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Associate marketing can ensure long-term success

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

New associates need to develop a marketing strategy to grow their clientele and attract clients suited to their expertise, says Catherine Moffitt, an associate with legal practice management specialists Cosgrove Associates.

“When lawyers enter the profession, they are sometimes averse to marketing altogether,” says Moffitt. “They seem to think, ‘We’re lawyers and we practise law, we don’t do marketing.’ It's barely touched upon in law school. But they should in order to be successful long term,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Sooner or later they won't be fed new files from more experienced lawyers, she says.

Since many young lawyers hope to start a practice of their own someday, Moffitt says it’s crucial they start developing marketing skills early in their careers.

She offers these tips on how that can be done effectively.

Start a marketing file

Moffitt says associates need to have a basic written plan and should regularly work on marketing, ideally making it part of their weekly work routine.

“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time at it,” she says. “Think about what you enjoy and are comfortable with doing, and figure out ways to promote yourself in those areas."

Plan ahead, diarize to make a call, send an email or explore upcoming networking events. It's important to be consistent and keep "the fire stoked" to attract new potential clients.

Moffitt says larger firms may set up marketing plans for their associates, though these could include tasks they are not comfortable with, such as writing a certain number of articles per month.

“Many associates would rather be out networking or giving speeches,” she says, adding, “You really need to be able to enjoy what you’re doing or it will fall to the bottom of your priorities or you'll neglect it altogether."

Keep track of your outreach

Moffitt recommends that associates track their marketing efforts by recording them as non-billable hours.

“Tracking your time is a good way to determine the value of your efforts later,” she says.

Embrace the online world

It’s essential that all lawyers have an online presence, Moffitt says, with a professional and secure website.

The IT departments of larger firms will create webpages for associates, she says, but smaller firms may want to bring in outside help to create an online presence.

An engaging website enhances an associate’s credibility, Moffitt says, especially in the eyes of younger clients.

Since people often use their phones to surf the web, she says it is critical that websites be compatible for viewing on a smartphone.

Develop an elevator speech

All associates should be able to clearly and succinctly articulate their strengths, Moffitt says.

“You have to be able to get the right message out to the right people at the right time,” she says, “so no matter where you are, you can express your expertise when the situation arises. This message should carry through to your digital presence and print materials.”

Any promotional information has to be geared to attracting the type of client you want, Moffitt says.

“People don’t go shopping for a lawyer just for the fun of it,” she says. “They are usually looking for a specific type of lawyer, so you have to convince them that you are the person they need.”

Ask others to help

“When you start a marketing file, you need to give thought to who can help you develop a client base,” Moffitt says.

Word of mouth and personal recommendations are great ways to attract new clients, says Moffitt, who advises associates to draw up a list of people who can be approached for support.

She says that list could include current clients, peers, friends, previous employers, religious leaders, politicians and professionals in other fields.

“Some firms suggest their associates consider doing some legal aid work at least for one year, as it can help with experience, confidence and getting your name out there,” she says.

Networking is crucial

Associates have to reach out to people in their target market, Moffitt says, and that can be done in a variety of ways, including belonging to associations or clubs, putting out newsletters, volunteering in the community, or engaging in social media that will reach the demographic of your current and potential clients.

“The important thing is to be visible, so people know who you are, and can quickly assess what you do,” she says. “Find the approach that fits with your regular routine.”

If someone makes a referral to you, always follow up with a thank you, Moffitt says, either via email, handwritten note or phone call.

Work with a coach

“Sometimes having a coach can be very helpful,” she says.

There are firms that can help associates develop and build marketing plans, as well as monitor the results and suggest new approaches that may be more effective, Moffitt says.

“Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive,” she says, “but it is necessary to ensure success over the long term so your client base doesn't burn out, get stale or disappear to the competition.”

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