Public Relations Marketing Strategies For Lawyers
You are known by the company you keep. Anyone who’s a parent knows how true this is. We watch whom our kids make friends with because we know it makes a difference if they are from the chess club or the detention hall. It’s also true for law firms.
Business executives and other potential clients want to know “whom you swim with.” They’ll search a law firm’s website to find out if you’re a firm that represents Fortune 500 companies or closely-held businesses. They want to see other businesses like themselves, of course and judge whether you are up to the task of handling their legal affairs.
Listing representative clients used to be de rigueur in the olden days of printed legal directories. After the list of lawyer bios and areas of practice, readers were accustomed to seeing a list of the kind of businesses that the law firm represented. This was a very good marketing approach, but somehow it got lost in the translation from paper to the web. Many law firm websites neglect this all-important list of clients.
The reason it’s a good idea to list clients is that if you represent one retail store, it’s easier to attract a second retail store as a client. This is because the client knows you understand their industry, know their business and have handled the legal issues they encounter. A point that in-house counsel makes, again and again, is that they are looking for lawyers who are familiar with their business.
Lawyers Respond With A Variety Of Concerns
1. Won’t I have to get permission to use my client’s name?
Yes, of course. The idea is to pick clients who are happy with your work and have used you on many occasions. If they’re willing to refer you, they won’t mind you listing them as a client. They’re in business too, and they get the idea of listing satisfied customers. Often you can obtain their permission with a simple email.
2. Won’t this open my client to poaching from competitors?
No. First off, your competitors already know that you represent this business, or they can easily find out. Even if they didn’t know, by simply naming the company as a client, you haven’t really given your competitors any advantage.
Finally, if your relationship with the client is so tenuous that merely naming them with their permission will increase the likelihood they’ll jump to a competitor, then you have some serious relationship-building to do.
3. If a company sees that we represent their competitor, aren’t they likely not to retain us?
Perhaps, but most likely not. If it’s a deal breaker for the prospective client, then it’s information you’ll have to disclose anyway. Why not disclose the relationship on your website before you’ve invested a lot of time? But more often than not, business executives will feel comforted by the fact that you have done work for other businesses in their industry.
Firms That Name Names
Womble Carlyle, a 450-lawyer firm with offices in five states, presents a list of representative clients. Womble Carlyle represents many nationally and internationally known corporations, businesses, and foundations in industries that include manufacturing, transportation, and energy, financial services, insurance, health care, education, and technology.
Fisher & Phillips, a labor and employment firm with 170 lawyers based in 10 cities, lists client names on its FirmSite at http://www.laborlawyers.com, including the Business Council of New Orleans, Ramix, Inc., a computer component manufacturer, and Merrick Industries.
Furthermore, the website has a section entitled “What We’ve Accomplished Lately,” summarizing the firm’s work in trial and appeals courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Even better, top cases are detailed in the firm’s Report on the Year 2002, covering some of the firm’s activities and accomplishments during the last year in a 15-page PDF file.
For a sampling of other law firms that name their representative clients, see: “Should You List Clients on Your Firm Website ?” on our Legal Marketing Services column.