In the first part of our series of articles I will review some general trends that every law firm can adopt. Sometimes they seem obvious, but executing these initiatives and more to say, run a business according these principles is a bigger project to handle. But on the long run, it pays.
Everybody is in PR
Global trends show that the borderline between marketing, PR, and sales is increasingly blurry. While small organizations operate like this because of limited resources, global corporations started to function this way as well. These integrated teams are responsible for these business functions because they have to work together - none of them can or should function without the other. These tasks are forming each other and fast communication between them is essential.
A lawyer does this by himself with communication, sales, business development and client relations being addressed beside his daily billing work. But like every organization, a law firm, or a lawyer himself should divide this functions. No one can do all these tasks and do the day-to-day job without eroding one or the other. If can't divide - outsource, at least the communications.
Some scandals of the decade (especially the financial crisis since 2008) highlighted that a transparent communications tactic is rewarding on the long run. Be transparent (as much as possible, regarding the business) and let the world see it.
The first thing business owners think when we ask them about a law firm's transparency is billing. The most complaints about a law firm result from confusing billing - especially if hourly-rates apply. Global trends works against the hourly-billing model (as Richard Susskind indicates in The end of lawyers? and Tomorrow’s lawyers). If this is the one thing lawyers and law firms change in their operations, they take a huge step towards transparency and the client will leave on another satisfaction level.
Internal communications and employer branding
There are some old communications functions which becoming trendy again. A long lasting debate was about who is responsible for a company's internal communications - the HR or PR department. We can argue for both but a communications expert probably will say the latter. But is this something that needs to be decided? HR is part of the integrated business model mentioned above, especially when the buzzword of 2014 - employer branding - is coming into view. As we said, everybody is in PR - especially the employee. He talks about the company that defines his days, his mood - he creates a picture of the company in the mind of his acquaintances through his own experiences.
The same applies to a law firm. How does a partner deal with the other attorneys, how does a senior associate treat a junior associate? If a law firm is a brand, the lawyer is a personal brand. We should rule out every external impact that can demolish this brand. The easiest and cheapest way is to start with our own colleagues. We spend the most time with them and it’s the easiest way to make sure we build up the right image.
The return of the print
Some say the print media is coming back. The reason for this argument is that their online noise and information flood is so huge that decision makers choose more wisely what and where to read. The print media becomes a premium product (again). Not just in the business publications like Forbes or WSJ, but amongst the fashion or design magazines as well.
This is a great opportunity for lawyers who are traditionally on the conservative side - and even their targeted clients too. A well-written, informative, professional article written by (or about) a lawyer in an adequate magazine can be much more effective than several online publications. Or at least they have other role in the media mix.
Content marketing and storytelling
The Holy Grail of 2015, content marketing is everywhere. As if it was a new concept. For every PR professional, content marketing was around for a long time. It just got named. Cliché, but true: the marketing noise is much bigger in every year so we have to stand out. A well-prepared and told story sticks much harder and longer in the heads than any slogan, offer, or discount.
For lawyers this is a brilliant opportunity to shine. The constantly changing legal environment presents a lot of opportunities to speak up, to analyze, and all in all: to be visible. It’s not that hard to find a topic that is relevant and the lawyer has a thought on. With just a little help, with some research, new analysis or brainstorming, one can produce a lot of current topics that are worth commenting on. Communication is a must.
As a last thought, according to a survey, business websites with blogs generate 67% more lead than a page without one. Why not set up one?
Mate Bende deals with legal communication for almost 10 years. As a qualified lawyer he started his career at Wolters Kluwer Hungary. Later he was the communications and business development manager of international law firms Gide and Schoenherr’s Hungarian office. In 2015 he started his own consultancy practice, Pro/Lawyer Consulting, focusing mainly on law firms.