By Kate A From Women Lawyers News • March 01, 2019
You may know that marketing is an important part of private practice, but often no one teaches us how to go about it. Unfortunately, lawyers rarely learn business development skills or focus enough on marketing efforts until considering partnership. Starting earlier requires a little effort, time, and self-discipline But it’s totally doable and the results are worth the early investment (even if you’re new to practice and not responsible for bringing in work yet).
We’ll get into what you should be doing and when…but first, let’s start with some basics.
What is marketing/business development?
Lawyers and law firms spend lots of time and money marketing their services to attract new clients and developing business from new and existing clients. However, marketing legal services is different than marketing other products and services. Lawyers write articles, give presentations, build networks, and work to increase their visibility in certain communities, groups, and industries in hopes of attracting new clients and referrals from other professionals. Other lawyers are finding creative new ways of marketing.
Why is business development important?
Law firm partners are typically held responsible for bringing in and maintaining a “book of business.” Lawyers with existing clients are generally more attractive to law firms considering a lateral hire of a new practitioner. Marketing is a substantial part of the practice of law.
Are you already thinking, Yeah, ok Kate, I get it, it’s important, but what do I actually do?!? Don’t worry, we’ll get there in a bit. I got you.
So, why start now? Don’t I have plenty of time?
Given this, why should even newer lawyers be focused on business development at this point in their career?
- First, it takes years to learn marketing skills and to develop your own marketing style, and starting later than your first few years in practice can put you at a disadvantage. Instead, start asap to help maximize your chance of success.
- Marketing is very important for women. Research shows that lack of business is a major reason why women struggle to succeed in private practice and to achieve equity partner status. In addition, women are less likely to “inherit” existing firm business from other partners, increasing the pressure on women to bring in new business. Again, having a good network also helps you switch jobs more easily.
- It also takes years to develop your network and connections. For example, if you make a great connection with an industry contact at your level today and foster that relationship in the next few years, you will have a strong relationship down the road when that person is in a position of authority and able to give or refer business to you. Those who attempt to begin a relationship with that person after they reach that level of authority are at a disadvantage.
- Business development efforts are an efficient way to learn other skills that are key to a successful legal career, such as leadership and management skills.
- Finally, the changing nature of the legal market means increased competition in the legal job market as a well as increased competition among practitioners for client business. Because law firms are aware of the importance of business development, demonstrating marketing awareness and potential early in your legal career can set you apart and give you an advantage.
How do I start? What can I actually do at my stage of the game?
New lawyers often struggle to get started with business development, typically because of a few misconceptions. For example, you may think, “there’s nothing I can actually do until I have enough experience to ‘pitch’ my services to potential clients.” Or maybe you think that you need to be able to discuss complicated legal or industry topics to be able to market. You might also think that there are no meaningful connections to be made if you’re earlier in your practice. Even more experienced lawyers often don’t know how to get started with business development or they’re tempted to think that it takes tons of time.
Good news though, all of that is wrong, and there are many things you can do right now, at any stage of practice.
For example, even lawyers that are just starting practice can work on simple things like developing and maintaining their list of contacts, as well as internal marketing by getting to know people in their firm and making sure they understand what you do. Later you can move quickly to building your experience and credibility, such as by participating in articles and presentations or joining legal or industry organizations…and much more. And it doesn’t need to take much time if you know what you need to do and have a plan.
But don’t worry, I’m going to show you! We’ll get much more specific, and I’ll show you exactly what you can do at different stages and in different categories. It really doesn’t have to be that mysterious, complicated, or difficult, and it doesn’t need to take much time at all.
I’ve created an awesome resource for you – this Marketing Map that will make it super easy for you to sit down, see exactly what you should be doing and when, then easily and quickly put together a concrete plan for your business development, one that will help you get real results and help you stand out. You’re not going to be one of those lawyers spending time randomly at networking events, throwing time at miscellaneous business development efforts, hoping something will stick. Not you, you’re going to spend a little bit of time and get lots of results. Boom, just like that.
Next week we’re going to talk more about marketing – specifically, how to make good use of the time you spend on business development, so you don’t waste any time.
Until next week, talk soon,
PS – Marketing is very important for success in practice, especially for women lawyers and even if you’re newer to practice, but it can be totally overwhelming to figure out what you should actually be doing and how to make good use of the time you spend on marketing. Don’t worry though, I got you – this Marketing Map will show you what to do and guide you though getting your marketing plan in place, all in under an hour. Let’s get started!