Developing a Marketing Budget for Your Legal Practice

Developing a Marketing Budget for Your Legal Practice

Building a Proper Budget

Law firms employ various methods to create their marketing budgets. Some use historical figures as the basis. Others use a set percentage of revenue or gross fees. These methods, however, do not take into account changes in the firm’s services, market, clientele, competition, goals or any other number of factors that might warrant a change in approach.

Dollars and Sense

Ideally, the budget will be based on a marketing plan or an aggregation of many plans—for the firm as a whole and for individual lawyers, practice groups or departments, and different offices. A plan-based budget will produce a more effective use of resources because it will be based on what the firm is trying to accomplish—meaning its particular goals. Different goals call for different activities, which require different funding levels.

Investing Your Money Wisely: Five Rules

Whatever method you use to develop your budget, and regardless of your budget’s size, there are certain principles that will help you spend your money more effectively. To guide you, here are some of my “rules of the road” for marketing budgets and expenditures.

  1. Remember that money spent on good clients is almost always well spent.
  2. Spend more money on your practice areas or niches than on the firm as a whole. Most effective marketing organizations will spend 40 to 50 percent or more of the marketing budget at the practice or niche level. In addition, much of the money allocated to individual lawyers (usually at least 25 percent of the budget) will also be managed there.
  3. Match every passive initiative with active participation. Spending money on passive efforts won’t help if there is no activity to match—for example, buying tables at an event for an organization without having lawyers in leadership positions; writing articles for a trade association without attending its meetings; buying ads in an industry publication without speaking at meetings; and the like.
  4. Be a big fish in a small pond. Instead of being one of 10 or 20 law firms with business-card-sized ads in any number of charitable programs, make one significant contribution and be recognized as a major donor.
  5. Evaluate your ROI. If you are going to spend money on marketing, you should really try to determine if your investment is paying off. While the metric will vary by activity (think of measuring inquiries from a client alert versus new business from a personal visit), it can be done. The critical key is to outline your expectations up front and put in place a mechanism to track your results.


1. By Sally Schmidt