It’s simple. Law schools do not teach law firm industry
marketing principles. Marketing becomes one of the many
esoteric concepts new associates must learn through experience
during their first few years with a law firm. The good
news is that law firms have increasingly invested more
resources and emphasis towards the importance of marketing.
For example, firms are hiring marketing professionals
to help position them in a highly competitive marketplace.
Many firms are also beginning to recognize and to reward
non-billable contributions towards firm administration
and marketing efforts. Training programs that teach practitioners
sales techniques, business plan writing, and brand awareness
are becoming more popular. In addition, the ability to
capture new business and handle direct client contact
is clearly a requirement for partnership consideration.
It’s never too early to start marketing. New
associates can engage in many tactics that will enable
them later in their careers to generate business and
to position themselves and the firm as experts in particular
areas of law. It can take years to generate one new
client. The sales cycle can be painfully long, ask any
20-year veteran. Seeds must be planted early for later
Throughout my career, I have encountered plenty of
new associates knocking on my door to discuss individual
marketing tactics related to their specific questions.
Below are a few examples of new associate scenarios
and how we approached the issue to achieve positive
How do I “get” work from partners?
Much like developing an external client base, new associates
should develop internal relationships with colleagues
to inform them of their interests and availability for
work. Participating in firm events (both social and
business) and lunching with several different partners
are tactics in which a new associate can engage to break
into the work flow structure. Becoming a “go to”
person for a senior partner can introduce a new associate
to not only a substantive area of the law, but also
introductions to clients, potential clients and managing
outside relationships. Once an associate is able to
do a project for the partner, providing frequent updates
and delivering a solid timely work product will ensure
more work ahead.
What is the easiest way for me to get to know firm
A new associate should express interest in joining
a firm committee some time within the first two years
of employment. Practice Group membership should be automatic.
There is no better way to gain insight and understanding
about firm culture, operations, clients, or individual
expertise than by active committee and practice group
involvement. It’s also a good forum in which a
new associate can express his or her interests and skill
set. Another example may be volunteering for marketing
tasks for a practice group.
How do I educate myself about the client base?
New associates should avail oneself to firm client
information. What types of industries does the firm
serve? Who are the top clients? What type of legal work
is being done? Gaining knowledge about a specific client
industry that one may be interested in serving is very
important as well as specific information about a particular
client’s business. Ask a mentor if it is appropriate
to look at top client reports and industry break down.
What kinds of marketing activities should I be doing
as a new associate?
Volunteer to write materials. New associates can volunteer
to help prepare marketing materials that include business
proposals, articles for industry publications, firm
newsletters, and CLE materials.
Keeping in Touch
Directly contacting law school classmates and other
acquaintances for lunch to build a referral network
or prospects is something new associates should be doing.
Building an electronic rolodex of all these new contacts
is essential to building relationships. Contact information
should be stored immediately to send holiday cards and
perhaps alerts on a relevant legal issue.
Join, Join, Join
One of the most effective marketing tactics a new associate
can take advantage of their first few years is joining
an industry association or a community organization.
Memberships can often lead to networking opportunities
as well as writing and speaking engagements to demonstrate
It is true that new associates should be concentrating
most of their professional time developing substantive
legal expertise. However, they should be encouraged
to participate in some of the tactics mentioned above
to prepare them for the next step of responsibility
in client development and management. Firms are also
realizing that early acquisition of marketing skills
contributes to overall attorney success and retention.
Jenna Gruen is
Director of Marketing and Practice Development at Halleland
Lewis Nilan & Johnson, a Minneapolis firm focused
on Product Liability/Mass Torts, Commercial Litigation,
Employment and Labor Law, Business Law, and Health Care.
Jenna has also served as Director of Practice Management
for six years at another commercial law firm in Minneapolis,
Gray Plant Mooty. In 1994, she graduated from Hamline
University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota and
received her undergraduate degree in Speech Communications
from Macalester College also located in St. Paul. Jenna
has consulted with law firms nationally and in Canada
regarding marketing and practice management issues.
Jenna can be contacted at 612-573-2921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.