It’s important for the modern family lawyer to develop a marketing-consistent strategy and embrace technology as a powerful promotional tool, rather than allowing a limited online presence to potentially hurt your reputation.
By Jennifer A. Brandt, Family Lawyer
Building a book of business as a family lawyer is unique because, unlike those who practice in other fields of law, family lawyers cannot rely on repeat business. Thus, we are required to bring in new clients day after day, month after month, year after year. No longer can we count on word of mouth to build a book of business; with the advent of social media and various websites rating lawyers and publicizing their credentials, if you do not have a web-based presence and do not promote your practice, you are essentially giving away business to your more tech-savvy competitors.
In addition to improving their use of technology, family lawyers who are looking to grow their business should find some specific marketing strategies with which to do so. Business development is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Each of us has unique talents and interests that, when put to use, makes marketing effortless.
Many lawyers complain that they don’t have time for marketing and business development. They operate on the theory that if they are excellent lawyers, they will naturally attract new business. It is true that being an excellent lawyer is a prerequisite to developing a large book of business, because if you don’t attend to your existing clients and do a superb job for them, your reputation will suffer. However, in the current marketplace, being an excellent lawyer is not sufficient to develop and sustain a business. Significant time must be devoted to cultivating business in order for it to grow.
Developing a Marketing Strategy
As young associates eager to get business, attorneys are often advised to take potential referral sources to lunch or attend networking events where they can mingle and hopefully have the opportunity to hand off a business card to someone. The problem with this standard marketing technique is that not everyone enjoys making small talk at lunch, and networking events can be even more daunting. For these folks, alternative marketing strategies must be employed.
If face-to-face marketing is difficult for you, there are numerous other opportunities to get your name out to potential clients. If you enjoy writing, for example, seek out opportunities to write an article for a local legal publication, as they are usually searching for content. Sometimes, merely sending an email to the editor expressing your interest in writing an article or pitching a specific topic can lead to publication. If that doesn’t work or if you have numerous ideas and want to write frequently, you can create your own blog – which requires little effort to establish, but does require periodic updates. Social media sites such as LinkedIn make it easy for anyone to be a blogger by allowing you to publish content directly through your profile page.
If public speaking is of interest to you, then all you have to do is put yourself out there and opportunities will often arise. Most states have continuing education requirements for lawyers and, thus, there are many chances for interested speakers to participate in seminars and webinars (which can be done without even leaving your desk). You can even create your own seminar and publicize it on YouTube or invite a live audience to attend.
Getting involved in local and national bar associations is a well-established method of business development. Start out by attending meetings regularly. Then you can determine whether you want to get involved with certain committees, which allows you to develop closer bonds with other lawyers and will hopefully lead to future business.
If the more traditional marketing techniques are not for you, there are innumerable opportunities for you to convey what you do for a living to others, with the idea that these messages will lead to increased business. The most important thing is to come up with a marketing plan and implement it regularly.
For those who do enjoy marketing through interpersonal networking, business development can only occur if you actually inform people about what you do. In fact, the more specific you are about your practice, the more likely the potential business source will actually think of you when it comes to doling out business. For example, saying that you are a lawyer is not enough when you meet someone new. A better approach would be to say, “I am a family lawyer at firm X. We are a full service firm that not only handles family law, but trusts and estate law as well. I just finished a complex custody matter involving…” In the second example, you are conveying to the referral source specifics about what you do as well as some insight about your law firm. Moreover, you are subtly informing your source, without bragging, that you have the capability to handle complex cases. This type of marketing does not even need to be done in a formal setting. As family lawyers, our prospective clients are our neighbors, friends of friends, etc. Therefore, business development can be accomplished wherever we meet people, such as at our kids’ sporting events, community gatherings, parties – just about everywhere.
Using Technology to Grow Your Practice
In the past, law firms needed to hire marketing specialists to help promote their practice. These folks would help with writing press releases, looking for placement of articles, arranging speaking opportunities, etc. While marketing professionals can certainly add value, technology has made it is easier than ever to promote your business yourself.
Once you have established and implemented a marketing plan, you need to let others know about what you are doing. These days it is easy to do so through social media. Sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, for example, allow you to connect with many people and provide an immediate platform to publicize your most recent marketing feats. Say you recently spoke at a bar association event, not only did the attendees who were at the conference benefit from what you had to say, but you can share your insight with even wider audience by posting something about your presentation on social media. If you are consistent in this practice, others won’t help but think of you when they want to make a referral.
The most important way in which technology can help market your practice is through your website and web biography. Let’s face it, the first thing all of us do when we want to learn about someone new is to type their name into our favorite internet search engine – and clients are no different. Thus, when your website is retrieved by a potential client, it had better portray an accurate reflection of your practice and what you want people to know about it. It is worth your time and effort to pay as much attention to these tools as you would your most important client. For example, if you wouldn’t let someone else deal with that client, you should similarly not let anyone else create your web biography or website without your direct oversight and input. Just as you wouldn’t neglect your most important client, you should also pay attention to your website and update it frequently, so it truly reflects your latest accomplishments.
Technology has not only made us more accessible to our clients, it has changed the way in which we develop business. Clients are now able to research us independently and will not solely rely on word of mouth in choosing their attorney. It is more critical than ever that each of us develop and implement a personalized marketing plan that we will follow with consistency.
Jennifer A. Brandt is a shareholder in the Family Law Department of Cozen O’Connor, a national law firm with over 575 attorneys. She practices in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Jennifer is also a frequent commentator on national and local news networks, including CNN and Fox News Channel. Jennifer is the author of Family Law Focus, which discusses current family law issues. www.familylawfocusblog.com