How to grow your firm: Lessons from the Legal Trends Report

16th, Feb 2020

The latest Legal Trends Report 2019 surveyed more than 2500 lawyers and 2000 consumers to help identify why some firms succeed in increasing revenue and others don’t. While the focus was on mostly smaller law firms, the results could apply to any professional service firm. Notably, the report found several key areas that firms are neglecting that could make a substantial impact on their practice. In this post, I want to address a few points that relate to marketing and business development.

1. Clients are putting less weight on referrals. According to the report, while 59% of clients asked someone they know for a referral, 57% searched on their own through some other means (online search, website, etc.); and 16% did both. However, younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) gave more weight to a lawyer’s website, online reviews, brand, and image and less weight to referrals as compared to Gen X and Boomers.

Marketing/sales takeaway: It is important to invest significantly in online marketing particularly if you want to attract Millennials and Gen Z clients. Even if that isn’t your client base now, it will be in a few years and you need to be preparing for it. Anyone can search online and find your competitors and make comparisons. While a great online presence may not guarantee you get the business, a lackluster presence could lose you the business as that prospect decides to call another firm before yours.

2. Clients are shopping around and rejecting firms based on first impressions. Regardless of how clients look for a lawyer, 44% believe they need to talk to more than one lawyer to find one that’s right for them, and 57% of those who have shopped for a lawyer say they contacted more than one law firm. Of those who contacted multiple firms, many clients report rejecting firms based on the poor responses of the law firm in their initial contact.

Marketing/sales takeaway: Your first interactions with potential clients are crucial. While marketing might lead someone to you, you could be losing them when they talk to or email your assistant, your associate, or yes, even you personally. The study had some sad statistics about lawyer responsiveness and client service experience. Clio did an email survey of 1000 lawyers and then secretly called and emailed 500 of those firms. Guess what? While the lawyers thought they were doing a good job responding, the reality was very different. Take a close look at how those initial phone calls and emails are really being handled within your firm. Consider sales and customer service training for all lawyers and staff who communicate with clients. All the marketing in the world won’t fix problems like failing to respond in a timely manner or providing vague answers to questions.

3. Clients want concrete information to make their decision. The consumers surveyed indicated that they want to know that a lawyer has handled the type of problem they have and has clients like them. In addition, they are interested in specific information on what to expect from their case, how to proceed and the total cost for their case. If they can’t get answers to their questions, they move on to the next lawyer.

Marketing/sales takeaway. Some of this information can be highlighted on your website and in your marketing (social media, email, writing, public speaking, etc.) Your materials should be clear and concise. Avoid overbroad and generic descriptions of your practice. Showcase your niche expertise instead of trying to be all things to all people. Also remember to provide information in terms your audience will understand. Don’t give them “lawyer speak.” Research your target audience – what they care about, what drives their decision-making and their level of knowledge about the problem they are facing. Tailor your materials to those matters so clients want to talk to you further. In addition, as noted above, all lawyers and staff should be trained to respond to inquiries, so they do not turn off prospective clients.

4. Lack of confidence in running the business is a problem. The survey showed that while 92% of lawyers are very confident in their skills as a lawyer, only 53% are confident in running the business side of their firm. Those feelings have an impact on their level of engagement in some key business aspects of their firm. For example, 70% of lawyers who are more confident in their business skills indicated spending time on marketing compared to only 49% of those not confident in their business skills.

Marketing/sales takeaway. When people are not confident in doing something, they tend to avoid it or minimize its importance. However, lawyers cannot grow their practice if they don’t invest resources in marketing and business development. If you fall into this category, you must actively seek out more opportunities to get education and training in business skills, but particularly in marketing and business development. In addition, bring in outside expertise to help guide your efforts. No one can be an expert in everything. Part of running a business effectively is understanding what you must handle yourself and what to delegate.

If you are a professional trying to grow your business, what are you doing to counteract these trends?

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