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Dear Lawyer Colleagues: Are You Thriving or Just Surviving in the Legal Services Marketplace? (discussion wanted!)

September 13, 2010

Tomorrow I will participate in a panel for a class that is taught at Pitt’s Law school.  “Understanding the Legal Services Marketplace”  taught by Max Miller.

I write this blog post to facilitate discussion about the topics that are the focus of this course.  I also write this to get any lawyer’s wheels rolling in respect of his or her own personal marketing plan.  Do you even have a personal marketing plan?

I have been practicing law for 10 years (including my 2 year stint as a legal advisor/business consultant) and building a client base has always been an cryptic endeavor to me.  How does one build a client base?   My niche practice has always been bankruptcy which is a challenging niche for client-getting; not everyone wants to share with others information about their dire financial situation.

I also worked at firms where meeting billable hours requirement was critical.  In the last decade, I spent most of my time trying to keep my hours up and learn substantively as much as I could about my niche area of the law.  Although I have always enjoyed meeting people, in my law firm life, networking or getting “out there”  was subordinate to making my billable hour requirement.

One of the reasons I started my own practice was to figure out how a client base is created and nurtured.   So, the learning curve in the last 8 months has been steep, much to my delight.

In Max Miller’s course, the student are to (i) gain a basic understanding of the construct and commercial market drivers of the legal services industry; (ii) explore the industry’s demand side (i.e., what do client’s want) and supply side (i.e., being successful in a law firm or in your own practice) and (iii) structure a basic marketing plan to sell/offer legal services.

  • What are the market drivers re: the demand for your particular practice?  How do you change your practices and policies in response to these market drivers?
  • How do you make a contribution to your firm?  Do you provide more than just substantive knowledge?  Are you a grinder, a minder, and/or a finder?
  • What factors drive the decision to procure legal service?
  • How do legal services purchasers/users evaluate the services rendered?
  • How have the sales, marketing, operations and soft skills associated with the provision of legal services in the law-firm changed?  Do you use social media in your practice?


I will write another post re: these issues after my participation in the class tomorrow.

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