Build Your Legal Practice with These 27 Marketing Ideas Straight from the Experts

There’s no shortage of earning potential in the legal sector. Whether you work for a massive firm or a one-person practice, your earning potential is nearly infinite, limited only by the new business you can bring in or your bandwidth to handle the work.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer, a marketer or a business development pro, if you can consistently convince people to seek legal services from you or your firm, then there’s a high-paying position waiting for you at the firm of your choosing.

Give your professional reputation and your bank account a healthy deposit this year with this list of 27 marketing and business development ideas straight from the experts.

#1: Enter every meeting prepared
Emery Harlan, Partner at MWH Law Group LLP
“Before meeting someone you’d like to have as a client, research their business on the federal case site PACER to get a better sense of potential legal needs. Also read quarterly reports, check out websites and do a Google News search to see what stories have been published about the business.”

#2 Give away free resources in your community
David M. Ward, Esq., Founder of The Ward Law Firm
“Write a ‘how to’ report in your area of expertise and give it away. Make it so good that centers of influence in your target market or community willingly promote it to their lists and thank you for making it available.”

#3 Start with contemporaries when building your referral engine
Steve Hurley, Chief Development Officer at National Consumer Law Center
“Focus on good lawyers who are your contemporaries when getting in touch with potential referral sources. More experienced lawyers already have people to whom they refer cases.”

#4 Put your firm’s personal brands on a pedestal
Karen Leland, President, Sterling Marketing Group
“Have EVERY single lawyer in the firm develop a strong online personal brand and online presence. Most lawyers have a default brand online (and off) that turns them into generic practitioners. One place to start is with a well-branded LinkedIn [profile]. This is essential for successful online marketing. Things to consider for LinkedIn include: A fully fleshed out summary with specific details of the attorney’s professional successes, a clear statement of expertise and results, recommendations from at least 10 clients, a professional headshot, and a tagline under the headshot that makes the area of expertise clear.”

Did you know that LinkedIn connections, while valuable, only represent a fraction of your law firm’s relationship data? Learn how law firms can collect comprehensive relationship data automatically, resulting in additional insight, opportunities and, ultimately, revenue.

#5 Make yourself memorable
Lucian Pera, Partner at Adams and Reese LLP
“Your firm’s holiday card is probably one of many that clients or potential clients receive. Find another holiday (or make one up) that you enjoy and that complements your practice. Separating yourself from other, similar messages is of real value. For a number of people I do business with, my connection to Memphis is important. I want them to think about Memphis and think about me, and I don’t want there to be more than a half second between those two thoughts.”

#6 Make referral generation part of your routine
Janice Brown, Brown Law Group
“Contact three to five potential referral sources a week—every week, regardless of how busy you are—and arrange to meet for coffee, drinks or a meal. That works much better than reaching out only when business is slow.”

#7 Get active in a trade association, and get on the board of directors
Larry Bodine, Attorney and Journalist
“You’ll notice that I said, trade association, and not bar association. You should join an association of clients. You want to get in front of a room full of clients, people who can potentially hire you. You find out about these trade associations by asking your current clients what meetings they go to. Then it’s a simple matter of saying, ‘I’d like to join you at the meeting. Would you introduce me to your friends?’ These friends, of course, are all potential clients for you. It’s no good just going to the meeting; you have to be visible. Your goal when you join a trade association is not to be just a face in the crowd. Your goal is to get on the board of directors. The way you do that is you seek out the president and you volunteer. You volunteer to help put together programs; you volunteer to help with the newsletter; you volunteer to help in any sort of activity that is going to lead to a board position.”

#8 Prioritize relationships over ads
Brian Tannebauem, General Counsel at BAST AMROM LLP
“The best marketing move I ever made was spending more money on developing relationships than on running ads. Bringing people together at a wine tasting or charity event, where the marketing is secondary, results in better referrals than spending money on advertising.”

#9 Perfect your pitch
Kelly G. O’Malley, Marketing Director at Reger Rizzo & Darnall LLP
“A well-defined elevator speech is a key component of a successful business development plan. In roughly 30 seconds, you should be able to explain who you are, what you do, where you do it and why. Make sure you craft and perfect your elevator speech. It will be one of the best tools to carry with you throughout your career.”

#10 Promote your best Facebook posts
Aaron George, Co-Founder of Lexicata & LawKick
“Unfortunately, Facebook has started limiting the reach of posts from business pages, which means even the people that like your page may not see your posts in their news feeds all the time.

