Can You Trust a Lawyer Who Becomes a Law Firm Marketing Expert?
Just about every day I stumble into a new lawyer-turned law firm marketing expert. I have my own opinion of these folks (as you can imagine). But the purpose of this blog post is to help you decide whether or not to hire a former lawyer to teach you about marketing.
Here are six questions you should ask any lawyer who has given up his own practice to become a law firm marketing expert.
Why don’t you practice law anymore?
The reasoning for this question is obvious. If they were good lawyers why would they give it up? If they were successful, why would they give it up? If they were not either, why would you listen to them?
How many clients do you have?
If they only have a few clients, they obviously are not good at marketing. If they don’t make good money, how good can they be at marketing? Ask to see tax returns or financial statements or at least client lists.
Can I call five of your current clients?
If they say no, run away.
Can I call two of your former clients?
All of us have clients who have left us. If this law firm marketing expert claims to not have them, run away. If he won’t let you speak to any former clients, run away.
Do you use the methods you teach?
If the answer is “No” or if they cannot give you examples (or proof) of using the methods they teach, run away.
Where did you learn about marketing?
This is one of those telling questions. Continuing education is good so if they say they are studying with or working with a marketing expert, that is fine. But we are really interested in the practical experience they have had in the past. Did they use these marketing methods to build multimillion dollar business in another industry? We obviously don’t want them practicing on you or trying things with you that they have not used before.
The bottom line is that you must be comfortable with the law firm marketing expert you hire. I encourage you to do thorough research on the background on ANY former lawyer before you hire him/her to teach you about law firm marketing.
An Additional Law Firm Marketing Resource
Be sure to bookmark Legal Marketing for Lawyers. This is a great website that includes different and relevant information on law firm marketing. It is updated Monday through Friday.
Objective Criteria For Selecting a Law Firm Marketing Expert
There has been a great deal written about who is a good law firm marketing expert and who is not a good law firm marketing expert. If I were looking to hire someone for help with law firm marketing I would ask the following questions:
What is the track record of the law firm marketing expert?
All claims of success should be substantiated. Make the law firm marketing expert show you results of his/her own personal efforts. They should have a booming business themselves if they are truly expert at attracting business. Ask for a client roster or financial information. Let’s face it, if they are successful why would they hesitate to reveal this information?
If they cannot do it for themselves, how do you expect them to do it for you?
What is the system you will use to help me grow my law firm?
Do not work with someone who will just wing it. You want to see a framework that they will be following to deliver results. Even marketing experts who follow a customized approach have a framework they use to help their clients get started.
If they do not have guidelines for their own work, how will they help you?
Can I speak with a former client?
Every law firm marketing expert has clients who have left him or her. You want to interview these people. You want to find out if the relationship broke down because of the law firm marketing expert of because of the client.
Why do you do what you do?
The motivation of the law firm marketing expert is critical. Certainly you want to hear about the passion this person has for participating in the success of others but you also want to hear that this is a business. Everyone is motivated, at least to some extent, by the need to make a living. Ask this question to see if the consultant is going to be upfront about that.
There are at least a dozen other questions you should ask a law firm marketing consultant before you hire him/her and beyond their qualifications it comes down to a matter of personal taste and preference.
Legal Marketing: Can You Be a Part Time Expert?
When it comes to legal marketing there are lots of folks who will take your money. Many of them claim to be experts because they run a law firm. This means that being a “marketing guru” is a part time job for them…kind of like selling Avon or running an early morning paper route. If it were me, investing my hard-earned money, I would not want to work with someone who took marketing so lightly that they did it like the kid who watches your house while you’re on vacation.
If you are giving some thought to working with a legal marketing expert here are three questions to ask the part time guru:
If your law firm is so successful and satisfying why are you working part time as a marketing coach?
Look around your neighborhood. Think about your circle of friends. How many of them have part time jobs? Those who do probably need money. If their main occupation provided them with enough income would they be working a second job? When you see the part time legal marketing guru, ask him why he needs a part time job.
How long have you been studying and practicing this thing known as marketing?
Most attorneys-turned-marketers or attorneys-turned-part-time marketing-gurus attended a few marketing seminars, bought some marketing-in-a box programs and turned that stuff into their own offering. Is that bad? Not necessarily…if they are leading a marketing study group. But most of them are claiming to be the legal marketing authority.
You can’t claim to be a master of something if you simply attend a couple of courses and listened to some audio tapes. You have to have lived and breathed it for years. Author Malcom Gladwell, in his bookOutliers: The Story of Success
shared research that reveals that expertise comes from practical application of a principle, strategy or tactic for at least 10,000 hours. So how can the part time guru claim expertise?
How many people from diverse practice areas have you lead to business success in the past?
This really is a key question. These part time gurus may have a dozen techniques that work in personal injury practices or in family law practices but that doesn’t mean they will work in your law firm. Legal marketing is a general term. Just because this part time person can teach you marketing techniques that work in one kind of firm, do not assume those techniques will work in your law practice.
In the end, you will be paying full price for your law firm marketing coaching. You deserve someone who works on legal marketing full time.
Legal Marketing Is Necessary
Legal marketing is necessary. If you want to be successful as a lawyer you need clients. There is no debating that fact. There is no other way to get clients other than through legal marketing. Yet lawyers debate the necessity of legal marketing constantly. Let’s get something straight, if you are a lawyer and you ask someone to work with you, that is legal marketing. If you ask someone to refer you business, that is legal marketing. If you win a case and you tell someone about it, that is legal marketing.
For those of you who are sticklers, here is a definition of marketing from Webster’s Dictionary: Marketing is “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” You are promoting, selling and distributing your service if you hand out a business card. Every lawyer is involved in legal marketing in some way. Period. End of debate.
The law is a profession and a business and as such legal marketing is highly regulated. This is a good thing. As a society we want people to have the best representation available. Legal marketing helps them make an educated choice. In fact, legal marketing is necessary for clients to make the best choice. If lawyers weren’t listed somewhere (yes, even a listing on your local bar association’s web site is marketing) people would not have every opportunity to make a good decision.
My grandfather always said that anything worth doing was worth doing well. Until law schools start teaching you how to attract clients, you have to learn somewhere. You can try to figure it out on your own, but that’s precisely the reason most attorneys have a limited income. Legal marketing is both an art and a science. It involves psychology, math, ethics, statics, and advanced writing skills. You can’t pick it up on the street and hope to be as effective as someone who has studied it for a lifetime.
You spent $100,000 on law school. Why won’t you spend 25% of that learning how to attract the clients that can help you recoup your investment? Isn’t it time you stopped limiting your earning potential?