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LP Magazine – Marketing Musical Chairs

LPcover_NovDec2019-231x300There was some sense of irony that on the same day the latest issue of Law Practice arrived via the U.S. Mail that I was in Philadelphia talking to the Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association at their 2019 GPLLA Institute Bringing a Marketing Mindset into the Law Library program at Drexel’s Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy. You may be wondering how I am going to tie in that speaking engagement into the subject for my marketing column in the November/December 2019 issue of the ABA Law Practice Magazine, Marketing Musical Chairs.

At the GPLLA program, I was asked to speak on the topic of “Marketing Your Organization’s Milestone Anniversaries.” For my remarks, I was able to basically work from my magazine marketing column from 2014 on Age over Beauty? Marketing a Law Firm’s Anniversary. Another friendly marketing reminder on the power of blogs and search—in making content not only still relevant six years later, but repurposing itself into a speaking slot.

What do librarians have to do with the rapid turnover of professional marketing personnel in the law firm business? Well…back when I started working with law firms on marketing and business development initiatives in the late ‘90s, it was not unusual for a law firm to point me towards the library when chatting with the person in charge of marketing. While we were technically nearly two decades beyond Bates vs. Arizona and the ability for lawyers to market themselves at the time, attorneys were super slow to accept and adapt. So the person that updated the text-heavy, pay by the line, six-figure investment that was the Martindale-Hubbell print directory listings was marketing in their eyes.

Today, Martindale is an online business operated by Internet Brands. Those same firms are certainly not spending a lot of time and money on those listings, if at all. Some firms don’t even have libraries anymore. Who orders books? And there is often a gigantic staff comprising the marketing team—being pointed in the direction of the library disappeared long ago. But I appreciated reliving the past and hearing how the role and work of law librarians has changed with the times too.

The “Marketing Musical Chairs” theme is not new. The column discusses how even today—now more than forty years post-Bates— that law firms are still slow to accept and adapt. I have successfully hired many marketing directors and business development staff for law firms—some with great success, others that fizzled out quickly. But I think I’ve done a really good job massaging the needs and culture of the firm with the needs, interests and experience of the marketer. I enjoy the challenge. But the overall turnover and failures are still much too high. Reading about new CMOs and short tenures gets old. The BD business should be more mature by now. But it is better. We’ve evolved from being pointed in the direction of the library, for sure.

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