For this reason, it’s worth ‘boosting’ your best posts for additional engagement. Maybe you wrote an awesome blogpost and people are responding really well to it. This would be a good piece of content to promote on Facebook.

The reason for promoting a post is that Facebook offers incredibly powerful targeting through their knowledge graph. You can target people based on age, location, interests, occupation, and much more. It’s an excellent way to ensure that your content is reaching the right people (aka your target clients), and it’s usually significantly less expensive than advertising on Google Adwords.”

#11 Showcase value via thought leadership
Kevin Wheeler, BD Consultant and Coach
“Through their deep understanding of an industry, great business developers use their insights to become thought leaders. In other words, they look into the future and predict issues that will impact on their clients and proactively present solutions to these issues, often before the client is even aware of the issue or the risk that it poses to their business.”

#12 Offer turn-key solutions with other providers
John Cunningham, Principal, C3 Communications
“Research has shown that a significant percentage of clients like to do ‘one-stop shopping.’ If they can find a reliable general contractor to farm out electrical, plumbing and roofing work on a renovation, they will hire him. Likewise, many clients have chosen larger firms that have found ethical ways to provide their services in conjunction with others that are essential to solving a specific client problem (as in the case of a company that hires a law firm for real estate development work and screening of qualified local environmental testing and inspection firms).

Some estate planning lawyers similarly have helped clients to find financial planners and accountants who can work with the lawyers to find comprehensive solutions to long-term planning needs. If you can’t ‘partner’ up on a solution, you can at least volunteer to help your clients find reliable and reputable non-lawyer providers to complement your work. The more ‘packaged’ solutions you can offer to clients, the more they will see that you have put forethought, planning and effort into your own product development.

Of course, you have to be careful about the company you keep when offering one-stop solutions for planning problems, but clients are looking to you for professional acumen and judgment. If you are willing to exercise it, you can earn their trust.”

#13 Designate a “marketing partner”
Lee Feldman, Senior Communications Professional
“Find a respected, influential equity partner in the firm, young or old, who actually believes in marketing. Create a troika consisting of your Chair/MP, this individual and your firm’s most senior marketing professional to strategize, own and champion marketing initiatives across the firm. Do not form a partner marketing committee. If you have one, get rid of it.”

#14 Take a team approach
Bruce Alltop, Principal at LawVision Group LLC
“Many times we hear compensation credit gets in the way of professionals working together to bring in a new client. Unfortunately, more often than not, compensation credit getting in the way of team-oriented activity is simply an excuse for active exclusion. Either way, for the majority of lawyers who are in favor of going it on their own, they are likely depriving their clients of receiving maximum value and they are likely leaving the door wider open to the competition. Time and again, clients express their favorable opinion about teamwork as it relates to their service providers. Further, market data shows that the firms that take a client-focused, collaborative approach to the relationship receive the more interesting and profitable work.”

#15 Know what your in-house marketing team can offer
Tricia M. Lilley, Chief Marketing Officer at Fox Rothschild, LLP
“Attorneys should get to know what their in-house team can offer. Take the time to identify who your firm’s marketing professionals are and how they can help you. Don’t take what is close and convenient for granted. Don’t assume that sage advice, guidance, strategy, direction, and coaching can only come from outside the firm.”

#16 Involve your in-house team early
Andrew Laver, Business Development Manager, McCarter & English, LLP
“The best way for a lawyer to work with their in-house marketing team is to bring us into the process as early as possible. Whether you’re preparing for a lunch meeting, replying to an RFP or considering cross-selling a client within your firm, the more information we can provide, the better situated you will be to make the ask of the client. Attorneys are our clients and we want them to succeed, so including us in the process is integral to reaching the mutual goal of success.”

#17 Make yourself visible
Mark Delegal, Partner at Holland & Knight
“[When attending a conference,] I want to speak on a panel if I can and fill my schedule with one-on-one meetings with prospects.” Delegal also makes himself available to the media. He recommends writing articles for trade publications and submitting op-ed pieces on debatable topics. “There’s no single thing that you can do to market because it has to be multifaceted, but you can become influential in an industry with planning and perseverance.”

#18 Institute quarterly marketing brainstorming sessions
John W. Olmstead, Ph.D, President of Olmstead & Associates
“Break the rules. Encourage all members in the firm to think out-of-the-box and innovate. Look for new ways to solve client problems. Look for new solutions. No topic should be initially be considered out-of-bounds.”

