The practice of law has changed. The profession is overcrowded. The legal profession is in the throes of internationalization. New competitors from other professions have emerged. New technologies have accelerated processes of management in law firms. There is also an increasing number of mergers and alliances between legal practices, etc.
In a highly competitive legal market, with new challenges, the lawyer needs to have a better knowledge and make use of management techniques, including the key discipline, marketing, as in any business of professional services. And there can be no doubt that for clients – whose perception is what really counts – a legal practice is a service firm, albeit with certain specific characteristics where the relationship of confidence between lawyer and client is basic.
Naturally, a lawyer can make use of marketing techniques which are respectful of professional ethics and code of conduct, with the dignity of the legal profession.
In general, the lack of marketing techniques used by the legal profession is due to the fact that they have tended to confuse marketing with advertising or sales, and the output of the legal service with its marketing. The confusion among these concepts is such that many lawyers believe that if a lawyer is a good lawyer he does not need marketing.
The basic purpose of marketing is to create and offer value. Legal marketing, specifically, is the link between the lawyer and the market. It helps a law firm to orient its resources and efforts better, and makes it possible for its differential qualities to be recognized. Marketing is a process of setting up markets and positions, not just promotion or advertisement. It enables a lawyer to make himself known, be positively differentiated from competitors and to strengthen his image. The application of marketing should have always be based on the lawyer’s technical excellence in law. Unlike other sectors of the professional world, advertising, as a promotional activity, does not play a main role in legal marketing.
In short, the basic purpose of legal marketing is to win clients and create loyalty in the current client portfolio, to differentiate the firm from its competitors and to build brands, of both lawyer and the legal practice. A law firm with personality and character, with a brand, is, to the majority of potential clients, a guarantee of quality and a reduction in the time taken to choose a lawyer or legal practice. Having a powerful brand avoids price-based competition and the erosion of margins. It ensures that the client’s main decision criterion in hiring legal services will not be, apart from the recommendation, logically, price. All this is what is globally understood by the concept of legal marketing.
I wrote this article in 2001 and it is still in force.
© Francesc Domínguez, legal marketing and personal branding consultant, www.francescdominguez.com