For legal marketers, Chambers conjures up images of the sometimes-arduous and ultimately gratifying annual process of preparing submissions that detail significant accomplishments of attorneys, law firm departments, and practice groups. The Chambers process opens the door for marketers to gather what amounts to “marketing gold.” This gold appears in the form of attorneys’ responses to conventional Chambers questions and other queries legal marketers can weave into the process.
For legal marketers, knowing their firms’ attorneys and practices “cold” is key, from representative matters, practice focus, and recent victories or deals to honors and awards garnered by the attorneys they serve. Such basic marketing information finds its way into collateral, bios, web text, pitches, and proposals. But another vantage point is equally important to successfully marketing attorneys.
In Marketing the Legal Mind: Turning New Perspectives into Powerful Opportunities, author Henry Dahut, Esq., states: “Whether or not they know it consciously, clients are buying a special type of relationship—one they expect will be based on trust and confidence. Part of marketing, therefore, must come from understanding the lawyer’s role as a counselor and not just a legal technician.” Dahut challenges us to know our attorneys as individuals and legal service providers whose work directly affects other people—in other words, to know who they are.
The challenge in legal marketing is that when we focus on the “what our attorneys do” side, listing facts, cases, matters, and data, we are telling only half of the story. To address Dahut’s challenge, however, we need insights into our attorneys as people and professionals, to know their personal stories. That information enables us to write and market convincingly about differentiators among attorneys, groups, and firms.
Chambers offers a wonderful opportunity to ask questions of attorneys that get to the heart of their individual stories. Consider how attorneys you know might respond to these questions:
- What would you say are the particular strengths you bring to your practice?
- What differentiates you from other attorneys in your field?
- What are your “hallmark traits?”
- What would your clients say they most value about your representation of them?
The exercise can be extended to include multiple attorneys’ views of their common practice area:
- What are the stand-out characteristics of your department/practice group that distinguish your team from other firms?
- What aspect of working with this group do you like best?
- What one word would you use to describe your team?
These questions—and different queries specifically geared to your own attorneys and groups—help respondents step beyond “what I do,” to enter the realm of “who I am as a professional” and, perhaps, “what I believe my role is for my clients.” The shaking up that occurs from posing such questions elicits responses that are invaluable for these reasons:
- Attorneys self-identify the most salient and richest aspects of their work and services. Because open-ended questions allow attorneys to answer by the path of their choosing, doubtless you will wind up with answers that range from, “I can explain complex legal concepts in a way that my clients can understand,” to, “I’m the guy who quietly but steadily builds consensus among parties on both sides of the table.”
- The descriptions are specific and differentiating. Each identifies “core strengths” of an individual attorney. One is responsive and ever-ready; another is a forceful negotiator; a third excels at connecting potential business partners through a variety of means. This specificity offer marketers an escape route from standard legal marketing terms to describe attorneys.
- The characterizations are authentic. Language provided by attorneys, in their own voices, has a different energy and more veracity than any language written by a third-person. As a result, marketing can be more effective.
- The responses humanize attorneys and create connections between them and clients/prospects. Allowing attorneys to describe their commitment to clients, passion for their work, and understanding of industries and business challenges gives clients and prospects a reason to see the attorneys as not only service providers, but also as people. This builds a common thread of connection.
For each of these reasons, responses from your attorneys qualify as “marketing gold.” Now that you have this treasure, how can you put it to good use?
Using Your Gold For Good
Certainly the descriptions cited above suggest distinct marketing paths. Organic granola and high-sugar cereals are marketed differently. Likewise, we cannot market all attorneys to the same potential clients using the same language or vehicles.
Possible ideas for using this information, segmented by communications and business development sectors, include the following.
- Augment and enrich attorneys’ bios. In addition to language about experience, representative matters, honors/awards and education, create a special call-out box for Attorney Practice Philosophy or [Attorney Name]’s Hallmark Traits. Populate the call-out with a direct quote or bullets that summarize the attorney’s strengths. For more punch, add a casual but appropriate photo of the attorney.
- Customizing practice collateral. Create a visual of your group of attorneys: list their strengths and traits both individually and as a group. Then let your creativity take over as you consider appropriate and effective ways to use the information. You could craft a one-page handout with photos of your attorneys and bullets about their different traits/strengths. Or use the information to inform a draft of a practice brochure that can truly, legitimately differentiate your group from others, based on the attorneys’ words.
- Use material as a script for sound-byte audio clips. Weave the material into an interactive web page that includes photos, brief summaries and brief video or audio recordings of each attorney explaining his or her strengths. Think short, sweet and powerful.
- Recast practice group descriptions and attorney bios used for pitches and RFPs. When you gather this information from groups of attorneys in the same practice area, you begin to see a picture emerge of not just individual attorneys, but of entire practice areas, sometimes even offices. Imagine how these specific data-bytes could be woven into a one or two page “Team at a Glance” piece that could be used for pitches, RFPs, and other purposes.
- Craft personalized brief introductions or elevator speeches for individual attorneys. Information is power. You can now use an attorney’s own words to help him write a five bullet professional summary that incorporates the humanizing language discussed earlier.
- Consider teaming up attorneys of different strengths in pitches or presentations. What better way to show diversity of approaches, personalities and value-added components than to pair up the “deal quarterback” or “tenacious negotiator” with the “great communicator/listener” who can cogently explain complex legal concepts in easily understandable ways?
At its core, the process described in this article is reflective of how attorneys approach their own clients: genuinely interested in how they see their work and attentive to the ways they are especially strong as service providers and, ultimately, people. Mining for this information involves work, but consider the gains of what you will receive:
- The characteristics that differentiate your attorneys from those at other firms, which will help you tell a more compelling story.
- Self-identifying hallmark traits of attorneys—a view of how they see themselves in practice—which translates into the type of marketing approach with which they are most comfortable.
- Descriptions of individuals and whole practice teams that can be used in innovative ways in all manner of marketing collateral, on your firm’s web site, in attorney bios and in pitches and proposals.
- If conducted within a single practice area or even office, a cohesive story or image of the attorneys as a whole and how they interrelate in terms of skill sets, abilities and experience.
Most important, you will know your attorneys better as legal professionals and people. If we agree that professional services marketing is about knowing and understanding your client, this in-depth, up-close view will help you serve your clients—the attorneys—much more effectively.
About the Author
Patricia Keleman Szuhaj is a senior writer at Fox Rothschild LLP (@foxrothschild) with more than a decade of legal marketing, business development, and communications experience. She can be reached at email@example.com or 215.299.2871