Monday, October 2, 2017

The Ten Traits Through Which Law Firms Get in their Own Way

For the past 25 years, I have had the privilege of working with and consulting for a wide range of excellent lawyers and law firms. Yet for all of their brilliance, it always amazes me how much so many of their marketing programs might have been exponentially more successful had they taken stock of themselves. By this I mean, each might have benefitted from some self-reflection as to the nuances of either their own personalities (solos and smaller firms) and/or their firm culture (middle and larger firms.)
Allow me to explain what I mean by outlining ten characteristics of individuals and/or firms that often prevent them from reaching even greater heights.

Obsessive Compulsiveness

One of the most insightful quotations I ever heard was “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.” When it comes to marketing, nothing could be more true. I have seen brilliant executives hold up a major marketing initiative for months as they debated whether a graphic should have a 1/16 or 1/32 border. Regardless of which alternative was “right” (if there even is such a thing), this struggle for perfection meant that a 99% completed project sat on everyone’s computers for months when it could have been out in the market drumming up business for the firm. Put another way: Don’t let 100% get in the way of 99%.”


This is an obvious one that afflicts many – myself included. Perhaps it is a function of the above, but regardless of its cause, it is perhaps the #1 reason why marketing comes to a complete standstill. Everyone likes to get new business, but often the challenge of doing so leads to a quasi-paralysis. Tackling a major concern can certainly be intimidating, but it is better to recognize that than to ignore it. 


Similar to procrastination, this trait is more a function of the bureaucratic hassles that come with taking something from a concept to a fully executed ad, campaign, web site, article, etc. When the approval process becomes cumbersome, when political maneuvering gets in the way of clear decision making and when too many “cooks” reside in the kitchen, the result is often a delayed and sometimes “not very good” piece of legal marketing.

Lack of Confidence

This is a biggie and is usually an indication that someone is not comfortable with making decisions – at least not when it comes to marketing. A classic sign of this is when a decision has, in fact, been made, but then rescinded because someone’s mother-in-law mentions she does not like the color green or another marketing vendor questions why the firm decided to do it that way. 

Viewing Marketing as an Expense

This is another one that cuts across all kinds of law practices. Let me be clear. Marketing is an investment, not an expense. Executed well, there will be a positive payout. Everyone is aware of Coca-Cola, Apple or McDonalds. If marketing wasn’t an investment, why would these companies still be advertising as extensively as they do?

Old-Fashioned View of Marketing

Just because your father did business on the golf course and only printed up s single brochure one-time as he built his practice from one to 120 attorneys, does not mean that websites, advertising, public relations, etc. are irrelevant and/or not worth pursuing. “We get all of our business through ‘word-of-mouth” may be nice in theory, but it doesn’t mean you could not be getting more.


“How come we are not #1 in the online rankings?” “We just ran an ad yesterday. Why aren’t the phones ringing?” 
Research has shown that prospects become aware of a firm, a product, a service, etc. only through multiple exposures to a specific message. Marketing takes time to build. A lack of patience can often lead to “pulling the plug” on an initiative before it really has had a chance to get going. That means you may very well be throwing money away -- not saving it.

Unrealistic Expectations

There are no magic bullets. Marketing a law practice takes time, some financial resources and the development of carefully considered strategies. Your firm will not grow from one attorney to twelve overnight, nor will your revenue triple in two weeks. Similarly, those interim metrics that indicate enthusiasm for your firm (e.g., web site traffic, number of seminar attendees, etc.) must be viewed with a realistic eye. If you spent $1,000 to promote a seminar, chances are you will not garner 1,000 attendees. If you build a web site, but do nothing to promote that site, it is unwise to expect large volumes of site traffic. Build it, does not necessarily mean they will come. 

Time Management

This is not the same as procrastination. This is simply a matter of not planning your day based on realistic expectations as to how much time each of your tasks will require. When the rubber meets the road, marketing inevitably gets the short end of the stick. This means that it gets pushed off for another day, which becomes another week and ultimately becomes a few months down the road.


This is my favorite – not because it happens all that frequently. It doesn’t. But when it does, it can lead to some pretty funny marketing. When individuals cannot control their more sinister impulses, start writing scathing critiques of judges, convey a cynicism bordering on contempt – then we’ve got a situation destined for some not so pleasant results.
So there you have it -- ten ways in which the principals at law firms hurt themselves in the marketing function. How to avoid falling into these traps is a matter of looking in the mirror and having the wherewithal to remain objective. Those who lack courage need not apply.