MARKETING OF LEGAL SERVICES:
EMERGING CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES


By
Prof R K Gupta
BE (Hons), MBA, FIE
Aravali Institute of Management
Jodhpur (Rajasthan)
E-mail :
cityju@rediffmail.com / rkgupta_India@hotmail.com
URL :
www.Geocities.com/rkgupta_india
 


ABSTRACT:

With liberalization launched in India, it was natural that legal services would also be thrown open to foreign firms like in investment sector and other areas. There is great potential in India for growth or organized legal services firms particularly in view of fast coming up MNC network in India, increase in world trade and international trade laws like patents, trade marks, copy right and formation of local business organisations, besides traditional civil and criminal jurisprudence. This article is addressed to business sector potential and to those law firms which operate in organized way. There have been in existence several law firms but as many as in Chartered accountancy or financial consulting business. With influx of foreign or MNC law firms in India, the legal services market is going tom hot up for local practitioners. The whole organisation structure in this sector is going to change substantially. The need will thus arise in focussing on marketing of legal services.

Since we define Marketing as an important professional function of any firm, there are several issues associated with legal services marketing:

Question of Ethics: Providing best possible legal know-how and services in best interest of client. But delaying the suit proceedings in courts, objecting for sake of objection, manipulating facts and court room procedures and trying to save a client who has actually committed a default or an illegal act do not construe the professional responsibility of an attorney.

Commercialization of legal practice: Could legal services, which are noble and essential service in society like education be allowed to be commercialized? There has been criticism of the ways in which USA attorneys and law firms act and share rewards with clients. Can this be allowed in India; certainly not.

Within the above framework the legal services firms will have to resort to aggressive and well organized marketing strategies for meeting international competition, growth objectives and even survival. Like in typical services marketing scenario, there are many common and simple methods, these firms can adopt to excel in marketing.

The article is based on research of several well known writings on the subject and direct interactive experience of the author with legal services in India over last one and a half decade.

THE NATURE OF MARKETING

Marketing is misunderstood by many solicitors - it is not simply advertising. Advertising is only one small element of Marketing. A firm's Marketing Policy is part of its strategic business plan and is essentially a process whereby the firm's ability to supply legal services is brought into balance with expected demand for its services from present and future clients. This mechanism ensures that the firm maintains growth and profitability. In an era where in most sectors of legal work cut-throat competition prevails, no firm can afford to be without knowledge, however basic, of marketing.

THE NATURE OF SERVICES MARKETING

Marketing services is accepted as more difficult than marketing products. Services have several qualitative differences and are:-

    1. Heterogeneous / customized - in other words they cannot be standardised.

    2. Inseparable - Unlike producing for instance baked beans, the production, marketing and delivery of services is very often the same process.

    3. Perishable and cannot be stored. This means that supply and demand must be matched or production will be lost { Presently it does not apply in India where no one is in hurry in matter of law implementation, until major legal reforms are embarked upon by Union government which too is now essential}

    4. Intangible - they cannot be seen and very seldom can they be objectively measured.

Some solicitors fail to recognize that only the most sophisticated of clients will be able to value the functional quality of the legal service. What clients do value is the quality of solicitor/client relationship and firms will be judged on such factors as:-

1. Who is interested in them?

2. Who best understands their concerns?

3. Who listens most effectively?

4. Who has the best insight into their situation?

5. Who is most likely to work effectively with them?

It is closer to services of estate and insurance agents. Is not it?

The old adage that, in descending order of importance, solicitors must be

1. Available; 2. Affable; and 3. Able, illustrates that technical competence is almost taken as read insofar as the public are concerned. Today many marketing policies will be based on the client-centered approach.

MARKETING TOOLS

When analyzing your client base, segment it along various different lines such as area of work, local geography and source of business. This will allow the firm to look at areas of growth and decline and re-allocate resources where appropriate. In this connection, client questionnaires are very useful.

Another useful concept for analyzing legal work is the Boston Matrix. The Boston Matrix can be applied to any business and can readily be applied to analysis of a legal business and indeed different types of legal work within businesses. The matrix recognizes that business and products go through various phases, namely:- Problem Child (e.g. when a venture is new and requires capital/time); Rising Star (where the venture becomes successful); Cash Cow (e.g. where the venture is not growing); and Dog (as where the venture is failing). Legal firms usually provide a wide range of services. The Boston Matrix can be used to analyze the state of the firm but probably more appropriately the matrix can be used to analyze the state of individual types of work e.g. domestic conveyancing, civil legal aid, executries, etc. The key issue is to apply the Boston Matrix to the business operation, to recognize the sector within which that operation falls and identify what action is required to either maintain or to improve the business.

