Dodo Bird Marketing: Is Your Law firm on the Brink of Extinction?
The kiss of death. The lethal injection. The fatal flaw. The extinction of even the largest, seemingly prosperous law firm can start with the simplest error in marketing judgment. In 2009, “Bloody Thursday” saw the layoffs of nearly 800 lawyers from major firms. Even the 153 year-old Grande Époque of law firms, the Coudert Brothers, collapsed in 2006 because they lost their grasp on of the most important aspects of law and business et.al.
Law practices, like any creature great or small, are dropping like flies because they’re failing to evolve in the race to secure clientele. Although the world will always need lawyers, many firms will be wiped out, left scratching their head, dead on the ground. Firms that use Dodo marketing tactics are paving the way toward their own mass extinction . . . but what’s needed to resurrect these endangered species?
A Renaissance of Empathy
Forbes contributor and Yale Law graduate Basha Rubin studies trends in the legal world, noting the irony that, for a firm of any size, to get ahead they must backtrack. Marketing is a vast field, one where a topic as simple as “target market personas” could consume the brainpower of a sweatshop full of marketing MBA students for eternity. . . but getting bogged down by the minutiae of marketing, or lack thereof, is precisely the problem many law firms face. Enter: the opportunities presented by online and mobile marketing for attorneys. There are more than 110 million people in the U.S. who have sought the services of a lawyer in their lifetime . . . there should be enough work to go around, so where’s the divide?
Most firms are aware that there’s a buffet of digital and mobile tools available to them, and many jump on the latest, greatest technology as if it’s second nature. For example, all the way back in 2012, law firms spent a $52.6 million bidding on Google Adwords, just for the chance that their next jackpot payday would come from John Doe typing “spinal cord injury” into a search engine. While there has been some success with this approach; it’s losing traction. Many authorities on law and SEO agree, notes the law-specific marketing firm Great Jakes. “Jakes” likens the lure of SEO marketing to a modern version of snake oil sales. As complicated, cool and flashy as the latest tech innovation can be– at its root, most potential clients just want someone to connect with, not a robotic, algorithm-generated-ad in their face. People want someone to give them counsel, not some thing.
A Reformation of Media
Clients looking for legal advice online is a trend that’s here to stay, but it’s up to the individual firm to use incredible digital and mobile tools as just that– tools. Starting a great legal forum or signing up to use a useful mobile app for attorneys is only the first step in survival. Even the most exquisitely wrapped gift won’t be remembered if it’s filled with socks. Kristen Gerdy, with the backing of BYU Digital Law Commons, authored a study that empirically shows the key to effective client retention and even attorney success can be strengthened through empathy and compassion. One of her case studies asserts that clients “just want to be heard,” not merely recorded.
Online and mobile marketing can be a justice-lined gold mine if attorneys and firms unite their passion for their clients with groundbreaking digital mediums. Breaking down the law into factory-line pieces is exactly what cracked the foundation of the behemoth Courdet Brothers firm. After 153 years, their sprawling international divisions became more like franchises, splicing up cases and duties into a factory-line process smothered in red tape. Even firms with access to the most cutting-edge technology, online and mobile marketing platforms aren’t going to make much headway if they don’t know how to wield their media efforts in a manner that resonates with clients.
A Revolution of Evolution
So how does a law firm save itself from extinction? With loads of research, data and advice pouring in from every angle– on top of being a lawyer– it’s a daunting thought. Marrying compassionate, empathetic legal advice in a landscape dominated by online marketing, mobile apps and digital interaction is the key to survival. The process may be simple, albeit not always easy. To thrive in the new legal landscape means blending modern marketing with old fashioned wisdom. Simply splashing names, faces and catchy slogans (“Better Call Saul” rings a bell) doesn’t allow for the closeness of a natural relationship with your client.
Online marketing, such as local interviews featured in press publications can organically help SEO rankings and give prospective clients the chance to get to know a more appealing, personal side of you. However, the jackpot for client interaction is mobile. With ⅔ of Americans carrying smartphones, they’ve become an essential part of connecting. Edward Kundahl, a legal writer and marketing expert notes that if “[You] think mobile marketing for attorneys is complicated? Think again.” Kundahl goes on to note that your mobile presence provides your clients with real-time offers and information that would go unread in emails. Mobile apps engage clients easily, meets them where they are, and most importantly, they personalize each client interaction with the empathy and bedside manner missing in many major firms.
However, in the rush to meet clients on a mobile platform, an app for app’s sake isn’t the answer. While a bevy of tech firms will happily toss together an app for any law firm or attorney that can write a check, they may not fit the needs and desire for connection from clients. Law Student Mathew Gardlik learned this first hand a student, then as an attorney. He explains to the “The Indiana Lawyer” that the technical knowledge lawyers must possess is immense, so an app to help connect them with and manage clients could be very useful. Although Gardlik laments that the “Law firms have a difficult time figuring out what exactly they could put into an app . . . [the] essential question is what benefit the app creates.” While many law-centered apps focus on aggregating the technical tedium of law, they forget that the best way to grow business—a true connection. One of the top pieces of advice given by the American Bar Association Journal to market a practice is to “focus on client’s immediate needs.” The ABA journal notes that even if a potential client’s immediate needs aren’t your area of expertise, giving them personal, thoughtful insight can cement you as partner in future successes. The key to a flourishing firm, ready to withstand the evolution of the landscape, is going to be the firms who are first in line to connect personally via ubiquitous personal devices. To stand out, thrive and evolve with leaders of the pack, a mélange of personalization, empathy and online and mobile marketing will ensure your firm doesn’t fossilize.