Legal Marketing

Despite the fact that every attorney needs to know how to market their law practice, law schools are not teaching students this highly valuable skill. Law school graduates are having a difficult time finding work. While it may make sense to get a law degree if you’re a college graduate unable to find a job in this challenging economy, don’t expect law school to prepare you for the real world.

This fact was confirmed in a Lexis-Nexis survey where the next generation of lawyers stated that they feel ill-equipped for the business of the law and many are considering alternatives to a career in law. According to the survey, 65% of law school students (and 90% of lawyers) said that law school does not teach the practical business skills needed to practice law in today’s economy and 35% of law school students responded that they do not feel adequately prepared to succeed in the changing legal marketplace. As a result, one fifth (21%) of students say they regret attending law school.

No matter where you are in your career, whether you want a new job or more clients, the two most important skills needed to succeed in today’s legal market is “marketing” and “building relationships”… neither of which are taught in law schools. When writer T. Harv Eker analyzed the results of a survey of 753 millionaires for his book, “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” (2005), he found social skills were more important than IQ. Even in law, these two soft skills are the true differentiator in a competitive and commoditized legal market.

Ask any successful businessperson what they believe is the key to success and they’ll tell you “marketing” and “profitable customers.” However, most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of having to “sell” or “market’ ourselves. Some of us even went to law school to avoid having to “market” or “sell” ourselves. Many attorneys feel it is beneath their professional standing and, quite literally, a major pain in the ass. Even if we wanted to, we were never taught “how to” do it. We don’t know how to address these issues, so we continue to plug along taking whatever job comes along or working on the cases that are brought to us, and then move on to the next one with very little planning for our future.

I suggest a bit of soul searching may be a good place to start. First, determine what it is you really want to be, do and have with respect to your legal career. In other words, what do you want to do with your legal career; where do you want to do it, and what do you want your professional life to stand for? The answers to these three important questions explores what inspires and motivates you, what activities you love to do, what environment you want to do them in, whom you want to serve, and what you want your legacy to be.

Secondly, now that you know exactly what you want, you need to locate the people that can help you. Nothing in this world gets done without help from other people. Whether you’re looking for a new job or new clients, it’s all about relationships. Locate the people that can help you…and start out by helping them, showing them your value and hit them consistently with proof that you can solve their problems and make their pain go away…and don’t stop until they die or tell you to drop dead. Use “market based data” rather than telling them how great you are. They’ll know you’re great just by the fact that you addressing their needs even before you’re hired.

Third, get prepared being a bit uncomfortable. The road will be a little difficult and you will fail at certain tactics, which may require you to learn new lessons, develop new parts of yourself, and make difficult decisions. Yes, you will get rejected, discouraged, and doors will slam in your face. But as an attorney, dealing with abuse and rejection will be a relatively easy thing for you!

Lastly, begin. Ideas are great but execution is what gets things done. Put a plan in place and do it with discipline and don’t stop. Persistence is the key. Marketing yourself can not be viewed as a waste of time or relegate it to the bottom of your “things to do” list. It has to become your number one professional goal. If you truly want a lifestyle of freedom and security, this has to be your dominant thought, focus and action. Approach “marketing” from an angle that views it as helping, educating, serving and creating a network around you. It will then be seen as something valuable, enriching and enjoyable.

When viewed correctly, marketing your solutions and value is about serving more, solving more and helping more. It is financially rewarding and emotionally satisfying. And when you experience the success this type of marketing brings, you will have more of the things you want out of your practice. You’ll be able to leave the blackberry and cell phone turned off, take more vacations, do more pro Bono work and accomplish all the things that you planned to accomplish when you first entered law school. In short, marketing will not only set you apart; it will set you free.

Don’t think about it as legal marketing or selling…. start thinking about helping, educating, solving problems, and providing trusted solutions.

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