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The Most Effective Forms Of Legal Marketing

by Larry Bodine

What are the most effective forms of legal marketing?
We are currently at the tipping point of using technology to market law firms. Law firms are just beginning to use blogs and many are beginning to understand how to use web sites effectively for marketing. The key indicator is that firms are starting to list industries that they serve on their websites. In other words, instead of creating a website all about their credentials, they are focusing on their visitors. It is a classic marketing technique to focus on customers, and not what you are selling.

Until recently, law firm websites were all about themselves. Instead, they should focus on what their visitors want to buy. For example, clients don't see themselves as customers of practice groups. Instead, they see themselves as members of an industry. Therefore law firms are doing smart marketing by listing industries they serve.

Can you give an example?
Sure. Take a look at Torys law firm in Toronto. It has video podcasts which just received an award for Marketing Initiative of the Year. Another example is Holland & Hart in Denver, which joined with Frontier Airlines to produce "Business Class," a branded in-flight entertainment show spotlighting innovative clients.

How much should a law firm spend on marketing?
The rule of thumb is to spend 2% of gross revenues, not counting marketing staff salaries, on marketing and business development. Most firms grossly under spend and how much you pay a marketer depends on how big the city, how big the firm. Obviously bigger means more expensive. Marketers in small firms in small cities average $50,000 per year. Marketers in NYC at mega law firms earn $500,000. But I wouldn't want the pressure.

Are lawyers aware of their costs per lead, per case retained and per settled case?
No, most lawyers aren't that sophisticated yet. But I am advising them now to keep track of return on investment which will enable them to measure cost per lead.

As for cost per case - the cost of sales is something law firms don't know; keep in mind they are just now getting into sales. For example. I worked with Chuhak and Tecson, a law firm in Chicago, and they spent $24,000 training 20 partners and within nine months they generated $1 million in new revenue - a 4,000% ROI. And that is typical. Another example: I trained a trial lawyer in Chicago whose revenues were $200,000 and within one year she multiplied them, all by herself, to $2.5 million. Frankly, that is amazing.

I think LawyersandSettlements.com is a very good tool to use and lawyers should look into it. This site would be a terrific way of finding plaintiffs as well as a service to the general public to recover damages they are owed.

Is television advertising a thing of the past?
Most law firms never advertised on TV. But small-firm lawyers who have a volume practice - such as immigration and personal injury - need lots of clients to make money, and so they still use the TV and radio to attract clients.

What about blogging - how does that fit in?
Essentially a blog is a kind of website whose content is all text. The author will post a new item and the newest item goes on the top, while the older ones get pushed down. A Blog is a fantastic marketing vehicle because it establishes the author as an expert, an authority. Smart lawyers will pick one narrow, particular topic to focus on their blogs.

I'll give you an example. Dennis Crouch, of Counsel at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago, has a blog called Patently-o and the site gets 50,000 visitors a week. (www.patentlyo.com) He told me that his blog has brought in Fortune 500 companies and more importantly, referrals from lawyers he has never met. He writes about patents that were granted and has now made himself the national expert. And he's been in practice only four years!

There's no longer a need for the Yellow Pages - I tell my clients to cancel their ads and start a blog instead.

How did your business grow?
My consulting practice started in 2000 and has multiplied. I now have an office in Illinois and Arizona, an associate, a researcher and six Web sites. In my practice I've advised more than 60 law firms on business development and how to use technology for marketing. The largest firm I advised was Baker & McKenzie - at the time there were 3,000 lawyers in the firm and they have added another 400. The smallest firm was a husband and wife team in Peoria, Illinois.

How do people find you?
People find me though Google. My website is number one in "law firm marketing" and number one in Yahoo. When I get a call, and there are many each week, I ask how they find me and every caller usually says, 'I looked you up on the Internet.'

I concentrate my own marketing on the Web. I operate www.lawmarketing.com, which is the LawMarketing Portal and it gets 100,000 visitors per month. I also operate the LawMarketing Store at www.lawmarketing.biz/store and have my own consulting site for Larry Bodine Marketing at www.larrybodine.com. I also run the LawMarketing Listserv at www.LawMarketing.BIZ and just to round it out, I operate the Professional Business Development Institute online: www.pbdi.org

The LawMarketing Portal is an online magazine; the LawMarketing Store offers marketing books, CDs and research; the consulting site sells services, the Institute sells education and the Listserv sells community.

When a lawyer calls, what is the usual request?

  1. "Help, we need to do some marketing, all of our rainmakers are 70 years old!"
  2. "We just lost our number one client. We have to replace him - now!"
  3. "None of our young partners have ever opened a file."
For all of the above, they need business development training. One method is to hold a one-day training retreat. I will visit the firm and make a presentation on sales and business development for an entire day, anywhere in the U.S. (and I have done technology marketing for almost all the major Canadian firms).

Secondly, I meet with the lawyers, one-on-one, and develop a personal business development plan.

Third, I will write the firm's marketing strategy. The problem with many lawyers is that they want tactics - something done today - and won't wait for a strategic plan.

In between assignments I present two web seminars per month, through www.pbdi.org. You just register online and it is presented on the web and by phone.

Gaze into your crystal ball - where is law marketing going?
I see it turning into sales. Marketing will raise your profile in the market and make you well known, but it is sales that bring in new business. In law, you don't say "sales," you say "business development." That entails picking a target, developing a wolf pack to go after it and a long-term plan to acquire the target. You can see how pre-meditated this is.

Most law practices are composed of clients who sought them out. The lawyers didn't pick the clients so many lawyers hate what they are doing. The new trend is to pick your clients and go after them.

Another trend is remote law practice. Most law practice comprises transactions, and that entails documents. A lawyer can be anywhere to write the document and the client can get the document on the web - there is no need to be anywhere specifically. That is how I work myself.

Have laptop, will travel.
Exactly. All you need is the Internet and a phone connection.

What about burn-out, how can you get lawyers excited about marketing?
The key element in my approach is: I ask them what they like to do in their practice. Then I ask what kind of people they like to work with. Next I'll ask what activities are fun for them, such as boating or golf. Then we are going to mix in business development with what the lawyer does for fun. Finally, we turn to finding people whom the lawyer can help.

This is how lawyers should market: find someone you like, someone whom you can help in your particular field and get out there and have fun with them. What's not to like?

Copyright © 2004-2009 Larry Bodine


About The Author

Larry Bodine is a Business Development Advisor based in Glen Ellyn, IL.  He has helped law firms generate millions in new revenue by devising strategies, conducting business development retreats and individually coaching attorneys. He can be reached at 630.942.0977.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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