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Marketing and client development have become ingrained in law firms and, indeed, are integral parts of virtually every law firm’s operations. Firms of all sizes and geographic locations have hired CMOs, marketing directors and staffs and have adopted so many marketing practices that by now many of these practices can be considered standard. Law firms advertise, create interactive and client-specific Web sites, distribute press releases and recognize the value of alumni programs. They provide clients and prospective clients with information in the form of newsletters, alerts, memoranda, white papers and bylined articles. Whether to have a marketing budget is no longer an issue for 21st century law firms and their management committees; the questions now focus on the amount and whether there should be annual or periodic increases. However, an equally important dynamic of today’s law firm marketing is that the marketing professionals must manage the imposition on the attorneys’ limited available time to market: maximizing business development output and results, while minimizing the attorneys’ time invested in business development. There is no doubt that the first 25 years or so of law firm marketing have seen lawyers and firms, and their marketing professionals, make great strides. Yet, after all of these years, after all of the demonstrated successes and experiences, law firm marketing professionals still face the same obstacle: how to get lawyers to follow through on their individual or practice group marketing plans and client development efforts. A primary reason for the inaction is not necessarily that lawyers do not value the marketing department’s services, or that they disagree with its strategic recommendations or tactical efforts. The problem is much more pedestrian: lawyers are busy practicing law. Marketing is not a lawyer’s number one priority, and rightfully so; servicing his or her clients is at the top of that list. And that is for the benefit of the lawyer as an individual and for the firm as a whole. When the firm’s marketing staff thinks about this clearly, they will agree that lawyers doing what lawyers do well � representing clients � is in their best interests. Although the firm’s clients are the primary focus of the firm, the marketing staff’s clients are the firm’s lawyers. The better the firm’s lawyers do � the more work they have, the higher their billings, the happier they are, the more impressive the quality of their client base � the better off the marketing staff is. (The same can be said for support staff and other firm employees, and even for the firm’s lawyers, as all benefit when the firm does well.) Usually, only the busiest of a firm’s lawyers, or the most conservative and traditional of them, will pay little attention to marketing department requests or deadlines and will rarely seek the department’s assistance or ask to rely on its services. Other lawyers will cooperate, at least on some level. It is the marketing department’s obligation to facilitate follow-up for these lawyers. One tactic to try, although counter-intuitive on its face, is to put less on a lawyer’s plate rather than more. A lawyer’s marketing obligations should not be the lawyer’s longest “to do” list. When the number of marketing-related steps that a lawyer has to take is limited, a lawyer is more likely to make an effort to get through the agreed upon tasks. The issue for the marketing department is how to cut down on the lawyers’ to do lists. A first step is to sit down with each lawyer individually. The marketing director or staff should find out the lawyer’s key objectives and should identify his or her existing clients and the type of prospective clients that match the lawyer’s skill set. If a particular attorney has experience representing hedge funds, for instance, then decision-makers in the hedge fund industry are the target audience. Once the target base of clients is decided upon, the lawyer and the firm’s marketing professionals can focus on the kinds of tools available to the lawyer to reach that audience. These tools should be put down on a one- to two-page individual marketing plan, and should only include things with which the particular lawyer is comfortable. For example, if a lawyer does not like to speak before large groups, the focused activities should not include such presentations. There are plenty of other marketing activities � from writing to dinners with clients to golf � that lawyers can engage in to meet their goals. In fact, the question the lawyer and marketing staff should analyze is what the clients want to know or do, and then the lawyer should consider pursuing those interests. They are, after all, the marketing steps that have the highest chance of succeeding, because they focus on the clients’ needs, likes and dislikes. The goal of the meeting should be to develop a short, focused, bulleted list of what the lawyer is to do. The document should clearly describe the corresponding duties of the firm’s marketing staff. The list should have a number of characteristics. It should be responsibility driven, setting forth the steps that both the lawyer and the marketing staff will take. The actions on the list also should be “measurable,” so that it is certain when they are completed or when more needs to be done. Each of the steps should be reviewable and subject to being changed in the proper circumstances. Finally, the whole process should be fluid, ready to be altered when the parties deem it appropriate or necessary, or valuable, to do so. The marketing piece of the pie is not the only aspect of a law firm’s services that will make it successful. The product � the legal services � has to be good, to have clients return a second and third time. Assuming that that is the case, law firm marketers law firm marketers, to get the information we need to effectively market the firm while minimizing overload on the attorneys. Bob Gero is the director of business development at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley& McCloy and a member of the board for the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. He can be reached at [email protected]. This article was originally published inNew York Law Journal, aRecorder affiliate based in New York.

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