Should Law Firms Have Marketing Departments?
Solo or small law firms (fewer than five total employees) probably don’t have a full-time marketing employee. Medium to large law firms do, and their marketing departments are a critical part of their practices.
In some cases, a marketing expert will have a leadership role in a law firm and participate in major firm decisions. More often, law firms hire marketing employees who work dual roles, sometimes taking on admin responsibilities. While this may be common, it is not ideal.
When Should a Law Firm Hire a Dedicated Marketing Employee?
Hiring a dedicated marketing employee is a big step in the growth timeline of a law firm. A marketing employee has the expertise, ability, and bandwidth to manage all aspects of a firm’s marketing.
Firms that make $1 million or more in revenue should definitely have a full-time marketing employee. To maintain that consistent level of income, a law firm must regularly invest in lead generation and marketing and have an individual accountable for the success of those efforts.
Law firms who want to make 7-figures in revenue (but aren’t quite there yet) should also consider hiring a full-time marketing employee and giving that employee a marketing budget. The idea is that law firms who want to grow need to invest in their futures, and the best way to attract new clients is through a well-defined marketing plan.
What Should Law Firms Look for When Hiring a Marketing Director/Assistant?
When hiring a marketing employee, law firms should look for someone with 2-5 years of experience in a marketing role. Ideally, this marketing employee will have worked in many marketing disciplines, including:
- Copywriting and content
- Paid digital ads
- Print marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Lead generation
- Website administration
- Digital analytics
- Social media marketing
Marketing candidates with more experience will have higher salary requirements. Instead of hiring top talent, many law firms will hire recent college graduates or candidates with light marketing experience to control overhead costs.
Hiring someone with little to no experience is an excellent way to keep overhead low, but the employee will require more direct management and will likely make mistakes.
If you are willing to let the employee “learn and grow” while working as your in-house marketing team, then hiring someone with little to no experience is a good option. However, if you need immediate marketing results (more clients), hiring someone with more experience is ideal.
How Big Should a Law Firm’s Marketing Department Be?
The size of your law firm’s marketing department will depend on the size of your firm. Most law firms with marketing departments have one dedicated marketing employee (like a marketing director) who manages half a dozen or so vendors and freelancers.
Alternatively, law firms may have a marketing director managing several marketing specialists or assistants. The former is more common in today’s economy, while the latter is more often seen at 8-9 figure firms.
Generally, law firms that make $1-2 million per year will have at least one dedicated marketing employee. Firms that make between $2 – 3.5 million will have at least two. How firms scale their marketing department beyond that will entirely depend on how much marketing they outsource.
Should Law Firm Marketing be Outsourced or Managed In-House?
There are pros and cons to outsourcing any task. Generally, the more specialized the task, the more likely your firm will need to outsource that task.
To use an obvious example, let’s say your law firm is developing a “crash app” (not necessarily something we recommend, but let’s use the example anyway). You probably wouldn’t hire a full-time app developer to create and launch your app. The overhead costs would simply be too high, and once the app is launched, your law firm would probably have little use for a full-time app developer. More likely, your firm will have an app developed by a freelancer or app development company.
There are many specialized marketing tasks where the business mathematics shows it makes more sense to outsource. Some of these include:
- Building/maintaining full websites
- App or software development
- Video shooting/editing
- Major graphic design projects
- Professional photography
All the items above require special expertise or a whole team of people working together to produce a polished finished product. A law firm would be unlikely to hire individuals to do such specialized tasks full time.
Even after a law firm outsources all these tasks, they will still need someone in-house to coordinate and monitor the firm’s overall marketing. In fact, many firms have marketing directors whose primary job is managing vendor relationships and monitoring the results.
Even with these marketing tasks outsourced, it is still necessary for a law firm’s in-house marketing director to have a broad knowledge of marketing to communicate with many vendors and interpret the marketing results.
What is the #1 Job of a Law Firm Marketing Employee?
This question has many “correct” answers, and what works for one law firm may not work for another.
The actual duties and responsibilities for a marketing employee will depend on how your practice attracts new clients. Some law firms will want to emphasize digital ads, SEO, and internet marketing, while other law firms will emphasize community marketing and relationship building. It all depends on the specific way your law firm generates clients.
However, no matter how your firm is structured, your full-time marketing employee’s #1 job is getting qualified leads for your business. “Total qualified leads” is the metric by which all marketing employees should be judged, no matter their day-to-day responsibilities.
Most attorneys start their firms assuming that being a really, really good attorney should, in and of itself, be a marketing advantage. Those attorneys believe that joining a whole bunch of committees and putting their name in lawyer directories is “marketing,” and they never bother to ask if there is a better way.
Attorneys are catching on, however, and those who succeed learn to leverage their current resources to create effective (and ethical) marketing. What they discover isn’t a magic pill or silver bullet but a different approach to marketing that your competitors haven’t considered.
by Ben Glass
Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.