Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
In this article, I outline what I think are the core requirements for developing a successful marketing plan at a small law firm or in a solo practice. There is a wide body of literature on this topic, little of which I have had time to read. What I did read said that marketing requires a little common sense and a lot of persistence, two traits that most lawyers have. Large law firms have separate marketing departments tasked with implementing sophisticated programs. Much of what they do is taken from the playbook of accounting firms, which have aggressively marketed their services for years. Small law firms and solo practitioners need marketing plans that build on their strengths (personal service and efficiency) and are tailored to their resources (little to none). A marketing plan for legal services should answer the basic question put to all service providers: How can you help me? THE BASICS The Service Statement. A marketing plan should start with a statement of the services you provide. Lawyers don’t always describe what they do as a service. More often, they describe themselves by the categories of the profession, fitting themselves into slots defined by subjects taught in law school. A service statement should answer the question: “What do you do?” Consider the following two answers: “I provide criminal defense services to companies and business executives.” Or: “I am a white collar criminal defense attorney.” The first answer describes a service, the second a category. The service statement is active, the category statement is inert. The service statement leads to a discussion of the services you provide (what trials have you handled; who have you defended?). The category statement leads to a discussion about you (what firm are you with; how many years you have practiced). Clients are more interested in knowing how you can help them rather than your professional status. Your service statement should identify the kind of clients you seek to represent. It is a crowded market, and everyone needs to define a target audience. Clients do not think that every commercial litigator can handle every kind of commercial case, yet many lawyers market themselves that way. Defining yourself more narrowly sounds more credible and lets you shape the listener’s perceptions. It is better to define yourself on your own terms than let others define you on theirs. Your service statement should be brief and easy to remember. You want it to lead to a discussion of what is on the listener’s mind. You want the listener to think about how your services can help him. Ultimately, you want to occupy a niche in your listener’s mind — a place near the front that’s easy to get to when the need arises. I’m a corporate lawyer. Here’s my service statement: “I provide corporate transaction and general counsel services to private equity investors and business executives.” This statement lets me discuss the two sides of my practice: doing corporate deals for private equity investors and providing general counsel services to public and private companies. The Professional Biography. Once you have your core statement, write a professional biography. Again, the focus should be on the services you provide. A biography is different than a r�sum�. It is also more than a list of your accomplishments and credentials, although it may include these. Clients want to know how you can help them. Present your experience in a way that describes the services you provide. Talk about what benefits other clients have received. List any proof of your expertise and the hands-on experience you have solving problems similar to their own. Your biography should be written in the third person, as if someone were describing you. It should be written in the active voice, one pagelong, using complete sentences and crisp, specific descriptions. Create different biographies for the different markets you are pursuing. Highlight credentials that link you with competence in a defined service area. Make the presentations easy to read and eye-catching. For example, part of my professional biography reads: “Geoffrey Parnass provides corporate transaction and general counsel services to private equity investors and business organizations.” Define Your Target Market. Your target market consists of people whom you are ideally suited to represent. These are people who, were they to retain you, would be thoroughly satisfied with your services. Your target market is the logical extension of your skills, resources and experience. Most lawyers have a number of distinct target markets. You need to define and study your markets, and find out who is in them, where they do business and other information that lets you approach them intelligently. Thanks to the Internet, much of this information is now readily available. Lists. Lists are at the heart of marketing. You need to develop and maintain lists of people with their name, professional affiliation, title, address, telephone number and e-mail address. The most important list is the one with your current clients, best friends and closest contacts. You should also develop lists of prospective clients and people you meet through networking. You may or may not know the people on these lists, but they are within your target market. They are the people who ought to be using your services. Ideally, your lists should be organized in a way that makes creating customized letters easy. Microsoft Word has a feature that lets you store name and address information in a database format. This information can be incorporated into letters and envelopes to turn what is a common mailing into a personalized letter. If your only list is the one you use for holiday cards, you have some work to do. The holiday card list is too broad; it cannot be used for targeted marketing. You need to break down this list into categories. Defining these categories and building and maintaining accurate lists is time-consuming. Use whatever marketing budget you have to develop and maintain these lists. Once you have your service statement, professional biography, target markets and lists, you’re ready to start marketing. NETWORKING Networking is boots-on-the-ground marketing. It