Question: I’m a lawyer who has recently established my own chambers, after working in another law firm for about six years. How do I go about applying marketing input to enhance my new venture? This is indeed a grey area to me. – Thomas.
Since you owned up to marketing being a grey area to you, I have a hunch that the law firm you worked for must have dwelt so much on ‘old connections’ or long earned reputation, and likely belong to one of those outfits in your professional calling that adhere tenaciously to the ‘old ways’ of viewing promotion of legal services as commercialisation or ‘selling’. These still do not realise that all efforts aimed at building the practice still amount to selling in another form. They hold tenaciously to the view that legal services are too personal and intangible, preferring that lawyers should enhance their practice and business relationship ONLY through proving their worth from excellence in service delivery, hinged on word-of-mouth approach, and not promotion in more elaborate forms.
I am aware that in other climes (e.g. the US), lawyers can ‘subtly’ utilize various media of advertisement (radio, TV, print, internet, and others) to promote their services. Here, in Nigeria, the rule is for lawyers to stick to complimentary or call cards (hinged on belonging to one social group or another, where words go round), sign boards, plaques, listing in professional publications, etc. As a believer in professional ethics myself, I don’t entirely endorse providers of certain professional services (lawyers inclusive) to adopt the ‘ratmatazz’ of modern day commercialization, mainly for reasons of denigration or unfavourable public perception.
Nevertheless, modern concept of “Law Firm Marketing”, which is fast gaining ground, will surely have positive effects on legal practice in Nigeria. So, if you prefer to apply the old and conservative ways in seeking clientele for your chambers, rather than shifting to adoption of certain modern marketing techniques, hunger go show you pepper for this Nigeria.
Considering the large number of lawyers who comprise membership of the Nigerian Bar Association; about 3000 that graduate yearly from the Law School; lawyers who work in government agencies all over the federation; the judiciary, educational institutions, non-governmental organisations, private associations, corporate organisations, and private practices, you should start appreciating what befalls you by way of competition.
This calls for you to ‘roll up your sleeves’ and get into working hard if this new law firm is to succeed in today’s business terrain. This is in spite of the perception that the advent of democracy in Nigeria (since 1999, after almost 30 years of military rule) seems to favour lawyers the most – Democracy, we know, remains the celebration of the rule of law, and requires that courts strive or survive.
Thomas, though I’m not aware of your professional leaning – If to operate as a solicitor or an advocate. At this initial stage of your venture, it is preferable to provide hints on clientele development strategy to help boost your efforts. I believe your serious consideration of the rest of this piece will help a great deal. Try to consider these two components of marketing, (a) Product(s) and (b) Price, before delving into a third aspect later, (c) Promotion, crucial to your request on how to effectively market your efforts for this new venture.
Product: Even where yours operates either as a firm of solicitors or advocates (I am not sure if as both), it is critical to define your law firm’s niche, as this approach is relevant for target identification (which helps focus on where to expend your energy and effort). As regards advocacy, be it for cases on contracts, law of torts, matrimonial issues, matters hinged on criminal law and so on; or facilitation of deed of assignment, drafting/negotiating contracts, probate and administration, business registration, etc as solicitors; try to evolve related legal services products at this initial stage.
These help cater for various market segments which your clients might belong to. Segmentation in this regard should be reflective of clients’ ability to pay for services provided. In creating these products, consider the clients’ frame of reference in order to understand them better for more appropriate approach towards them. Good products, even at favourable prices obviously will not yield any profit if they are not known – Hence the need for promotion.
Price: Endeavour to set the right fees for your services. You could ‘snoop around’ to obtain competitors’ pricing, and then ‘feel the pulse’ of available clients to ascertain their pricing attitudes. I hope you realize that pricing has a way of affecting volume of work. I suggest, you consider volume discount for those clients who request for a certain number of products, or demand a certain amount of counseling. Remember that ‘regulars’ in any business somehow should be rewarded for their loyalty.
Promotion: Try to adopt education based marketing approach to project your personality, and by extension your law firm. You can stimulate this through participation as a guest on radio and TV talk shows, to provide information and advice to consumers in order to help them solve problems. Media programmes will no doubt afford you the opportunity of enhancing your profile as a skilled commentator about law and even matters related to public affairs. It is not a coincidence that commentators in the media on public affairs in Nigeria these days, comprise mostly of lawyers.
Your written materials in form of handouts, newsletters, feature articles in newspapers, magazines, trade publications or blogs for attorneys will go a long way to project you favourably before the public, and subsequently the law firm. Participate at seminars and hold firmly to referral sources through networking from the unset of this venture.
Following up on referrals is very essential in clientele development, while you should not overlook enhancing the descriptions of your products and pricing on your Website. Joining professional networking sites (e.g. LinkedIn) will help. The same holds for subscription to both online and offline directories.
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