Case of a law firm for strategic marketing plans

Few lawyers at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC would ever set foot in court without exhaustively researching their cases and meticulously planning their arguments.

Until recently, though, such planning never really applied to selling the firm's services.

"In the past, it was a more shotgun approach," said Joseph Curtin, the firm's managing director for professional practice and business development. "Individuals would identify on their own, a possible client and they might just go off on their own to see if they could get the legal work."

Today, the firm takes a more formal approach to mapping out when and how to court potential clients. It's not alone.

Law firms of all sizes across the country are mapping out marketing strategies, said legal consultant Jim Durham of the Dedham-based Law Firm Development Group.

"It's on everybody's list of things to do this year," Durham said.

The trend is another milestone in the evolution of law firms from collections of individual professionals to businesses, Durham said.

"Other professional-service firms were probably doing companywide strategic plans 15 years ago and within different parts of organization were doing strategic marketing plans," Durham said. "That's just now coming to the law business. It's an industry slow to embrace traditional management and marketing models."

Local law firms escalated their marketing efforts five years ago after the state loosened restrictions on advertising for the legal profession.

Hale and Dorr LLP, for example, is one of many local law firms that claim superiority in intellectual property law. But to distinguish itself among a business clientele that may be unfamiliar with its litigation record, the firm's IP group began custom publishing a magazine about a year ago.

ATTORNEY MARKETING:

CREDIBILITY:

These tools help overcome your prospect's hesitancy if it's due to his lack of trust in you or your ability to solve his problem or achieve his goal.

WRITTEN SCHEDULE OF FEES: Prospects feel more comfortable when they see your fees in writing. Some prospects assume lawyers set their fees based on what they think the prospect can afford. Handing your prospect a schedule of fees on paper helps overcome this suspicion.

REPRINTS OF ARTICLES YOU WROTE: Few things boost credibility as quickly as seeing published articles with your name in the by-line. Prospects immediately conclude you're an expert when they see that editors have published your writings. And the more well known and respected the publication, the more credibility they attach to it -- and the more it helps your attorney marketing effort.

TESTIMONIALS FROM PAST CLIENTS: Like published articles, comments from clients, colleagues and referral sources cause your credibility to soar. The more testimonials you have, the better. If a prospect is in doubt about hiring you, show him 10, 20 or 50 testimonials and you'll see his skepticism melting. (Check your rules of professional conduct. Not all bar associations allow lawyers to use testimonials.)

SERVICE GUARANTEE: Show your client the guarantees you make in writing. You might guarantee to return phone calls promptly, meet all deadlines, always have a lawyer available, not exceed a quoted fee, and so forth.

OVERVIEW OF SERVICES: In some cases, prospects aren't entirely sure what you plan to do for them. By having a written overview of what you do for clients -- and a breakdown of the major steps under each service, you help your prospects see on paper the many things you do in exchange for your fee. Also, by having these services in writing, you reinforce that what your prospect is asking you to do is consistent with what you do for many clients.

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Prospects are persuaded when they see that you have helped other clients in situations like theirs. The more similar the case history is to your prospect's circumstances, the more persuasive it will be. Also, the more similar the client is to your prospect, the more your prospect will be swayed.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

You help your client when you have a document that answers questions prospects ask. The more questions you answer -- before your prospect raises the issues -- the more your prospect trusts that you are forthcoming with information. If your prospect has to draw information from you, you risk his concluding that you would not have disclosed these facts had he not asked.

GLOSSARY: If your prospect doesn't understand the terms you use, he might be happy to receive a glossary of relevant terms. Often, prospects won't admit when they don't understand. The more you help them understand, the better they feel.

OUTCOMES: List on a sheet the various outcomes that could result from your efforts. Ask your prospect to assume that you will get a positive result, and then ask your prospect to identify whatever choices he will make at that point. By helping your prospect see past your efforts to future decisions he will face, he assumes you have already succeeded and is thinking far into the future.

OBJECTIVES: Hand your prospect a form that includes a list of the objectives typical prospects want to achieve. Ask him to identify the goals that are most important to him. This helps clarify to him what you'll do -- and helps him see that you understand what he wants to achieve.

CONTACT INFORMATION: Asking your prospect to provide you with his contact information gives him something easy to write down.

OTHER FACTS YOU NEED: Regardless of your area of law, you probably need information from your prospect before you proceed. The easier it is for your prospect to provide this information, the more helpful it will be in calming his nerves and helping him move forward.

MINOR DECISIONS: If you've read sales books, you may know the story of the car buyer who was afraid to make the major decision to buy a Mercedes. The salesperson asked, "What initials do you want me to put on the driver's door?" The man responded by giving his initials and, at that point, agreed to the major purchase. By asking the buyer to make a minor decision, which he perceived as no big deal, the salesperson effectively sold the car.

