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Marketing: Different countries, same issues

Every Issue

Cite as: (2008) 82(7) LIJ, p. 92

No matter where in the marketing world you are, many of the hassles are the same.

One of the biggest events in the law firm marketing professionals’ calendar – the Legal Marketing Association annual conference – took place in Los Angeles, US earlier this year.

More than 1100 people (mostly from around the US but including a handful of Australians and Britons, among others), who earn their wages marketing law firms and lawyers, attended.

It was also the 22nd year they have got together, so they’ve been serious about marketing in law firms for a long time.

These two elements – the sheer number of attendees and the longevity – are the subject of this month’s column.

In Australia we’re yet to get that large as a professional group and we certainly haven’t been congregating for 22 years, although most of us carefully watch our overseas colleagues and their marketing programs for inspiration.

Based on the papers and presentations at the conference, the important point about those numbers is that they represented an area of marketing that has become highly sophisticated, with a big body of knowledge about what works in marketing law firms and what doesn’t.

In Australia, as overseas, professional services marketing has developed through the use of marketing in law and accounting firms. There are differences in how law firms use marketing in different countries, but these largely reflect cultural differences.

It seems to me, for example, that US law firms are assertive in their marketing – compared to Australian law firms they are downright aggressive. Their use of advertising is not restricted to plaintiff law firms and the approaches in the advertisements exhibit a creative fearlessness that is startling to an Australian law firm marketer’s sensibilities.

It’s comforting to note then, that among the papers presented to the conference some things are universal.

The common difficulties encountered by marketers in helping lawyers to market their practices reveal some remarkable similarities.

Presenters responsible for a paper about the “marketing challenged” lawyers came up with seven of what they believed were the most common business development fatal flaws.

Below are the terms, a quick Australian-language translation of the “type” for those that aren’t immediately obvious – and the way to address the issue if you think any of them sound suspiciously familiar.

1. Empty networker. Lots of the “right” contacts but no work comes from them. Probably a product of being too subtle when networking and not steering conversations in a way that can open up possibilities for work. This kind of person needs to get better at business conversations and seizing opportunities.

2. All-talk-no-actioner. Does lots of speaking and presenting, but it never results in work. To turn this around you have to look at whether your speaking engagements are the right ones for getting business, and examining whether the presentation event is used properly to make new contacts.

3. One-hand washer. Waiting for a partner who is the key contact to introduce you to the clients you know you can impress. The trick here is to treat the gateway to the client, partners (your colleagues), as clients and show them what you can add.

4. Credential envier. Focused on the rating tables and expecting a listing to get results. They won’t. Only other lawyers from competing firms read them. If you really want to be in them, you need a strategy and not wait until the last minute when you find out there’s a deadline for submissions. If you’re chasing them down, or worse, arguing with them about their methods, you’re looking desperate.

5. Shotgun. Makes a big list and wants to get on to everyone/every company on the list. There is no point going for every possibility, you can’t do everything for everyone. Pick a few priorities to whom you can really offer something and concentrate on building a relationship with them.

6. Mirror gazer. Reflects on how good their capability and credentials are and thinks everyone will want them if only it was sold the right way. The key here is to not get ahead of yourself, respect those around you who already hold relationships with clients who might make good use of you and build your relationship with those people without freaking them out that you’re going to take their client. Which you will not do.

7. Delegator. Thinks the marketing
person/department is responsible for getting them business while they just work on matters. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Marketing is there to help you build your practice. You
are the service being sold. You are what
makes it unique. Without you in the picture there’s nothing to market. So roll up your sleeves and work with your marketing department.

ALICIA PATTERSON is the Director of House Communications. She was previously the LIV Head of Marketing and can be contacted on ph 8611 8188 or


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