Having spent several years in charge of a marketing department in a UK law firm, it’s probably fair to say that I’ve encountered many different responses from lawyers to the whole concept of legal marketing. Some lawyers appreciated what I did, because they recognised that I supported their business goals and helped to increase the firm’s profitability. A few, unfortunately, took a different view: that I was an overhead and should justify my existence.
With this in mind it’s always nice to learn that, the picture is consistent elsewhere in the world, as is revealed in the new report from LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell that looks at legal marketing in Brazil and Mexico.
Overall, a satisfying 71% of Brazilian respondents, and 79% of Brazilian respondents thought that marketing was either “important” or “very important”. Here, the detractors were very much in a minority – although it’s always a little disheartening to read that the remaining quarter of survey respondents regarded legal marketing as either “not very important”, or were indifferent/neutral to the whole concept.
Of course, saying you believe in the value of law firm marketing is one thing: actually taking part in marketing yourself is quite another. Here, our survey may force law firm marketing evangelists to take a small reality check: overall, only 43% of Brazilian survey respondents, and 54% of Mexican respondents, said they actually participated in law firm marketing activities. A non-participation rate of around 50% should be a sobering statistic for any firm – after all, how else are they supposed to grow their business without promoting their firm in some way?
What is clear, however, that marketing participation tends to increase, the larger the firm that the lawyers work for. Perhaps, faced with many demands on their time, is it that lawyers only actively participate in marketing activities, if they have support systems in place which will facilitate their involvement? Certainly, from my own personal experience, I know it’s far easier to get a Partner to deliver a speech to a seminar that the marketing department has organised, than to expect the Partner to organise everything themselves.
In overcoming this inertia, some firms use the “carrot and stick” approach to incentivise their lawyers to embrace marketing a little more than they do at present, by for example, making it an integral part of their performance or salary reviews. At present, only 42% of respondent firms in Brazil, or 40% of firms in Mexico have – so far – gone down that route. Apart from Managing Partners and other senior lawyers, who are generally more proactive marketers, is this the best method to transform marketing from something that lawyers “agree with” to an activity they actively “do”?