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Top 3 Marketing Mistakes Mid-Level Attorney/Partners Make

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Posted on: March 28, 2016

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When I graduated from law school in 1997, jobs were plenty.  I was so very fortunate, as were all my classmates.  Just about the only reason we had for not getting a job was if we failed the bar exam.

Looking back, I realize how blessed we were.  I really didn’t have much anxiety around finding a job. If anything, my anxiety was more about whether I would find a job that I really wanted.

Fast forward 19 years.  I have so much respect for recent law school graduates. They no longer have the luxury that we did when we graduated. Nothing is guaranteed once they graduate.

This may sound like a bad thing, however I see it differently.  I think graduates these days are much more resourceful and scrappy. They are forced to figure out their brands and then market themselves in a way we never had to do.

This brings me to the dilemma I see so many law firms facing today.  The majority of those who graduated law school a few years before me as well as those who graduated with me are mid-level partners in their firms.  They are not the oldest in the partnership ranks yet.

As a result of when we graduated and our fantastic economic circumstances, many of these partners always had work- it was either always generated by more senior partners and given to them or it was easy for them to get work otherwise.

The problem I see is often, as a result, these partners are not able (or willing?) to generate their own business because they have always had business given to them.  So their brand is practically non-existent and their marketing efforts, rusty at best.  This may sound like a generalization and it is.  This is based on my many years of experience working with law firms on branding.  There are obviously exceptions everywhere.

Here are their top 3 Marketing Mistakes:

  1. They assume the business and work will always flow because it has always worked out for them in the past. Don’t get me wrong. I love optimism, however it has its limits. Because of this mentality these partners aren’t as open as they can be to seeing their branding and marketing needs differently.  This hurts the entire firm.
  2. They don’t participate in marketing and branding work like others in the firm do.  I see this regularly each time I go into a law firm to train the attorneys on branding and marketing.  The room is filled with: a) 65 year old and above attorneys/partners and b) 27-35 year old attorneys/associates.  They are all eager to learn because they know it matters.  No where to be found are the mid-level partners ranging in age between 40 to 55 years old or so. This hurts the entire firm.
  3. They don’t choose to see marketing and business development activities creatively. I find when this level of partner does market their practice, it is in very traditional ways such as advertisements, taking a new firm website picture or speaking at a conference. Rarely do they stop and really focus on working on their own internal projection to possible clientele (i.e., their brand) nor how to collaborate with other attorneys. This hurts the entire firm.

The end result of all this is the following: one day within the next ten years, these very same lawyers are going to be the most senior attorneys at their firms as the older partners retire.  As such, the older partner are no longer going to be around to feed them work.  The younger lawyers will have already figured it out and have moved on without these partners.  This hurts the entire firm because of the inequity of the situation.

What does this mean for you? If you are a mid-level lawyer and this description fits you, please consider:

  • Choosing to see your marketing and branding efforts in a new light:  What can you be doing differently to develop business?
  • Working on yourself and your own brand instead of focusing on others.
  • Hiring a consultant and/or coach to help you get up to speed.  Most often in these situations, the timeline is accelerated and it will creep up on you before you know it.
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