Mistakes Lawyers Make Marketing Their Practices

James E. Thompson, JD

Most lawyers think that if they spend a lot of money advertising or marketing their firm, people will come. This is DEAD WRONG! I practiced law for over 26 years and believe me I made many mistakes and have seen many other lawyers make mistakes when trying to attract clients. Having spent time observing what works and what does not work, I would like to share some of specific mistakes I know DO NOT work. 


What follows are some of the common mistakes I have seen. Not in any particular order and of course not everyone one is making all of these. Nor are these inclusive and I am sure that you can think of other mistakes you have made or have seen made. These are given to start you thinking about your marketing and how you might be able to attract more clients by avoiding some of these mistakes. 



Copying what other lawyers are doing. 


Copying what you competitor might be doing is a lot easier and it must be working or they wouldn’t be doing it. There ads must be working, right, so why not copy them?  It is totally absurd to think this way. How do you know their ads are working and do you want to be like everyone else. Of course you don’t. so why do you do it. You must be different,  you need to differentiate yourself from the competition, not BE the competition. 



Not Having a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) 


          If you don’t have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) this means that you are not differentiating yourself from all of the other lawyers who offer the same services you do. Ask yourself the questions, a client asks, What is it you do differently, why should I hire you and not the lawyer down the street?  Until you answer this question and come up with a compelling offer or reason to hire you, you may be wasting a large portion of your advertising budget. 




Not Having a Marketing Plan. 


Many lawyers simply do not plan out their marketing strategy. They simply react hastily to what their completion is doing and again if the competition is doing something it must be right.  You need to be proactive with a solid thought out plan. Decide on what type of cases you want to handle, who are the people who have these type of cases, and what marketing strategy you are going to use and how you will implement the strategy.  


Decide what you can afford and then budget accordingly. Unless you are a marketing expert hire someone who knows marketing. If you do not hire an expert you will end up just throwing your money away. 



No Consistency in Your Marketing Message. 


I am sure you have seen law firms use different logos on their letterhead, Yellow Page ads, Business cards, etc.  If you  are guilty of this, STOP,  you need to decide on a logo and stick with it. Again you will be using this logo so get help in designing it. You also need to use the same font and colors on everything that you do. You need to brand yourself and your firm and once you have stick to it. 


Consistency also means sticking with your marketing strategy. This doe not mean that you cannot tweak it but do not make major changes. You can’t give up after 30-90 days you need consistently get your message out. Marketing experts tell us that we must see an ad 21 times before it sinks in. This does not mean just an advertisement in the traditional sense but an ad is  really everything you do that brands you and your practice. 



Not Tracking Your Marketing. 


You are spending money on marketing and if you fail to track how it is working is just plain foolish. If something isn’t working after 6 months then you need to change it. Again, this does not mean that you cannot tweak it as you go along, but to do this requires tracking. Again, by tracking you might find what is working well and you certainly would want to continue doing this and want to increase your budget for this. 




Lack of Follow Through. 


It is always much easier to do something later or tomorrow or even next week. Most lawyers I have know, myself included, are terrible procrastinators. Actually we are not terrible at it we are  really very good at it. I think that part of the reason for this is that we are scared of failure, it has been shown that fear is the number one reason people procrastinate.


Having said that, the experts tell us the best way to overcome the fear is to non-personalize it.  Make a list of all of the things you or your firm will test in order to attract clients.  By thinking of it  as a test, you won’t personalize it.  You can say, “I tested it and it didn’t work. Now I will test something else” Doing this, will allow you to attribute the failure to the strategy you were testing and not yourself.  After all marketing is simply  testing strategies to attract clients. We all learn from our mistakes. We keep learning and growing from  our failures. Learning experiences are not always fun, but we gain knowledge from them. 


One of the best ways to overcome a lack of follow-through or procrastination is to make you marketing objectives accountable to you and to someone else. This could be a coach that you work with, a mastermind group, or it could be a business friend or even a law partner. The key here is being accountable to someone. With a partner that you are accountable to, you will almost always push yourself harder because you do not want to let your partner down. In business a partner can produce the same result. 



Not Getting Everyone in Your Firm on Board with the Marketing Plan. 


Marketing is a team effort.  You can have the greatest law practice marketing plan ever, BUT if the entire office isn’t on the “same page” it will fail. I have seen lawyers come up with great ideas but fail to get their lawyers or staff to buy into it. After all a chain is not stronger than its weakest link and this applies to your marketing as well.  


 There are many ways you can get your team on board. One of the best ways is to get everyone involved and I mean everyone. The senior partners on down to the secretaries have to feel like this is their plan and thus they have an interest in seeing to it that it works. 

          The key is keeping your TEAM involved and informed at all times.