I have a peeve about a great many articles on marketing for law firms.  Some of the articles are apparently written by so-called experts who have clearly never practiced at a law firm.  Others reiterate the same advice – network, seek referrals, join a bar association – without any analysis of whether these methods actually work or the types of practice for which they’re best suited.  But the worst marketing article is the one with a great lead – and no follow through (exactly what you don’t want to do when you market).  This article, Solo and Small Firm Marketing Hurdles, from the usually worthwhile ABA LPM Magazine (3/05) is a prime example of one of those articles that promises and doesn’t deliver.

The LPM article starts off promisingly enough.  The authors polled solo and small firm lawyers to identify top 12 hurdles to marketing and came up with a terrific list, including reasons like “I have a narrow specialty practice,” “Potential clients already have satisfactory counsel relationships,” “I’m lazy, inert and insecure” and “only poor people know me.  Since at one time or another, I have personally experienced some if not all of these particular hurdles, my initial reaction was “Great, finally, an article that will address what I really want to know.”

But the article never addressed these issues.  It provides short sound bites of advice from various marketers – some clearly aimed at large firm attorneys (though the article, I had thought was for solo and small firm lawyer) or a template for building a general practice (as opposed to a niche).  And what about this advice:  “refer a less-than profitable case to someone more miserable” so that you can get a referral fee without shouldering the case management.  Well, if the case is so bad, who’s going to take it?  And if the lawyer to whom you’ve referred the matter is so miserable, is the case really going to have any value?

Legal marketers – if you want to market your services to us solo and small firm lawyers, the best way to convince us is to demonstrate that you know how to market yourself effectively.  And effective marketing starts with answering questions, not bypassing them and addressing the prospective client’s needs, not pushing your own agenda.