When you educate your prospect -- when he trusts you -- when he understands what you'll do -- when he knows what you'll charge -- your prospect has no reason not to move forward.

When you use education-based marketing, you don't need to "close the sale." The "sale" closes itself through your process of answering your prospect's questions. Eventually, your prospect says, "What do I need to do to hire you?" You show your prospect your agreement, explain it to him, and ask for his signature and a check -- and you've won a new client.

Yes, in many cases, it really could be that easy.

Marketing legal services is much easier when you keep hidden persuaders at your fingertips. They increase credibility, urgency, understanding and involvement -- powerful tools as mentioned above that help every attorney marketing effort.

THERE ARE SEVERAL RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL MARKETING OF LAW FIRM:

It is assumed that the advertising of legal services will be allowed in due course.

Rule 1: If you'd like to get a feature article in a newspaper or magazine, consider approaching a national publication. Every day, lawyers and business owners compete for space in local publications, but most never think about nationwide publications. In some cases, it's easier to get into national publications than local ones. Plus, a widely published article can do a tremendous amount to enhance your image as an authority {Kapil Sibbal, Ram Jethmalani, Dr. L M Singhvi}.

Rule 2: Trade publications allow you to reach a large number of specific types of businesses. Many industries and professions have publications and newsletters, even in local areas. Therefore, rather than getting articles in broad-based media, read by many people who are not in your target audience, consider specific publications that reach highly focused groups. Most editors respect lawyers and like to receive their articles, providing they're written in plain English, not legalese.

Rule 3: Display ads in large daily newspapers usually do not pull as great a response as ads in suburban and small-town papers. This is because people who buy large papers usually scan them, rather than carefully looking at every page. People who buy small-town and suburban papers read them more closely, so they're more likely to see and respond to your ad.

Rule 4: Radio commercials & Internet web pages may often work well for lawyers. To make radio work, you need to prepare information you can send to listeners who respond, or have a web site to which you can direct them. Either way, radio can reach target prospects quite well and often at a fraction of the cost of other media.

Rule 5: Fancy web sites that take forever to download do more harm than good. Every week, People complain about slow-to-load web sites. In most cases, the person tells that he chose not to wait and moved on. The problem arises not only because they didn't wait for your site to load, but also because they later complain about your site to their friends and colleagues. So rather than creating no impression, the impression you create is negative. The website should also have a bit of free advice and should be interactive.

Rule 6: A serious photograph that you think is dignified often scares off prospects. If you want to see bad photos of lawyers, look through the yellow pages. In many cases, lawyers look worse than the criminals they defend. Hire a photographer to take a professional publicity shot, with direct eye contact and a warm engaging smile because before you make a stern impression on your adversary, you must make a favorable impression on your prospect.

Rule 7: Long marketing messages work better than short messages, not because they're long, but because they're complete. Short messages have a place, especially when prospects want a quick overview and don't have time to digest your entire message. (Then a summary sheet of bullet points works best.) But when your prospect finds time -- and wants to read what you say -- you're in a much stronger position when you have (1) answered all his questions, (2) discussed your competitive advantages, and (3) explained the many benefits of hiring you.

Rule 8: High fees attract better clients than low fees. When creating a marketing argument, it's much easier to justify high fees based on the depth of your knowledge and experience -- than to explain why you charge so little. As consumers, we all use price as a quick way of determining quality (In services particularly). While price is not always reliable, still, we form impressions about the other person based on what he charges. Most often, people who want low prices get what they pay for and are not the most desirable clients. On the other hand, clients who want to benefit from your knowledge, skill and experience know that those qualities don't come cheap.

The future law firms shall have specialist attorneys on various laws that the business houses will have to deal with.

Patent and Trade mark laws

Public interest and environmental laws

International trade related laws

Routine Commercial disputes and drawing up Agreements of various types.

Constitutional law

Competition Bill and India's internal regulatory laws like Anti-dumping, pollution, unfair trade practices

REFERENCES:

1. Services Marketing; Christopher lovelock & Jochen Wirtz;Pearson  5th Ed.

2. Service Marketing; S M Jha; Himalaya Publishing

3. Marketing Legal Services on the Internet; By Alan Gahtan - December 20, 1994

4. Attorney Marketing at www.treyryder.com

5. Marketing Legal Services (Carswell Law Office Management Series) by Donna C. Wannop

6. http://www.lawmarketing.com/
 


Prof R K Gupta
BE (Hons), MBA, FIE
Aravali Institute of Management
Jodhpur (Rajasthan)
E-mail :
cityju@rediffmail.com / rkgupta_India@hotmail.com
URL :
www.Geocities.com/rkgupta_india
 

Source : E-mail May 8, 2004

 

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