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How do small and midsize law firms become more successful and punch above their weight?

By Neville Pokroy

Too many small and midsize firms feel inadequate when competing against the big guys with big money behind them. So, how can a smaller firm compete effectively and punch above their weight?

It’s actually quite simple as long as they follow a number of proven strategies that are easy to implement and quite cost effective to self-finance.

Here are the 10 most important MUST DO factors that have led to success.

1. You are running a business and a law firm – that helps you see things through a different perspective.

2. Be smarter than the big firms (and your immediate competitors) – think strategically - you don't need to overspend your marketing budget to make this successful. Find things that are meaningful to client’s and that your competition has not contemplated. It requires some self-examination and self-reflection on the firm’s behalf, but it is totally worth it. How you should go about doing that is partially contained in the next few factors….

3. A differentiated positioning and clearly defined target audience(s) – both referral sources and end clients - are prerequisites for growth. Your potential clients need to understand how they will be treated and why they should use your firm, rather than a competing firm – your referral sources will be expecting to know that as well; after all they need to have confidence that you will treat their referrals well. By showcasing that difference, you are giving your firm and your lawyers a way to compete like never before. This factor is crucial because it forces you to look at yourself through your client’s eyes.

4. Relevance – no-one ever thinks about this and it is the most important thing you need to communicate to client’s and referral sources. If your positioning is not relevant to your audience, why would they care to do business with you?

5. Focus and expand market- remain laser focused on your desired target audiences(s) with your marketing investment (not expense) – it should always have long-term benefits, not just the next transaction. This brand building and positioning approach has led to sustainable growth without excessive marketing budgets, when combined with some of the factors that follow.

6. The combination of brand and lawyers - your lawyers, their expertise, and their reputations are your critical raw materials for your legal business. This needs to be showcased as a support element to your brand positioning. The two together is crucial. This is the critical combination that most firms ignore or, in fact, have no knowledge about.

7. Content really is king – showcasing lawyer expertise through the dissemination of content builds firm and individual lawyer reputation – something that resonates over time. That content can be shared through writing, speaking or holding webinars/seminars. In today’s world, if you cannot be easily found on an internet search, you are not perceived as being a leader in that topic. If you are current and up to date on relevant topics within your practice, you must be seen as a publisher of such content.

8. Content reach can be magnified significantly if you utilize the capabilities of digital tools that are available and always evolving. Sharing content via LinkedIn or through aggregators such as Lexology or Mondaq gives your content significant boost and respectability. Use these tools diligently and wisely.

9. Individual lawyer coaching on Personal Business Development – getting all lawyers buying into the fact that are all business developers. Not every lawyer has the same skill set, particularly as it relates to business development. Helping individual lawyers develop their personal skill set in this regard, and making them feel comfortable doing so, is a significant factor when it is built on a strong firm brand.

10. Marketing across all levels of the firm – is the final aspect that ensures that the firm (brand), it’s areas of law and the lawyers themselves are aligned. By working at all levels of the firm, we ensure that the firm has all its resources pushing forward in the same direction, thus maximizing the potential for success.

Like with anything in life, the MUST DO factors need to be offset by the DON’T DO factors that many firms find themselves faced with. Here are a few that you should be aware of as typical errors that often lead to failed growth opportunities. These include, inter alia:

1. Don’t try compete with your budget – without Smart Marketing you’ll never have enough to compete head-to-head with bigger competitors – so don’t try. You need to outflank them.

2. Don’t simply copy your competition – Smart Marketing will differentiate you from them as long as what you do is relevant. Know what they do, but never follow blindly. Become a leader in your market – it doesn’t cost any more and will stand you in good stead.

3. Don’t see social media or digital marketing as the savior of your business – oh, how this has been a false promise that so many firms have bought into, and failed dismally. If you use these tools as a part of your strategy you are more likely to have them contribute positively. Thinking you can use digital to do it all on its own is a potentially costly mistake that can come back to haunt you.

Applying creative and strategic thinking for partners, lawyers and management in smaller law firms will help to improve performance and will allow the firm to punch above their weight and their budget. Leadership is the key, simply because success will be limited if you follow. This article represents just the tip of the iceberg that makes up the strategic approach for growth that many firms desire but do not actively pursue. Learn from the above lessons and commit to a higher level of business performance. That alone will provide lawyers and their firms with a level of personal and professional satisfaction.


About the Author:

Neville Pokroy is a Partner in a business and marketing consultancy that specializes in helping smaller organizations’ look and feel bigger and more sophisticated. He has helped a mid-size law firm in Canada become a market leader, competing with much bigger firms without having broken the bank by trying to outspend the competition. They have become one of the top regional law firms and are now seen as a preferred referral for larger firms when they have conflict matters. For over 15 years, Neville has project managed the firm’s marketing strategy and implementation, and has been the architect of their steady growth and success over that time period. #NevillePokroy #smallerfirm #legal #competition #growth #strategy #businessdevelopment #leadership

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