#19 Measure client satisfaction constantly
Timothy Corcoran, Principal at Corcoran Consulting Group, LLC
“There are many ways to do this.  Hire a consultant; send your managing partner on the road; ask your CMO to conduct interviews; conduct an annual satisfaction survey; conduct an end-of-matter survey after every matter. Whatever you do and however you do it, study it, sustain it, and act on it.  Most law firms are ‘too busy’ to systematically gather client feedback, naively believing good legal work speaks for itself.  Many who claim to care sit on findings that are too challenging to address, e.g., toxic rainmakers, institutional overbilling, etc.  Even those who measure client satisfaction effectively well tend to do so at too-infrequent intervals.”

#20 Network with purpose
Kevin Wheeler, BD Consultant and Coach
“The only objective of networking should be to set up meetings with those who you think are in a position to buy your services. It is unlikely that you will be instructed until you have sat down and met with those who are in a position to give you work. All your marketing should be geared towards engineering opportunities to have meetings with decision-makers. Only by having formal meetings can you really understand an individual’s needs and put forward your proposition for addressing these, or in the case of the ‘challenger sales model’, challenging the client’s thinking by teaching them about an aspect of their business that they had not previously recognised/understood.”

#21 Support entrepreneurship
Alan Tarter, Managing Partner at Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP
“It is also important to foster entrepreneurship. At our firm, we believe a dynamic exchange of ideas ultimately makes us better. If an employee has feedback on how best to improve a firm process or implement a new initiative and is willing to commit to and execute that idea, we support it. Implement a system to solicit this type of feedback on a consistent basis. If an employee puts forward a suggestion that the firm adopts, recognize them for it. Focusing on the development of great leadership across the firm promotes employee engagement.”

#22 Every day… Every week… Every quarter…
Donna Erickson, President, Erickson Marketing, Inc.
“Every day. Make one call off the clock to a client or referral source to check in and catch up.”

“Every week. Attend one event outside the office: lunch with a client, visit the client’s facilities off the clock, coffee with a referral source, a networking function, or trade association meeting.”

“Every quarter. Write an article for the firm’s Website or outside publication, or make a presentation to your business or trade groups.”

#23 Create a Mailing List
Kelly G. O’Malley, Marketing Director at Reger Rizzo & Darnall LLP
“Getting out of the office and establishing new relationships is key. However, the job doesn’t stop there. Gather those business cards you’ve collected and create a mailing list of contacts. Include new acquaintances, as well as law school classmates, college friends and former colleagues. These are people to whom you’ll send future announcements about your career, opt-in forms for your own e-newsletter and notices of your new blog.”

#24 Publish a compelling newsletter
Gyi Tsakalakis, Director, AttorneySync
“Don’t bore email subscribers with firm news they don’t care about. Tell them something they didn’t know.”

#25 Understand your marketing goals
Jim Jarrell, Director of Marketing at Stark & Stark
“Understand your marketing goals, whether that means increasing your billable hours, the breadth and depth of your client roster, or building your personal brand, lawyers must have quantifiable and measurable goals. Identifying these goals helps define what the picture of success looks like, which can inform your strategic choices and plan of action.”

#26 Do less
Lee Feldman, Senior Communications Professional
“A significant portion of your current marketing activity is partner-driven and totally misguided. Delete it. Lose the vanity events and meaningless rankings. Stop chasing the last-minute RFPs you don’t have a chance of landing. Ask your marketing staff what their least productive activities are and where they could redeploy those resources. Act on their recommendations.”

#27 Maximize your firm’s relationships
Julie Savarino, Attorney & Managing Director, Business Development Inc.
“One of the best ways to identify prospective clients and referral sources and one of the most underutilized is a law firm’s use of LinkedIn. With the average lawyer having approximately 300 LinkedIn contacts, there is no other single tool that reaches as many known qualified potential clients and referral sources. For example, in a law firm with 500 lawyers, there may be up to 150,000 LinkedIn connections associated with the law firm. Even most law firms’ internal CRM systems are not populated with as large or as high quality a pool (since many major law firms still do not require that all lawyers’ contacts be part of the firm’s CRM system). Creating a firm page (that can be followed) is the first task, but there are many other ways LinkedIn can be used and leveraged.”

What are your best marketing and biz dev ideas for law firms? Share with us @introhive or leave your thoughts in the comments. Subscribe to the Introhive blog for the latest news and ideas in legal, financial and professional services business development.

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