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
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.