In the first part of my two-part series, I talked about why you should target millennials. Now I’m going to talk about what law firms can start doing today to ensure their vitality once the next generation of business leaders takes over.
A brief aside: I am by no means an industry veteran. How can I be? I’m Gen Y! But, I have worked in the legal industry for more than a decade, and almost all of that experience has been on the media, marketing and PR side. Throughout this time, I have identified a number of areas that, by and large, law firms are failing to recognize as key weaknesses. While the status quo might be working for you now, I can assure you that it’s going to get a little dicey if you’re still handing out trifold brochures in a few years.
Here are some areas where there is room for improvement among legal marketers and law firms.
Why Your Legal Marketing Misses the Mark
You are not on social media: I have yet to meet a firm that has cracked the code on social media marketing. Mind you, some of this may have to do with the ambiguous ethics guidelines (more on that in a bit), but there are some pretty low-level best practices that a lot of firms are either unaware of or are overlooking. For example, if your firm doesn’t have a LinkedIn Company Page, get one. If an attorney doesn’t have a LinkedIn account, get him on LinkedIn. If you have an office, create and verify a local Google+ page. If your firm doesn’t have a Twitter handle, by all means, put down your coffee and register a Twitter handle. Even if you don’t use it now, at least you have reserved this asset for future use, rather than waiting until the perfect handle gets snatched up.
You have no Web videos: You do email marketing, right? I think we can agree that even the least marketing savvy attorneys understand the importance of client alerts. But are your client alerts still solely text based? It’s time to move on, my friends. You are a professional services company; start selling your professionals by showcasing them with video combined with text.
Your website is not optimized for mobile viewing: As my stack of Pew Research State of the News Media statistics tells me, we are seeing an exponential increase of users across age groups turn to their mobile devices to surf the Web and read the news. If your law firm website looks and functions the same on a laptop as it does on your iPad, think about investing in a new website. Not only will this help you stay current with the times, but it shows you value your clients by providing them with an optimized user experience.
You have no personality: Remember when law firms were all brass, mahogany and leather? Wait, is your law firm still like that? Well, the world of law has evolved since then, and the next generation of consumers expects a little more life out of you. Rid yourself of your identity crisis by taking some time to dissect your law firm brand to create a unique presence in the marketplace. This intangible idea of “brand” should then manifest itself in very real ways, from your website design to the interiors of your office.
You are not thinking about your law firm as a business: This last one really strikes at the heart of everything I’ve already mentioned — and I know it stings to hear it — but too many law firms don’t see themselves as a business. If they did, we’d have more firms creating competitive fee arrangements and organizing their practices in ways that make sense to the marketplace (e.g., industry groups). This all once again fits under that umbrella of user experience, and tomorrow’s purchasers of legal services have an expectation that if their law firm is savvy enough to litigate complex cases, then it is savvy enough to package its services in a way that makes sense to the world beyond the firm’s walls.
Ethics Rules: The Elephant in the Room
If there is one excuse for not leveling up your law firm’s marketing efforts to meet the needs of the 21st century, it’s the ambiguity surrounding bar ethics rules when it comes to advertising and marketing. For example, there has yet to be clear and consistent guidance from the ABA on social media (though fortunately Jaffe has created this handy little template).
Given that lawyers are a risk-averse bunch to begin with, it’s understandable that a lot of firms are slow to incorporate today’s marketing best practices. Hopefully, as the next generation of lawyers assumes its place among the corporate legal world, they will address these rules to provide some much-needed clarity.
Until that happens, start thinking about what you can do today to competitively position your law firm for tomorrow. Dip your toe into video marketing. Get on Twitter. Start observing what consumer and other B2B brands are doing, and find the common threads. (Hint: It’s about building trust by positioning your brand as a community.)
The influence millennials have and will have on legal marketing is undeniable, and it’s only going to grow as we ourselves grow. If you have a comment or a tip on the state of legal marketing today, leave a comment below.