Preparing for a marriage takes serious thought and commitment. You ask yourself: can you share your life with this person? Can you build a home with this person? Can you deal with their awful television choices for the rest of your life? Though these may seem like difficult decisions, even more pressing matters are at hand when lawyers and legal marketing professionals attempt to work together.
Sure, in theory, this relationship is ideal: lawyers need help bringing in clients and marketing their practice; legal marketers are employed to aid lawyers in bringing in clients and marketing their practice. It’s a marriage made in heaven when you think about it. However, even though the end goal is usually the same (land new clients, increase revenue, strengthen practice groups, etc.), sometimes the wires get crossed and toes get stepped on, which can ultimately affect the success of any marketing initiative.
Here’s an idea: if legal marketers spent more time thinking like lawyers, and conversely, lawyers thought like legal marketers, would we all have a better chance at reaching our shared goals? If lawyers and legal marketers understood each other, and both sides strategically worked together to achieve said goals, will they be headed for a lifetime of wedded bliss?
Instead of wondering who will pay for dinner and if he’ll open the door, lawyers and legal marketers often do the awkward dance of who should take the lead. When a legal marketer and a lawyer first start working together, both may be timid and unsure of who should make the first move. Should the lawyer ask for help with a prospective client, or, should the marketer be the one to bring a new initiative to the lawyer’s attention?
Lawyers: You can argue both sides of the case, but the short answer is: take the lead. Regardless of your position in the firm (first-year associate, senior partner or anywhere in between), if you have a way to build your practice, promote your firm or raise your visibility—take it. It is literally a legal marketing professional’s job to help you, so give them something to do (they’ll appreciate the job security). Taking the first step to build a relationship with your firm’s marketing department is the best way to ensure consistent, insightful and collaborative assistance from their team for many years to come.
Marketers: In this case, the same rule applies: take the lead. It is literally your job to help lawyers market themselves and their practice. So if you have a great idea, be sure to share it. If they don’t think the timing is right or if they don’t believe the project is a good fit for them, no problem. Keep the idea in your marketing playbook and pull it out later. In the meantime, taking the initiative to show your firm that you’re forward-thinking and proactive will only place you at the forefront of your lawyers’ marketing minds, which will undoubtedly serve you well in the future.
Things Are Getting Serious
You’ve met their friends, exchanged Netflix passwords and are sharing space in the medicine cabinet. Things are going great and everyone is thrilled; but one day the wires get crossed and trouble ensues. Are you headed for a breakup? Before you jump the gun and talk about shared custody of your newly adopted cat, remember the old adage your mother’s mother always said: communication is key.
Lawyers: You have billable quotas to meet, you have clients demanding answers by 5 PM yesterday, and you would like to see your bed at least once this week. While the daily demands of you job may never cease, it doesn’t mean communication with those tasked with helping you should. If you’re working on a project with members of your firm’s marketing team, take a few seconds to answer their questions so they can continue moving the project forward. It’s likely that they only need approval on wording, your thoughts on a design, or your review of a proposal they’ve spent days drafting for you. So while it may seem like you do not have five minutes to respond to their email or phone call, it’s imperative for your future (and hopefully positive) relationship that you do.
Marketers: You’ve spent the last week working with the graphic designer on the perfect color scheme, the communications team on the precise wording, and the competitive intelligence team gathering the research you need to make your proposal pitch perfect. The least your partner could do is return your call, am I right? Yes…in part. But while you have been hard at work, keep in mind, so have they. While you know your schedule, your demands and your objectives, take a minute to put yourself in a lawyer’s loafers. You don’t have billable hour demands, filing deadlines or trials to prepare for. While your demands are unique, and albeit sometimes equally frustrating, they’re not the same. It is critical to any successful relationship that you understand their time constraints and are considerate of their schedules when it comes to requesting feedback, providing deadlines and needing their approval. To prevent potential strife, build in a buffer day (or three) before your back is up against the wall to ensure everyone is happy at the end of the day.
Here Comes the Bride?
You’ve met your match, you’re in it for the long haul, and you’re ready to take the plunge. You know their ups and downs, when they need your help, and when you should sleep on the couch. So now what? How do you ensure your relationship makes it to the 50th anniversary party where the grandkids Snapchat you dancing the night away? For both lawyers and legal marketers, it is imperative to keep an open mind. We are always told to think outside of the box. And yet, when we do, we are sometimes met with faces of “did you really just say that?”
Lawyers: We know that for many lawyers, consistency is key. Laws, statues, rules and regulations guide your day-to-day routine. So while it may be hard to break from the norm and try something new, take a minute and listen to your legal marketing team. They study trends in the industry, attend seminars to learn what others have done, and make it their job to know the latest and greatest trends in legal marketing. Although it may be easy to provide a quick rebuttal, even if you are not keen on an idea, take it in, give it some time and really consider something you may not have thought of yourself.
Marketers: Although it is your job to come up with the marketing project of all marketing projects, don’t be afraid to take some advice from those in the trenches. Lawyers spend their days with clients—past, present and potential. So as much as we can research what clients really want until we are blue in the face, sometimes hearing from the source itself is best. If your lawyer has a bright idea they want to share with you, listen. If they have something they think a client will like, take it in. Hear your lawyers out, give them the respect they deserve and truly listen to what they have to say. After all, aren’t they the smart ones that hired you?
And They Lived Happily Ever After
Taking initiative, honing your communication skills, and being the most open-minded individual at your firm will inevitably lead to a lifetime of legally wedded bliss…right? Sure. But while these may be critical components to any successful relationship, especially that of a lawyer and a legal marketer, keep in mind they are just that—components. Like any relationship, it takes hard work and dedication to make it to the golden years. Focus on that knowledge, hone your skills, and realize that love is all you need (or in this case, the law is all you need), and all will live happily ever after.
Kelly G. O’Malley is the marketing director at Philadelphia-based Reger Rizzo & Darnall LLP. She can be reached at 215.495.6544 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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