Any partner will tell you their people is their firm’s most important asset. Clients, staff and the public are all sold legal services with permutations of "the best people, doing the best work, for the best clients". Rockstar partners and their pet matters are trotted out for show at client beauty parades. Students at recruitment events are told that the firm’s people mean an “amazing culture” and “day one responsibility”.
All firms – supposedly – are the best. Here we discuss our reasons why this marketing strategy should be eliminated given the technology-driven disruption facing law firms. Check back soon for Part 2, which offers our suggestions how law firms can bring their marketing up to speed.
1. Your marketing copy doesn’t stand out
I’m certain that every firm you regard as a competitor markets themselves exactly the same way. And that’s why the words are meaningless. Everyone is doing it. As clients become increasingly sophisticated by expanding their in-house legal capabilities, your instructors will know just how meaningless that copy really is.
But it’s not just obsolete through widespread overuse. Compare the traditional approach to that adopted by disruptive legal businesses. Ones you probably ignore as competitors. To illustrate, legal disruptors LegalVision, Lawyers on Demand and Complify communicate their value in a compelling manner compared to the existing status quo of legal marketing.
Legal technology is shifting the focus from which partner is best for the job to which firm has the technology that is best for the job.
Some Australian firms are beginning to appreciate this. Gilbert + Tobin is investing in LegalVision while Corrs Chambers Westgarth has partnered with AI start-up Beagle and Elevate Services, and is developing (and patenting) its own legal software. You can be sure those investments feature prominently in any marketing from G+T or Corrs and in a way which communicates how their integration of technology means they can deliver true value for their clients.
2. You sell an undifferentiated product
Perhaps more controversially, this kind of marketing is a symptom of a much larger problem facing lawyers. Legal advice is largely an undifferentiated product. Don’t agree? Think about the last time you drafted a contract or advice without a firm precedent. I expect the majority of readers can’t recall such a time. Precedents wouldn’t exist if every client had truly unique legal needs.
Sure, clients pay for tailoring precedents. But because your services are mostly undifferentiated – and most firms are marketing themselves with some permutation of “we’re the best” – there’s only one remaining way to discriminate between firms. Price.
Client listening sessions will inevitably reveal that price is why you lost the pitch. The current pressure on firms to move towards alternative fee arrangements is simply price competition in a different form. It’s essential that all lawyers recognise the competitive advantages (and threats) that legal technology poses to firms finding themselves always competing on price.
3. Brand recognition isn’t permanent
Some lawyers will point to their firm’s brand, and not merely their people, as their competitive advantage. The insurance policy your clients get by instructing your firm is the product clients buy. That peace of mind knowing a lawyer from your firm is looking after their matter.
I agree that a firm’s reputation and trustworthiness, client goodwill, your firm’s intellectual property in precedents and proprietary technology, the shared history of matters between your client and firm, and more, all contribute to the value of your brand to a client.
However, I argue firms which market themselves in this way overlook the source of the firm’s true value-driver. It’s the firm’s brand and how clients, staff and the public perceive it that drives competitive advantage.
As mentioned above, legal technology is shifting the focus from which partner is best for the job to which firm has the technology that is best for the job. A stellar brand reputation won’t last long once legal technology begins to deliver exponential cost-savings to your competitors.
It’s clearly time for a new approach to legal marketing. And I don’t mean technophobe lawyers should begin to market themselves with taglines like “The way law used to be done”, “A traditional approach to legal services” or “Our old-fashioned values…” to pull on clients’ nostalgic heartstrings.
Keep your eyes out for Part 2 in our series with our suggestions for how lawyers can significantly improve their marketing efforts by talking up technology, writing (truly) compelling thought leadership articles and by leveraging junior lawyers’ social media nous.
For lawyers who can’t wait to revitalise their marketing strategy – there’s a few other places to start:
- Jennifer J Rose, How to Capture and Keep Clients: Marketing Strategies for Lawyers, 2016
- Ken Matejka, The Lawyer’s Ultimate Guide to Online Leads, 2017
- Montina Portis, How to Market Your Law Firm Online, 2015
- Henry Dahut, Marketing the Legal Mind: Search for Leadership, 2014
The Digital Lawyer specialises in drafting compelling thought leadership, current awareness articles and website copy to showcase your firm’s adoption of legal technologies. Contact us to learn more.