How Law Firms Can Grow Strategically to Serve a Changing Marketplace
If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
This popular business maxim applies to every sector of the marketplace, including the legal profession. To thrive continuously over the long haul, law firms must be prepared to change to meet the demands of a changing marketplace shaped by the changing desires and expectations of clients.
That’s a lot of change – and lawyers often aren’t big on change. But the truth is, being open to the idea of change is vitally important if law firms are to continue to grow over time.
Clients’ needs evolve as our world evolves. Economic, social, geographic, and political factors all can affect the way an organization does business or how it provides a service. Law firms and their leaders must be flexible and willing to consider new approaches if they are to continue to meet and exceed their clients’ expectations.
But growth just for its own sake is not the answer. To be effective, a law firm’s growth trajectory must be based on strategy – choices made deliberately, in keeping with the firm’s long-term goals and shaped by the actions and resources required to achieve those goals. A firm’s well-planned and executed strategic approach to growth should capitalize on the strengths of its lawyers and professional staff. This ensures that the firm can leverage its capabilities for growth while maintaining the quality of service its clients expect.
In our agency’s experience, a multi-faceted approach (also known as integrated marketing or strategic communications), is most effective in helping law firms grow strategically. Here are tactics and actions we encourage firms to implement when embarking on a growth plan:
- Determine your goals: Your business goals must be clearly defined so your lawyers and practice groups have clear direction. That will help them focus efforts and resources to achieve specific outcomes. It also enables you to measure progress and make necessary adjustments to strategy. Agreeing on goals for growth is the first step to creating a strong foundation for successful growth. Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
- Define your target audience: Your target audience is comprised of a primary audience and a secondary audience. A primary audience is people with the buying power and authority to make purchasing decisions. A secondary audience can influence the primary audience, so should be considered in marketing efforts. A well-planned strategy includes tactics to communicate with both audiences to achieve maximum impact and results.
- Develop a clear message: The messaging for a practice group should be clear, concise, and focused. It should highlight the benefits clients receive by working with the practice, including experience and depth of subject matter expertise. The messaging also should differentiate the practice group from its competitors, highlighting what makes it unique and valuable to potential clients. (Hint: This is not “big law experience with a lower price point.”)
- Keep the firm’s website updated: Data shows that in today’s digital age, nearly 80 percent of the decision-making process is conducted online before a prospect engages with a law firm by phone or email. For this reason, it is essential for practice or industry groups and individual lawyers to have a strong presence online. This can be achieved in many ways, including posting timely and relevant information on the firm’s website (think biographies, practice pages, news, and insights). The website should be optimized for search, making it easier for potential clients to find the firm when searching for legal services.
- Leverage digital platforms: The firm’s website isn’t the only digital footprint a firm should possess. Social media platforms, specifically LinkedIn, also should be used to promote the practice or industry group, share timely content, and be accessible for client and media research. Individual lawyer profiles should include relevant keywords to ensure that clients, prospects, potential talent, and the media find the information they are searching for quickly and easily.
- Create valuable content: Practice or industry groups and lawyers can build their reputations by creating and sharing valuable content. This can include blog posts, articles, podcast interviews, etc. that demonstrate subject matter expertise in a particular area of law. By providing valuable information and insights, the group and its lawyers can establish thought leadership in the industry which will be attractive to both its primary and secondary audiences.
- Build strong media relationships: Building relationships with reporters and journalists is an essential tactic for maintaining brand recognition and credibility. Monitoring the media and maintaining contact with reporters who cover your industry or area of expertise is crucial to staying top of mind when they need a source for an article. When the opportunity arises, be prepared to provide valuable insights or perspectives.
Learn more: Media Terminology: The Language of Journalists
- Maximize industry events: Whether hosting private events or attending established industry events, coordinated efforts between your lawyers enable your team to maximize their time and talents. Develop and select opportunities that align with the group’s business goals and will reach its target audiences. Maintain a calendar including lawyers who are designated to speak, attend, or contribute in some way. Track outcomes and successes to help your team evaluate the potential of future opportunities.
- Participate in relevant associations: Joining relevant industry associations can boost your professional network and position your practice or industry group as a leader among primary and secondary audiences. Participating in conferences and networking events and connecting with other members by email, in person, and on social media expands your sphere of influence and increases connections to new referral sources.
Learn More: Maximize Your Legal Association Membership
Many law firm leaders are so focused on the day-to-day demands of running a firm that they don’t step back to take a big-picture view. But it is important that leaders invest some time in evaluating where the marketplace and relevant industries are headed and start laying out a strategic growth plan to get the firm there.