If, like me, you are a key decision-maker within a legal practice, you’ll be all-too-familiar with approaches from marketing and PR agencies, website designers and print houses, all keen win your business.

The UK legal services industry is currently worth close to £30billion - a most attractive market. Having been in practice for more than 45 years, I have witnessed the turning of the tide from quiet conservativism within the profession to today where we firms actively compete to draw attention to services.

Terms such as "SEO", and "direct marketing", which once seemed arcane, are now familiar to us all.

The unprecedented financial challenges facing firms in recent years have placed the bottom line under scrutiny like never before. Many firms have questioned whether they could justify their marketing spend.

In other consumer areas such as retail and manufacturing, the application of sound marketing has yielded a real surge in turnover and value. Those same techniques can also reap rewards within the legal services sector.

The challenge for firms – and for our marketing support – is that legal services offer little by way of differentiation and standing out in a crowded marketplace. The arrival of big non-legal names has helped to focus minds on this key issue of branding, as the power of the client-as-consumer has taken hold.

When I was a young lawyer, the accepted way to build up a firm was by establishing and protecting your personal professional reputation and developing your contacts base.

Times change, and now tradition blends with innovation. New channels of acquisition are emerging, as we evolve from traditional models of business development and client relationship management to incorporate modern techniques such as video, television advertising, social media platforms and e-commerce. 

I think it only fitting that we now look to marketing in the same way that our clients look to us and our expertise.

As an industry, we can be slow to adapt and adopt. In today’s intense, technologically-driven market, there are real benefits for those who can embrace change wisely.

I took a leap of faith and placed my trust in marketing, opening new channels to the market, with the result that our practice has experienced year-on-year growth. Good, effective and thorough marketing is not just smoke and mirrors!

As with any major investment, prudence is the watchword. Do your research – has the marketing agency you are considering a proven track record of achievement? Are they a good ‘fit’ for your firm in terms of style, approach and outlook? How rigorous are their methods? Do they bear scrutiny? Will they match your own standards? Can you see the partnership developing beneficially over time? Perhaps most pertinently – will their services represent value for money?

Just as clients seek the best result from their legal advisors, so law firms should expect marketing initiatives to deliver the same. If they don’t, then cut your losses, manage expectations, and learn from experience. Sitting on your hands is not the answer.

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David Kirwan

David Kirwan , Senior Partner

As Senior Partner and Head of Civil Litigation, David brings 42 years hands on experience together with the qualification of a Higher Court Advocate (Crime & Civil) to the conduct of commercial, partnership, business, planning, regulatory and licensing disputes. He also represents farmers in a range of agricultural issues including winning the notorious North Wales “golden crisp straw case”.

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