is about building relationships in your target markets. Networking is about getting to know people, helping the people you get to know and keeping track of it all. Keeping track is easy with software like Microsoft Outlook. Outlook lets you record specific information about contacts, and it’s a great way to build your lists. It has a useful panel at the bottom of the screen where you can keep track of your personal interaction with contacts. Networking is more than just handing out business cards. Networking is about helping the people you meet (and those you already know). In the networking relationship, giving comes before receiving. Whenever you have contact with a prospect you should think, how can I help this person? Fortunately, lawyers can be very helpful to people. They can provide information about prospective clients, competitors and new markets. They can provide introductions, referrals and references. They can provide ideas or advice about prospects, business problems, new areas of business or general market conditions. They can provide personal counseling or support, or even free or discounted legal services. As you can see, networking requires that you learn about a prospect’s business and that you care about it. Networking has to be a sincere effort, not just keeping score. Networking should have a sense of urgency, a sense that what you are doing (the helping) is important. Networking is showing gratitude and is based on friendship (appreciation and recognition). Develop networks wherever you can. Obvious areas for lawyers are bar associations and committees, other lawyers, alumni of law firms, college alumni, law school alumni and members of any industry in which you have connections. Grow the networks every time you speak with someone. Trade association meetings, for lawyers or non-lawyers, provide fertile ground for networking. These meetings are designed for introductions and developing relationships rather than selling. Meet as many people as possible and keep track of those you meet. Create a reason to follow up later and then actually follow up. WRITE ARTICLES Write articles for magazines, newspapers and other publications on topics that showcase your talents, experience and interests. Avoid long, dull articles. Maintain a list of ideas for articles and schedule regular time to work on them. Keep articles to 2,000 to 3,000 words, eight to 12 pages double-spaced. Identify a journal you want to publish in and study the topics and style of writing. Think ahead of time about the audience you are writing for — the reader of the specific journal. Design content for that audience. Put yourself in the shoes of that audience and write about things they want to know. Speak with an editor and ask what special topics are of interest to its readers. Address your articles to the interests and point of view of the specific audience that subscribes to the publication. Screen topics and information for the audience; become a trusted source for information and points of view. Your articles should provide focus, interest and purpose. Select an angle or hook for your article that captures the interest and attention of your reader. Formulas can be a powerful way to develop articles. Formulas are proven methods of structuring articles that satisfy a reader’s interest through the body of the material. Examples of writing through formulas include The List (a list of items tied together by a common theme); The Straw Man (a premise is set up and then knocked down); The Case Study (a question is raised and answered through stories of “real” events); The Interview (in which you ask and answer your own questions); and The New Facts (what they are, pro and con). WRITE OR EDIT NEWSLETTERS Newsletters are a great way to remind people that you exist. I like writing them, and they help me keep on top of developments in my field. Mine is called The General Counsel Center, and it covers general business law topics. Newsletters should be original, well-written and at least moderately informative. People look at newsletters as samples of the kind and quality of work you provide. Pick a subject matter for the newsletter that shows off your expertise. Make it look as professional as possible. Some newsletters highlight recent cases or transactions that the editor has handled. These are a fine way of publicizing experience, and can serve as “case studies” of similar situations. Other newsletters cover recent developments in the practice area of the editor. These newsletters position the editor as a trusted source and expert in the field. Be creative. DIRECT MAIL AND E-MAILINGS You have created your professional biography, articles and newsletters and you have your lists. Now what? Sending your materials unsolicited to clients and prospects, either by mail or e-mail, can seem like a waste of time and money. The mailings generally don’t elicit much response. A good number of recipients, even your friends, just throw your stuff away. The people you want to reach are busy with their own business and personal lives and don’t have the time, even if they wanted, to look at the articles or newsletters you send. So why bother? Successful marketing is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time. On any given day, the number of prospects on your lists who are actively seeking legal counsel from a new provider is quite small. But when that day arises, and it generally does, you want to be front and center. You want your prospect to remember your name, and you want him or her to have something with your contact information. Also, even if people don’t read your mailings closely, they get a sense of the kind of work you do. They put you on their list of people with a certain kind of expertise. OTHER READING Here is a marketing book I found useful: “Rain Making: the Professional’s Guide to Attracting New Clients,” by Ford Harding (1994). I’ll leave you with this quote from the author: “Much of marketing is relatively simple conceptually but requires persistent and consistent implementation over a long period, during which rejections are frequent.” Amen to that. Geoffrey Parnass practices corporate law with Vandenberg & Feliu.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.