Vail Daily column: Law firms evolve their marketing practices
Ryan Summerlin August 3, 2014
As voracious consumers of media, our eyes and minds are constantly exposed to all manner of creative and slickly packaged advertising. In spots that are at times heartwarming, awe-inspiring or just plain funny, the brains on Madison Avenue and its geographic descendants are churning out an increasingly artful and polished product. In a culture with a collective attention deficit, successful marketers need to stay innovative in order to capture customers. In the realm of the law, only a small vanguard appears to understand modern modes of marketing. Legal advertising continues to be a space dominated by tacky billboards and clunky television spots that do little to raise the esteem of the profession. To reach the next generation of clients, law firms will have to evolve their marketing practices or else risk obsolescence.
In their way, the highway placards and low production value commercials are effective. You may be familiar with lawyers who advertise via these methods. Perhaps I should consider putting my bow-tie clad picture on an Interstate 70 billboard. Or maybe I shall pay for time on TV8 where I extoll my prowess at crushing insurance companies or some other overly aggressive stance. But, to what end? For the savvy consumer of legal services, subtlety is the name of the game and billboards and ranting commercials are anything but subtle. I much prefer to work with clients who are smart enough to understand that histrionics do not reflect reality.
Conversely, I am wary of any potential client that takes important life cues from television or something that they drove by at 65 mph. If a person is convinced that images of fluttering American flags and Lady Justice are indicative of a lawyer who has their best interests at heart, then I am happy for them to work with those who use patriotism and tired symbolism as a crutch. They may find that these attorneys, typically personal injury lawyers, can afford to advertise because they reap huge windfalls in a combination of volume business and large contingent fee awards.
On the other side of the spectrum are the large “white shoe” law firms. Few would deign to advertise at all and certainly not on television. Part of that stance is tradition, which frowned upon direct advertising as being unseemly. These firms also have so much institutional business and are so well-connected that they need not advertise in order to draw in new clients. Of course, they do get their names out to the public in other ways, such as by sponsoring fun runs or charity balls or other worthy endeavors.
Small and mid-size firms that decline to advertise by traditional means secure new business through perhaps the most important and effective avenue: Referrals from current or former clients or other attorneys. The referral pipeline creates a baseline of trust that can be built upon to create a successful attorney-client relationship. Referrals also have the advantage of being free, at least economically speaking. But referrals are a passive means of advertising and not wholly sufficient for the go-go Two Thousand Teens.
Importance of Social Media
To actively recruit new clients in 2014 requires tapping into, what else … social media. Despite its ubiquity, there are few law firms that use Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/That-New-Site-That -All-The-Kids-Are-Talking-About-But-I-Have-No-Idea-Exists-Because-I-Am-Already-Too-Old-At-33 effectively. Creating a Facebook page or Twitter account does no good if it is not maintained on a regular basis. And by “regular,” I mean normal people regular, not teenager regular. It is hard to maintain a law practice while also posting to Instagram 77 times a day. If used the appropriate amount, then social media channels allow potential and current clients to connect with the firm on a more personal and nuanced level. Good legal websites should give the public a real glimpse into the heart of the law firm, but they are inherently more formal. To share great courtroom results, photographs of firm ski days or announcements of new members of the law firm family, Facebook and/or Twitter are the forums of choice.
Producing useful content, whether on a blog or radio spot or other means of reaching the public, is another way to connect with potential clients. Establishing a rapport and giving insight into one’s views allows both the attorney and prospective client to have clear expectations for each other. For example, regular readers of this column that wish to hire a rabid dog for a lawyer know that I am not that particular canine.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rkvlaw.com.