Find a niche… easier said than done, right?

Usually when I mention finding a niche, most lawyers’ push back. They generally explain how they don’t want to miss this kind of case or that kind of case. Their practice areas list looks like that of a firm of 10 lawyers. How can you possibly market such a list? How can potential clients and referring attorneys remember what you do? Will they think of you when any of those practice areas are mentioned? Probably not!  If your list is a practice group with a long list of sub practice areas… that works. However if your list is: criminal defense, real estate closings and business transactions… that’s another story.

Continue Reading Legal Business Development: Find A Niche

This week begins the mad rush that takes hold just before the end of the year. But between the holiday parties and family dinners there’s still work to do. In fact, the marketing and business development planning that you do in the next few weeks can set the tone for 2011 and beyond. That’s why starting next week we’ll abandon our usual poll-bases posts to focus on what, when and how to get ready for the coming year—from a marketing and business development perspective. A few things we’ll cover?

• Evolving—or creating—your marketing plan
• Perfecting your elevator speech
• Evaluating and tweaking the initiatives that you started in 2010
• Rethinking your memberships
• Evaluating and reworking your blog
• Setting goals for social media
• Setting marketing and business development goals for 2011

So have a wonderful holiday and come back next Tuesday. We’ve got work to do!


Recently I’ve been working with a client whose company prides itself on the idea of being “seamless.” In their case it means bringing together various aspects and teams within a project, but in the world of marketing it can be just as powerful an idea. Many times we compartmentalize our marketing efforts: the brochure, the website, social media, e-mail marketing… the list can go on and on, when, in reality, they all need to work off of each other. They need to be seamless. Not sure yours are? Check back on Thursday and we’ll discuss the topic further. But first…

Question of the Week: Are your marketing efforts seamless?


Are your marketing ideas, efforts and materials separate entities or a united front?Market Research

Not everything always goes according to plan. Sometimes you have to change your vision to see results.

This week we asked: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from a marketing mentor or consultant?

1. The importance of a marketing and business development plan – 52%

2. New ways about thinking about networking – 0%

3. Finding strategies that work for your individual strengths – 18%

4. Developing a personal brand – 25%

5. Other – 5%

My Thoughts:  I’m thrilled to see that over 50% of you learned the importance of creating a plan, while developing a personal brand and playing to your strengths together were almost as important. All three are key elements in a successful business development journey!

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’ve learned my fair share of lessons after over two decades of working with clients on their marketing, branding and positioning. Here are few lawyer-specific things to consider as you make your way through the marketing world.

You’ve got to have buy-in support. Years ago my team and I conceptualized an incredible strategy for a mid-sized firm to cater to its varied industry clients–the marketing committee loved it. Yet, from the beginning the concept was poorly communicated through the organization, and as we progressed the marketing committee got more and more push-back from others.  What was, at first, an innovative concept turned into a nightmare for both us and the client. The lesson: No matter how exciting the idea, without the support of a large portion of the firm it’s destined to fail.

Know when to back down. This is a lesson I continue to learn on a daily basis. Whether it’s compromising on a firm name (something I’ve done many times) to meeting attorneys halfway on marketing strategy, it’s the age-old wisdom of picking your battles. The truth is, no matter how much experience in marketing, branding and positioning I bring to the table, my clients are the ones who know what clients they want and how they want to present themselves to the public. The lesson: I can give my advice, impart my experience and expertise and usher them into what I see for their future… but the real decision has to come from them. As long as I have given them both sides of the issue… I have served my client well.

Not every attorney has to do everything. I’ve learned to identify early the skilled writers and set them up as bloggers; recognize the networkers and help them target industry organizations; and cultivate the large personalities into prolific speakers. It’s all about understanding where their talents–and comfort zones–lie. The lesson: Let attorneys play to their strengths. They will only pursue what feels comfortable… if they like it, they will do it.

Overall, the lessons I’ve learned are applicable to almost any profession, but they’re solid ideas to consider when approaching your own legal marketing. Whether it’s being open to a new way of speaking to clients or making marketing and business development fall into YOUR comfort zone, the key is to pay attention and focus…and never get frustrated. There is always a solution.

Gail McQuilkin of Kozyak Tropin Throckmorton reminds us that along with what we’ve discussed above, patience is an essential ingredient in a legal marketing plan:

The most challenging marketing issue I face is trying to convince the lawyers in my firm that there is a return on their investment. That’s difficult because there’s always a time lag in cultivating new business. It’s not the same as deciding you need office supplies and you meet somebody at a local activity and say, ‘Gee, I can get the same supplies from him that I’m getting from my current vendor. I’m going to give this guy a chance.’  It’s different when a client needs legal service – it’s usually a serious matter. It’s not going to be something where they meet you at a social activity and just give you the business. That’s why it’s important to work your relationships and keep working them, so when the moment comes when they need a lawyer, you’re top of mind.

Black Pearl: Want to learn a few things from a corporate giant? Here’s a great piece on what lawyers can learn from Toyota.

Want to make the most of your business development time? Enlist some help in the form of your marketing director.

This week we asked: Does your law firm have a dedicated marketing or business development professional? 

Yes – 68%

No – 18%

No, but we are considering hiring one – 14%

My Thoughts: It seems that having a dedicated marketing or business development professional is still a growing trend within firms across the country. It’s great that 68% of you have access to professional help, and another 14% are considering it.

