Why Legal Marketing Often Falls Flat

By Kim McLaughlin

Law firms often hire me to fix their marketing programs after a period of lacklustre results. After almost a decade of marketing for Canada’s legal community, I’ve come to recognize a specific set of patterns for why a marketing program hasn’t worked. While the situations listed below are not unique to law firms, they certainly occur more frequently in law than in other industries.

1. Lawyers market to other lawyers

As a marketer, I am sometimes guilty of forgetting that others do not see the world as I do and must make an effort to look at the programs I design from the perspective of the audience.

It’s the same with law. Unless you’re marketing to other lawyers, it’s important to design a marketing program that will appeal to your clients, who are most likely not lawyers.

Here is an example. Law firms love to include articles on recent case law in their blogs. Unfortunately, most are written in a watered-down version of legalese. This may be interesting to other lawyers, but not to the average prospect (even if they could understand it, which is doubtful). These prospects only want to know two things: 1) You know what you’re talking about, and 2) how new case law will affect them.

If your clients are tech startups, it’s better to write how this new case law will impact how they operate on a daily basis, and the language should be language they use, not language only a lawyer appreciates.

If all your marketing collateral is written for other lawyers, only lawyers will read them. Your prospects will be excluded from your efforts, which defeats the purpose.

2. Short-term commitment

“Let’s try Google Adwords for two months and see what happens.”

Marketing is not a race; it is a marathon. Slow and steady efforts will bring compound results over a year, two years and three years. Stopping and starting like a jack rabbit will do little to build the firm, because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to fully leverage those short-term results.

Also, within 90 days of your marketing experiment, you’ll probably be too busy with client work to continue your efforts, only to find yourself in a famine 90 days later when no new clients are coming through door. You’ll reinvest for another two or three months and the cycle will continue.

The job of a long-term, strategic marketing program is to inoculate you from the extremes and bring a steady and manageable flow of clients through the door year-round. Forget about short-term spends. With marketing of any kind, slow and steady wins the race. Plan for 12 months or don’t bother.

3. Fear

This is fear of looking foolish, fear of non-compliance, fear of overspending and fear of standing out.

One of the things I love about working with lawyers is that no stone is left unturned when it comes to risk mitigation, and that’s a good thing, unless it paralyzes the firm’s marketing efforts.

A fear of looking foolish can be mitigated by going through the strategic process with a marketing strategist.

Compliance can be ensured with a stringent approval process.

Budget can be controlled by empowering transparent money conversations and an approval process for out-of-scope work.

As for standing out, hang on, isn’t that the point? Those first three concerns are surmountable, but a fear of standing out is personal.

It takes courage to increase our profiles; we must believe in what we’re doing and care about those for whom we do it. We must understand their needs and their pain points, and be willing to publicly address them, and perhaps even be challenged by a disgruntled client or competitor (such situations can be brilliantly leveraged).

I learned long ago that a client who fears standing out is best left on their own, because they will actively work against the success of their own program.

Most importantly, for a marketing program to work, you must want the success and be willing to get out of your comfort zone to achieve it.


Kim McLaughlin is a digital strategist with Lyra Digital Services who specializes in LinkedIn for lawyers. She combines experience from the political arena and professional service firms to help companies win business on the web.

Interested in writing for us? To learn more about how you can add your voice to The Lawyer’s Daily, contact Analysis Editor Richard Skinulis at Richard.Skinulis@lexisnexis.ca or call 647-776-6740.

This article is presented by LexisNexis on behalf of the author. The opinions may not represent the opinions of LexisNexis. This document is for educational purposes only.


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