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Marketing Strategies for the Small Firm

It takes about two minutes in the legal realm to be able to ascertain the stark differences between the LARGE firms and the small firms. Most generally small firms offer more flexible hours, varied work experiences, less competition amongst associates, which leads to a more relaxed atmosphere. However, larger firms can offer higher salaries, a large client base, seemingly infinite firm resources (such as support staff), and an international presence. Graduating law students are often pulled in two different directions: chase the money and deal with the demanding work, or sacrifice the money for a more relaxed atmosphere.

Although we can make these generalizations, law firms come in as various of packages as law students themselves; each with their own skillsets and goals. However, the surge in law firm technology and internet accessibility is in many ways ameliorating the issues with small firms that often drive associates to Big law: namely, money and client base.

Stephen Fairley, CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company, conducted a survey in October of 2015 that revealed the following: 96% who seek legal advice use a search engine like Google; 38% of people use the internet to find an attorney; 62% of searches are general and non-branded, i.e. Cincinnati personal injury; and 71% of people think that it is important to have a local attorney. http://www.natlawreview.com/article/legal-marketing-stats-lawyers-need-to-know We can assume that these numbers, primarily the 38% who use the internet to find an attorney, have only grown higher as the technological generation enters their early adult years and those born prior to the revolution become more comfortable with their use. So, what does this mean for the small firm?

In another post, http://www.therainmakerblog.com/2015/06/articles/law-firm-marketing/4-critical-differences-between-marketing-a-small-law-firm-vs-a-large-law-firm/, Fairley identifies four principal differences between marketing in the small and large firms. First, small firms and solo practitioners do not have the luxury of the large firm’s support staff. Associates at a small or solo practice basically do it all from maintaining the daily operations in general to servicing clients to collecting fees, thus there time is very limited. Second, most usually a small firm or solo practice has a very small, or nonexistent marketing budget. Third, the small firm does not often institute decision-making committees, which can be unduly laborious and inefficient in developing a marketing strategy. Finally, large firms have the capability to institute a marketing strategy and wait for results; whereas the small firm or solo practice needs more immediate evidence of a positive return on investment.

Still, Fairley maintains that if a well developed, deliberate marketing plan is put into place that small firms are able to compete with the large firms in ways that they previously have been incapable. Website design that offers a view-friendly display, interactive options for the client, updated writings and firm work provided by attorneys, and keyword search optimization can make a small firm’s website compete, or surpass even the largest of firms. As previously demonstrated by Fairley’s survey, 71% of people prefer local attorneys. Social media outlets give small firms the opportunity to expand their local networks in a down-to-earth way. Social media can bridge the gap between the intimidation and formality oft associated with legal assistance and the availability of attorneys on an informal platform that everyday people understand. The ability for small firms to utilize big technology gives the small firm an opportunity at expanding their customer base and increasing their potential revenue.

There are stark differences between practice at a LARGE firm and practice at a small firm. Graduating law students have different motivations for pursuing one over the other, however many times those motivations center on the ability to make money. Marketing strategies focused on the deliberate use of the web and social media networks allow small firms to compete with big firms in ways that greatly increase their chances to obtain clients and increase profit.

Olivia Euler