Law Firm Marketing Rules for 2013: Out with the Old, In with the New

by Larry Bodine

2013 is almost upon us, and one of the things you should shed with the old year is any antiquated ideas you may have about law firm marketing. Last week, Stephen Fairley listed five of the most common “old rules” and gave you new legal marketing rules to live by in the new year on The Rainmaker Blog.

Old Rule #5: Look to your competitors to succeed. In the race to be perceived as equals, small law firms have done their level best to erase the lines between them and their larger brethren. The result is an inability to self-differentiate. Ask two partners, one at a small firm and one at a large firm, what makes each of them unique, and they’ll both likely give you the exact same response.

New Rule #5: Only the specialists will survive. In this new economy, you must clearly stake out your ground: who you are, who you serve, and how you specialize is increasingly vital to your survival. Identify your uniqueness and emphasize it everywhere. Train every person from your partners to the receptionist how to answer the Big Question: “Why should I hire you?”

Old Rule #4: Mediocrity is acceptable . . . as long as associates bill enough hours. Although no one openly states mediocrity is okay, far too many partners tacitly accept it; some believe it’s inevitable. I have head and seen firsthand the devastating effects the wrong office manager or receptionist can have on a small law firm. I have had clients who tolerated mediocre associates only to lose top accounts and lawsuits because of them.

New Rule #4: Superstars are the currency of the new economy. You have a limited number of positions to fill in your firm and you can only afford to retain superstars in every position. If you find a position filled with someone who is “good enough,” either eliminate the person or eliminate the position. You set the standard. You raise the bar. Excellence is the only attitude we allow. “Exceptional” is the “New Normal” in our firm.

Old Rule #3: The law is a noble profession. In times past, it was enough for you to be excellent at your craft. New lawyers could invest the first decade of practice perfecting their pitch.

New Rule #3: Law is a business. As outside pressures narrow your focus on what is truly important (your survival), you must pay attention to the business of your practice and engender a culture of total participation driven by measurable results, where setting and achieving aggressive goals is paramount.

Old Rule #2: Taking care of clients comes first.

New Rule #2: Take care of your business first or you won’t be in business to take care of your clients. Too many times lawyers focus solely on their clients without focusing on the bottom line. The result is devastating: not sending out invoices on time; not raising your rates for years; not actively cross-promoting other services your firm offers; and not staying connected with former clients.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. You must be the one to lead the charge in shifting your firm’s culture from one of passivity into action orientation.

Old Rule #1: More marketing will obtain more results. In the past, all you had to do was throw more money at marketing or advertising and you would see more results. But not any more.

New Rule #1: ROI rules. With the increased competition and level of sophistication in the legal marketing industry, to get ahead you must be faster, smarter, and more effective than your competitors.

Your ability to leverage Internet marketing and automatic parts of your marketing system will allow you to dominate larger firms with bigger budgets; however, every dollar must be accounted for and every effort must be measured for Return On Investment. You cannot afford to be indifferent.

© 2012 Larry Bodine

About The Author

Larry Bodine is the Editor in Chief of,, the top online destination for legal news consumers can use. See Follow Larry on Twitter: @larrybodine. He has helped law firms generate millions in new revenue by devising strategies, conducting business development retreats and individually coaching attorneys. See Follow Larry on Twitter: @larrybodine.