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Chapter 1/6

Developing a Law Firm Marketing Plan

Law Firm Marketing

10 min read

Developing a Law Firm Marketing Plan

We’ll make a guess: You weren’t taught law firm marketing in school. Right? You’re reading this now because you have a firm and you want people to know about it—but you don’t know where to start.

You’re not alone. There are over 1.2 million attorneys in the United States. This means your clients have a whole lot of options. But why should they choose you? In this guide, we’ll help you make sure your law firm stands out from the crowd. 

Lawyers and Marketing

We’ll start here with a couple of common feelings lawyers have about marketing. Many lawyers start their firm with referrals from colleagues and friends. When you rely entirely on referral-based marketing, you don’t really control the flow of clients. You are simply hoping people out there you know will think of you when someone says they have an issue vs. building a funnel that puts you and your message in front of people most likely to hire you.  

Then, there’s the revulsion many lawyers feel at words like “marketing” or “sales.” We’re here to tell you these aren’t dirty words. You’re not going to fall into a vat of schmooziness the second you start thinking about marketing. What will happen instead is that you’ll build your brand and reputation and get clients in the door.

To market your law firm, you’ll need to have a plan, marketing tools, and some business know-how. We’ll help you get started. Let’s start with two key steps.

Plan Before You Spend Money

Upfront, here’s the big takeaway: Do not wing your marketing. You may want to snap up Facebook ads or hire a marketing agency that seems to know what they’re talking about. If you’re not intentional and clear at the beginning, this is a great way to lose your money.

You’ll want to feel confident in all of your marketing decisions before you commit. After all, if you’re not clear on the marketing strategy for your law firm, how will someone new understand, marketer or not? 

Take time to sketch out your:

  1. Ideal client. The more specific, the better. Consider where they live, what keeps them up at night, what their hobbies are, what kind of dreams they’re pursuing. We go into this more in our Complete Guide to Law Firm Clients.
  2. Marketing budget. The average firm allocates 6.7% of its operating budget to marketing. Now, if you’re just starting out, your percentage may be different. Regardless, the point is to have a number in mind, so you don’t get talked into spending more than you want.
  3. Goals. Do you want a few high-paying (but maybe high-maintenance) clients, or will you look for quick cases? How many will you need to pay yourself a market rate or to hire another associate? Your goals can revolve around just about anything in our firm, but knowing what they are will focus your strategy.
  4. Offering. You might be an excellent estate planner, but jumping into marketing with a loose idea of what you’re selling isn’t wise. Make sure you know what you’re marketing. (And remember, you can always change up your offering down the line.)
  5. Competitors. Before taking action with marketing, you need to know what firms are targeting your ideal client and how they’re doing it. Spend time researching their offerings, pricing, marketing, and sales techniques—any information you can get. Then, see where the gaps and overlaps are in your firm.

Create a Marketing Funnel

Now that you have a general idea of how you want your marketing to look, it’s time to sketch out your funnel. A marketing funnel is a strategy for your client’s journey, from realizing they have a problem to hiring you to solve it. Remember, in this initial strategy, you’re not necessarily doing all of these things—you’re spending time thinking about how and why you’ll do them. (We’ll get into the how a bit later on.)

You’ll want to capture three stages in this funnel:

01. Awareness

At this point, your ideal client has realized they have a problem. However, they may not be clear on the issue or how to solve it, so their initial research attempts to narrow down those answers. Here’s how you can help them during this stage:

  • Have a great website written in layman’s terms. A potential client might know there’s a problem with their father’s will, but they may not know the word “estate planning.” Populate your site with search terms they’ll use–not lawyer words.
  • Create issue-oriented ads. Google Ads are often the first result clients will see when searching. (We’ll cover this in more detail in Chapter 4.) Research through friends, colleagues, and your own Google searches to find common terms.
  • Advertise in the right places. A client might not look for a lawyer to solve the problem with their dad’s will. They may ask the funeral parlor that handled the memorial service or a neighbor who dealt with a similar issue. Consider where your ideal clients are looking.

02. Consideration

At this stage, your client clearly understands their problem and is committed to solving it. Here, you want to hone in on the needs of your ideal client. Make sure you:

  • Create killer content. If you populate your site with answers to your potential clients’ questions, they’ll see you as an expert. This includes blog posts, videos, webinars, etc.

  • Have clear calls-to-actions (CTAs). Make it extremely easy for your clients to not only contact you but to know what they’re getting into when they do. For example, a call-to-action for our estate planner might be “Click here to avoid a fight at your dad’s will reading.” (Or something more appropriate for your ideal client.)

03. Decision

Here, the client knows they need a lawyer and they’re ready to compare. They’re starting to send inquiries and make calls. This is the stage to make sure you have:

  • A flawless reception and intake process. Even if you’re just starting and you are the intake process, know exactly how everything will flow, from answering your phone or email, to scheduling a consultation. This is your first impression.

