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TCL > June 2001 Issue > The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Law Practice and Marketing and Legal Ethics: The Boundaries of Promoting Legal Services

The Colorado Lawyer
June 2001
Vol. 30, No. 6 [Page  49]

© 2001 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.

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Review of Legal Resources

The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Law Practice and Marketing and Legal Ethics: The Boundaries of Promoting Legal Services
Reviewed by Larry C. Smith

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO MARKETING
YOUR LAW PRACTICE

By Hollis Hatfield Weishar and James A. Durham, eds. (Chicago, IL: American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section, 1999) [American Bar Association, 750 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60611; order from ABA Publication Orders, P.O. Box 10892, Chicago, IL 60610-0892, on the Internet at www.abanet.org/abapubs, or by calling (800) 285-2221; product code 511-0428], 229 pp.; $74.95, section members; $89.95, non-members.

and

MARKETING AND LEGAL ETHICS:
THE BOUNDARIES OF PROMOTING
LEGAL SERVICES, 3RD ED.

By William E. Hornsby, Jr.; Foreword by Harry Haynsworth (Chicago, IL: American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section, 2000) [American Bar Association, 750 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60611; order from ABA Publication Orders, P.O. Box 10892, Chicago, IL 60610-0892, on the Internet at www.abanet.org/abapubs, or by calling (800) 285-2221; product code 511-0432], 203 pp.; $74.95, section members; $89.95, non-members.

Reviewed by Larry C. Smith

An attorney and principal consultant in the Denver office of Law Office Consulting Services, Inc. Smith writes and speaks regularly on law practice management topics and chairs the Colorado Bar Association Law Office Technology Committee.

Most law firms today realize that they must market their services, but do not know how to do so effectively. In The Complete Guide to Marketing Your Law Practice, the editors have compiled practical strategies from more than a dozen contributors on topics including strategic marketing planning, developing marketing strategies, processes for competing with other firms on requests for proposals ("RFPs," also known as "beauty contests"), using writing and speaking opportunities to promote firm services, and taking advantage of technology tools to enhance marketing efforts.

First, the authors examine the obstacles that prevent firms from implementing successful marketing plans, from a firm’s historical way of thinking and lack of internal communication to perceived external obstacles such as community attitudes toward law firm advertising, and suggests ways to overcome these obstacles. The book then outlines an approach to marketing planning as a part of a firm’s overall strategic plan. Particularly useful are the detailed checklists for identifying a firm’s strengths and objectives and acting on them.

One fundamental component of developing a marketing plan is careful research of the firm’s target market. The contributors discuss a strategy for determining the firm’s marketing focus and researching the target market based on that focus. Internal, client, and market surveys contribute to a firm’s understanding of its marketing needs. To capitalize on that understanding, a firm must work to cultivate its desired image and determine how to get it into the marketplace, such as through brochures, newsletters, proposals, and a Web presence. One chapter concentrates on the key components of these tools for enhancing a firm’s desired visual image.

Organizing a firm’s marketing approach is only the first step toward a successful marketing effort. Implementing and maintaining marketing efforts are where many firms falter. More than half the book is devoted to techniques for putting into action a firm’s marketing plan. Two chapters are devoted to the effective use of speaking and writing opportunities to market a firm’s services. In addition to articles written for legal publications, the authors suggest several ways to reach a firm’s desired clientele: letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, firm announcements, press releases, and other collateral materials. Although public speaking is a recognized technique for reaching an audience, the authors give equal attention to the opportunities and pitfalls inherent in everyday "sales dialogue" with clients and strangers.

For firms that are regularly asked to compete for business through RFPs, the book offers a full checklist for the proposal process. Also helpful are suggestions for developing a "proposal database" from which a firm can rapidly assemble a customized proposal for new business, and for following up to determine how successful the firm’s efforts have been.

In the modern business climate, no law practice marketing guide would be complete without attention to how a firm should take advantage of technology to ensure the success of its marketing efforts. The book addresses technology tools in two chapters focusing on Internet marketing (websites, e-mail discussion lists) and the use of other tools such as practice management software as a marketing database. Whereas some of the discussion of technology is understandably outdated, the concepts presented remain applicable to today’s efforts.

For firms that have paid scant attention to the need for well-developed marketing plans, this book is a superb primer on the necessity of such efforts. The book is most valuable where, in almost every chapter, the contributors provide practical how-to suggestions for implementing a firm’s marketing strategy. Even a highly successful firm can benefit from this book’s marketing "bag of tricks."

In contrast to this detailed how-to manual, Marketing and Legal Ethics takes a step back to the marketing plan (assuming that a firm plans its marketing activities before acting) and provides guidance on the boundaries of promoting legal services. The emphasis here is not on "what a lawyer should and should not do as a member of an honorable profession," but on the specific ethics rules adopted in the jurisdiction in which the lawyer practices. This third edition updates the previous edition to include a discussion of evolving multidisciplinary practices and the ethical use of technology tools for lawyer communications.

The book reviews the regulatory history of lawyer advertising and solicitation, including the development of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyer communications. The author points out that, historically, rules governing legal services have regulated three aspects of lawyer communications: the media used, format of the communication, and content of the message. The book reviews the universal responsibilities and pitfalls that lawyers face in marketing their services (for example, comparisons with others, creating unjustified expectations, or representing expertise).

Separate chapters are devoted to surveying the prevailing rules among jurisdictions related to advertising, in-person and direct mail solicitation, and promotional materials. The author discusses how various state rules have been interpreted by courts and ethics committees, and provides illustrative examples of potential ethical problems. A particularly useful section covers the ethical boundaries of multistate practices, joint ventures, and multi-office law firms, with emphasis on avoiding the unauthorized practice of law in other jurisdictions.

Like its companion volume, this book addresses the use of newer technologies such as the Internet in marketing efforts, and cautions lawyers to stay apprised of rule developments in this rapidly changing area of law practice marketing. The author provides thorough endnotes in each chapter that include citations of cases, rules, ethics opinions, and other source material. The book also includes appendices that present the applicable Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the Colorado rules are similar but more thorough and can be found at www. cobar.org/comms/ethics/rulesprof/inflgsrv.htm), along with contact information for disciplinary agencies and bar associations in all U.S. jurisdictions. Because state rules change more often than revisions of reference books such as this, attorneys should consult ethics rules in their individual jurisdictions.

As compared to a how-to book, Marketing and Legal Ethics provides a useful survey of the prevailing rules (at least at the time of publication) regarding the boundaries of law firm promotion. Studying this book might not lead a reader to brilliant new marketing strategies, but it can serve as a valuable reference tool for those who plan and implement law firm marketing efforts.

© 2001 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=2001.


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