You open your mail to find yet another announcement of a new firm in direct competition with yours. You turn the page of the legal newspaper and spy an announcement of a few of your colleagues opening a new firm vying for your same business. Your emails that day include a Listserv message from a former classmate of yours who is breaking out on her own in exactly the same space as your practice.
Don’t panic. Do buckle down and figure out what you can do to get the word out about just how good you are. Marketing may not be your forte, and you may even be one of those lawyers who find the whole process distasteful. But especially in today’s competitive environment, litigators need to promote themselves. There is absolutely nothing indecent about it. And there are now many ways to promote yourself in a manner that is consistent with your personal style.
Young lawyers already know how to make marketing a part of their business plan. They do it unthinkingly as they communicate their latest achievements through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media channels. Just be wary of the evolving bar ethics rules on lawyer marketing. See ABA Resolution 105B (adopted Aug. 2012), which made changes to the attorney advertising ethics rules targeting Internet advertising and social media marketing, including Internet-generated client leads. Specifically, ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.18, 5.5, 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 were amended.
A slew of vendors have emerged to help lawyers capture attention through the Internet. They use a strange language, filled with exotic phrasing such as “web analytics,” “HootSuite social media dashboard,” and “SEO optimization.” But don’t be taken in by firms that simply put you on a list and offer to send out a canned newsletter that has your name on it, with the very same content that they sell to every other firm. See the iWitness column by Jason Beahm last issue for some practical pointers on the use of social media for marketing.
Instead of the shotgun approach, try to think of your marketing plan more like a rifle shot, targeting an audience that really may be in need of exactly what you do. Here are just a few simple, affordable things you already should be doing. And if you aren’t, start.
Start a mailing list. Aside from the list of names and snail-mail addresses that would require you to spend money on costly postage to reach these people, develop a list of the email addresses of people you can reach much more inexpensively. Every person who gives you a business card goes on this list. This will allow you to keep in touch with your clients and colleagues, help you promote achievements as well as your involvement in the community, generate referrals, and educate your clients about the services you provide.
Develop things to tell these people. Start simple. Give a speech. Prepare a short case alert. Write an article for an ABA publication. Do your own newsletter.
Find outlets for these messages—and be creative. Send the local newspapers a press release about your client’s new victory. Send blurbs about yourself to your college and law school alumni publications. Write an article for an ABA or a state or local bar association publication, and make sure you secure reprint rights so you can send the article around with a short introduction about who you are and what it says.
When you meet people, send them away with more than just your business card, or follow up immediately afterward with a firm brochure, a profile page with your contact information and a list of your accomplishments, and reprints of your articles. Lawyers don’t need to have slick, four-color, high-gloss folders, but people still like to leave meetings with a tangible takeaway. Give them easy-to-read materials about your work.
Make the most of word of mouth. There is simply no substitute for it. Doing good and upholding the ethics of the profession goes far when lawyers and judges talk about referring potential clients.
Lawyers, and especially litigators, can’t afford to be the tree that falls in some faraway woods. Marketing experts will tell you that, in the increasingly crowded Internet forest, you do not need to be loud, but you do need to be clearly heard.