Practical Ways to Make Your Law Firm Marketing Plan Work

Practical Ways to Make Your Law Firm Marketing Plan Work

Marketing is in the spotlight for law firms today, whatever the size of the firm. But having a marketing plan alone is not going to bear fruit if you do not take common sense steps to make the plan work.

Here are some practical steps every attorney can and must take if their marketing efforts are going to be successful. If you follow these steps, you will be amazed at how your business will grow.

    1. You have to believe marketing works. Many of us just do not have the faith in marketing we should have. But it is “black letter law” today. The question is not if to market, but how.
    2. You have to grow to accept it and even embrace it. You cannot just go through the motions. However you do it, get rid of the notion that you, your firm, and your practice are somehow above it all.
    3. On a reoccurring basis, schedule some time with yourself or your firm to address your marketing efforts. There is really no way you are going to get to this without an appointment on your calendar that will not be moved. If you work 60 – 80 hours a week and you cannot find one hour of uninterrupted time to focus on something you say is very important, you have answered the question of why your marketing efforts struggle. Your marketing problem may start with you. You must accord it more focused time and effort.
    4. You need to add financial incentives to your firm marketing activities. You can reward those who do market, or penalize those who do not. But you must not effectively penalize marketing activities which do not bear fruit in a budget cycle and expect your attorneys to engage in them. If your attorneys have every reason to generate billable hours only, without planting the seeds for the future, that is what you will get. You must take a long term view, and the solution runs right through your compensation committee.
    5. Do you engender confidence and competence from your personal appearance? Reasonably neat and well-organized files convey confidence and competence, too. In fact, 60 percent of communication is visual. How do you score on this test?
    6. The critical question is not: What do you tell the clients? The critical question is: What do the clients tell you? The most successful businesses listen carefully to their clients. Are you listening?
    7. Service is the most important marketing activity. Just because a client does not complain about your service, do not confuse that with thinking you have delivered good service. If you do nothing else, return your phone calls and e-mails promptly, or get an assistant to tell your client you are aware of their contact. If you know you are going to be tied up even for an afternoon, note that on your voicemail and in your e-mail prompter. Those should not just be used when you are out of town. Your clients do not know you are effectively unable to return their call promptly unless you tell them.
    8. Start your marketing efforts with your existing clients. They already know the most important things a client needs to know:
      • Who you are
      • Your type of practice
      • Where you are located
      • How to reach you.

These beat even an award-winning advertising campaign.

  1. You may believe your clients think your attorney skills trump everything else, but their questions are: how do you treat me, and am I taken for granted? Some studies show that many of the Fortune 500 companies are unhappy with their lead law firms. And yet these are the best attorneys in the best firms. How can that be? These blue-chip clients are asking their questions, not OUR questions. As we tell our witnesses when we prepare them for cross-examination: you need to listen to the questions before you answer.
  2. A lot of your marketing efforts are likely making progress. It just takes time to see tangible evidence of that progress. But if you do the right things, for the right reasons, and for a long enough period, they will bear fruit. Stay the course. The payoff can be enormous.[1]


1. Michael Wells has practiced law for 32 years. He received his B. A. degree from the University of Virginia (1971), and his J.D. degree from Wake Forest University (1974). He clerked with the Supreme Court of North Carolina before entering the private practice.