Posted by: johnocunningham | August 6, 2011

The Biggest Obstacles to Lawyer Marketing

As mentioned in a previous post, legal marketing professionals from around the world have been participating in a stimulating discussion thread  of the Legal Marketing group on Linked-In – a thread about the top 3 obstacles to lawyer participation in marketing efforts.

I decided to compile the various opinions offered as to the primary obstacles in the way of lawyer marketing, and present them in this blog (knowing, of course, that these are not the results of a scientific survey, but they do come from a kind of informal focus group of lawyers, in-house marketing pros and marketing consultants).

So what are the primary obstacles, according to respondents, and how can you remove them?

1. TIME: Just over 20 percent believe that lawyers are just way too busy or too focused on the daily work of serving their existing clients to think about marketing. See my previous post on how to deal with this obstacle.

2. EDUCATION: Roughly 18 percent suggested that most lawyers simply don’t understand marketing, why it is important, how to do it, how to use technology in marketing, etc. This should be fixable and might just necessitate some in-house seminars and/or time spent with targeted lawyers who fall into this group.

3. PERCEPTIONS OF MARKETING: Roughly 16 percent stated that lawyers too often see marketing as something tricky, slimy or even unethical under established bar rules. A guest lecture by local “bar counsel” might cure this ill, as the state bar counsel are inundated with questions about ethical lines and marketing, and they are generally quite helpful in dispelling myths on this subject (they are NOT out to get you).

4. NO PERCEIVED ROI: Close to 14 percent believed that lawyers could not see any return on investment or any metrics showing any results from marketing. These respondents noted how “evidence-based” lawyers are in their thinking. This one should be cured by team efforts to measure and communicate results.

5. FEAR: Just a tick over 11 percent of respondents said that lawyers were just too afraid or too far out of their “comfort zone” with marketing. Some of these respondents noted that anything “social” is troublesome to some lawyers. For this, I might suggest a little “fun” marketing exercise, such as the “Legal Mocktail.”

6. LAW FIRM BUSINESS MODEL: Nearly 7 percent noted that the law firm business model is really unusual, and empowers all partners to act as independent franchises operating under one brand. But in the law firm model, there are NO co-operative marketing commitments, no minimal standards of operation, and nothing to enforce a commitment to growing the brand or maintaining its quality. The fix for this would not be easy, but you might at least consider getting law firm management to seek a minimum mutual commitment from individual owners to the brand and to marketing (even if it is non-binding and oral).

7. LAWYER PERSONALITIES: Various respondents noted that lawyers are just too resistant to change by nature (roughly 4 percent) or that they don’t have the personality for marketing (roughly 4 percent). If you combined those two groups of answers (because they both relate to lawyer personality profiles) then you have a total of more than 8 percent who think that many lawyers are just fundamentally unable to do this. Forget about changing someone’s persona.

8. MARKETING STAFF. It is interesting to note that roughly 4 percent of respondents saw internal marketing staff as one of the primary limiting factors. The question to ask if you see this problem in your group: Do you have the right people on the bus, and are they sitting in the right seats?

Personally, I thought ALL of these responses were useful, and probably all of them have some measure of applicability to various different firms. I hope you find this useful as well, and will keep you posted on other interesting comments.

NOTE: Results are for comments posted through August 4.  Kudos to Oxford, UK career coach Rachel Brushfield for kicking off this discussion on Linked-In.


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