  • Reliable follow-up. Even if the client doesn’t hire you, they will remember how you treated them. Have a system in place that guarantees no one slips through the cracks.

  • Your ideal client nailed down. When you first start, it’s tempting to take anyone who comes in the door. And then you’ll be stuck with people you don’t want to work with or who can’t afford your services. Know the clients you want, and don’t be afraid to say no.

The time you’ve spent on your law firm marketing plan will serve everything else you do in your marketing. Keep this strategy on hand as you move to the next steps. 

Law Firm Branding

Next, let’s tackle your brand. We want you to think about branding like this: Your brand is your reputation. Your brand is what you promise your clients. In other words, your brand is your law firm’s integrity and personality. Let’s dig into why establishing your brand is important—and how to do it.

Consider one of the world’s most famous brands: Coca-Cola. The company’s message is to refresh the world while using sustainable ingredients and building a better future for the people they touch. In fact, they say, “we do business the right way, not just the easy way.”

Companies with solid branding have even gotten to the point of removing their brand name and still having clear brand recognition. Remember Dorito’s anti-ad with blank chip bags and only the triangle shaped snack itself? Doritos, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and many others have done this in different ways.  

That’s the power of branding. It’s so successful that the Coca-Cola brand alone is worth $80.83 billion.

How to Identify and Create Your Law Firm Brand

Good news: Your firm already has a brand! The goal is to figure out how to clarify the brand and make it coherent, cohesive, and recognizable. 

Your law firm’s brand should be:

  • Consistent. If your office is formal, formally answer the phone. If you’re a hip firm targeting Gen-Z clients, be casual in your marketing. If your courtroom demeanor is firm but compassionate, your website should seem the same way. Everything should work together cohesively.

  • Authentic. If you’re not a playful, light-hearted person, but you try to force playfulness into your brand, it’s not going to work. Around 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when selecting brands to like and support.

  • Authoritative. Clients want the best attorney for them and their needs. Your brand should communicate your authority within your legal niche. As a result, you’ll build trust with your target clients.

Identifying Your Law Firm Branding

Justie Nicol, a former member of Lawyerist Lab (our coaching program for Lawyers) knows her brand. She runs one of the only all-female criminal defense firms in Colorado – and she’s loud and proud about it. Her branding colors are pink and black for a mixture of feminine and badass. It’s incredibly effective.

Yours can be effective, too. Let’s dive into five simple steps you can take to start identifying your law firm’s brand.

01. Specify Why Your Firm Exists

As an attorney, why do you do what you do? This question goes so much deeper than practicing law. Get very specific.

For example, an immigration attorney might say their mission is to help clients achieve their dream of becoming U.S. citizens. Or, a divorce attorney might say their mission is to help clients find the hope and support individuals need to create a new life. These reasons are part of your branding.

02. Discover Your Law Firm’s Values

Your values define your firm, from how you design your firm’s culture to building your brand. To set your values, consider the goals your firm wants to achieve. Next, select values that, if followed, will help you achieve those goals.

03. Understand Your Unique Value Proposition

Your unique value proposition (UVP) is a statement that communicates the services you offer, how they solve your clients’ needs, and what makes you different from the competition. 

To define your UVP, answer these questions:

  • Who do you serve?

  • What needs or concerns do those services solve?

  • What makes your firm different from other firms?

For example, a personal injury attorney’s UVP might look something like this: “Our firm provides legal counsel and support to clients struggling with injury. We offer collaboration, experience, and unwavering dedication.”

Creating Your Brand Identity

As we mentioned, your brand is like your reputation, but your brand identity is the visual component you’re more familiar with when it comes to branding. 

Your brand identity consists of your:

  • Firm name. Here’s a tip: Many lawyers use their name in their firm name because, well, it’s always been done that way. Instead, consider how could you incorporate your values and vision into that name. Is there a name that could make your clients feel a certain way?
  • Logo, colors, and fonts. Your logo and colors will also reflect your business vision. For example, when Lawyerist co-founder Sam Glover started the business, he went with black, white, and red to reflect his punk ethos. He chose an edgy Typewriter font for the logo.
  • Look and feel of your marketing materials. Are you an aggressive trial lawyer? Then your marketing materials may be bold and vivid. What if you want to do low-conflict divorces instead? Bold and vivid might not work for you here.
  • Website tone. Again, the bulldog trial lawyer will probably have assertive statements and cut-and-dry calls-to-action, while the low-conflict family lawyer may focus on more empathetic and compassionate language
  • Website images and photos. The same deal applies here. What photos (stock or your team) will effectively get across your brand?

However, keep in mind: The point isn’t to check all the boxes on what a brand should include. You just want to make sure you’re making a thoughtful decision at each step that reflects the overall marketing strategy of the firm. 

Got it? Now let’s think about how you advertise that brand.