Smart Law Firm Marketing ideas for the New Year

What happened to your law firm marketing ideas last year? Were they quickly abandoned because you got caught up in the day to day issues involved in running your law firm? At the end of the year did you feel exhausted? Doing all the things you need to do, to properly deal with clients’ issues and meet deadlines can take its toll over the course of the year. Did you wonder if there was an easier way to earn a living in your law firm? For many practitioners the answer is a simple but emphatic: ‘Hell Yeah!’

Sculpt the law firm you want

Do you remember what it was like when you started your law firm? Your law firm marketing ideas consisted of basically doing everything and you looked after everyone who walked in the door. You had so few clients it didn’t really matter how long you spend on each matter.

Fast forward to now. Is your firm still acting for anyone who walks in the door? If so that could partly explain why you were exhausted at the end of the year. Ask yourself if you are acting for the right people. It can be telling if a large number of your clients are unable to pay your fees in a timely fashion. If they are troublemakers it can make work miserable – for you and the staff. So ask yourself: Am I acting for the right clients?

You might be doing such a broad range of work that your library of precedents will never catch up. Do you find so many matters involve the need to quickly get up to speed with the issues? Your areas of law might be too broad. Ask yourself: Am I trying to do too much?

It may be that you have been doing Legal Aid work but now want to do private work. It may be that you haven’t increased your fees for a long time and know you should. If some of the work you are currently doing is delivering a poor return, you should consider abandoning it and focusing on the work that delivers premium fees. You may have resisted increasing your fees for some time, perhaps it’s time to review that now. If someone is only using you because you are cheap, ask yourself if they are worthwhile clients?

The point is that you can control the people you attract, the type of work you you do and the fees you charge. If you can get the phone ringing and generate more leads, you can be more selective.

Is it time to rethink your strategy?

Often there is a backdrop to these issues. If a lawyer starts to be more particular about the clients he represents or the work he does, he narrows his opportunities. The lawyer however, can’t have it both ways. Either a change is made to the way the firm gets its work or the lawyer needs to stop complaining about how exhausted he is come year end, or how bad the clients are, or why the work is all rubbish. The best way of dealing with these issues is to get more work of the sort you want.

You need to sculpt the firm you want by seeking that specific work. You want to appeal to the clients you want to represent. How do you do that? You use smart marketing ideas, law firm marketing ideas that will deliver that work and appeal to those people.

Note though that these smart law firm marketing ideas do not involve advertising. It seems to me that advertising is the default strategy used by most lawyers. The problem with advertising is that it is expensive and you are appealing to the world at large. Despite this most lawyers think that because they are busy with the running of their firm, if they just throw some money at advertising that will do. It won’t and you shouldn’t – at least not until you have the basics of a sustainable marketing strategy in place.

It’s smarter than advertising

Smarter law firm marketing ideas revolve around seeking work from the people who already know and trust you, rather than from the world at large. In fact it’s about 6-10 times cheaper to seek work from this group than from strangers. How do you do that? You communicate with them on a regular and ongoing basis about legal issues that they want to know about,  providing them with information that they regard as valuable. How do you do that – by sending them a series of newsletters throughout the year. If you think that sending a newsletter is great but there is no way you or anyone in your firm could undertake that strategy because it is such a big job don’t worry because that is a job you can outsource – including the article writing.

Where do you start? You need to put a list of newsletter recipients together. Some firms can make heavy weather of this task. The best way of formulating your list is to harvest the names and email addresses from your practice management and/or accounting software system, from Microsoft Outlook if you use that and from LinkedIn, if you have contacts there. This is not as hard as you might think and is certainly easier than sending staff to the basement for weeks manually writing down email addresses one file at a time. There is no need for that.

Then check that list and ensure all your referrers, friends and targets are added. The staff can do the same – this is a job where everyone can help and it is essential to all of your marketing.

How do I know this? Because when I was a lawyer my firm sent out newsletters for years. I knew it caused the phones to ring and files to be opened and I did hear from people I though I would never hear from again. I also know this to be true because this is a central plank in the work Lift Legal (a specialist law firm marketing company) does for law firms. When it comes to law firm marketing ideas sending newsletters to your clients and referrers remains one of the best strategies.

Why the New Year is a perfect time to start

There are two good reasons why this is a good time to start. First, you have time to get some ‘back-end’ work done in preparation. Your list preparation. The phones are quieter in January and because everyone in the office put in such a big effort to get so much work done before Christmas, there are not so many deadlines or expectant clients. People are still away. Now you have time to do other tasks – like thinking about your law firm. So the timing is perfect if you need to get some marketing jobs done.

The other reason is that at the end of January and beginning of February there will be many people looking for legal help. That is people who refer work to you, your friends, your existing clients and their friends. If you commit to get your client list together and to send out your first newsletter late January/early February, you will be off to a great start to the year. The articles should focus on the legal areas you want to target and people are reminded about you, the firm and its values. Plus the newsletter offers flexibility and leverage – your readers can forward it onto their friends and colleagues.

Want to know more?

Sending newsletters to your clients and referrers remains the best way to remind people who you are and what you do. It showcases your firm on an ongoing basis. Plus it builds leads and enquiries and drives traffic to your website. If you remain worried about harvesting you emails don’t be – we have guidelines you can use that will help.

Now is a perfect time to start and it’s a smart strategy to employ. So forget about advertising look forward to a good year and start appealing to those who already know and trust you. If you don’t, rest assured, if they are looking for legal help someone else will oblige. If you want you can see samples of what a newsletter can look like from our ‘Newsletter Gallery’ page.

Call or email me if you want to know any more tips or how to get your new strategy moving. Time is ticking…

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.

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