Finding the soft underbelly of Big Law’s marketing so our clients can compete

Feb 13th, 2013 | Law Firm Marketing, Legal Marketing in Brief

This week I was reading the brochure describing the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) annual conference to be held in Las Vegas in April.  In it was a chart starkly reminding me of our market position.  This pie chart showed that 89 percent of those who attended the LMA conference last year were marketers from firms with more than 100 lawyers, and that 68 percent were from law firms with more than 250 lawyers.

In other words, it’s really a marketing conference for Big Law, not the other 10,000+ firms in the country.

Big Law aren’t our clients.  Those are the firms against which our local and regional law firm clients merrily and successfully compete.

Our clients range in size from boutiques with fewer than 10 lawyers to regional firms of 90 attorneys.  These are firms where an entrepreneurial spirit, the same entrepreneurial spirit that drives Alyn-Weiss, permeates the enterprise.  It’s where lawyers-owners look at strategy and evaluate tactics as they affect them and their clients directly, not in an institutional abstract sense.

I always feel a bit out of place and guilty while at the LMA annual conference. This despite being a pioneer of the industry and having been a professional services and law firm marketing consultant for 32 years.  I listen intently in the workshops. I look at the technology in the exhibit hall.

Frankly, while doing so I feel like a spy.  What I see is what the 500 largest law firms in America are doing, and will be doing, to chase the 500 largest legal accounts in America.  I then go back to my hotel room and plot the guerrilla-style, differentiating, high-touch, counter-marketing my clients– the niche firms, the boutiques, the local and regional law firms– will use.  It’s how we continually chip away at the big accounts that Big Law will (often clumsily) chase with their big advertising budgets, expensive sponsorships, overblown events and publications, industry sales teams and enterprise database software that more often than not cannot be effectively harnessed.

What basis do I have for the criticism I just typed?  Well, branch offices of national firms commonly approach us.  They ask us to market them locally or to help a practice group. Why we ask?  The answer is their national marketing department is overwhelmed by firm-wide initiatives or has become a frustrating black hole when it comes to local strategic help, planning, and approvals.

I’ll once again attend the LMA annual conference this year.  There I will search out and try to confirm the promotional underbelly of Big Law.  The beauty is it will help my clients find their Big Client.  In the process it will also confirm how our clients can nimbly manage personal relationships. In the process, they’ll make the closely-held businesses and families that are the backbone of their business untouchable by Big Law.

The practice of law, from where we see it, is a relationship business.  It always has been for our clients and their referral sources.  It always will be.

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