As a legal vendor, there are two broad categories into which you can lump nearly every client: plaintiff’s firms and defense firms. While there is certainly overlap between the two, each category has its own unique client profiles, which creates significant differences in the types of services each offers and their individual revenue models.

Smart legal vendors should take note of these differences because they directly affect the needs of the firm. By anticipating the needs of your clients, you will be in a better position to win their business.  

Here are some of the top differences between marketing to plaintiff’s firms and marketing to defense firms.

  • Plaintiff’s firms target consumers: Yes, some plaintiff’s firms work on behalf of corporations as well as consumers, but largely, when we say “plaintiff’s firm,” we are talking about personal injury, family law, criminal law and other areas of law that affect individuals rather than organizations. Because the target is the consumer, this means that certain marketing methods should be given priority over others, while other tactics that would normally be used for defense firms should be downplayed. For instance, Facebook is an essential tool for plaintiff’s firms, which can receive a sizeable number of inquiries through the largely personal social network. Defense firms are more likely to rely on LinkedIn, which is viewed as the “professional” social network. So, if you’re a legal technology vendor that is peddling a platform that helps firms manage their social media accounts, know that the plaintiff’s firms might have a larger interest in Facebook than a defense firm would have.
  • Plaintiff’s firms often work on commission: Defense firms are accustomed to working in a market where the hourly rate is the status quo, while plaintiff’s firms often collect their fees on commission. This means that plaintiff’s firms only get paid if they win their cases. This affects legal vendors because it is an entirely different revenue model from the traditional corporate law firm. Cash flow might not be as steady at a plaintiff’s firm, so there might not be the willingness to pay for legal technology or for a service at a non-fixed rate. Legal vendors should adjust their marketing and sales tactics with this difference in mind.
  • Plaintiff’s firms are typically smaller operations: While there are some notable larger plaintiff’s firms, most are fairly small shops, housing only a handful of attorneys. This means that the firm’s management structure will be vastly different from the larger defense firms. Most large law firms have executive or management committees that collectively make decisions about procuring new services and technologies, but a plaintiff’s firm might just have one lone attorney making all the decisions. This can make your job easier by streamlining the sales process, yet it can also make it more difficult, since making such purchases is unlikely to be a priority for the individual.

These are just some of the ways in which the differences between plaintiff’s firms and defense firms play a direct role in how legal vendors market to either client type. If you’d like to discuss more about marketing to the plaintiff’s bar and the defense bar, please contact Terry M. Isner at