Sputtering On The Coffee

A recent article criticizing law firm marketing materials sparked intense debate.

by Nick Jarrett-Kerr

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Nick Jarrett-Kerr, Edge International Communique
I recently wrote an article, “In the Nick of Time,” for a UK journal called

Managing for Success, and it was then reprinted by the UK-based Law Society Gazette. The article focussed on a number of rescue remedies that firms in the early stages of financial difficulty could consider, a combination of which could be harnessed to help firms improve or recover.

One of my comments clearly offended some marketing specialists. I had written that “I have yet to be convinced… that huge amounts of money spent by the profession on brochures, leaflets, calling cards and newsletters has provided any form of meaningful return”. This comment made Marketing Specialist Sue Bramall ‘splutter on her tea’ and her blog on the issue has now attracted a wide range of comment. I am pleased to have started an interesting debate!
I have two problems with marketing literature in law firms. The first is the obvious point that was pointed out by one commenter: ‘There is a real difference between sales puff (brochures, calling cards, leaflets, adverts) and something which is of value to the recipient (thought leadership, legal alerts)” and too much money seems to be wasted on the former. My second problem is that many partners in law firms will seemingly do anything to avoid difficult and time-consuming client-facing activities – up close and personal. Instead, they would rather spend money on promotional literature in order to avoid having to pick up the phone or make a visit. There is a place for promotional literature when it can provide lawyers with opportunities for conversations, but no amount of leaflets can replace the need for the cultivation of client relationships.
The thrust of my article was not just for firms to cut their expenses but also to improve cash inputs by better working capital management, improved productivity, and speeding up the throughput of engagements. Perhaps more importantly, I also suggested a number of ways by which revenue (and not just cash) could be improved by better business development. All in all, improvement measures are much easier said than done. Partners at troubled firms may be stressed out and at times demotivated or depressed by financial woes. However, revival is within their grasp if they are prepared painstakingly and thoroughly to work through steps like those I have outlined, and apply the lessons that they learn.