Marketing Maketh the Firm

Apr 12, 2010

The vast majority of law firms have a resource at their fingertips which has the potential to transform their business and help provide sustainable long-term profitability, growth, dynamism and competitive edge. This resource is the Marketing/Business Development function. But the legal sector is singularly guilty of choosing  not to use it properly. As a result, law firms suffer from a lack of drive, commercial principles, long-term goals - and most importantly - the brightest and best business people, because these individuals see a better future in more attractive sectors.

Treating marketing as a “back office” operation leads to exactly that - a glorified events and brochure operation staffed by people who carry out the partners’ bidding. The whole thing might as well be outsourced to a local printing and design company for all the value it adds.  So, we might have reasonably expected the legal tectonic plates to shift when the recession shook – with tumbling profits acting as a catalyst for change, “necessity being a mother of invention” and all that. However, instead of finally taking marketing seriously to combat the downturn, the painful reality is that Boards have put it, rather than dead-wood partners, first in the line of cost-cutting fire, and adopted an air of resignation to the economic slump, believing they are helpless. What a missed opportunity. Several firms went to the brink and many suffered deeply – but few, if any, saw the meltdown as a sign to fundamentally change the way they market themselves. The prospect of firms’ having private/commercial owners in the wake of the Legal Services Act has, so far, similarly failed to overcome the inertia. Stagnation lies in wait.

Surprisingly, there are ways to turn the marketing function into the central driver of a legal business – and we’re not talking about extra expense. Rather, root-and-branch changes in thinking and structure are the starting points. Firstly, marketing should not be regarded as a ‘support’ department, but incorporated into the hub of the business to advise on the overall strategy downwards. So put your marketing director on the Board, not just the Management/Executive Committee. The articles in the following link analyse the remaining steps: legal_sector_special.pdf.