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Incorporating Associates into Law Firm Marketing

Law Firms
Andrew Adams

A recent law school graduate, Jessica accepted a first-year associate position at a small law firm that offered a variety of services, including personal injury, family law, and estate planning.

In her city, a car manufacturer was granted permission to test drive autonomous vehicles. It wasn’t long before the news was full of reports about autonomous vehicles being involved in car-to-car accidents, destroyed mailboxes, and pedestrian injuries.

Jessica was interested in the legal ramifications of autonomous vehicle testing on public streets. She researched the state’s vehicular code and the laws around property damage and personal injury. Jessica began writing blog posts about this emerging law for the firm’s website.

Firm partners began receiving calls from prospective clients looking for legal guidance after suffering injuries or property damage from autonomous vehicles. The clients said they found the firm in online searches that led them to the blogs about autonomous vehicle law. The partners quickly tapped Jessica to assist them with their cases, as she had clearly amassed valuable knowledge on the topic and would be an asset to their work.

If your law firm is not incorporating associates into marketing and business development, now is the time to start. The benefits for both the associates and the firm are vast. Associates relish opportunities to learn, contribute, and generate work. Law firms reap the rewards that come with associates who feel productive and valued, creating a positive firm culture that attracts and keeps top legal talent and, of course, clients.

Historically, law firms have not tasked newer, younger attorneys with marketing activities. But just as legal marketing has transformed over the last two decades with the growth of digital marketing and competitive markets, so too should law firms’ approach to associates’ helping the firm develop.

Law Firm Associates Benefit from Participating in Marketing

Like Jessica in the situation above, associates who engage in marketing activities generate work for themselves and for the firm. While that alone should be reason enough, here are some other reasons associates should want to be involved in marketing:

  • When an associate contributes to a firm’s growth, they feel more invested in the business.
  • Writing or speaking about niche topics that interest them provides associates with a sense of ownership over their work.
  • By helping develop firm business, associates feel more responsibility and control over their own professional futures.
  • Developing content about certain aspects of the law is a great way to not only learn, but also practice communicating about the law in simple terms that clients will appreciate.
  • Marketing boosts the associate’s visibility within the firm, which could help them advance.

Law Firms Benefit from Associates’ Help with Marketing

Law firms today are in constant competition for the best and brightest legal talent and client work. When associates are involved in law firm marketing, they help the firm remain competitive on both fronts.

Anything that makes associates happy will help the firm in terms of retention and recruitment. Happy associates are driven and motivated.

Plus, attorneys often feel there is never enough time for marketing activities — so including associates in content development and networking means more boots on the ground to support the firm’s legal marketing goals.

Just because associates may be younger doesn’t mean they don’t have their own valuable networks. New attorneys carry their contacts from childhood through law school with them literally in their pockets. This digitally connected generation of associates use social media, text, and even video games to stay in constant contact with their friends, classmates, and colleagues. Any of these people are potential referral sources, clients, or laterals. Ensuring associates create and share law firm content regularly with their networks opens vast relationship marketing and business development opportunities.

Overall, associates can be a treasure trove of fresh ideas and approaches. They often have more time, enthusiasm, and drive than seasoned attorneys.

Seven Ways to Incorporate Associates into Law Firm Marketing

  1. Look at the firm’s legal marketing plan for tasks appropriate to assign to associates. For example, a partner has an idea for a blog post but no time to write it. The partner should take a few minutes to provide an associate with some background material, along with a few thoughts about why the topic is important to clients. The associate can then write the first draft. It may not be perfect, but the partner should appreciate not having to start from scratch. Acknowledge the associate’s work by including their name on the post.

  2. Match associates with a mentor. The mentor can be a senior rainmaker or a junior partner — everyone has valuable experiences to share. If the firm is small, consider introducing the associate to mentors outside the firm. Law schools don’t teach how to run a law firm, nor are there classes on rainmaking. It’s incumbent on senior attorneys to pass on what they’ve learned to new attorneys if, for nothing else, to ensure the firm’s longevity and continued success.

  3. Provide training to the associates on everything from networking to writing content to contact list organization to social media. These can be from internal or external sources. Be creative — match associates in small groups or create a book club on business development and marketing publications.

  4. Encourage the associates to cultivate relationships with those in their network while also looking for ways to expand it. Whether it’s engaging in social media, attending conferences, serving on charitable boards, or providing pro bono work, associates should learn to interact professionally with others and acknowledge that every opportunity is a work opportunity.

  5. Just as everyone at the firm should know how to speak about the firm and its services, be sure the associate understands the firm’s practices, history, culture, and any other information that sets it apart. Ask that they focus on their personal brand and create an elevator speech.

  6. Get buy-in from leadership and all departments. Associate marketing and business development may involve several firm divisions, including marketing, recruiting, human resources, and operations. Create a culture of support and inclusion by making associate integration into the firm’s business growth a part of its fabric.

  7. Consider allowing marketing activities to be billable or even setting goals around time spent on marketing each month or quarter. Doing this shows associates that the firm takes marketing seriously and motivates them to participate without sacrificing billable time.

Start small when incorporating associates into law firm marketing. Set expectations and manageable goals. Remind associates that marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and the more they do it, the better they’ll get at it. It won’t be long until both associates and their law firms see the benefit of associates participating in marketing.

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