A study of 61 leading UK law firms reveals the six steps to success when it comes to marketing legal services.

Every two years, marketing consultants Wheeler Associates and market researchers McCallum Layton undertake a study of the marketing practices of the UK’s leading law firms. Their 1999 study – Marketing the Advisers II – involved 61 law firms, including more than half of The Lawyer 100’s top 50.

Through telephone interviews with the most senior marketing professional in each firm, usually the marketing director, the consultants benchmarked each firm’s marketing practices against six critical marketing processes, namely: understanding the market, marketing planning; managing clients, winning new business, building the brand and internal marketing. They also looked at the resources that firms use to support their marketing.

One of the most damning findings was that involvement of lawyers in marketing is generally poor and while training is available, few firms make it mandatory.

A quarter of firms provide no client management training and half provide no training in winning new business.

Recommended actions

The report suggests that law firms focus on the following actions:

Marketing resourcing

Recruit well-qualified, experienced marketing professionals to staff the marketing function.

Give the head of marketing a seat on the board or management committee.

Employ at least two marketing staff for every 100 fee-earners and spend at least £2,000 per

fee-earner on marketing.

Understanding the market

Commission regular market research studies to understand clients’ buying behaviour.

Review market position at least every 12-18 months; use the results for planning marketing.

Marketing planning

Prepare a company-wide marketing plan which is updated annually. Ideally, this plan should look three years ahead and be linked to the objectives set in the firm’s business plan.

Start personal business development plans for partners. Ensure they are integrated with firm, department and sector marketing plans.

Ensure the lawyers implementing the plan have contributed to its preparation, increasing their ownership of the marketing effort.

Managing clients

Establish a client management programme and ensure that all clients have a dedicated service team and a service plan.

Seek regular feedback on client satisfaction.

Winning new business

Ensure that winning business from existing clients is a priority. Less than 40 per cent of a firm’s marketing effort should be devoted to winning new clients.

Harness information technology to achieve greater efficiencies in marketing.

Develop a central database to record and co-ordinate all client and new business activity.

If tendering is a significant source of new business, develop systems to measure and evaluate the firm’s performance.

Building the brand

Firms wishing to strengthen their brands should start by ensuring that their lawyers are delivering consistently high-quality services to their existing clients. They should then ensure that all partners and staff are conducting themselves in a way that is consistent with the firm’s chosen values.

Use appropriate marketing techniques to raise the firm’s market profile.

Internal marketing

Ensure that all lawyers are briefed on the firm’s marketing objectives and plans.

Make marketing and client care training mandatory for all lawyers.

Online benchmarking

Those firms wishing to benchmark their own marketing practices against the findings of the survey can do so online by visiting www.marketingtheadvisers.com, a site developed by e-business consultants E-Marketing.