It is Your Responsibility to Market
by Robert N. Kohn
(County Bar Update, October 1999, Vol. 19, No. 9)

 

It is Your Responsibility to Market

By Robert Kohn, Law Practice Management Section Executive Committee. Kohn is Senior Vice President of Kohn Communications, a nationally known authority on legal marketing. Kohn Communications specializes in assisting lawyers to overcome the obstacles of marketing and learn marketing skills.

Lawyers often develop a pattern of relying on others in their firms to bring in the business. Some lawyers continue to rely on the marketing skills of others throughout their entire careers and never learn how to market.

Historically, this model worked well. There was a time when doing good work was all that was necessary to be successful as a lawyer. If you did a good job, your clients stuck with you and gave you referrals.

But the requirements for practice development in the legal community have shifted dramatically. There is more competition from other lawyers. In-house counsel are more cost-conscious. There are more acquisitions by companies that have preexisting relationships with other lawyers. Rainmakers leave the firm. As a result, lawyers recognize that their potential for growth and security is largely dependent upon their ability to develop their own clients.

Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing, young lawyers and non-marketing partners are ignored. Although law firms may preach the importance of marketing, they usually provide little, if any, support.

The good news is that the skills required for effective marketing are skills that lawyers already have. It is the application of those skills that needs to be adjusted.

The skills required for effective marketing fall into two categories: research and communication.

Research

One of the reasons lawyers can make great marketers is that they are good at research. Effective marketing requires that lawyers research the demographics of the industries they serve. For example,

  • What problems face those industries?
  • What organizations support those industries?
  • In what events or committees can lawyers participate?
  • What do their prospects read?
  • What do they listen to?
  • Where do they spend their time?
  • Which lawyers already serve those industries?
  • Who are the vendors that serve those industries?
  • Most importantly, what are the specific names of potential prospects and referral sources?

As lawyers gather extensive information about the industries they serve, they will become more aware of opportunities for meeting their targets and building relationships.

Communication

Once lawyers have done the research, the next step is to communicate their ability to offer value.

In the legal profession, business comes from relationships, and relationships are based on value. This means lawyers must learn to communicate their expertise, knowledge and skills.

It also requires differentiating themselves from the competition by revealing their personal qualities such as creativity, passion and trustworthiness.

These qualities are not always easy to communicate. Prospects are stressed, they're busy, they're cynical. They may not be open to communication. And, in many cases, they may not even understand which qualities are important.

Fortunately, lawyers have a variety of communication techniques available to them.

  • Personal interaction, of course, is the most meaningful technique.
  • Lawyers can also write articles and do public speaking.
  • They can take a leadership role in the organizations their prospects support.

All of these techniques communicate value, and in doing so, help to build rapport and maintain a presence in the minds of prospects and referral sources.

Clearly, lawyers have the research and communication skills to market. The key to success in marketing is in learning how to apply these skills.

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