This is the next post in my discussion on common marketing mistakes made by law firms. My last article provided an overview of topics which this series will be addressing and stressed the need for lawyers to change their ways. It’s crucial that you not make mistakes in your practice which are common throughout the legal profession. The reason this is crucial is because, as I discussed in my series on why law firms are failing, the economics of being an attorney are changing rapidly. Things which firms used to be able to get away with, and still squeeze out a profit, are now going to result in financial losses instead. In other words, if you repeat the mistakes of other law firms you will wind up looking like this:

man with empty pockets

While those who make better choices wind up looking like these fine folks:

happy business people

I’m guessing you’d rather be part of the latter group? Assuming that you do, let’s take a look at why you shouldn’t pattern your marketing after that of other law firms and examples of mistakes you should avoid.

Attorneys mistakenly look to other law firms as an example of how to run a business

I’m going to talk about a phenomenon that truly fascinates me. This phenomenon is right up there with the Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen paradox (bonus points if you know what that is). The oddity I’m referring to is the fact that every attorney patterns their business model after what they see in other law firms. Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. In your time as a lawyer you’ve obviously spoken to many other legal professionals. In those discussions you’ve probably noticed that virtually every attorney will openly admit to being bad at business and will use phrases such as “I’m a lawyer, not a businessperson.” In spite of this admitted lack of business understanding, other attorneys choose to model their practice after those who admit that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Call me crazy but it doesn’t strike me as a particularly good idea to model your business after that of someone who admits to being frickin’ awful at business. And, to no surprise, this isn’t working out for most people.

I mentioned a statistic in my last article which I’m going to repeat. From 1988 to 2012 the average solo practitioner’s yearly income, after adjusting for inflation, dropped from $70,747 to $49,1301. That statistic, in my not-so-humble-opinion shows the results of patterning a practice after other law firms or doing things in the way lawyers “have always done it.” The traditional law firm model is broken and marketing is one part of that. Now let’s look at common examples of how lawyers err by modeling themselves after other firms.

Common examples of how attorneys mistakenly pattern their marketing after that of other firms

I’m going to list just a few examples of how attorneys mistakenly follow the marketing and promotional techniques of other law firms. To prove this point I’m going to rely on the thing which legal professionals love most – MATH. While the answer to most legal problems tends to be “it depends,” numbers are not ambiguous. Let’s look at why the numbers behind traditional law firm marketing just don’t add up.

Lawyers err by using paid advertising while ignoring their website’s blog

Lawyers see paid advertising as a viable way to build a practice. It certainly is a way to get a clients quickly. With that being said, it simply doesn’t provide the return on investment which you would get from building up your website’s blog. This is true whether you’re talking about pay-per-click, radio ads, billboards, etc. They’re all the same at the end of the day. Here are the numbers supporting that.

Consider that a post we wrote for a criminal defense client, in August of 2014, has received 4,760 organic clicks since we placed it on their website. We charged $125 for that post and the client owns it outright. Assuming that the average attorney pays $20 per click in a PPC campaign, we realize that that $125 investment in content has yielded advertising results which other attorneys would have paid $95,200 for (4,760 clicks x $20 per click).  In spite of these types of numbers most attorneys don’t build up their website’s blog. There are several reasons for this – none of them, however, are valid. This is a point I’ll discuss further in an upcoming article on the importance of thinking long-term (spoiler alert).

Attorneys prioritize attending networking events over leveraging LinkedIn or developing their blog

Every lawyer will tell a start-up solo about the importance of networking. This has it’s place and is a way to get some clients. With that being said, it’s not the best way to spend your time. Let’s say you spend an hour getting ready for and traveling to a networking event. Now say you’re there for 2 hours and you spend thirty minutes driving back to your office afterwards. You just devoted a total of 3.5 hours to networking. If you bill out at a rate of $200 per hour then you lost time which can be totaled at $700. Do the math – $700 could have bought five of the blog posts which I mentioned above. Do you really think that attending that networking event provides as much value as those five posts? Also, if you are writing your own content and not utilizing something similar to our attorney website design & SEO services, you could have written 1-2 posts in that time you devoted to networking. Those posts would still have yielded a higher return.

Am I saying that networking can’t yield clients? Nope. I’m simply saying you get a better return on effort/investment by building up your blog. This means that you should only attend networking events if you are already actively blogging. To attend networking events, while ignoring your blog, simply doesn’t add up financially.

You should also prioritize the leveraging of LinkedIn over attending traditional networking events. Let’s face it – going to a networking function is a crapshoot. You don’t know who you’re going to meet, whether they’ll turn into a good referral source, etc. I’ve written before on how attorneys can use LinkedIn. I won’t re-hash that article here. The gist of it is that you can choose to introduce yourself to people who are more promising referral sources and you’re not competing with a crowded room with others who are giving out cards. Want to “network” the right way? Start leveraging LinkedIn in the ways I explained in the article which was just linked to.

These are just two examples of how attorneys are quick to use the steps taken by other law firms in regards to marketing. The math of these tactics, however, simply don’t add up. This is why law firms have consistently seen their profits fall. If you want to be more successful then it may be time to say that “thinking like a lawyer,” in regards to your marketing, isn’t the best idea.

Why do you think so many firms simply copy the marketing habits of other law offices? Please chime in through the comment form below.

References:

1 – The Rise and Fall of Lawyers; Published by CNN on March 23, 2015. Accessed at: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/22/opinions/barton-rise-and-fall-of-lawyers/