Developing An Internal Marketing Plan For Law Firm Success

External business development efforts depend heavily on the internal marketing program. Where an internal plan does not exist, the results of a marketing effort can at best be ineffective and at worse chaotic and embarrassing. Just as external programs frequently measure the audience to see if their needs are being met, so too does a good internal program. The internal component serves four purposes: to motivate, inform, coordinate, and educate. An internal program is a vital part of the external plan.

Here is the story of a 75-member firm in a large metropolitan area whose lack of an internal plan caused initial embarrassment and subsequent loss of business.

The firm was young and very aggressive in its marketing efforts. Besides having several excellent rainmakers as partners, the firm hired a full-time marketer to capitalize on earlier scattered efforts. The marketer was excellent in sales and promotion. He was able to attract much attention to the firm and provide opportunities for the attorneys to obtain additional work.

The problem arose as the attorneys began to believe in their own promotional materials. The marketer had been given permission to write brochures and news releases touting the firm’s success in many areas. But the successes and depth of skill in several of those areas were questionable.

This fact came home to haunt the firm in several ways.

Due to the marketer’s strong efforts to interest the news media in the firm’s success, a major article on worker’s compensation appeared in the city’s largest newspaper. It gave the impression that the firm had significant depth in this area of the law. Believing this to be true, the marketer had embellished the firm’s capabilities with the reporter. While the individual attorney who was quoted extensively knew the law very well, the article created the impression that the firm’s worker’s compensation department was larger than it actually was and could handle virtually any situation.

The reality was that this department was highly specialized and not capable of handling a variety of cases. Subsequent clients were disappointed in the results. Since internal consensus was missing, there was a profound lack of direction. Internal communication was nonexistent, and the marketing strategy was seriously flawed (or, more correctly, the marketing strategy was not really developed at all). Obviously, the attorney and staff were not trained in marketing techniques to make the whole thing work together. The basic problem is that the firm lacked an agreed-upon plan.

In a more common if less dramatic situation, attorneys frequently promise a new client excellent and continual communication on all matters related to a case. But if the firm or staff does not internally agree or understand this (at least to the level expected by the attorney and the client), then the whole effort becomes suspect.


The internal plan is a component of the external marketing plan. Internal plans have the same components of external plans—the “target audience” of the plan is the various segments of the firm—partners, associates, staff, and so on. Just as external programs frequently measure the audience to see that their needs are being met, so too does a good internal program. The internal component will motivate colleagues and staff, inform them as to overall marketing efforts, coordinate their activities, and educate them about marketing results and so on.

Here are the specific issues that need to be addressed in the internal components of a complete plan.

  • Authorship. Committees can rarely write anything, but if consensus is established, a committee can and in many cases should write a plan. Individual attorneys or administrators are likely candidates to draw up the first draft.
  • Personalities. It is important to fit strategy and tactics to the personalities of those involved.
  • Scope. The plan must involve everyone in the firm—from the senior partners to the newly hired secretaries.
  • Addressing needs. Strategy and tactics must fit the needs and desires expressed by the attorneys in the internal surveys.
  • Plan components. An internal program uses many of the same elements as an external one.
  • Implementation. Who will be responsible and control the plan?
  • Reviews, revisions, and edits. The internal plan should be read every month, edited every four months, and reviewed/revised every year.

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