Posted by: johnocunningham | December 28, 2015

One Year Closes, Another Begins: Looking Back to See Forward

The year 2015 saw, on average, more investment by law firms in marketing and marketing professionals. Spending on traditional advertising was down, but spending on content marketing, communications, and marketing initiatives was up. This trend is critical at a time when a majority of managing partners say that client loyalty is eroding and competition is increasing.

But we still see signs that some firms and much of the legal profession are reluctant or unable to incorporate marketing professionals or other “non-lawyer” professionals into the management level. For example, in September, the Texas Bar Association issued its Revised Ethics Opinion No. 642, which came in response to public outcry against a prior ethics opinion that law firms could not give “chief executive” titles to their non-lawyer professionals, such as Chief Marketing Officers. The revised opinion ceded only a little ground, stating that “if a title is assigned to a non-lawyer employee that is unclear whether the employee [might] exercise control over the… firm’s practice of law, the firm must take… steps as are necessary… to make clear to all concerned that the scope of the employee’s authority does not in fact extend to the exercise of control over the practice of law.”

This backdrop provides us with a picture of the challenge moving forward for marketing and communications professionals. We must help law firms figure out how to incorporate our professional disciplines without any fear of “losing control.”

With the help of professional marketing and communications disciplines, law firms can gain a greater understanding of why clients buy services, when they buy them, who they buy them from, and how they might buy more of them. They can learn more about why clients come through the door, and why they leave. They can learn how to make more clients happy, which will not only lead to fewer grievances and complaints against lawyers, but more business for the firms that master marketing and communications that are essential to growing more and better client relationships.

Marketing pros have to help law firms see how the marriage of business and marketing principles to the practice of law is a win-win proposition that will lift and not lower the public’s perception of the profession.


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