largely embraced the need for marketing, but there remains a sense
of unease as to some of the output and activities of those responsible
for marketing a Chambers.
This is not surprising because in some cases
the output is inappropriate, ineffective and lacking focus! These
observations are drawn from personal experience and from a recent
report published by Conical on Barrister sector marketing practices.
Our experience and our survey work reveals
that the dominant factors affecting the ability of a Chambers to
win and retain clients are as follows; reputation of the Chambers,
reputation of individual Barristers and referral.
For most Barristers this is not a surprise
and for most marketing professionals with some experience of professional
services marketing this information is not particularly new. So
one has to ask then why so much marketing budget gets diverted to
lower importance activities such as advertising, overly complex
websites and sponsorship? One might also ask some serious questions
about the costs of some re-branding exercises. All of the above
can be used as a means of raising brand awareness, which is an important
objective, but they are somewhat low ranking when it comes to winning
new clients or retaining existing clients.
Marketing is perhaps best seen as a management
process for anticipating and meeting client needs profitably. Marketing
has a whole range of tools and techniques available for use. All
of these tools have a strategic application and can achieve a desired
outcome, but mistakes are often made in the application of these
This misunderstanding of how marketing tools
are used is the root cause of the misapplication of marketing budgets.
The Link between Marketing and Human Resources
The issues of reputation and referral are
driven by the experiences clients have when they work with Barristers
and Chambers support staff. It is assumed that all Barristers need
to be kept up to date with changes in the law and Continuing Professional
Development is taken for granted. However, the client experience
is also influenced by the way support is delivered, the general
attitude of the Barrister and support staff to the client and the
client or account management skills of the Barrister. These skills
should not be assumed and should be actively evolved and developed.
Other skills that impact upon the general marketing of Chambers
include presentation skills and networking skills. As such it is
important that human resource and marketing disciplines are seen
as linked within the context of a Chambers.
Business Development Skills
By definition most Barristers have developed
communication skills. However, it would be wrong to assume that
just because a Barrister is skilful presenting in Court he/she is
equally comfortable attempting to win new work in front of a new
client. Law firms are quite used to having to respond to formal
tenders and in so doing often have the support of Business Development
personnel to create proposal documents and electronic presentations.
One might expect law firms to continue to push these disciplines
down the supply chain into Chambers. Even if this does not happen
there is no doubt that solicitors expect Chambers’ support
staff and Barristers to have professional business development skills.
On a Chambers wide basis there is an opportunity
to adopt business development tools and techniques. Obvious initiatives
include the adoption of ‘key account management’ techniques
and lead tracking.
Key account management techniques are many
and varied but the core assumption here is that there are some clients
who are of strategic significance to an organisation and the loss
of their work would be quite damaging. Experience of Chambers suggests
that the Pareto 80:20 principle often applies whereby a large slice
of work comes from a limited number of client law firms. Where this
is the case a plan for retaining this work should be put in place
and initiatives launched to apply ‘golden handcuffs’
on the client. A passive, inactive approach is dangerous. It is
widely recognised that one of the main reasons for clients switching
to other suppliers is ‘perceived indifference’. It is
also widely recognised that winning new additional work from an
existing satisfied client is much easier than winning new work from
a new contact.
Potential new clients
also need to be identified and initiatives launched to make the
target client aware of the capability of a Chambers or individual
Barristers and then opportunities sought to make direct contact
with the target client. Barristers in general often baulk at this
approach in that it has the ‘feel’ of direct selling
about it and this is in some way a grubby inappropriate activity
for a lawyer. This perception of lead tracking is largely based
on a misconception that sales and marketing activity has to be brash.
The creation of a target client database that
identifies potential sources of instruction and ensures that these
individuals are tracked and initiatives put in place to communicate
with them would be a step forward for many Chambers. The database
need not be overly complex but it should allow for capture of multiple
decision makers, multiple departments, multiple addresses within
a single organisation and allow that data to be sensibly interrogated
to produce useful lists and information. Any activities in marketing
a Chambers should then be tracked using the database. Those that
have such a system benefit greatly from this approach since it allows
them to target their marketing by discipline, firm and region if
For Chambers as a whole, or indeed individual
Barristers, there is cost effective software available that can
assist with lead tracking initiatives. At a simple level a bespoke
Access database can prove to be very useful and there are also plenty
of ‘off the shelf’ packages that can sort data and record
Time to re-direct the Budget?
It is difficult to make general conclusions
about where marketing budgets should be spent because different
Chambers have different objectives. A recently merged Chambers for
example could quite legitimately be prioritising brand awareness
initiatives, whilst others might prioritise general profile raising
activities. However, for most Chambers client retention, referral
and winning new business from existing clients will likely appear
at the top of the list of marketing objectives. As such it is suggested
that marketing activities should be devised to support these objectives.
Tools that are often used to achieve these
- Detailed client perception monitoring
through semi-structured interview ideally including a feedback
loop for the client
- Creating a network of referral
bodies and initiating activities to foster referral
- The adoption of key account
management techniques that help maximise the total revenue a Chambers
can generate from a client firm.
- Prioritising marketing skills
training within the HR plan
- Highly focused PR activities
- Highly focused and interesting
(ideally fun) hospitality and seminar events.
Unfortunately, these sorts of activities
can fall down the list of priorities and be squeezed out of the
marketing plan by the more glamorous components of the marketing
BA MA DipM MCIM MIPR is a Director of Conical, a marketing and PR
consultancy which specialises in outsourced marketing, training
and PR services for the legal sector. Stephen also leads ‘Marketing
Masterclasses’ for lawyers He can be contacted on 01727 844000
or via sjb@conical