As with any employee you hire, your law firm needs to work hard to make the most of an in-house marketing coordinator, marketing director, business development specialist, public relations coordinator, or other such position. Each person your law firm hires, whether part-time or full-time, represents an operating cost to your business. The firm is investing a salary, benefits, training expenses, and other costs on the gamble this person will recoup that investment plus earn you much more through their work efforts.
So if you are “spending money to make money,” shouldn’t you endeavor to do that as efficiently and effectively as possible? Just like any other business, law firms need to put time, thought, structure, and effort into the hiring, training, and managing of each staff member. This article will speak specifically to the best and most successful methods for accomplishing this objective with regard to a law firm marketing director.
Phase One: Identifying What Your Law Firm Needs
When assessing the needs of a law firm, a preliminary cost-benefit analysis should be conducted to determine if having a full-time, in house marketing director makes financial sense. Be sure to calculate all of the overhead costs associated with adding another full-time employee, including office space, hardware and software needs, and other company benefits. Once the firm makes a list of specific things it is currently unable to handle without adding some form of marketing help, the firm can compare the true cost of hiring an in-house marketer with the potential costs of working with an outsourced marketing agency, consultant, or part-time employee.
In addition to the financial aspects of the decision, the firm must also consider whether or not its corporate culture is set up to allow a person in this position to succeed. As a consultant, I have worked with prestigious law firms where the internal setup of the firm made it nearly impossible to accomplish even the most basic tasks.
So, the first question should be, “Have we done this before?” If the answer is yes, try to determine specific reasons why the previous efforts failed. You need to make sure all of the decision makers in your firm are on board before you spend the time, energy, and money needed to acquire the appropriate person to service your marketing needs.
Phase Two: Hiring Your Ideal Marketing Director
If the assessment of your law firm’s needs warrants seeking a full-time, in-house marketing director, the next step is finding qualified candidates. The legal industry used to be flush with recruiters and placement services that actually provided real value and assistance with job searches and candidate selection. Many such services still exist, but the value they provide can at times be replaced and even improved upon by using someone at your law firm, like a human resources manager or firm administrator.
The first step in finding your dream candidate is to come up with a list of tasks you’d like this person to be in charge of. Go around your office and ask all stakeholders what they need, want, and expect from an in-house marketing director and consolidate the results into a comprehensive list. Now you are ready to craft your online job postings. More and more job seekers with marketing education and experience flood the market each year, so finding candidates will not be a problem; finding qualified and professional candidates, however, can be a challenge.
In your job posting, be as specific as you can about the workplace environment, travel expectations (even among the firm’s own offices), and benefits. Place your posting in a variety of online locations and on list servs that will reach your desired candidate pool. The American Marketing Association, Public Relations Society of America, and the International Association of Business Communicators all have national and local job banks and/or email members lists of available jobs. Start there and then move onward to the more general job posting locations like Monster and Indeed, and don’t forget social media! LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can all be excellent resources to find and acquire superior marketing talent. You should expect marketers to be present and active on social media channels after all, right?
Once you’ve posted the position in various places, you will receive lots and lots of resumes. How do you wade through the deep waters of email attachments coming your way? When I receive a candidate’s resume, if the person is an immediate ‘no,’ I move them into a rejected folder right away, ensuring little to no time is wasted with a non-qualified applicant. For all other resumes, I like to use a one, two, three rating scale – if the candidate merits a decent review, I try to rate him or her as a one (the best candidates, the ones you expect to interview in person), two (worth a phone interview and still decent), or three (likely won’t hire but keep on hand in case all else fails). But what makes someone a ‘one?’ For me, I look for one or more of the following gold star details on an applicant’s resume:
Education – I prefer candidates who have a Bachelor’s degree at a minimum. If the undergraduate degree is in journalism, public relations, English, marketing, or something in that vein, it’s even better. I also closely scrutinize the academic performance of the candidate if it is provided, because if a candidate performs well in school, it is an indication they are capable of performing well in a stressful environment and/or under a deadline.
Professional Work Environments – A law firm will do best hiring someone who has worked in a professional environment before. I generally include accountants, doctors, lawyers, and other such advanced degree professionals’ offices as this type of work environment. This type of background ensures the candidate will come with appropriate office attire, have an understanding of how to speak and act in the workplace, and hopefully have references from these prior workplaces who can confirm it.
Loyalty – With the amount of time the firm plan to invest on training a new hire, look for resumes showing a candidate who worked at each of his or her jobs for at least one year (ideally more). This is a good indicator of someone who will be worth the investment, and stay with your firm for the foreseeable future.
Marketing Experience – An educated professional is great, but they can’t properly execute marketing strategies for your law firm if they do not have real, solid marketing experience. Ask the candidate if he or she has run their own marketing campaigns or simply supervised a vendor. Ask them which marketing software they have used, are familiar with, and will need to effectively do their job. Ask them for metrics from previous marketing efforts, which will showcase their ability to add value to your business.
Before I ever meet with any candidates in person, I always conduct phone interviews. While this may seem inefficient and a duplication of work you could accomplish in an in-person interview, phone interviews weed out a surprisingly large percentage of candidates, especially for law firms. Since the legal industry requires a well-spoken, professional voice and manner, you will be able to quickly tell in a five-minute phone call if the person you are speaking with fits that bill – and many do not. The phone interview may also affect the person’s initial one-two-three rank, bumping them up into the next tier or causing them to slide down a rank.
