Lawyers appreciate the value of research. When working on a case for a client, a lawyer will search databases and newspaper archives, interview witnesses, explore social media and discover pertinent information wherever it exists. I am fascinated with some of the information they can obtain.
I have been told that the best lawyers are curious lawyers, making the research concept a seemingly natural fit in legal marketing. However, law firms rarely make a serious effort to employ market research. In fact, I have never witnessed consistent in-house market research processes or regular relationships with external research firms. This rarity appears to exist beyond my law firm clients. When searching for “legal market research firms” and “market research firms for lawyers”, I come across only a handful of firms, most of which are marketing or practice management consultants.
We see the lack of a market research function as a missed opportunity for law firms. This is because market research can give insight into what clients and potential clients want from a law firm, helping firms to be more successful with their law firm marketing strategy.
We recommend firms include professional market research as a choice among other marketing activities for
their lawyers to spend their marketing dollars each year.
Disruptive Market Forces
Several disruptive factors are currently at work in the legal market, impacting the way in which some firms handle client development and marketing.
3rd Party Lawyer Rating Services
One such influence is the presence of 3rd party rating services that research court databases and rank lawyers based win/loss rates by court, jurisdiction and judge. Interesting comparisons are made between the results of lawyers at different levels, firm size and rate charged. Predictive value data are available to indicate success and failure rates by type of litigation, jurisdiction, judge and several other statistics. This information will certainly be of interest to clients and should also allow for opportunities for law firms to assess their results and competition. For more on such 3rd party rating services, see premonition.ai/publications.
Certain studies are also contributing to the transformative nature of law firm marketing. For example, the litigation management study performed by CLM Advisors (clmadvisors.org) surveyed over 60 counsels general about their law firm relationships. The revealing data in this study indicate that sophisticated clients are continually developing new measurement metrics on law firm and lawyer effectiveness. Law firms can take the opportunity to influence this conversation. Some law firms are already finding a competitive advantage in self-reporting their performance. One example is the South Carolina law firm of McAngus Goudelock & Courie (mgclaw.com), who reports the number of cases settled on the home page of their website.
All of these sources and information are readily available on the web to the curious lawyer, but time rarely permits for substantive non-billable research. As such, an external professional research approach may be optimal.
Marketing Research Program Objectives
Finally, I have had the opportunity to dialogue with John Fox of John Fox Marketing Consulting (www.johnfoxmktg.com). John has many years of experience with marketing research and he provided the following summary of what marketing research is really all about.
The objectives of a law firm market research program should include:
- Identifying the segments of the market most interested in a firm’s services;
- Identifying the client drivers for selecting counsel in these markets;
- Determining the most effective way for reaching high opportunity clients;
- Creating the strongest message to potential clients; and
- Reconciling internal understandings with market perceptions of competitiveness.
The goal of a marketing research program is to provide a firm with actionable information to improve overall marketing effectiveness, client procurement, and brand development.