A Managing Partner’s Perspective on Legal Marketing

“I think it’s exciting. Marketing is exciting. Lawyers must embrace it.”
– Tom Curry, Managing Partner, Lenczner Slaght

For legal marketers, building strong, trusted relationships with partners and management is vital to a thriving career. If you’re lucky, you might even work at a firm with a savvy Managing Partner who understands the power of building a dynamic legal marketing function.

Tom Curry is the Managing Partner at my firm, Lenczner Slaght. When I first met Tom, I was immediately impressed by his knowledge and passion for marketing and business development. Tom is a legal marketer’s dream. He is a master at his craft, sought out and respected by clients of all shapes and sizes, full of creative and innovative ideas, and has a leadership style that is so unique that I can’t quite describe it.

Five years ago, Tom pitched me on a transformation: a plan to build a best-in-class marketing and business development function that would future-proof the firm. In me, he saw a scrappy and energetic marketer who could connect with his lawyers. In him, I saw a curious, enthusiastic, and authentic leader who would support and champion my best ideas. Together, and with the help of dozens of other brilliant people, we have taken the firm to new heights of collaboration, innovation, and success.

This is not the first time I have sat down with Tom to discuss his past experiences with legal marketers, his opinion on the value they bring to lawyers, and his advice on how both can work together to win. I have written this one down in the hopes that it will inspire and motivate lawyers and law firm leaders.

Tom, you’ve worked at two excellent law firms, have a stellar reputation, and enjoy a thriving practice. What has been your experience working with legal marketing professionals throughout your career?

First, my experience has been very positive. I have had the benefit of working with legal marketers for almost my entire career. Soon after I began practicing, legal marketing came to Canada and I was lucky to be at a firm that was embracing it. Like everyone else, I wasn’t quite sure what it would mean and how it would impact my practice. I quickly came to understand how beneficial it was to have an internal specialist with knowledge and experience in marketing and could clearly see how that was going to give us a leading edge and allow us to compete in the emerging and rapidly changing market for our services.

Throughout my career, I have learned a great deal from legal marketing experts, both inside and outside of the two firms where I’ve worked. I have worked with consultants and other experts. I follow legal marketers online. I read their publications, listen to them speak, and pay close attention to the ideas that they generate. I even use and reference their work in my own everyday work with clients, because marketing is persuasion and I’ve learned a great deal about that art from legal marketers.

How would you describe the value a legal marketer brings to a lawyer?

The value that legal marketing experts bring, particularly to lawyers in private practice, is their ability to help lawyers communicate with their clients and prospects. They help to tell a compelling story about what a lawyer has to offer, what experiences they have had, and what types of problems they can solve. When they are effective, they allow a lawyer to maximize their potential to have a fulfilling practice. A legal marketer is really the bridge between clients, lawyers, and legal services.

What advice would you give to a legal marketer trying to build strong relationships with their lawyers?

First, always be listening. Second, understand what each lawyer has to offer to clients and asses how that will translate into what clients want or need.

Lawyers are not drawn to marketing and very few are naturally gifted at it. I have had a lot of training in my career and that’s because I think it’s a skill that you have to learn and practice. Legal marketers need to find lawyers who have an interest, who have a natural gift for it, or who can otherwise be turned into better marketers.

Of course, these things can be complicated and it is the job of a legal marketer to appreciate how important it is to coordinate everything – to be at the center of it all. There is an art to listening, learning, and managing all of the moving parts. But there is so much room for success when it all goes well.

Legal marketers are also very good at generating interest in their areas of expertise. In my experience, their enthusiasm for the work is contagious. They must use all the tools they have to demonstrate what lawyers can do to unleash their potential.

What did you focus on in the early days? Which marketing techniques did you find most successful?

I would point to two things that are really important, and it’s true for many lawyers but, it’s especially valuable for young lawyers, and that is visibility and credibility.

By visibility, I mean being active in the legal community. Participating in events that are relevant to your practice and bar but, also engaging with organizations that are important to your client or prospective client base. Be where your clients are and understand the organizations and associations that support their business. By credibility, I mean demonstrating your knowledge of the law. That can be done through publishing, speaking, or even simple things like engaging on social media. These actions signal that you’re thinking about the issues that clients need solutions to, essentially answering the question, why should a client hire you?

I have always had strong relationships with my clients and other members of the bar. I like having quick visits with people, usually over coffee. It’s a short time investment but it helps me stay connected with my colleagues and clients.

I also think it’s important for lawyers to remember that marketing and business development is a long-term game and consistency is key. You never know when your efforts will pay off, but they absolutely will if you keep at it.

Any final thoughts, Tom?

Legal marketing is such a powerful function within a law firm and young lawyers are so lucky that it is accepted and, in some cases, very well-resourced now. The faster lawyers understand the power of marketing, the better at it they will be. And once they master the basics, they can start to market in a very different way, a more sophisticated way. They can work with legal marketers to truly innovate and make valuable impacts on their clients, their firms, and the broader legal community. I think it’s exciting. Marketing is exciting. Lawyers must embrace it.

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