Small law firms represent the larger share of legal practices in the country. The Boston Globe reports that there were approximately 1,320 law firms in North America with 40 or more attorneys under their roof, yet some statistics suggest the total number of firms in North America reaches closer to 50,000 or just under that figure.
For small law firms, such as those handling immigration requests, wills and bequeathments, tax help, and family services, the attempt to grow one’s business is not as straight forward a path as might be found in other markets.
This is due to several reasons, and for several reasons, it can be a very difficult quandary for a law firm to resolve.
- There are laws in place in many states like New York, New Jersey, and Arizona that restrict the ability of law firms to advertise their business in various ways. For instance in New York, one can’t use hyperbole or attention-grabbing techniques that don’t hold relevance in the world of legal counseling.
- Being a practicing legal advisor requires years and years of expensive schooling, training, and study, which could easily result in the glossing over of entire strategies and domains of internet and conventional marketing and the generational changes therein.
- Being a practicing legal advisor requires plenty of hard work and normally doesn’t leave a lot of free time for extracurricular activities like content marketing.
What is the proprietor of a small legal advisory firm to do when faced with a packed schedule and these problems?
How does one go about growing their legal practice in a compliant and effective way?
Marketing specialists can be employed for this purpose, but let’s dive into what kind of specialist is suited for the small law firm in America.
A CMO (chief marketing officer) is the irreplaceable commander-in-chief over the marketing faculties of any large organization. His diverse skillset, creativity, macro and micromanagement capacities, and tireless work ethic drive the organization’s content and digital marketing strategies forward come hell or high water.
Stationed firmly within a given company, the CMO embodies and understands stated growth goals, objectives, company values, branding, and culture. They understand exactly where the strengths, limitations, and opportunities lie within the business’ culture – presenting it in the best light when dealing with outside entities or customers.
However in this economy a powerful, professional CMO will ask for a 6 figure salary, which many companies and businesses just can’t afford. In this case a junior marketing manager may be put in charge with a lower salary and a path for growth into a potential CMO role.
There is another option however – the marketing consulting firm. However the problem with a medium-sized successful marketing consulting firm is that with a large overhead from employee salaries and benefits, and managing a physical location comes large consultant fees, something a small law firm might not be able to afford.
Furthermore, the disconnected operations can result in shabby compliance and oversight. It also reduces the ability to draw on the marketing firm’s experience since there is no one actually in the law practice for the attorneys and other staff members to talk to face to face.
What’s left, what’s to be done?
The only remaining (and by far the best) option is to hire an in-house marketing consultant. The in-house marketing consultant represents the best of both worlds. Like a professional CMO, the in-house marketing consultant is able to take command of any existing marketing operations and genesis new ones while spending time in-house to answer questions, hold direct conversations about strategies and best practices, as well as absorbing the organizational culture and values.
On the other land, like a top marketing consulting firm the in-house marketing consultant works part-time, keeping costs for all parties low. The decisive action with which he or she goes about his or her business helps put out fires, kick-start advancement into vital marketing avenues like content marketing, email marketing, and social media, and finish off any existing attempts and forays into the marketing space attempted before he or she arrived.
Of all the possible words to describe the utility of the in-house marketing consultant, one that fits both their skills and the needs of their clients perfectly is precision. Precision marketing means selecting the perfect tools for the job – whether that’s email marketing programs or keyword research tools etc. Precision marketing means low costs as the in-house marketing consultant tightly manages resources to get the marketing program off the ground with as little upfront costs as necessary, improving the firm’s ROI.
Precision marketing also means that tight niches in the market are explored and exploited to their full potential by the in-house marketing consultant’s abilities, helping small legal firms target their precise audience and execute premier marketing strategies to engage them in the most meaningful ways.
Finally precision marketing means that no matter which stage the small legal practice’s marketing campaigns are at, the in-house marketing consultant arrives for a precise amount of time to push these campaigns over the line, increasing ROI, brand awareness, visibility, and more.
Why the in-house marketing consultant is perfect for small legal firms?
Smaller firms charge less. According to a report from U.S. Consumer Law published in 2016, the average billable hour of an attorney at a smaller firm with more than 10 years of experience was $377. At a large firm, that same lawyer billed $473 per hour, with four-digit hourly rates becoming more and more common.
With less income, and a greater focus on customer personalization, customer satisfaction, and affordability, the small legal firm creates a dual outcome of risking a loss of business and a loss of outcomes justifying their nobler choice of leaving a large standing firm and opening a smaller one tailored to a wider variety of people.
As such the in-house marketing consultant is perfect for helping bring in more business to meet these goals in a way that doesn’t drive up administration costs.
According to Kohner, Mann, and Kailas:
“As mentioned in the previous section, larger firms are saddled with excessive overhead. That manifests in their hierarchy as well, requiring each case be reviewed by attorneys at multiple levels to ensure consistency within the firm. This overlap is all but eliminated at smaller firms whose greatest concern is getting the client’s matter resolved quickly, efficiently, and most beneficially”.
Another example of efficiency in smaller firms is, because many lawyers handling cases are also running their firms, they have a more practical understanding of, and pay closer attention to, the firm’s profitability and financial management. This impacts the way they handle clients because they’re dealing with the same business realities that their clients are”.
“Smaller firms run lean as a matter of survival and that carries over to a more conscientious approach to customer service, thus minimizing the number of hours they bill. Big law firms tend to pressure associates to bill as many hours as possible, thus minimizing their incentive to be efficient”.
This is exactly the kind of business environment in which the in-house marketing consultant thrives. Working in office 6-8 hours per week, he or she can absorb of standards and practices of the small ethical law firm, observing how clients are treated and handled, how administration is carried out, and how to provide the best service for the firm in a way that gels with their business culture and management.
Finally, many people who need legal counseling are often those in a tough economic situation. This could be a small business owner who needs help with taxes or an immigrant trying to immigrate through the correct legal channels. The in-house marketing consultant will thrive at deploying precision marketing to reach these out-of-the-way clients in need while maintaining local and federal standards for legal advertising.
The in-house marketing consultant can do what others cannot for the small law firm, and just like small time legal practices provide greater client relations and support when compared with large legal firms of 40 or more attorneys, the in-house marketing consultant provides greater assurance and customer interfacing than a large marking consulting firm or a fractional CMO with their big overheads and salary requirements.