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Marketing the right culture

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Cite as: (2002) 76(10) LIJ, p.85

A few pro-active steps will help firms to develop a marketing culture that is appropriate for them.

If law firms truly embraced a marketing culture it would put their marketing managers out of a job. Business development would be driven by partners, marketing activities would be initiated and implemented by solicitors, and the purely administrative tasks – such as organising the firm Christmas card mailout – would be sensibly delegated to a PA or administration assistant.

This perfect world, albeit involving one’s own redundancy, exists in few, if any law firms. Indeed, the problems associated with creating a marketing culture was a recurrent theme aired by legal practice managers who attended marketing workshops conducted nationally by Fenton Communications earlier this year.

Their concerns were voiced in a range of questions along the lines of, “How can we encourage professional staff to ‘own’ marketing?”, “How do I get partner buy-in to business development?” and “How can I establish a marketing culture and cope with resistors?”.

These are legitimate concerns, because as long as responsibility for marketing resides with one or a handful of support staff, it is unlikely to play a central role in the future success of the firm. But you can make real progress in building a marketing culture by working within the realities of legal practice, taking a few pro-active steps and approaching the challenge with the right attitude.

A marketing culture will rarely take root without partner buy-in and the partnership sending the right signals to salaried staff, so it is usually best to concentrate your initial efforts on partners. However, many of the following issues apply equally to engaging solicitors in marketing.


Partners are busy and time poor

Set realistic time lines for completion of tasks involving partners. Break tasks into small, manageable steps and be prepared to help with the legwork. Email a friendly reminder as a deadline looms.

Partners may feel ill-equipped to play a role

You may need to demystify the concept of marketing for some, or organise training – be it in making presentations, networking or cross-selling – to boost their marketing skills and confidence. Try to be a sympathetic sounding board for partners.

Partners have an eye on the bottom line

Convince those who regard marketing as an expenditure rather than an investment by demonstrating results and sharing marketing success stories.

You are accountable to intelligent people

Show marketing leadership by establishing clear, realistic and measurable goals for marketing initiatives. Be prepared to argue persuasively your case for money and/or resources.

Find a partner to champion your cause

In order to have a supporter in the partnership, get at least one partner on side before embarking on new projects. You can also use their involvement as an incentive to others.

It’s easier to do things you enjoy

Encourage partners to develop the kind of practice that interests them and to market it in ways they enjoy. Be prepared to help them fill the marketing gaps.

Be an information resource and an ideas person

Give partners the intelligence they need to go out and win new work by being the eyes and ears of the firm, both internally and externally.

Recognise and publicise marketing contributions

Acknowledge and praise partner involvement in marketing. Reward their resulting business win with a news item on the website, a newsletter profile or a bottle of wine – the competitive spirit alone may stir others.

Cite the client perspective

Partners rarely ignore what clients have to say, so use client and marketplace feedback to inform marketing. Be able to show how a marketing activity aims to tap a client need or address a client concern.

Lobby for marketing recognition in performance and salary reviews

This carrot and stick approach can work wonders with ambitious solicitors. Spend some time championing this cause with the managing partner or other key decision-makers.

Be enthusiastic

It can be hard to maintain morale when support for marketing is lacklustre, but there is no doubt that enthusiasm is infectious.

It isn’t a perfect world

Don’t waste time trying to win over the partner who will never be convinced; focus on the keen or receptive partners. Do not regard anything less than total support for marketing as a personal failure.


Contributed by JANE FENTON and ANNA GRUTZNER of Fenton Communications, a communications consultancy with a professional services marketing division ( ).

Reprinted with permission from the Australian Law Management Journal, Law Council of Australia, General Practice Section,


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