Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Substance May Be Coming Back To The Practice Of Law

Marketers generally hate me. I started my practice with no advertising, no website, no direct mail brochures. There was no Facebook, no twitter, no LinkedIn. There were the full page ads in the then still important yellow pages for $5,000 a month. I took an ad that was nothing more than my name in bold with I think a color. It was about $100a month. Several years later a yellow pages rep came to see me and I learned that for about 4 years, my name was not even in the book. I'm still not there.

I started my practice by sending out letters to everyone I knew. Former clients, friends, family, everyone in my address book. It was a simple letter, saying I was in private practice and happy to receive any referrals.

Over the years I've advertised in charity dinner program books and sponsored a hole at a golf tournament or two. My name appears in the Florida Bar News "Lawyer's Marketplace" along side a half-dozen or so other lawyers who do Bar work. No picture, no color, no lights, a few bucks a month.

Yes I had some tangible benefits. I was born here in Miami and spent 3 years at the public defender's office. I was in court almost everyday and got to know everyone in the courthouse. But I also went to functions, got involved in associations, and spoke and wrote about legal issues.

Sure, I now have a website, two blogs, and am on twitter and Facebook. But I don't have a marketing person helping me, and I don't pay anyone for "placement" on Google. I ignore all their phone calls and emails offering to "do better" than I am doing right now, and openly blast the people that have no reputation except the fake one they have created online.

Many lawyers are building their online reputation, prior to even trying to have an offline reputation. When I graduated, I was handed a diploma. Now I envision law school graduates walking across the stage and being handed a diploma, Facebook account, twitter account, blog, and phone number of a marketing and social media expert.

I understand, there are tens of thousands of lawyers out there, many laid off, and many unable to obtain even their first job out of law school. These lawyers see no other option than to engage in any form of advertising that will "get their name out there," even if the name they are "getting out there" has nothing behind it.

So I was interested, and a little encouraged, to see that law firms appear to be changing their tact.

Larry Bodine posted this chart that reflects firms are cutting back on advertising, and "their highest law firm marketing priorities are proposals, business development coaching and training, and client seminars and CLE."

All of these priorities indicate a trend towards substance. Spending time preparing proposals, teaching lawyers how to develop business, providing real value to clients outside of general legal work with seminars, and continuing legal education are all activities that engage the lawyer as a person, instead of putting their picture on a slick brochure.

By spending dollars training lawyers how to develop clients, by having them talk to clients in a seminar about what the firm does, and by providing lawyers with practice tips through CLE, a firm shows their commitment to the personnel, and not just the outward perception of the firm on paper.

I've said before here that this is a time when clients are looking for lawyers - real lawyers that can do real work. Advertising is not real. I'm happy to see that law firms are taking a step in the direction of putting their lawyers out there, in the real world.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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