Out with the old, in with the new

With 2013 upon us, it’s time to shed any antiquated ideas you may have about law firm marketing.

Old Rule No. 5: Look to your competitors to succeed.

In the race to be perceived as equals, small law firms have done their level best to erase the lines between their larger brethren and themselves. The result is an inability to self-differentiate. Ask two partners, one at a small firm and one at a large firm, what makes each of them unique, and they’ll likely give you the exact same response.

New Rule No. 5: Only the specialists will survive.

In this new economy, you must clearly stake out your ground. Who you are, who you serve and how you specialize are increasingly vital to your survival. Identify your unique abilities and emphasize them everywhere. Train every person, from your partners to the receptionist, on how to answer the Big Question: “Why should I hire you?”

Old Rule No. 4: Mediocrity is acceptable as long as associates bill enough hours.

Although no one openly states mediocrity is OK, far too many partners tacitly accept it; some believe it’s inevitable. I have heard and seen firsthand the devastating effects the wrong office manager or receptionist can have on a small law firm. I’ve had clients who tolerated mediocre associates only to lose top accounts and lawsuits because of them.

New Rule No. 4: Superstars are the currency of the new economy.

You have a limited number of positions to fill in your firm, and you can only afford to retain superstars in every position. If you find a position filled with someone who is “good enough,” either eliminate the person or eliminate the position. You set the standard. You raise the bar. Excellence is the only attitude we allow. Exceptional is the new normal in our firm.

Old Rule No. 3: The law is a noble profession.

In times past, it was enough for you to be excellent at your craft. New lawyers could invest the first decade of practice perfecting their pitch.

New Rule No. 3:
Law is a business.

As outside pressures narrow your focus on what is truly important (namely, your survival), you must pay attention to the business of your practice and engender a culture of total participation driven by measurable results, where setting and achieving aggressive goals is paramount.

Old Rule No. 2: Taking care of clients comes first.

New Rule No. 2: Take care of your business first, or you won’t be in business to take care of your clients.

Too often lawyers focus solely on their clients without focusing on the bottom line. The results are devastating: not sending out invoices on time; not raising rates for years; not actively cross-promoting other services the firm offers; and not staying connected with former clients.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. You must be the one to lead the charge in shifting your firm’s culture from one of passivity into action orientation.

Old Rule No. 1: More marketing will obtain more results.

In the past, all you had to do was throw more money at marketing or advertising and you would see more results. Not anymore.

New Rule No. 1:
ROI rules.

With the increased competition and level of sophistication in the legal marketing industry, to get ahead you must be faster, smarter and more effective than your competitors.

Your ability to leverage Internet marketing and automatic parts of your marketing system will allow you to dominate larger firms with bigger budgets. However, every dollar must be accounted for and every effort must be measured for return on investment. You cannot afford to be indifferent.

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Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, a law firm marketing company. He can be contacted at Stephen@therainmakerinstitute.com.

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