Friday, June 14, 2019

You are Not a Commodity

Before you can even truly begin to promote your firm in any meaningful way, it is important that you get out of the commodity mindset – that all law firms are pretty much the same. That may be the consumer’s perception, but it should not be yours. Your job is to change that perception by distinguishing yourself. How are you going to do that?

Some questions to get you started….

How many attorneys work at the firm?
What are their backgrounds – not just what schools did they attend or the practice areas they emphasize, but what have they done? In what cases have they been involved? Have they set legal precedent? Have they developed niches within specific practice areas? In what kinds of pro bono work have they been active?

Okay, enough about the attorneys. After all, you’re marketing a law firm….

What has the firm done?
In what cases has it been involved? Has it set legal precedent? Has it developed niches within specific practice areas? In what kinds of pro bono work has it been active?

See a pattern here? Same questions – but they should lead to some different answers.

Now, that was the easy stuff. Let’s throw some harder stuff at you:

How would you describe the firm’s culture? Is it “traditional” (whatever that means)? Is it cutting edge? Do people come to work in suits or in casual business attire?

Staying with that line of questioning for a moment, what does the firm “look” like? Is it “traditional?” Is it cutting edge? Is it dark, bright, filled with portraits of former partners or with abstract paintings of things most people would not even recognize?

The way your office “looks” says a lot about the firm. Or at least it should. There is nothing worse than a new prospect visiting the firm for the first time and expecting one type of organization, only to discover later that the visual depiction of the firm is nothing like the way it treats its clients. Consistency counts.

Before I go on, I should say, that unlike marketing, many firms are, in fact, quite aware of the importance of the image they portray through their office. This is great, but from a marketer’s perspective, it only makes things that much more frustrating when these firms do not apply the same philosophy in their communications.

But I digress.

How is the firm structured? Is it clear where the power lies and who reports to whom? How important is that structure? Is a little “freelancing” allowed or is reporting (and decision making) a rigid process? I have never worked for a high technology company, but from what I understand, many of the most successful ones are very loose in how they generate and implement new ideas. Are new ideas for clients and for the firm itself encouraged or deemphasized?

Net net… How motivating is the firm’s structure?

And speaking of “motivating”…

How is compensation determined? Now, you may think that has nothing to do with marketing and business development, but I would argue that it has everything to do with marketing and business development. Is origination rewarded or neglected? Ditto for actually doing the work. Is credit given for each and/or both? How people are compensated is obviously important to them, but it can also be a point of difference between your firm and the run of the mill firm next door?

And continuing on with how people make money…

How are fee structures determined? Sure, you offer “flexible” pricing, but what the heck does that mean? Do you work on a contract basis, hourly basis, contingency basis, a “one size fits all” basis, a “we’ll work within your budget” basis, a “We’ll see” basis or on a “Yes, to all of these, basis?” What’s included in this price? When it comes to pricing, what’s the difference between your firm and the run of the mill firm next door? (And yes, that’s the exact same way I closed the paragraph on my previous bullet. Can you see why?)

In summary then, it’s important to address all these questions first – before you even begin to think about how to brand yourself.