With all the international law firm mergers currently taking place, marketing departments around the world will be scurrying to remake their firms in the new image. An international merger is a greatly magnified version of the procedure that takes place in all law firms when new lawyers join the firm. HR is preoccupied with payroll, benefits, and insurance. Facilities is scrambling to find a place for the new lawyers near their practice group—often causing the domino effect of multiple moves. IT is getting the new lawyers’ computer and phone systems set up. And that’s in firms big enough to have HR, facilities, and IT departments. In firms where the office manager or firm administrator does everything non-billable, who has time to think about marketing?
But the arrival of a new lawyer is a major marketing opportunity. At best, it’s a significant enhancement of the firm’s capabilities (and possibly clientele—more about that later). At the very least, it’s an increase in bench strength. Most importantly, it gives everyone, yes, everyone, a reason to touch base with clients and referral sources.
That the arrival of a new lawyer or group of lawyers must be marketed outside the firm is obvious. Marketing the new arrival within the firm is not so obvious, but equally important.
Marketing Outside the Firm
Even if marketing the new arrival to those outside the firm is more obvious, it shouldn’t be left solely to the Marketing department. News from the firm should always be treated as a touch point in maintaining client relationships. It’s especially important for clients who may have no knowledge of the firm’s capabilities other than your services. “I didn’t know you did employment law” might be the response from a client of the corporate practice group on being introduced to the firm’s newest employment lawyer. That’s an opportunity to educate your client on your firm’s other services, which is an important aspect of client retention. The more of your firm’s services a client uses, the more likely they are to stay with you.
Perhaps the new acquisition is a high-profile one, or a movement from a bigger, more influential firm. That’s a good message to send to existing clients and referral sources, to show what your firm has been able to attract. The new lawyer’s clients and referral sources will no doubt wonder why their lawyer chose to move and that’s another opportunity to market the new firm—especially since those clients and referral sources have to make a choice as to whether they will follow the lawyer to his/her new firm.
Perhaps the acquisition adds a new skill to your firm’s capabilities. This again is a whole-firm message, since existing clients and referral sources need to know that you can now do something more. The most effective marketing campaigns will involve a strategic analysis of the firm’s clientele and the clientele of the new lawyers for opportunities not only to cross-sell different practice groups but also to market the firm as a whole.
Marketing Inside the Firm
While marketing the new arrivals within the firm may not be as obvious, it is key to lawyer retention. The firm needs to sell its capabilities to the new arrivals so that they will in turn sell them to their contacts. The new arrivals have to see their new colleagues as clients: relationships must be built, just as they are with clients. The newbies need to sell their capabilities to their new colleagues—some of whose noses may be out of joint, don’t forget. “Why should I introduce him to my clients? Let him find his own clients.” In fact, they’re all the firm’s clients. “How come they’re spending all this money on that practice group when I can’t even hire a new associate?” In fact, it may be in everyone’s best interests for the firm to expand in one direction while maintaining the status quo in another.
Trust has to be earned. Existing lawyers in the firm have to see the new lawyer(s) as a benefit to them—and that’s where the wisdom of the acquisition comes under the spotlight. If due diligence was done (on both sides) before the new lawyer(s) came over, firm management should know what the benefits will be and should market those benefits vigorously.
Three words of warning: “book of business”. Every firm is on the lookout for the mid-level or higher lawyer with an established clientele who can persuade those clients to follow him to the new firm. Just remember that a “book of business” reflects the past, not the future. The lawyer’s clients can choose whether to follow her—or not.
Do’s and Don’ts for Integrating New Lawyers
- Do get the new lawyers’ contacts (not just clients) into your firm’s database immediately and share firm contacts with the new lawyers.
- Don’t put off an analysis of new and existing contacts, looking for touch points—memberships in professional organizations, committee participation, charities supported, etc. Who needs to be told what, when—and by whom?
- Do help the new lawyers announce their move, ensuring that their announcements contain your firm’s key messages about the move.
- Don’t delay introducing them within the firm: create a ‘meet and greet’ opportunity before their first day of work at your firm.
- Do decide who needs a visit, who merits a phone call, and when an email will suffice. The most important contacts merit face time: besides being good manners, it’s an opportunity.
- Don’t let someone important hear about it first on the grapevine.
- Do look ahead for opportunities to integrate the new lawyers: can they speak at an upcoming firm seminar, write an article for the next firm bulletin?
- Don’t assume the deal is done until the new lawyers are at their desks in your firm. If you think the new lawyers are worth having, chances are their existing firm will counteroffer and steal them back. Yes, it happens: ask any managing partner.
- Do make the new arrivals get new photographs taken: it’s a visible indication of their new brand.
- Don’t forget their (and your) online presence: update their social media profiles and directory listings and update the firm’s online descriptions to include the new arrivals.