How to Choose the Best Legal Marketing Agency for Your Law Firm
Half your legal practice is tied up in court appearances and client meetings, and you’re knee-deep in day-to-day matter management. It will be a month before you get around to drafting a press release about your new hire and creating a marketing plan for 2023 is nowhere on your radar, much less even near it. You’re not alone. Whether you’ve outsourced your legal marketing and public relations before or this is your first time considering outside support, you want to choose an agency partner that understands the nuances of legal communications, the ethics of law firm marketing, and a true business partner that will help position your firm for long-term success.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to vetting a public relations firm, the following process will help you choose the right agency partner so you can get back to doing what you do best – practicing law.
When is it time to bring in agency support?
We often hear from lawyers that you’re ready to scale your practice, and you know referrals alone are not enough to grow your business in the ultra-competitive legal environment. We often hear from in-house business professionals that your teams are running lean and need industry expertise to support the demands of a busy or growing firm. Regardless of your current situation, here are seven signs that your firm can benefit from hiring an agency partner:
- There is no marketing strategy in place to help the firm achieve its business goals
- The firm wants to position its attorneys as thought leaders in highly competitive areas of law or industries
- The firm is missing opportunities to share important knowledge and industry insights with clients and prospects
- The firm is investing in industry events and speaking opportunities and is not maximizing new business opportunities
- Marketing efforts are sporadic and inconsistent
- Lawyers within the firm have vastly different messaging that they share, which communicates mixed messages to the market
- The firm is ready to position the next generation of leadership for long-term business success
How to choose the right agency partner for your law firm
Now that your firm has decided to hire a strategic agency partner, how do you streamline your search process and choose the best agency partner to work with you?
Establish your firm’s goals for engaging an agency partner
While the firm may be unsure of its marketing goals, it likely has established business goals or a direction for the firm. This is normal and part of why you’re hiring an agency partner. A good public relations firm will help you develop ideas, flesh out the details, and establish realistic timelines.
Whether you need to attract new clients, increase brand awareness, maximize the firm’s investments in events and speaking engagements, or become a trusted source for the media, the right agency partner can help you identify tactics that will support your business goals.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What are the firm’s business goals, and can they be clearly articulated to an agency partner?
- What are the most critical challenges you want an agency partner to tackle?
- What outcomes do the firm want the agency to achieve?
- What is a realistic budget for your firm?
- Is there buy-in and commitment from firm leadership, including key decision-makers?
Check the agency’s track record
Once you’ve developed your goals for the agency, find out how much experience the agency has in the legal industry.
Because some nuances and details are unique to the legal industry, having an agency partner with licensed attorneys who truly understand the business creates a layer of efficiency and protection for you as the client.
Successful legal marketing agencies know how to develop proven strategies that target new clients and bolster a firm’s reputation.
An excellent way to assess the agency’s track record for success and evaluate its capabilities is to ask questions and request evidence.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Does the agency’s portfolio or case studies demonstrate relevant experience in the legal industry?
- Is the agency a recognized thought leader by leading publications and conferences?
- How does the agency present itself both online and in meetings?
- Does the agency have licensed attorneys on the team?
- Does the agency have former in-house legal marketing professionals on the team, or can it demonstrate an understanding of the operations of a law firm?
- Does the agency have former reporters or journalists on its team, or does it maintain deep media contacts?
Any agency can claim to be experienced in the legal industry, but true experts can provide the evidence to back this up. Make sure the agency partner you choose has a thorough knowledge of the legal industry, understands the daily challenges lawyers and legal professionals face, and has the experience to garner the respect required to engage key stakeholders and move deliverables forward.
Can the agency achieve your goals
When you engage with a legal marketing agency, you want to ensure it can handle the work you need and that it is responsive to your needs. Does the agency clearly define its processes, and do those work for your law firm?
You want an agency partner who understands your business goals, has a tight grasp of your target audience, and how to effectively reach them.
Here are a few items to consider:
- How many clients does the agency currently have?
- What percentage of their clientele is law firms?
- Does the agency have industry experience that is relevant to your practice areas?
- Is the agency responsive to your questions?
- When the agency promises you something like a proposal or resources, do they deliver it on time?
- How does the agency address potential conflicts of interest when speaking with prospective law firm clients?
All these questions will determine if this is a compatible partnership and help you avoid surprises down the road.
Partnering with a proactive agency partner can significantly impact your firm’s bottom line.
Successful agencies know how to develop strategies that target new clients and bolster a firm’s reputation. They also know the best practices and have their finger on the pulse of the industry on everything from trends to competitors.
Review fees and contract conditions
You want to partner with an agency that is transparent about its pricing plans, billing processes, and contract obligations. You should know the following before you commit to a long-term relationship:
- Is there a minimum contract length for the agency’s services?
- After the initial team meeting and introductions, what level of contact do you have with the agency?
- Which services are included, and which are excluded from your contract?
- What are the costs, and is there a set-up fee for new accounts?
- How are fees charged – fixed or based on hourly or per project rate?
- What is the process for breaking the contract if things are not working out?
Get the most out of your agency partner
One of the most significant benefits of hiring an agency partner is the access to industry experts who have the know-how needed to keep your firm relevant in the fast-moving competitive legal market, engage key stakeholders and garner consensus, and deliver the support necessary to position the firm for long-term success.