Lawyers do not have to do all the marketing and business development by themselves. They can and should involve their staff as much as practicable.

Early in my in-house marketing career I got as many non-marketing staff as possible to help with marketing, since I had no departmental staff to speak of. I cajoled and otherwise drafted as many as I could, including our librarian (research and as a source of firm data), paralegal (newsletters – design and drafting), receptionist (mailings), copy room (organizing, copying and binding proposals), to name a few. It sure made my job easier and I was more effective by not trying to do it alone.

I continue to be amazed how few law firms engage their non-marketing staff in the firm’s business development efforts. Actually, if you think about it, your staff is already involved in your firm’s marketing whether you want them to be or not; and whether it is in the firm’s best interests or not. If the staff has contact with clients, prospects and referral sources, which certainly receptionists, secretaries and paralegals do, they can help or hurt the firm’s reputation by how they relate to outside contacts. If the secretary is rude with any contact (god forbid a client) or the receptionist blows off a caller (hint: pet peeve to follow) by sending him/her directly into voicemail without another word, for example, such contact (or lack thereof) can be very damaging. Even how staff members act in public can reflect poorly on the firm, believe it or not.

So it behooves law firms to provide staff with some marketing training, or at least guidance on how they should behave toward those they encounter in their role with the firm.

Moreover, the staff can play a greater role than simply treating clients and prospects well, and behaving in public. They can, if instructed and then empowered by their lawyers, actively contribute to the firm’s marketing efforts. A few simple suggestions on how non-marketing staff might get involved include:

• Tracking Google alerts for info about specific clients and others,
• Remembering important client facts and dates (anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, etc.),
• Scheduling marketing activities for their lawyer(s),
• Keeping mailing lists up to date, and
• Suggesting regular interaction with their Outlook contacts.

If you respect your staff, encourage them to be an integral part of the team, and reward them for taking a bigger role in the firm’s success, you may just find that they can add considerable value to the firm, beyond their regular duties. 

Most employees of law firms are in a great position to help in the firm’s business development efforts – or help damage them. A lot of that depends on how they are treated, how much that love or hate their job, and are otherwise engaged in the business of the law firm.

This is particularly true if a staff member has ANY contact with clients or prospective clients. And how many don’t? It’s pretty simple: if they are unhappy, they will NOT be nice to clients in the long haul. Linda Klein, a shareholder at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz writes in the current issue of Law Practice Today:

“It takes only one bad experience to jeopardize a client relationship or to ruin a firm’s reputation. And it doesn’t matter if that bad experience comes from an interaction with a lawyer or a staff member—your business is bound to feel the result.”

She goes on to talk about the difference between a “satisfied employee and an engaged employee.” The latter are far more productive, loyal, and happy – oh, did I mention nicer to clients as well. The thrust of her article is about ways a firm can improve morale and how her firm’s efforts have resulted in it making Fortune magazine’s “Top 100 Companies to Work For” list the past two years. Her suggestions include communicating more effectively with staff, listening to them, and providing meaningful feedback. Read her article for other ideas that can help foster more engaged employees.

Bottom line: “Engaged employees are happier, more loyal, and care more about the firm and its clients.” And it is smart marketing to work at engaging your staff.

Fire the person who hired him or her. Over the years, I’ve told a few horror stories involving receptionists. Two that immediately come to mind, include: the cigarette dangling, shoeless one, and the one that told the caller to get lost

It has always amazed me that businesses, including law firms, would be so careless when it comes to placing a major part of their contact with the outside world in the hands of an uninteresting, bored, unpleasant person because they don’t have to pay them very much. I’ve even argued that the cashier in a bank should be paid more than the president, since they have the most meaningful contact with its customers. But I digress.

Seth Godin’s recent post on receptionists reminded me of just how important that position is to a law firm. After mentioning several different businesses, and how important new and referred business is, Godin states:

“Go down the list. Stockbrokers, even hairdressers. And not just people who recently moved. When a new referral shows up, all that work and expense, and then the phone rings and it gets answered by your annoyed, overworked, burned out, never very good at it anyway receptionist, it all falls apart.

“What is the doctor thinking when she allows her neither pleasant nor interested in new patients receptionist to answer the phone.”

What indeed! And why do some firms load up their receptionists with so much work that they don’t have the time or attitude to be good at what they were hired to do. Or, they may just be the wrong person for the job personality-wise. In that case, it isn’t their fault. The person who hired them is the one to blame. Fire them.

