Posted by: johnocunningham | November 23, 2013

Lawyers Who Are “Above” Marketing Fly Below Their Clients’ Radar Screens

I recently reviewed an excellent scholarly study of the historical development of marketing functions in law firms.

This study examines not only what law firms have done with the marketing function, but why they have done it or failed to do so. It gives a great look at why many law firms have enlisted the help of professional marketers, even when they don’t understand the marketing function, resist embracing it, and often disdain its necessity against a backdrop of increasing competition, technological disruptions, and more educated and demanding clients.

The study entitled, “I Didn’t Go to Law School to Become a Salesperson—The Development of Marketing in Law Firms” was produced by Professor Silvia Hodges in the 2013_Georgetown_Journal_of_Legal_Ethics, and it is worth reading.

The author documents the competitive trends affecting the legal profession and its need to embrace the marketing discipline, including:

  • Deregulation and liberalization of advertising and marketing restrictions historically imposed by bar associations;
  • An increase in the population of lawyers;
  • An increase in disruptive technologies, facilitating the development of alternative service providers who perform either legal tasks (companies such as Legal Zoom or Rocket Lawyer) or non-legal tasks that are essential components of trials or transactions (performed by companies that do electronic discovery work, automated transactional due diligence or other tasks);
  • An increase in competition from accounting firms, consultants and other specialized providers who perform regulatory compliance audits, provide liability prevention programs, or help with tax avoidance strategies; and
  • An increase in alternatives to litigation, such as mediation and arbitration, which may or may not involve the engagement of lawyers; and
  • A growing awareness and sophistication among clients about the purchase of legal services and the market alternatives to lawyers.

The author also raises the specter of haunting global trends in deregulation, which have facilitated the purchase of law firms by non-lawyers and the public ownership of shares in law firms in a number of developed countries.

The internal forces within law firms that affect marketing strategy and development are also examined by the author, with some excellent explanations provided for the relatively poor track record that many firms have with regard to understanding, making use of and properly leveraging the marketing function for the benefit of their clients and themselves.

Some of the reasons that attorneys still fail to embrace marketing or even actively resist it are also examined, expounding beyond the more cursory examination I did of this subject in a piece entitled, “Why Attorneys Hate Marketing and What You Can Do About It.”

The bottom line for lawyers is that they cannot indefinitely continue to thrive or even survive competitively if they ignore the science of marketing, which is not a bag of charlatan’s tricks, but a calculated business study of why your clients buy your services, what services they buy, when and how they make buying decisions, what they are willing to pay for those services, what would make them buy more, what other products or services they want from you, what causes them to defect and what causes them to stay with you. In short, marketing, which is not just selling, provides an essential understanding of how the law firm cash register rings, and can give you an informed strategy to keep it ringing amidst a sea of increasing competition.

 

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