Marketing For Law Firms

In terms of marketing – is a law firm really any different from any other kind of business?

The Definition of Marketing:

The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. Chartered Institute of Marketing

I like this definition because it puts the customer (or client) at the heart of the matter. Also it has pretty much remained unchanged since I first saw it when joined the CIM many moons ago.

A Tin Of Legal Expertise

In essence I see marketing essentially as the process of getting the right product (or service) to the client at the right price, in the right place, at the right time. Whether you are selling baked beans, a suite of software or legal expertise, in my opinion the basic marketing principles are the same. I believe if you want to grow your law firm you have to spend time, money and effort marketing your services just like any other business.

Marketing Planning

The first thing I would recommend to any business wishing to thrive and grow would be to put a simple marketing plan in place. It need not be anything overly clever or lengthy.

Start by asking yourself three straightforward questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How are we going to get there?

The Big Picture

Answer the first two questions quite broadly to begin with, looking across the entire business to help you get a handle on the big picture.

For instance your gut feeling about ‘Where are we now?’ might be that the firm is getting bogged down with too much work that isn’t very profitable.

Under ‘Where do we want to be?’ you may have a strong inkling which areas of law offer the practice the greatest potential in terms of profit.

Delve Deeper – Analyse Data – Talk To Colleagues

Having identified the big picture you need to delve deeper and answer all three questions more fully. There is a goldmine of information within your Practice that you can use for marketing purposes. Your people close to the frontline dealing with customers on a daily basis also hold some of the answers.

Your practice management system should show you profitability by department. You may find that profitability varies wildly between the different areas of law you offer. By analysing this data and talking to relevant colleagues you will be able to work out why some areas of law are more profitable than others for the firm.

External Factors & Internal Factors

The biggest external factor affecting businesses in recent years has been the state of the economy. However, this affects some areas of law more than others.

With PI for instance, people tend to have accidents whether the economy is booming or not and still need representation whether they can afford it or not.

The same relates to divorce and crime. Marriage break-downs probably occur even more frequently during a difficult economic climate when the pressure is on, and people still commit crimes too.

Conveyancing on the other hand relies on the buoyancy of the housing market, and a downturn generally could affect your firm’s profitability considerably if this is one of your key areas of focus.

Over the last few years you may expect a PI department would be just as profitable as it has always been and yet you may expect the conveyancing side of your business to have encountered a slump. However, I strongly advise you look at your data. You may discover that even in a downturn, your conveyancing department has remained highly profitable because the team has put time and effort into streamlining their processes and capturing all of their billable time through the use of case management software. Whereas, your PI department does not use case management at all. This is a good example of internal factors affecting profitability. If your data is telling you something different – you need to talk to your people.

Cross-Selling

You may discover that the people in your Wills & Trusts department are taking the time to write to everyone who conducts a conveyance through your Practice to say “I understand you recently completed a house purchase with the help of our conveyancing team. Now that you are the proud owner of your new property we would like to invite you in for a coffee and a chat about the Wills & Trusts service we offer…”

This kind of cross-selling activity can have a huge impact on winning new business. Well-known American marketing guru, Tom Peters is famous for saying “It costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell something new to an existing customer.”

Process Tweaks

Your data may throw up evidence that your legal aid fee earners are not completing the Legal Service Commission’s paperwork in an accurately and timely manner, hence affecting your profitability, which may lead to a change in process that could improve matters considerably.

Referrals

You may notice one department logs a lot more referrals than any other department and upon digging deeper discover they are actively seeking referrals using information from your IT system and have in fact put a structured referrals process in place for encouraging, recording and rewarding referrals.

Your Data Provides Many Clues

All this kind of information should be available from your Practice via your practice management system. This kind of data provides clues so that you can get a true picture of where you are with the business. From this you can work out ‘where you want to be?’ and you can start talking to your colleagues about ‘how you are going to get there’ and start setting realistic ‘smart’ objectives.

SMART = specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed.

For example: Increase profitability across all areas of law by 10% by end of Q2. Etc.

How are we going to get there?

From your smart objectives you will be able to start setting agreed marketing actions.

For example:

  • Starting from the 1st of next month, every department head must produce a profitability report from the system as a benchmark starting point so that in 6 months time we can see the results of our marketing plan (i.e. our efforts to increase profitability.)
  • The PI Department will begin to implement case management workflows to streamline its processes and save time on repetitive tasks in order to free up fee earner time to take on more PI cases.
  • The conveyancing department will implement a structured referrals process to actively seek out new referrers and record and reward them.
  • The criminal defence and family departments will investigate the legal aid functionality within our practice management system to ensure it is being utilised effectively to ensure all billable time is recorded, claimed accurately on the right forms and on time.
  • Every member of staff will be provided with a new graphic showing all the areas of law we offer for use as a footer on client emails from w/c xxx onwards.

A combination of data analysis, and listening to colleagues who are closest to clients, will generate some key pointers that will help you make the right strategic marketing decisions in order to grow your business and increase profitability.