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Marketing: Engaging employees

Every Issue

Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 85

Undoubtedly, a law firm’s biggest asset is its people – often an untapped resource of ideas and solutions.

Unlike other sectors, a law firm’s business is not based on a discrete product or commodity; rather, it is the personnel and their knowledge and expertise that is the product.

This means the relationships between staff and clients are, in marketing lingo, the distribution channels.

Most law firms at least try to work out what clients like and don’t like about them – and national firms are well aware of the need to see how clients view (and value) them.

Everyone does this with the same goal – to continually improve the client experience.

Once the evaluation is done, strategies change – and staff are duly informed.

What is usually missing is the next logical step – to work out how well-equipped the firm’s people are to implement the strategies.

Firms need to systematically tap into their most important resource when it comes to developing the business: their people.

Law firms are risk adverse. They are meticulous with their services and offerings; they research everything about opening new offices or practice groups; they cross all the t’s and dot the i’s so nothing can be misconstrued; they never send an email or letter on a whim; they even have a cast of thousands (well, at least hundreds) critique the firm Christmas card.

But often, when it comes to keeping their own people informed, it seems many are happy to play the game of chance.

Firms invest big in human resources strategies to recruit and retain people, and marketing strategies to promote and strengthen the brand and reputation of the firm. When that much money is at stake, it’s critical to know whether the people who make the brand are on target.

The market for law in Australia is competitive and brand differentiation depends on the strength of a law firm’s people, from their intellect and qualifications to their approaches and communication skills.

When clients’ loyalty to your firm is based on the individuals who service them, how comfortable are you in having your people at the forefront?

Do they know and understand your firm’s brand values and culture? How well do they market your firm in front of clients? Do they know what other practice groups are up to and can they speak about it (and cross-sell) with confidence? Do they believe in what your firm stands for, and are they happy to get out there and express it?

Your firm’s success is based on your ability to attract the best people, therefore it makes sense to engage them in the process of developing the firm’s key strategies and identifying how it can do things better.

So how can you engage fee-earner, and non fee-earner, staff in the process of assessing and developing the firm’s marketing and human resources strategies?

You can start by asking your current employees what it is they like about your firm and, more importantly, what they don’t. Ask them what needs improvement, and how. Ask them if what you say your firm stands for actually rings true with them.

You need to do this seriously, regularly and systematically. Doing this will go a long way to understanding your entire personnel and developing better long-term business strategies and planning priorities.

You will identify practice areas that need better support and any disconnects in the firm’s strategy. You will develop your firm’s brand, find out more about your firm’s relationships with clients at a range of levels and pinpoint areas for improvement, not to mention getting fresh ideas in the door.

In effect what you are doing is being clear about:

  • what you want to achieve;
  • whether it’s possible with the people
    capabilities you have; and
  • if not, what you can do to close the gap.

This priceless information is an affordable, targeted research tool for your firm.

Decisions and directions are taken with a sound, specific knowledge of your firm and its internal workings and not on gut feelings and general industry research.

Much less risky.

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 http://www.house-communications.com.

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