When I was in-house as the first marketing person in the mid-80’s, I had no staff to speak of – as in none, except for a great secretary I shared with a lawyer. You can imagine how much of her time I got. I quickly learned to utilize any staff person – librarian, copy room people, paralegals, etc. I could con…………err sweet talk into helping me on various projects.

The important lesson I learned is that the staff of law firms are bright and talented. And they can be extremely helpful, if they are given the respect they deserve. In this month’s issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today there is an article about managing relationships with your staff by Sheila Blackford, who is the practice management advisor for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund.

Her “staff relationship checklist” includes:

  • Is your firm’s mission shared with and instilled in your staff?
  • Does your staff look at their position as a job or a career?
  • Do you support the staff’s professional growth?
  • Is your staff’s security also built into your long-term plans?
  • Do you know the staff’s strengths and weaknesses, and utilize them most effectively?

Respecting, committing to and building on staff relationships can turn an untapped resource into a real law firm asset. Those who look at working at the firm as a career vs. a job, can become roving marketing ambassadors for the firm.

As I mentioned in my last post about making the non-marketing staff a part of the firm’s business development efforts, Stacy West Clark’s article on that point gives some suggestions on how to accomplish that with at least two groups of staffers.

But first, the lawyer’s role. Educate those who work for you as to:

  • How you want clients treated and informed (getting to know them, phone procedures, what to say when you are unavailable, and reaching out to key clients),
  • Tracking Google alerts for info about specific clients,
  • Remembering important client facts and dates (wedding date, birthdays, etc.),
  • Scheduling marketing activities,
  • Keeping mailing lists up to date, and
  • Encouraging questions about cases, referrals sources and the like.

Legal assistant’s role:
Carrying out all of the above per your lawyers’ instructions. Additionally, be proactive in asking your lawyers about marketing goals, important cases; and staying abreast of the firm’s web site, your attorneys’ bios, and important information about existing clients and referral sources, and most importantly, developing (professional) friendships with clients.

Receptionist’s role:
I facetiously said in one of my earlier posts, and have suggested in my speeches for years, that tellers should be the highest paid people in banks, since they have the most direct contact with the money people (customers). Likewise, a law firm receptionist should be the highest paid staff person, because he/she has the most contact with clients (by phone) and with visitors of all kinds. As such, the receptionist can have a profound influence on how the firm is perceived. Put another way, a receptionist person can have an extremely positive or negative impact on the firm’s brand. I can (and do) tell horror stories in this area.

Just some of the important attributes of a good receptionist include:

  • Professional attire and grooming,
  • Enthusiastic and warm in answering the phone and greeting visitors,
  • Remembering and addressing clients by name, and
  • Caring about the firm’s clients and showing it.

All staff members can play an important role in a firm’s business development efforts. Just think of the many ways they come in contact with clients and the world outside the firm. Each is an opportunity to advance the firm’s brand or to damage it.

For some of my other posts on staff involvement in marketing…. 

Continue Reading Staff as Part of Marketing – Continued

It continues to amaze me how few law firms engage their non-marketing staff in the firm’s business development efforts. The funny part is that these staff members are involved in marketing your firm in one way or another, if they deal with clients, potential clients or the public at-large. These contacts, whether intended or not, can end up being for the good or bad of the law firm.

So, why not train and focus these staff encounters for the best possible results? It’s not that difficult.

My friend Stacy West Clark has a terrific article on empowering your staff to help increase client business  in The Legal Intelligencer and on’s Small Firm Business online. In fact, there is so much good stuff there that, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to cover the article in two posts.

Today, I’ll cover her initial advice, and next time how the lawyers, their assistants and even the receptionist can contribute to the firm’s marketing.

Her opening paragraph is one of the more succinct recipes for great client relationship building I have heard:

“The components of great service include understanding the client’s business, being incredibly responsive, communicative and accessible and looking for opportunities to make the client’s life and business world better.”

Stacy then points out that the lawyers do not have to do this alone. The team includes your “secretary, messenger, file clerk, receptionist, human resources manager, office manager, librarian,” et al.

And she states:

“The sooner you empower your staff to deliver outstanding client service, the sooner your revenues will grow. Staff who are involved in and educated about the marketing effort have higher morale and lower turnover and treat clients better.”


Next time: Stacy’s ideas for starters on how to get staff members involved.