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It’s Never too Early to Develop Your Marketing Plan

Today’s attorneys practicing in law firms are typically under constant pressure to increase their billable hours, produce more work, and generally keep their nose to the grindstone. With only so many hours in the day, the idea of creating and maintaining an individual marketing plan often remains on the wish list rather than the “must do” list. However, committing to a personal marketing plan early on is one of the most important things an attorney can do for his or her career.

For attorneys in small firms or who have their own practices, a marketing plan might seem more obvious. But even as part of a large firm, establishing a plan enables attorneys to maintain control over their careers and stick to their vision for their practice down the road. I recently spoke with an attorney who, when she carefully assessed the progress and goals set out in her marketing plan, realized that her current firm was not going to allow her to grow as she wanted – and soon made a move.

And while it might seem that, at larger firms, young attorneys aren’t expected to be the rainmakers, most will eventually be called on to drive revenue – and starting to develop a plan as early as possible makes this responsibility much more manageable.

So let’s step back and describe what exactly a marketing plan entails. The most important elements of a successful marketing plan are those that are feasible for you to complete and that you are comfortable taking on. As a first- or second-year attorney, the very first step is starting to build a contact list – of colleagues, friends, and other business acquaintances who might be able to help you expand your network and generate some awareness. It’s also critical to be able to talk knowledgeably and concisely about your current firm and its expertise.

In today’s social media culture, there are many simple and inexpensive ways to network and promote your practice. Through LinkedIn and Twitter, you can keep your contacts up-to-date on your current position and professional activities. Blogs are also useful for building your presence on search engines – and sharing via social media. And remember – you don’t need to write groundbreaking content. Something as simple as passing along an industry article with some brief commentary about its relevance helps build an audience.

From there, the plan should expand to build on these professional development efforts and initiate some more extensive involvement. Think about your strengths. Do you like to write, or do you prefer speaking in front of an audience? The Bar Association and other professional groups offer opportunities for attorneys to share their insights in many different ways.

It’s best to keep your marketing plan as a working document that you constantly update and revise as you achieve personal objectives. Once your practice develops a bit and your marketing plan becomes a regular part of your workday routine, you can set goals for yourself – such as one face-to-face meeting with a key contact per week; pursuing a leadership position in a specific organization; or writing one article for submission to a publication each quarter.

Your firm’s marketing department can be a great resource for helping you develop a plan and also for sharing your professional news. Firms will often promote an attorney’s legal wins and speaking and writing engagements internally and even externally.

It is also wise to include in your plan a clear description of your own business development streams, so that you can understand your business sources – today, in the past, and potentially in the future. Not only is it smart to have this visibility in the event of a layoff, but firms have been known to ask potential hires about their current business plan. Most employers, particularly in light of the economic challenges of recent years, want to know that their attorneys are goal-driven with the desire to grow their own practices and not just be “fed” by the firm.

From my experience, the most important point to make about an attorney’s marketing plan is that it is never too early to start – and as time passes, the task only becomes more difficult. Creating a marketing plan is simpler than it sounds, and allows you to focus on your strengths and individual career goals. Certainly an initiative worth making the time for.

By Steve Kruza, Owner, Kruza Legal Search. Steve specializes in lateral partner placement.

 

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