Arrow with the word strategyThis is the next post in my discussion on why the legal profession is struggling and what you, as an attorney, can do to help ensure your future. My last article looked at how poor business management is hurting law firm profits and why lawyers will have to learn to be better business people. While many have traditionally gotten by with the attitude of “I’m a lawyer, not a businessperson,” the bottom line is that such an approach will no longer work in today’s world. In this article I’m going to look at how law firms need to market themselves in order to stop struggling.

I’m not going to spend this post talking about where to put your marketing dollars or how to invest in web content – there’s plenty on this blog about those subjects. Instead I’m going to talk about a subject where most attorneys get it wrong – understanding what it is your potential customers are looking for. After all, if you’re advertising “X,” and the potential client is looking for “Y,” then you have a big problem.

Most attorneys fail to understand what a client will consider to be “quality” legal services

Rule number one of running any business is that “quality” is defined by the customer’s criteria and not by the seller’s. It doesn’t matter how wonderful you think you’re product is if it’s not fitting the criteria someone is looking for. Now let’s apply this to the legal profession. The best way to do so is with an example. So gather ’round for a moment while ol’ grandpa Luke tells a story.

In mid-2013 I was doing some one on one consulting with a solo lawyer who practiced mostly family law. He’d been practicing for eighteen years and had an operation which consisted of him and his paralegal. He didn’t understand why another lawyer down the street, who had been practicing for three years, had already developed a sizable operation. I’ll never forget the attorney feeling like it was silly that he had been practicing so much longer while the other lawyer had many more clients.

The explanation to the attorney I just mentioned was simple. The other attorney was the one who “gets it.” Consider the situation from a client’s perspective. A lawyer who has been practicing for a few decades and one who has been practicing for a few years are both likely to get the matter resolved. At the end of the day it’s a simple matter – “did your case get completed?” The answer will be yes. Then ask, did the attorney promptly return phone calls and respond to emails? Did the lawyer proactively give the clients updates as to what was going on in the case or did the client have to call the attorney to find out what was going on? Perhaps most importantly, did the lawyer talk to the client from the standpoint of a regular person or of an attorney trying to impress his or her client? The answers to these questions are, in large part, what’s going to determine the success of your practice. One of the best discussions I’ve seen on this topic was offered here:

Thanks to CEB for providing this video. To read the full post, associated with the video, click here.

Want to do better with your marketing? The solution is simple – understand that your website and online profiles are not a resume or a tribute to yourself. They are, instead, your opportunity to tell the client what it is you’re going to do for them. Your pages should be stressing steps you will take to proactively move their case along, your policies on remaining in contact with them, and how you will keep them in the loop as to what is going on. The lawyers who do this, as opposed to saying how long they’ve been practicing and what their achievements are, will be seen as higher quality in the eye of the consumer. A big part of doing better with your marketing, and not struggling along with the rest of the profession, is to advertise that you have the type of qualities the client is looking for as opposed to marketing the qualities that you think they should be looking for.

The changing legal profession requires lawyers to recognize that there is a surplus of legal services available to consumers

Lawyers are no longer going to get clients simply because they have a law degree and a Bar Card. As I discussed in my overview of why the legal profession is struggling, the number of attorneys in the U.S. has gone way up while the amount of work for them to do is dropping rapidly. In other words, lawyers need to understand that legal services are no longer in scarce supply and consumers can now choose from a surplus. This means that the profession is going to have to learn to be more in tune with a client’s wants and expectations. You’re marketing, therefore, needs to relay a message of “here’s how I’m going to serve your needs” and you then need to follow through on those promises.

Why do you feel lawyers have traditionally failed to market to what it is a client is looking for? Please chime in through the comment form below.