Hey Big Law Firms: Marketing is About Relationships
I work with very few big law firms on marketing. This is by design. Most big law firms have significant overhead and even more significant egos and both are a hindrance to profitability. Give me a guy in a two room office who is hungry, tired and broke with a law degree from a state school and I’ll help him double his profit inside of a year. A big law firm guy would need a tutorial to understand the hungry guy’s financial statement.
My biggest beef with big law firms is their marketing. Brochures, event sponsorships and congratulatory ads in the local business paper are what pass for good marketing at most big law firms. Forget the fact that nobody has ever hired a lawyer because his firm sponsored a tennis tournament; explain to me how you measure the effectiveness of this kind of marketing.
Now let’s say the kick ass brochure pulls in a client. What is the first thing the partner at the big law firm does? He estimates how many hours he can bill them. Yes, he listens to the problem. Sure he comes up with a legal solution. And ultimately the client’s company will benefit from that solution. But not before the partner bills 20 hours to the client’s account and his associate bills 15 hours to it and the paralegal bills 36 hours to it etc. etc.
My clients have learned the art of stealing business from big law firms by charging flat fees or value based fees to clients who have been beaten up by big law firms for years. They build relationships with their clients BEFORE they become clients. They deepen those relationships with the work they do for them. They charge them a fair price that the client agrees to in advance.
Suffice it to say that attorneys at big law firms should be required to wear a mask and hold a gun when walking into the office of a client. Hourly billing is horrible. Clients hate it. It destroys relationships with clients. But for the big law firms, marketing and billing are not about relationships.
Big law firms could use their size to their advantage. They could conduct seminars that educate potential clients. They could follow up with attendees by sending them a monthly newsletter on the very topic covered in the seminar. They could offer legal audits for clients by the preeminent attorneys in specific areas of the law…FOR FREE. They could do hundreds of things the small firms don’t do with their marketing. If they did, the small guys would have trouble competing.
But I guess the big law firms don’t get it. Maybe they never will. My clients get it. Their clients get it. Before you know it, the big firms may just become small enough to try it.
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