Lawyers move from the dark side into marketing

Posted on: February 16, 2009

Whilst drafting an article on the future challenges for those with marketing careers in the legal profession for Legal Marketing magazine, I pondered on the trend of qualified and experienced lawyers moving into marketing careers.

Many years ago it was suggested as an alternative career to returning female lawyers who did not want to try to cram a six day legal working week into three days or for those whose firms felt that they could not be part time litigators. More enlightened firms saw it is a neat way to resource the business development team with people who really understood the product, wouldn’t have to battle to gain acceptance and buy-in from busy lawyers and who could hold their own in a conversation with in-house counsel. And anyway, how often do you have to deploy your hard won marketing theory and professional qualifications in a law firm anyway?

So it was interesting the other day to provide some sales coaching to one such lawyer turned business developer at a City firm. Essentially, he was a formerly high profile lawyer who had been relieved of his fee-earning targets and given the full time task of driving a pan-European team to focus on key account management. With little more than one or two days training in selling.

So I talked through some relatively simple tools to help him guide his team towards developing a structured analysis of those clients, set some clear goals (to focus attention and report back on progress), undertake research and compile client profiles and prepare some preliminary account plans with support from some issues based campaign planning. And I threw in some ideas on how he might get the partners in the various departments and countries to devote the necessary time and attention to helping his team effectively cross-sell into their highly protected clients. I have no doubt that he will deliver some stunning results in a relatively short amount of time.

So it doesn’t take much to get a lawyer up and running with some standard tools so that they can effectively do the job that many marketers spent years studying and perhaps decades honing their skills. But I felt uneasy. The reason is that professionally trained marketing people know that the starting point is always the client. And his or her needs for the future. And that we must start with really developing our knowledge of that client and identifying ways in which we might add real value to them. Non-marketers start from their own perspective – “what I want from this client is XYZ”. A fundamentally different approach. Furthermore, trained marketers will be attuned to how the initiatives aimed at one or two key clients might impact on the rest of the client base and even the firm overall and be grappling with a multitude of strategic issues spanning service development, market development, internal communications, pricing and brand development. So I don’t think that we will see the metamorphosis of lawyers into marketers as a threat, more like an additional texture to the rich weave of marketing in the legal sector.

Some of the other challenges explored in the article include: the digital revolution, the divergence of marketing and business development, the emergence of awareness and relationship roles, the need for coaching experience, the increasing value of international experience and the opportunities presented by the Legal Services Act.

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