Those who make it past your phone interview screening while still maintaining or achieving their ‘one’ designation will be the candidates you schedule for in-person interviews. After almost 20 years of interviewing, hiring, and firing for law firms, I have learned the two most important factors that make a new hire successful are (1) whether or not the person meshes well with the current employees of the business and (2) if the hire is capable of learning on the job. When you narrow your candidate pool down to less than five potential hires, take them around the office to meet the people you work with, from the receptionist to the managing partner, so you can see how well they interact with your people. The feedback you get from your co-workers who chat with the candidates often proves invaluable during the hiring process.
Once you’ve found your dream marketing director, you need to be sure you are making an appropriately competitive offer. What exactly is a fair offer? Usually, one looks to industry standards, so here you could look to both the legal industry and the marketing industry, but you will find wide variances between the two and even within each. Of course, your geographic location and overall cost of living in nearby areas will also factor in. But, generally speaking do not plan on hiring anyone competent for less than $50,000 per year plus benefits.
Phase Three: Onboarding and Training Your New Hire
Even though your law firm is hiring a marketing director to get things organized and handle day-to-day tasks, you can’t expect them to hit the ground running on their first day without an adequate onboarding process. Onboarding a marketing director is different from onboarding a paralegal or lawyer – while this person will use some of your hardware and software, he or she will not use a lot of it and will likely need the firm to invest in different or new marketing specific software. Whereas you need to teach a new legal assistant your filing structure, how to use your case management software, and how you like your motion practice handled, a marketing director will not have anything to do with substantive legal work.
Your law firm should get the following items together ideally before your recruiting even begins so you can speak intelligently with the candidates. But, if you are like most lawyers I know and work with, you may not be able to find the time or really understand marketing well enough to know how to go about gathering the basic information your new hire will need to do their job. So, here is a list of what your new marketing hire will need to get started on day one:
High resolution photographs from all recent professional photo shoots, including any and all retouched versions. These should be organized in folders by attorney since the new hire will not know everyone’s name and face at first.
Logo design files in every available format (primarily .eps or .ai native files), along with formal brand standards as issued by the designer, including font names and/or font files if you use a custom font in your logo, Pantone color codes, and taglines. Final cut video from all professional video shoots, including the raw footage as well if you can get it. This includes any media coverage obtained by the firm. I recommend keeping a digital media archive for posterity.
Login credentials for any and all digital assets, including but not limited to website, domain registrar, hosting provider, social media channels, Google Analytics, any paid search advertising accounts, online lawyer directory listings like SuperLawyers, and any online press release publishing tools.
Marketing budget breakdowns for every single marketing-related expenditure for the past three years (or more if you have it), including any business development allocations to lawyers. This will involve, for example, not just summary totals like “$600,000 on print,” but instead will use actual line item entries for each advertisement, including date, publication, and a breakdown of the associated costs to design, produce, print, publish, mail, or otherwise disseminate the ad.
Print collateral items in both hard copy and digital formats, including but not limited to business cards, letterhead, brochures, flyers, advertisements, and more. The firm must keep a chronological collection of everything like this.
Do teach your new marketing hire:
How to use their computer, the associated software, your phone system, and where to save their work (so it’s not just stuck on their hard drive).
Do not teach your new marketing hire how to assist with any case-related work. Start off on the right foot – don’t get any funny ideas about having your marketing director help out with your casework.
Train yourself to view them as what they are – an entirely separate commodity. This person should only work on marketing, business development, and related items.
As with any new hire, be sure to let this person know who will supervise them, whom they can go to with questions, and to whom they will report.
Phase Four: Managing Your Law Firm Marketing Director
In order for an employee to be successful at and feel good about their job, they should be given a list of job duties, a list of the firm’s goals, and the ability to track and measure their success. Your firm may have fleshed out the list of job duties as part of the job description during your hiring process, but chances are these duties will evolve once your marketing director starts working. While the new hire can and should start working off of your initial list of tasks and duties, once they review your marketing status, they will (hopefully) be able to enumerate additional items that need handling and help the law firm prioritize what should be done and in what order.
It is crucial to be realistic about what one person can accomplish. The more you know about marketing, the more realistic you can be with overall expectations and the more you can hold your marketing director accountable for their work. For example, if you have even a basic understanding of what the statistics in Google Analytics mean, you can have a more informed conversation about your current digital standings, what needs to change, and how quickly you can expect to see results. Force yourself to stay on top of things by scheduling monthly marketing meetings and quarterly marketing reviews. Try to keep monthly meetings on the same day of the month, such as on the first Friday of every month so your data has a consistent number of days to accumulate in between meetings and so all of you can easily remember what day to keep open for marketing meetings. Make sure your marketing director provides quantitative data in these meetings; most marketing efforts (and ALL digital marketing efforts) have associated metrics involved that can be used to track growth over time.
About the author
Stacey E. Burke is a licensed Texas lawyer turned law firm business consultant. She practiced maritime litigation, personal injury litigation, and mass tort litigation prior to her consulting career.
Stacey has worked with over 100 law firms across the country in a wide range of practice areas, including family law, probate and estate planning, commercial litigation, personal injury, immigration, bankruptcy, mass torts, criminal law, and more. She focuses her attention on providing business consulting services to law firms and legal industry vendors across the country.
She is well known for her effective marketing strategies, especially with regard to social media marketing and advertising and strategic event planning. Stacey speaks publicly on an international basis and is often a featured Author on topics including ethics in attorney advertising, legal marketing, business development, and law firm efficiency. Stacey is a fourth-generation Houstonian, graduating early from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Journalism in Public Relations and obtaining her law degree from The University of Houston Law Center. She lives in Houston with her two daughters, two French bulldog, a fiancé and eats a lot of popcorn.