There is a general consensus in the professional services marketing industry that law firms’ business development (BD), PR and communications efforts are trailing those implemented by other professional services businesses.
Various explanations have been given and the three most commonly mentioned are the risk-averse nature of lawyers, an organisational structure that doesn’t foster cohesion and a lack of leadership support for the marketing function.
The inherent difficulty lies with presenting new and innovative marketing or BD plans to law firm partners who have made a career out of reducing risks, advocating caution and relying on their network.
So why should law firms pay attention?
Because people change. And that means that your clients change. We live in a world where information is becoming ever more accessible, where savvy consumers are more demanding and where C-suite leaders are more involved in deciding who they work with.
This means that firms can no longer afford to just rely on their network and reputation. They can’t go on neglecting their BD or marketing strategy if they wish to retain existing clients and attract new ones in this age. New marketing channels and technology need to be put in practice. And to avoid a slow brain drain, talented marketing and BD professionals have to be encouraged to join and stay within the sector.
True, there are law firms who have invested in these areas. These forward looking organisations are sharing original brand content on social media, are developing cohesive BD systems and streamlined processes, and are hiring business developers and marketers from their competitors and, increasingly so, from outside of law. But many remain stuck in the past and continue to run business as usual.
What is needed is a change in attitude. Law firms will benefit if they become more aware of the variety of marketing channels that are available to them and if they embrace new media and technologies. On the BD side, more law firms need to see how coordinated BD processes can benefit the entire organisation rather than a single partner or practice group.
I would encourage law firms to invest more resources in their marketing and BD function and start thinking about how they wish to acquire and retain business developers and marketers. Times have changed and if law firms don’t adapt they will run the risk of losing out on business.
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