With more and more law school grads entering the workforce, competition
for the available jobs is growing. Many lawyers are finding they need to come
up with a new angle to win themselves some business.
"There are more lawyers than ever," says Larry Bodine. He is the operator
of the Law Marketing Portal in Illinois.
According to the American Bar Association, more than one million lawyers
practice in the U.S.
Because there are more lawyers, there is more competition for work. "There
is more competition than ever," says Bodine. "At the same time, there is a
shrinking client pool. As corporations merge, in-house counsel takes more
Many law firms are merging to become larger companies. "A recent trend
that's been powerful is that law firms are either moving to become big multinational
firms or are becoming specialized boutique firms," says lawyer Laura Watts.
A boutique firm may specialize in areas such as health care or maritime law.
Whether a law firm is a large multinational, a small boutique or a general
practice firm, there is an increasing need for all of them to market themselves
to bring in new clients.
"The big firms need to promote international clients, and the boutique
firms need to let potential clients know that they specialize in one area,"
says Watts. "The general practice firm has to market themselves against the
However, advertising for a lawyer isn't as simple as it is for a local
tire or paint store. "There are many, many restrictions on what they can say,"
says Watts. Restrictions vary from area to area and country to country.
For example, a lawyer in British Columbia can't advertise that she is a
specialist in maritime law. "You can say that you limit your practice to maritime
law, but you can't indicate special advantages over other law firms," says
Some of the ways lawyers advertise their businesses are by distributing
business cards, placing ads in newspapers and specialized newsletters, speaking
at conferences and by word of mouth.
Dana Young is a lawyer. She says that sponsoring events is an effective
way for law firms to advertise. "For example, I just dropped off a $100 check
that will be a prize in a golf tournament," she says.
Getting involved in the community is a good way to promote a law firm.
However, Young says that traditional methods of meeting clients over golf
or at lunches may not work as well for young female lawyers. "The problem
is that women don't seem to do as well in these situations."
She says that young female lawyers may find other ways to network. "My
advice to junior women lawyers is to get involved in nonprofit organizations."
"Getting business in person is the most effective way to win new clients,"
adds Bodine. "TV, newspapers, Yellow Pages ads, billboards and subway placards
may work well for high-volume, mass market law practices like...personal injury,
divorce and bankruptcy law practices.
"But to attract good corporate clients, other effective approaches are
an interactive modern website, educational seminars and tailored e-newsletters."
Watts agrees that the Internet is an effective medium. "websites are increasingly
important for both big and boutique law firms."
The Internet is helping with marketing, according to a Lawyers Weekly article
called Marketing is a Contact Sport. The article states: "Thanks to technology,
marketing is often cheaper than it used to be. It's also more varied."
"New research shows that in-house counsel do indeed use the web to find
and evaluate law firms," says Bodine. "This makes a law firm's website very
A website should clearly describe what type of work a law firm specializes
in. It should also look professional. "A law firm website should also offer
visitors a chance to sign up for a free opt-in newsletter or news service.
The website is the public face of the law firm. It should distinguish the
firm from the rest of the pack."
The American Bar Association says technology is changing publicity for
lawyers. In an article listing the top 10 myths about law firm publicity,
the association states that it's a myth that publicity is local. "In the age
of the Internet, there is no local paper. Stories that appear in the Miami
Herald are read by producers at the BBC."
However, the Internet isn't yet a useful tool for all lawyers, especially
those working in smaller communities. "We haven't developed a website," says
Young. "In smaller locations, the Internet isn't as important as generating
business by word of mouth."
Areas with increasing demands for lawyers include health
care, intellectual property law, international law, elder law, environmental
law and sexual harassment cases. In addition, an increasing use of legal clinics
means that more middle-class Americans are hiring legal counsel.
"People with a two- to five-year call date [years of experience as a practicing
lawyer] are mobile and can pretty much go anywhere in the world and find work,"
"In addition, lawyers are needed in certain fields, such as criminal law
and wills and estates, on a consistent basis. You may need to market more
or in a different manner, but opportunities are there."
Law Marketing Portal
A free website where marketers and lawyers can share information
American Bar Association
The association for lawyers in the United States