Monday, April 6, 2009

Are You A Great Lawyer, Or A Great Marketer?

Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield continues to wonder whether we are trying to create a new generation of great lawyers, or great marketers.

He's a bit frustrated. He, like me, knows that on twitter and other social networking sites, there are those that parade as lawyers, who have no clients. There are those who parade as the answer to all those wanting a "profitable" career, who have specious backgrounds not worthy of any lawyer's time.

When I started practicing 15 years ago, a senior criminal defense lawyer told me what he learned at the outset of his career - "do a good job for your client and the calls will come."

We no longer teach that philosophy. We teach that there are too many lawyers and getting clients is more about "slick" then it is about substance.

We have lost the notion that in order to market yourself, you must first be good at what you do. By encouraging solo out of law school, we are saying that being a good lawyer is irrelevant to just about anything. No, I don't agree with solo out of law school, even if it means you have to volunteer for a while with a lawyer in order to learn how to "practice law." Law school doesn't teach you how to be a practicing lawyer, and it never will.

The public, mostly hiring lawyers for that first and only time, know no better. They like what they see and hear, and hire. Those that seek referrals from other lawyers pale in comparison to those that read a colorful ad with a pretty picture, or listen while watching Matlock to the lawyer saying he will "fight" for me.

Social media is an opportunity for two things: It allows good lawyers to converse with others and develop new relationships with debates, blog posts, and other discussions. It also allows those that are barely "lawyers" or those that are parading as the answer to all that is "marketing, to create an online presence that is, well, a complete lie.

Lawyers are important to society. So are marketers.

According to wikipedia, "marketing" is defined by the American Marketing Association as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

"That have value."

Value.

Lawyers that have "value."

Value to clients, or value to a marketer?

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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8 comments:

David V. Lorenzo said...

Why can't a good lawyer also demonstrate the value he provides to his clients through marketing? An I missing the point (again)?

Brian Tannebaum said...

You're not just missing the point, you're in another country from the point.

Lipstick on a pig is the best way to explain an otherwise crystal clear message. Lilke Scott, I'm tired of "paraders." These are the lawyers who have no reputation, no success as techicians of the law, but market themselves to convince others there is something of value that they have to offer clients.

In other words, liars.

My other point is that there are legal marketers out there that have no business even talking to a lawyer, as they are parading as someone lawyers should take advice from, when they are really someone from whom nobody should take advice

David V. Lorenzo said...

Ok. Thanks for the trail of breadcrumbs back to the two main points.

So in your mind marketing is "fine" as long as you are an attorney who provides good value to your clients. I agree. Not sure how I missed that crystal clear message.

On the second point I believe we are also in agreement.

I guess I miss these valuable points because they are introduced with quotes that immediately provoke a visceral reaction in me.

As someone who works with both experienced and newer attorneys, I can honestly say that "do a good job for your client and the calls will come." may work for some people but as a philosophy for financial viability it is a death sentence. There are methods of marketing that do not include bus stop benches, billboards and the yellow pages. Good attorneys still need to introduce themselves to the world.

shg said...

When David, and other legal marketing strategists, start a campaign for their clients that says, "I have no experience and don't actually know how to find the courthouse, but I really need some cash so please hire me," then he'll be worth the bother.

If lawyers can't conduct a successful practice based on the quality of their services, then maybe the business death sentence is exactly what they deserve. Maybe the answer is that they don't need to pay a marketer, but spend their time improving their skills and client service. But that would put marketers out of business, since the rest of us manage quite well without them. Why do you think that could be, David?

David V. Lorenzo said...

Oh, please. Marketing and marketers are not the problem. Unscrupulous lawyers are the problem.

Marketing is a tool and nothing more. It is neither good nor bad. How one uses the tool is the true issue.

I wish you continued success.

shg said...

Marketers are just a tool? You give yourself too little credit. The gun doesn't tell the shooter who to aim at and when to pull the trigger.

You take the weak-minded and desperate and play them for cash, promoting deceptions. Are they at fault as well? Absolutely, but don't think that the marketers aren't complicit. Without marketers, they would have to work for a living.

Anonymous said...

I buy a car based on word of mouth regarding its reputation for quality, not according to the slick TV commercial.

The same would apply to my choice of a lawyer.

Christopher G. Hill said...

Brian,

Good thoughts all. Clearly there is a happy medium (or friendly fortune teller? (bad joke sorry)). Without marketing you don't get the first clients, but they don't come back and the calls don't increase if you don't build real world relationships.

Social Media allows a little of both.