Why Law Firms Need Business Marketing Plans
Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker
The vast majority of law firms in business today got their start off the backs of just a few very talented rainmakers. Such was their talent that they were able to build a reasonably stable firm with as many as 20, 30, 40 or more attorneys working on business that was initiated by these talented few. No business plan was needed. These few rainmakers just seemed to know who to talk to, what associations to belong to, in short, how to network their way into creating enough clients to populate a firm. Unfortunately, this rainmaker “business plan” has its down side as many firms have recently experienced. When a key rainmaker leaves, 10, 15, 20 attorneys are cut. A big client leaves, 10, 15, 20 attorneys are without work. Anyone practicing law more than ten years has seen the fluctuation and sometimes outright destruction of law firms once thought to be stable and established as a result of this “rainmaker reliance syndrome.”
Can current law firms built on this business model protect against this fate? The business marketing plan is a start. Firms that move away from the informal and loosely implemented marketing activities of a few to a more formal plan strategically implemented by coordinated group efforts are more likely to develop and maintain a stable business base than those that continue, business as usual.
The benefits of a formal plan are many: First, devising an effective plan requires an intense review of the current market conditions and a determination of the direction the firm wants to take in the future. As a result, the decisions on how to proceed tend to be more thought out and well developed. Second, it requires the identification of the specific markets to be targeted by the marketing efforts. To be effective, marketing efforts need to be laser focused on the intended target. Efforts taken in too many directions thin out resources, tend to be less coordinated and thereby less effective. Third, a defined plan can be reviewed and referenced to keep things on track, and to avoid any miscommunication. Fourth, written formal plans can be more easily analyzed and measured for effectiveness, so that future plans can be adjusted appropriately.
In short, the process of developing a business marketing plan is not just an academic exercise; it is the creation of document that represents the collective agreement of the firm as to where the firm wants to go, and more importantly, what the firm has determined are the right things that need to be done to get there.