Law firm marketing is never easy in these times, but with the oldest Baby Boomers approaching 70 years old, it's important for legal practitioners to understand how succession can impact their marketing. If you're trading on the names and business of your senior partners, you'll want to have a succession plan in place to make sure that your firm lives on beyond any one person's contribution. Keep reading to understand what you can do to make sure your marketing doesn't take a hit even when a partner dies or retires from practice.
Step 1: Start Marketing Younger Attorneys Sooner
Many firms make the mistake of making their marketing materials mostly about senior partners. While it's important to market using the people in your firm with name recognition, it's also critical to ensure that your younger attorneys are being put forward in your materials.
For example, if you're going to draft press releases about cases, make sure that you're fully acknowledging the contributions of junior attorneys. You may also want to include profiles of up and coming lawyers in your firm that have real prominence in your firm's external communications. This kind of recognition can also be good for employee morale among younger attorneys.
Step 2: Encourage Attorneys To Engage in Marketing
In addition to including younger attorneys in your marketing materials, you should also help them understand how to incorporate marketing into their own days. For example, attorneys should be made aware of the ways in which their activities for charities and the community can be used for firm marketing, and should be trained in how to market themselves and your firm in their daily lives. Personal connections and referrals still account for a great deal of legal business, so it isn't enough to hope that online marketing alone can keep your firm afloat through a transition or succession.
Step 3: Train Younger Attorneys
Young attorneys shouldn't just learn about their potential role in marketing your firm. It's also critical that your firm is working to train and educate young attorneys about current developments in law. By keeping your attorneys trained and ensuring that they are doing meaningful continuing education, you'll keep them winning cases and gaining referrals.
Skimping on training expenses due to current cash shortfalls is like selling your paddle when you're already up a creek. Make sure that you're always budgeting for sufficient training, or your succession is likely to turn into a disaster.
Step 4: Evaluate and Mentor Potential Leadership
When you've got a large number of attorneys working for your firm, not all of them will have the same potential to become a leader. Don't assume that easy metrics, like number of hours billed per week or year, necessarily indicate leadership potential. Just because an attorney knows how to bill hours doesn't necessarily mean they'll have the project management skills or interpersonal abilities to lead a group of people effectively.
When you find people who are interested in leadership and seem like they could become effective leaders, have a mentoring program in place to help these attorneys. Make sure that there are open lines of communication with senior partners at the firm—it's better to cultivate talent that has “grown up” in your law firm's unique climate than to have to hire new talent at the time of a succession transition. Attorneys who have existing loyalty to your firm and an understanding of your brand are worth even more at succession time, if your firm in 20 years is to have any resemblance to how it is today.
Step 5: Always Have a Succession Plan
The biggest marketing mistake that you can make during a time of transition is to lack a comprehensive succession plan that covers the death or incapacity of a partner. While some firms don't want to think about these potential issues, the unexpected can happen at any time. It is far better to develop a plan that will never see the light of day than to have to manage succession at an incredibly stressful time with no plan and several factions jockeying for their favored succession ideas.
Step 6: Maintain a Consistent Brand Image
Your marketing doesn't need to change significantly just because there's a transition occurring at your firm. Keeping your brand image consistent will help your clients understand that your firm will maintain its high quality and client service standards.
Don't just have a brand image—make sure that all attorneys at your firm, from the most senior to the most junior, have a comprehensive understanding of the image you are trying to project. Without it, you may find that your lawyers start talking at cross purposes with your marketing department, diluting your brand image overall.
Step 7: Have Young Attorneys Do More Online
One of the places where young attorneys can really step up to the plate in your marketing efforts is by creating a social media presence for your firm, or by creating blogs. Often, these technological tasks are perceived as being a waste of time by senior partners, and older attorneys are less likely to have an in-depth understanding of online marketing technologies or the norms of internet communities and social networks.
This means that your young talent is in a perfect position to start transitioning your firm's marketing materials to the online world. When your younger attorneys develop a social media presence, they make succession proceed more smoothly for business development.
Step 8: Know When To Seek Outside Talent
It's important to realize when you have a bench that isn't deep enough to continue effective marketing after your Baby Boomer partners retire. When this happens, it's important to start making some lateral hires now. There's no shame in seeking outside talent, but make sure that you have some plan for the continuation of your law firm's business at all times that doesn't rely on overuse of attorneys with insufficient experience or skill levels.