm histories would simply be bluff and bluster.
The important point is that creating and maintaining a corporate impression is at least a couple of steps removed from the concrete act of landing the client. It is with the support of that brand (or without it) that attorneys still need to close the deal “up close and personal,” often from time zones away. And so, while some brand positioning may be accomplished by a firm’s name, it will always be thoughtful, personal interaction that moves a potential client to engagement and personalized, excellent service that persuades clients to expand the relationship with their trusted advisor.
I would like to thank Heidi Barcus and Dee Schiavelli for leading the team for this issue focused on client service, a team that includes Paul Bonner and Gail Appleson. Alternative fee arrangements have become more mainstream in effectively serving clients, and Deborah McMurray and Paul Bonner have provided some case studies in “Alternative Fee Arrangements That Work for Clients and Lawyers.” Carol Greenwald then discusses the need to work closely with clients in “Nurturing Client Relationships Builds Better Practices.” Mary Vandenack investigates “Hiring a Marketing Director for Small or Midsized Firms” and interviews two small-firm marketing directors. Terri Gavulic shares her insights on simply asking clients what they want in “Focusing on Client Feedback,” a critical component of client service. Emily Rushing then recounts the extent to which research helps to level the new business playing field in “Competitive Intelligence.” Finally, we take to social media with Dee Schiavelli’s article “Help! My LinkedIn Profile Has Changed.”
In addition to an excellent collection of columns gathered by Tom Grella, we welcome Tom Mighell back in the Web 2.0 column as well as new columnist Allison Shields, who shares her first of many future Simple Steps pieces. Thanks also to Keith Cameron, who makes a cameo in the Finance column, covering “A Different View of Law Firm Profitability: Practical Applications.”
In the end, everyone prefers to work with those people they like and trust. We all can benefit from intentionally deepening client relationships with consistent and thoughtful interaction, lest the dreaded problem clients take over the world.
John D. Bowers