Harnessing the billable hour to improve your marketing results

80% of success is just showing up. -- Woody Allen

There are many reasons why marketing does not come naturally to attorneys. Most of us are uncomfortable with self promotion (shouldn't clients just hire us because we do a good job?) Many of my clients would rather be doing billable work than spending time at networking functions. And most of us graduated from law school with no training in how to market a professional services practice.

But there is one valuable marketing skill that most lawyers master when they enter private practice. Lawyers learn how to record their time and this in turn is a tool that can help you stick with marketing long enough to be successful.

Whether or not you like recording your time, having the discipline to keep track of what you are doing as a practicing attorney is a very important skill that you can use to increase your marketing success. One of the truths about building a professional services practice is that it can take a long time before the relationships you cultivate will turn into referrals. Therefore, you need to stay in contact with your referral sources over a long period.

There is no magic to it. You need to find creative ways to "show up" over and over again. In some cases, you may not see referrals for years. So keeping track of your time and budgeting an amount of time that you devote each week to marketing, ensures that you are not simply putting off marketing for a rainy day.

This is a great strength of many lawyers. If you get involved in any community or nonprofit organizations, you know how hard it is for many people to simply get things done. If nothing else, lawyers know how to make lists and document what they are doing.

If you make the effort to write down your marketing goals and create a specific list of marketing tasks each week, you dramatically increase the likelihood that you will follow through. If you then record your time and describe what you have done, you can keep track of what activities seem to be effective ways to build your referral relationships and where you may be spending too much time tinkering with the bio on your firm's website.

The billable hour is being challenged and increasingly, clients are looking for more fixed fee arrangements. But the billable hour is far from dead. So start recording your non-billable time and watch your marketing activity increase.  You may not see any results in the short run. But in the long run, your practice will benefit greatly.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published November 8, 2012


To learn more about the Law Practice Management Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members, contact LPM Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar or Vice Chair Cynthia E. MacCausland.
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