Marketing and branding in law firms: what you need to know

I attended a talk from a marketing manager from Darlingtons Solicitors towards the end of last year. The talk focused on marketing and branding in the legal sector, which isn’t something that has really been talked about by other firms who occasionally grace the halls of universities. The talk was very interesting and highlighted the importance of the topic.

Firstly, the professions are changing. This isn’t just lawyers. Lawyers are not now the sole resource of legal knowledge out there. The internet is allowing clients to research their issues before they even seek initial advice, technology allows constant access to information and the professions need to be able to respond accordingly. Take medicine for example, you used to be able to go and see a GP on their time and they would give you advice on whatever your problem was. This is still true to some extent, but with applications like Push Doctor and the NHS app that is currently being trialled across London, medical advice is becoming more in line with our expectations set by technology.

This is true for lawyers too. The traditional way of working is not in line with what clients expect. Clients are demanding lawyers who can provide efficient and cost-effective services. They are demanding lawyers with a keen understanding of business and the environment which they operate in. They expect to be able to be given advice on their time, not the lawyers. Lawyers need to be more open to diverse ways of working, and of making connections.

This brings me to my second point. Lawyers (and other professionals) need to be able to see the value in creating a strong network with several types of people.

Not only that but it is extremely important to create value for your connections. If you are helpful, informative and (most importantly) active on social media and at networking events, then they are more likely to come to you for advice or recommend you when someone else asks them. This translates into tangible benefits for you and of course, for your firm. These things might be something outside of your comfort zone, such as making a video or posting an article, but it is important to remain open minded in order to market yourself and your firm as well as possible.

Going forward – The ‘T shaped lawyer’

Applying these lessons then, how should young lawyers or professionals in general approach their careers going forward?

The ‘I shaped lawyer’ is the idea that traditional lawyers could survive solely on a very deep knowledge of the law (hence the ‘I’ structure). The ‘T’ shape is based on the idea that the deep knowledge of law is still needed, but there are a set of other skills which lawyers need to be proficient in. This can include areas like: marketing, social media, data analysis, project management and more rounded business skills.

Social media is a cost-effective way to communicate experience and connect with colleagues. A more rounded business acumen means a keen understanding of risk, finance and the ability to make business decisions. The ability to understand why clients made a certain decision and what the implications that may result from it will be expected by clients. It is not about being an expert in everything, trying to improve on areas other than simply focusing on your field will improve how others perceive you and is likely to have knock on effects.

To learn these skills and grow as a professional, it is important to have an open mind. Actively seek out opportunities to grow your network. Can you write some articles for a blog or on LinkedIn? Are you really using social media to promote yourself in the best light? Are you interested in marketing or project management and could learn more about that? Moving forward and developing new skills are ways to get recognised and provide value for a potential employer, client or your existing connections.

Thanks to John Crow, a fourth-year student at Northumbria University. He is currently studying at Northumbria University on the Mlaw exempting programme and is particularly interested in the intersection of law and technology. Professionally he hopes to get taken on by a firm which has a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. What’s next? An LLM in law and technology.

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