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McMarketing vs. The Real Deal

by Carolyn Elefant on April 29, 2005 · 2 comments

in Law Practice Management, Marketing Lessons

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For those of you who know me personally, you probably know that I’m not the world’s greatest marketer.  If I were, I’d probably have retired from the practice of law and would be blogging here full time.  But I think I have a pretty good eye, a sense of what works and what doesn’t, even if my judgment usually works better when I’m evaluating others’ work rather than my own.  So with that in mind, here are some of my impressions of some of the large firm, “McMarketing” efforts that I observed at a conference I attended earlier this week as compared with my efforts and those of some of my solo colleagues.

It’s pretty clear that law marketing has invaded large firm practice – and guess what?  They’re all doing the same thing.  Two large firm attorneys spoke at the conference that I attended; both had the requisite power point presentations which they’d also printed out on paper emblazoned with the firm logo and contact information.  Both attorneys gave polished presentations, explaining just enough, in general terms – but not “giving away the store.”  In other words, none of the papers cited the statutory support for the matters discussed or listed references where people might go to learn more.  So, that I gathered is Practice 1 of Biglaw McMarketing – give away enough to make ‘em call you, but no more.

As for Practice 2, I’m not sure whether it was intended or not, but I’d entitle it “Be Elusive.”  The biglaw attorney from DC didn’t stick around for any of the conference, didn’t attend any of the technical talks (and some of the technology is pretty interesting) and really, just left right after he spoke.  Another large firm attorney flew in for the day of the talk and hung around a bit, but I didn’t see him engaged in much chatter either.  Perhaps the large firm marketers need to tell attorneys that you should stick around and talk to the people you’re trying to sell to.

As I said, I don’t know that my approach is any better.  My talk was loaded with substance – and in retrospect, too much, because I ran over time.  I think for future talks, I’ll pare down the substance for the oral presentation and back it up with web based materials or a handout.  But I’m glad I erred on the side of too much rather than too little, because after my talk, several members in the audience complimented me on “really knowing my stuff.”  Whether wise or not, I don’t subscribe in McMarketing Practice 1 – because while I want to sell my service, I also want to educate my audience, particularly when all but a handful are nonlawyers.  (And which is why I don’t subscribe to McMarketing Practice 3 – Speak to Bar Associations – because other lawyers won’t likely become my clients, nor, in my field, are they likely to refer me work)

Finally, here’s the beauty of not following marketing rules sometimes and just going with the flow.  By the end of the conference, the rumblings about starting a trade association became a true organized effort and I was drafted as Legislative Director and interviewed for the local TV station.  Because of my blogging background (naturally, I touted my professional blog during my talk), I was able to throw together a website for our fledgling organization while others started the efforts on the Hill.  Had I just waltzed into the conference and left after my talk, this opportunity never would have fallen into my lap.  Only I know it really didn’t fall, it’s the product of a foundation that I’ve been laying in this field for at least a decade.

I know we all read so much about Rules of Marketing.  And it’s true, we solos need to market and we need to be disciplined.  But structured biglaw McMarketing isn’t the solution, not just because of the presumably exhorbitant cost (I’ve heard that marketing heads at large firms are paid as much as $250,0000) – but also because it doesn’t always work.  Sometimes, the best rule of marketing (as with anything else) is to abandon adherence to strict rules and go with your instinct and see where it lands you.

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