The words “marketing committee” have never, in my experience, made anyone smile. In most firms, they are viewed largely, on the one hand, as a necessity and, on the other, a waste of attorney time. For the most part, I would agree. There are some exceptions. Some firms I work with have brilliant committees that actually advance their firms’ marketing objectives.
However, by and large this is not the case. Most firms gather the wrong group of attorneys in a room to discuss issues in which they have little stake, interest, responsibility or accountability. These committees need help.
There are many reasons why marketing committees are unproductive and dysfunctional. I want to end the hours of unproductive meetings and provide a primer on what a marketing committee should look like and do. Get ready to change the status quo.
For firms with multiple practice groups and areas, the committee should be made up of representatives from each practice area or department of the firm. For boutiques, I would suggest that a handful of lawyers who are genuinely passionate about growing the firm and keeping its clients happy have a seat at the table.
All members of the marketing committee must want to be there and really care about the firm. The administrator and in-house or outside marketing team should also be present to help execute what the committee wants to do.
Without stated and enthusiastic authority from the top — for the committee to go forth and examine, discuss and suggest how we can improve — very little will happen. The managing partner and compensation “deciders” must highly value this nonbillable time commitment and bless it.
The committee must be given a clear mandate from the firm’s leadership. In fact, the managing partner should try to come to the meetings as often as possible to listen and participate.
Committee Members’ Roles
Members should be ready to report what is happening in their departments on the practice development and client service front and, importantly, take all agenda items discussed at the marketing committee meeting back to their respective section meetings. I favor transparency and open communication.
Too often, when I visit various firms, I hear lawyers complain they have no clue what their partners are doing. This kind of “reporter” role for committee members will go a long way to fix that.
Agenda for Meetings
Here is what I would cover at each meeting:
• Review of firm marketing tools. This would include a review of a traffic report of the firm website — as well as a review of new marketing tools (pamphlets, checklists, newsletters, alerts) to help spread the word that these items are available for use. Each member of the committee would then take this information back to their department or office meetings and announce them.
• Indication of specific targets by practice groups. Each committee member should report on the names of clients whose work they, or their departments or practice groups, have targeted for expansion via a strategic plan — if there is one — and even if there is not. In addition, specific information on referral sources they are cultivating and new targets they are going after should similarly be announced so there is shared information and everyone can pull together and help in the effort. If RFPs are in play, they should be noted. Cross-selling opportunities can be discussed. In this way, the committee can act as a sounding board and “think tank” to help each department, practice group or office bring in new work. Again, each member of the committee should report what is discussed at the meeting to their respective colleagues.
• Indication of promotional activities of lawyers. If lawyers have given speeches, written articles or been quoted in the press, this should be mentioned at the meeting and copies provided of the handouts or articles or press mentions so other lawyers in the firm can announce the news to their clients, as appropriate.
• Report on business development successes. Each member should report on a business development success that has occurred in the last month and the steps that were taken to secure the work.
• What area of practice is very hot right now? Each practice group leader should provide the committee with a brief description of a “hot” area they are promoting that they wish others in the firm to push with their clients. If there are new regulations or legislation that will affect clients, these should be reported.
• Discussion of how to improve value and service to current clients. What can we do better? Eighty percent of the firm’s work should be coming from existing clients, and consequently the departments and the marketing committee’s time and focus — to a large degree — should be on ways to increase current clients’ satisfaction and ties with the firm. I would like to see everyone actively thinking about how we can provide clients with tremendous value and become trusted advisers so that more work will flow.
• Strategic plan. Firms with written strategic plans should discuss progress and hear a report from the managing partner. That progress should be shared will all lawyers in the firm thereafter.
• After the meeting. From the foregoing, you can see that the real core of the committee’s “raison d’etre” is to both brainstorm and share business development information with all of the lawyers in the firm — in the hopes that all lawyers will develop business. Therefore, it is imperative that committee members regularly report (monthly) to their group, department or office. In addition, the committee chair should report to firm leadership on a regular basis as to what has been discussed, suggested and more.
• Schedule. In most firms, the committee should meet monthly for the reasons just described.
I think this formula works best and can result in greater synergy and higher revenue for your firm. Let’s get this marketing party started. Get up, get started … get going!
Stacy West Clark has been helping Pennsylvania lawyers and law firms expand their practices for more than 25 years. She is a former attorney with Morgan Lewis & Bockius and was the firm’s first marketing director. She is president of Stacy Clark Marketing, www.stacyclarkmarketing.com, a firm that helps law firms grow their businesses.