Marketing Matters Boost Your Firm’s Brand

Marketing Tips to Weather Economic Headwinds

Here‘s some nonbreaking news for you: The law is a challenging and competitive profession. The COVID-19 pandemic shattered segments of the economy, as previously successful industries downsized or collapsed. The small businesses that many law firms rely on struggled or failed. 

Ross Fishman, JD

COVID was terra incognita; we’d seen recessions before, but nothing like this. The pandemic weakened the economy, and law firms promptly tightened their belts. Many firms fired or furloughed personnel and slashed compensation. Then in 2021 things suddenly turned around and legal work came roaring back. Business boomed. The biggest marketing challenge became recruiting, as 2020’s clogged pipeline burst wide open and there were more deals to do and lawsuits to file than lawyers available to do them.

As we start 2023, talks of a recession loom large again. Legal work seems to be slowing again and firms are discussing or undertaking new “rightsizing” layoffs. Professional survival today means 1) building a wall around your existing clients, and 2) growing them where possible, ideally into new practice areas. It also means: 3) converting more prospects into clients, and 4) standing out as a leader in your field, to attract more referrals as the go-to lawyer for some target audiences.

Economic uncertainty makes traditional client-development challenges even more challenging. There’s less legal work out there than there was just months ago. And many of the tools in a 2019 rainmaker’s pre-pandemic toolkit don’t currently apply or have morphed into something else. It’s time to develop new tools or learn to use the modern ones more effectively, like using Zoom for networking, social media for outreach, and webinars for brand building.

Legal marketing professionals need a simple, practical, and detailed guide to follow — a step-by-step list of precisely what marketing and business development activities to undertake under this new and shifting reality. Building or strengthening your marketing platform now will help prepare you for whatever comes next. Your expertise can help your attorneys grow practice areas and make you indispensable to the firm.

Here’s where to start.

1. Host a marketing refresher course. Leading law firms are spending time and effort on both visibility-enhancing marketing efforts as well as business development activities. With that in mind, it’s likely a good time to hold a marketing training or refresher course for your attorneys. Put together (if you don’t already have one) a presentation or a guide to help your lawyers brush up on the skills they’ll need to navigate the challenges presented by the current environment. 

2. Shift to a focus on helping people, not looking for legal work. You want the firm’s lawyers to be viewed as knowledgeable, caring, trusted advisers — not needy salespeople. Those close relationships will turn into clients should they need to hire a lawyer. Which brings us to the next critical marketing step: networking.

“Leading law firms are spending time and effort on both visibility-enhancing marketing efforts as well as business development activities.” 

3. Train them on how to network. Networking is a learned skill. It’s not difficult, but many of the required behaviors are counterintuitive to most lawyers. In all your networking, remember, as Dale Carnegie famously wrote 80 years ago in How to Win Friends and Influence People: “It’s better to be interested than interesting.”

That is, be interested in them and in facilitating their success more than being the center of attention. Just because the stereotypical rainmakers are gregarious doesn’t mean that’s why they get hired. Being outgoing can make it easier for them to stand out and grow their network. But they tend to get hired because they are good at listening and finding ways to help people solve their problems. That’s the secret. Or, as my father used to say, “When you’re talking, you’re not selling.” The fact is, the best networking conversations are brought in by listening, not talking. Consider bringing in an outside expert to help attorneys fine-tune these skills. 

4. Consider a client-development coach. Building relationships with clients will be more critical than ever. You may want to bring in an outside professional who can help you one-on-one. Plans are easy, but execution is hard. The right coach can answer questions, provide ongoing guidance and support, and keep you on track.

For lawyers who are able to adapt, chaos can create enormous opportunity. You can play a critical role in getting the lawyers ready — and helping your firm’s bottom line.

We’re all in this together, and together we’ll survive ― but your career is in your own hands. Devote the time now and you can be ready for anything. I think that’s exciting.

This content was developed and excerpted with permission from Ross Fishman’s book, The Ultimate Law Firm Partner’s Post-Covid Marketing Checklist: The Renowned Step-By-Step Process for Lawyers Who Want to Develop Clients.