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What I Learned About the Future of Law Practice Marketing Talking To 527 Lawyers This Year

That's a lot of lawyers. A lot of conversations. Good ones. And ones that matter. Why?

My company's mission is to give entrepreneurial attorneys the tools and knowledge they need to create the business and life that they want. We grow law practices.

In fact, we’ve spoken with 527 attorneys year to date about what’s working and what’s not working in law practice – their marketing, their operations, their delivery to clients, their market positioning...

And what trends did we see?

  • That 2015 is the last year in which having zero online strategy would be viable.
  • That 2015 marked the beginning of the end for the undifferentiated, commodity law practice.
  • That 2015 was a year of opportunity for law practices positioned as thought leaders.

But what about 2016?

Here are three key trends that attorneys need to recognize as they develop a marketing strategy.

1) Lawyers with an Old-School Mentality Are Losing Ground

Ah, the good ol’ days. The office was the golf course. The three martini lunch. And the business just ... came.

Today, there’s too much competition from other attorneys, non-attorney service providers, and websites that offer do-it-yourself legal tools and services.

The competition for people’s attention has reached a fever pitch.

LegalZoom has a multi-million dollar marketing budget. So do AmLaw 100 firms. What about you?

Even if you’re a fantastic lawyer, your prospective clients are being bombarded by people—and websites—offering the services they need.

Related: When Lawyer Marketing Goes Wrong

The old-school approach doesn’t allow you to connect with people with enough frequency.

If you’re relying on old-school networking, you’ll never be able to get new business fast enough to keep up with the deluge of marketing from various competitors.

If you don’t play the game, you lose the game, whether you like the game or not.

2) The Price War is Unwinnable – and Undesirable

There have always been—and probably always will be—lawyers who compete on price. New practices often enter the market and feel like they have to compete on price to survive.

Trying to be the Walmart of law practices has always been a losing strategy.

But now the floor has fallen out on the price-based market. It has become impossible to compete with do-it-yourself legal forms providers for day-to-day legal needs.

Also, 30,000-50,000 new lawyers are being minted every year, many with zero job prospects. They’re hanging their shingle and competing at half the price that a real attorney would charge.

Attorneys under the delusion that a price war is winnable are destined for failure.

It’s time for these attorneys to change their thinking about how to approach the market and opt out of the pricing game.

3) Having More Marketing Options Isn’t Always Better

The relentless march of technology has created more marketing and advertising opportunities for law practices.

That’s not always a good thing.

Each new legal marketing option requires a more nuanced understanding of how marketing works.

In the good ol’ days, you could put an ad in the Yellow Pages or the newspaper, hold a seminar, or write an article. It was relatively easy to wrap your head around these things.

Today, we have SEO. Pay-per-click. Retargeting. Pay-per-lead. Digital Media insertion orders. Facebook (yes, it works for lawyers). LinkedIn. Native advertising.

Related: How One Lawyer Generated Referrals on His Very First Marketing Campaign

Most lawyers aren’t up to speed on the implications of choosing one tactic over another.

It doesn’t help that vendors are more interested in closing a sale than looking out for the lawyer’s best interests. They keep lawyers focused on the tactical level instead of the long-term strategy.

Very often, the right decision for an attorney when presented with a new advertising medium is to just say “no.”

Avoid the shiny new object unless you completely understand it and you’re confident that it can bring you qualified leads.

OK, now you've seen the big trends, so...

Here's how to capitalize on the change:

A) Embrace the fact that you must use new media to reach and nurture your audience. You can't exclusively use old-school in-person marketing and succeed.

B) Opt out of the pricing war. If you're not sure how, get help ... positioning yourself as a premium boutique (yes, any practice can do it).

C) Focus your efforts on the few things that you know work. Resist the siren song of shiny new marketing tactics until you've mastered the basics – nurturing your existing network with digital media.

Raj Jha