Over the past decade the idea of a law firm marketing director has become more and more popular. Not only are most marketing directors experienced in creating marketing strategy and copy, they often bring with them connections to organizations, writers, reporters and editors. Here are a few ways to further your relationship…

  • Let Them Get To Know You.  
Rather than treating a marketing director as just another firm member you pass in the hallway, find the time to sit down and develop a relationship. Speaking with you and hearing about your goals and accomplishments can help spark ideas that a resume cannot.
  • Get To Know Them
.  You’re more likely to go out of your way for someone you have a personal connection to. Nurture your relationship. Send them interesting articles you come across, stop by their office and say hello, and return their calls and emails in a prompt manner.
  • Ask For Help
.  Don’t forget that a marketing director’s job is to help you so don’t be afraid to ask. Need help re-writing your biography? Ask. Need to polish up an article for publication? Ask. Wondering how your speech for next week’s conference sounds? Ask. 
  • Be clear about what you want. 
Marketing directors aren’t mind readers…they can’t help you unless they know exactly what you want out of your marketing time. The more specific you are about your goals, knowledge and strengths, the easier it will be for your marketing director to work on your behalf.
  • Let them do their job. 
You would never send your marketing director into the courtroom, so don’t tread in their territory either. Seeking their advice should be at the top of your mind when marketing opportunities arise. If you don’t want or need their help with a project, at least inform them of what you’re working on. A simple email can do wonders to nurture your relationship and build respect between you both.

Your relationship with your firm marketing director can be one of the most fruitful partnerships in business development. By working together you can maximize your time and energy while furthering both the firm’s marketing agenda and your own.

Still don’t think it is worth the time commitment?  Jay Courie of McAngus Goudelock & Courie has a warning for you:

I think people have a tendency to get caught up in the day-to-day business of practicing law and they forget what got them to the party.  If you quite marketing and get complacent, you will fail.

Black Pearl: Interested in business development’s evolution? Here’s an article about the history of law firm marketing.

The most important step in nurturing your referrals is figuring out who they are. Once you have a solid list it will make it easier to cultivate…

This week we asked you…Where are your referrals coming from?

1. existing clients –32%
2. former clients –15%
3. other lawyers –33%
4. business leaders –9%
5. friends –11%

Just as we thought, a total of 65% of your referrals come from your existing clients or other attorneys with another 15% from former clients. The remaining 20% seems to be about evenly split between business leaders and friends. Now that you’ve identified where the referrals are coming from, let’s talk about your plan to keep them coming!

My Thoughts: In my opinion there are two specific plans of action that all lawyers need to have when it comes to referrals. The first is how to generate them. Remember the basics when it comes to client service. Meaning: listen to their needs; respond quickly; avoid e-mailing and talk to them; inform them of interesting news relating to their industry or situation; develop a personal relationship; and manage their expectations by communicating your timelines and processes.

The second phase of the plan is to have a strategy in place when a referral comes in. My advice? Pick up the phone immediately and thank the referrer, then follow up with a card or small gift. Keep your source updated on any meetings with the new client and, when it turns into actual business, send another larger token of appreciation. Finally, send business back. Reciprocation counts for more than you might think.

My colleague Leslie Lott of Lott & Friedland says:

Lawyers refer their clients to attorneys who send work to them. Years ago, a good friend in New York called to send litigation work to our firm. He had worked with local counsel in Miami for many years. That lawyer was excellent, but had never referred work back to the New York lawyer. We had a client with a problem in New York and had sent the client to our friend. That was the catalyst for his sending his next case to us instead of the lawyer he had previously worked with who never sent him work.”


Black Pearl: For more on building your relationships you might want to take a look at Mark Maraia’s Relationships Are Everything! Growing Your Business One Relationship at a Time.” Highly recommended!

When it comes to legal marketing the name of the game is visibility and credibility. There is no better place for you to be than the first page of Google…

The Question of the week was: When you Google your name… of the ten links on the first page… what percentage are yours?


  1. 0-20% – 67%
  2. 30-40% – 28%
  3. 50-60% – 4%
  4. 70-80% – 0%
  5. 90-100% – 1%

My Thoughts: 67% of you have less than 2 links on the first page of Google… NOT GOOD! Owning your name on Google’s first page is an extremely important asset to have, since we have all become very impatient when we are searching… if we can’t find things INSTANTLY we move on. So, we have to make it as EASY as possible for people to find us. And that does NOT mean via all those useless directories that don’t  have your information complete or accurate. YOU need to drive this information… your credibility is at stake.

If you are fortunate enough to have a very unusual name you don’t have to work as hard as Dan Harris, who posted a comment on Tuesday’s blog post. He has the exact same name as an ABC News Reporter/ Anchor. Dan I Googled you and found three links on the first page. Good for you, you have found a crack, and have proven that it CAN be done. Articles can be the hammer you use to break through even more.

As I like to tell my clients: 50 articles online makes you a prolific writer, 50 articles online about international law makes you an expert. Also look closely at WHERE you are posting. Sites like JD Supra are great since they cater exclusively to the legal profession and can lead to referrals. In addition, they feature their authors in their newsletters, which is added exposure.

Here’s some advice from Bud Clarke of Clarke, Silverglate & Campbell:

Publish articles in specialty publications likely to be read by people who can refer you business. Then make sure those publications are referenced and easily accessible on your website.

Black Pearl: Do you want to own your name on Google as I have done? Then I have a gift for you… my E-Book "Be A Celebrity In Your Own World" and it’s FREE for you to download. It’s a quick read… 10 minutes and It details my four step strategy.