In the early days of legal marketing (oh say 1986) most lawyers were not the least bit interested in the subject. In fact, the “M” word was an anathema. When it became acceptable to some law firms, individual marketing efforts were still avoided. The best that can be said about it all was that firms started doing PR, then brochures, advertising, and eventually, web sites. What I refer to as “institutional” marketing. “Personal” or individual marketing efforts were still mainly avoided, except by the one or two firm rainmakers.
The reason was pretty simple, lawyers expected the firm to carry the ball and keep their plates full. Especially in large firms, the attorneys believed that the work would always be there, so why should they be doing something they hated. They didn’t go to law school to learn to be a salesperson (errrrr, “business developer”). When the world changed and these non-producing lawyers were asked to leave for failure to bring in enough business to support themselves, much less other junior lawyers, some among their ranks began to wake up to the “neo-new normal”.
For the 17 years when I was an in-house marketing, I argued, with limited success, for lawyers to adopt “personal” marketing efforts instead of relying solely on “institutional” marketing. After all clients then and now mainly hire lawyers, not law firms, with some exceptions of course. I have argued on this blog to that effect. (See a couple of my posts below.)
Now, social media may have come to the rescue. Clearly, lawyers are gaining recognition and a higher profile there. Certainly more than a firm’s website’s boring bios and practice pages, according to a post this week on UK Inbound Marketing Blog. The post also reports on two law firms (Levenfield Pearlstein and Arent Fox) that are approaching social media in a “savvy way” with the use of videos to highlight individual lawyers. Those examples, according to the blog, “gives us a hint about what professional services marketing of the future may look like.”
Believe me, social media may not be the cure that puts personal marketing in the forefront for developing business for lawyers, but I wouldn’t bet against it.