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Top Ten Marketing Mistakes Lawyers Make and How To Avoid Them

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

By Terrie S. Wheeler, MBC

I am convinced that every lawyer is well-intentioned when it comes to having a desire to market and grow their practice. I also know the only way to turn good intentions into success is to act. Over the past 25+ years, I have seen lawyers thrive and grow. I have also seen lawyers with good intentions stagnate into a perpetual state of wheel-spinning. As a result, they get discouraged and convince themselves if they do good work, clients will find them. The proverbial easy button, right? Please consider the top mistakes I see lawyers making, so you can avoid the pain, expense, and frustration of pursuing marketing activities that don’t work.


There is an inherent disincentive to follow up with your contacts or write the article you’ve been meaning to write if you are working 12-hour days. Remember that if you wait until you have time to market, it will likely be too late. Marketing is something you must weave through the fabric of your practice. Avoid this mindset by doing one small thing every day to build your practice. Update your bio, check LinkedIn, outline a blog, send an email to a contact to plan lunch. Just one thing. Every day. It works!


It’s easy when you have a brief lull in your workload to dive back into networking activities – full throttle. Maybe you can make up for lost time? Probably not. Always remember, the best networking is done consistently over time. Pick one association (not five) that attracts clients or referral sources within which you want to increase your name recognition. Identify your top ten list of prospective referral sources and contacts and reach out to one person per week. In order to succeed in networking, it’s more important to be consistent on a smaller scale, than to conquer the world.


For some reason, even deadline-driven lawyers with iron-clad tickler systems can struggle with a lack of follow up. If you meet someone when you’re networking and offer your assistance in any way, even if it’s a referral to a lawn care company, or (especially in Minnesota) a snow plowing service, make good on your offer. The moment you are back in your office, follow up on anything you said you would do, send or email to your contact.


Sometimes it’s easier to avoid something you don’t know a lot about. Social media is here now and will be here in 10 years. As you may know, social media can be time consuming, but only if you let it be. Pick a site and visit it a few times per week. LinkedIn is a logical choice and should include only people in your real network. Comment on others’ posts, and if you are so inspired, write your own post on something you are interested in, or is happening in the news. Make your posts timely, relevant, and personal to your views.


Lawyers by nature seem to take a “wait and see” attitude on many things. They want to see how other firms their size are utilizing any given service before taking the plunge themselves. Think about the top challenges you have in running your law practice...the things that are affecting your ability to deliver services to your clients. Ask your friends what systems or services they use. Do a little research, and make the decisions early that will help you maintain and grow your client base.


I’ve seen it many times. You have lunch with a great prospective referral source who promises to send all their clients to you. You do a publicly acceptable happy dance back to your office and are met with 100 emails and people who need you for just a minute. After a couple of weeks, and no work flowing in from your great contact, the lunch becomes a distant memory. They didn’t change their mind – I promise you! They are likely as busy as you are. You must take the lead in managing the contacts with whom you engage. At the end of every great lunch or coffee, agree on action items and next steps with your contact. Add these deadlines to your calendar as you would legal deadlines to ensure you will follow up.


When I ask the most successful lawyers how they achieved fame and fortune, they say two things: writing and speaking. We’ll address speaking next. First, writing blogs and articles is an exceptional way to build and keep your name recognition high. Write articles targeting your key clients in publications they read. See something in the news? Write a blog about it (500–700 words), then post about your writing on social media. The more you write, the more you will be asked to write.


As you know, public speaking is many people’s greatest fear – even successful, accomplished lawyers. Remember – writing and speaking will make you a sought-after subject matter expert. A caveat: if you really don’t want to speak to a group of people, focus on writing. That said, if you are willing to expand your horizons, speaking opportunities (to the right people on the right topic), can catapult your practice to the next level.


There’s nothing harder on your marketing psyche than reflecting on everything you could be doing, and not knowing where to start, or even if the thing makes sense for you. One way to avoid paralysis by analysis is to step back and identify your best clients, the niche you have created, specific targeted groups you can reach. Then identify what you want to accomplish by year-end in terms of referral sources and revenue. Having a basic plan will enable you to only implement activities that directly relate back up to one of your objectives.


I have a client who, before PSM began managing his marketing, had a significant case of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. He said yes to any and all marketing “opportunities” that came his way— worrying what might happen if he didn’t. The key to success is being thoughtful and strategic in your marketing efforts, not being distracted by all the “shiny object” emails you receive from vendors. Don’t accept cold calls, and don’t say yes to email solicitations. Talk to your friends who are lawyers and get their opinions. Then make an informed decision on marketing activities you choose to pursue. While there are many mistakes lawyers make, there are also some quick fixes. If you avoid the top ten mistakes lawyers make in marketing, I am confident you will develop a plan that will work for your practice. Why? Because this is the only real path that will lead you to success.

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