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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Are Junior Lawyers Wasting Time When they do Marketing Activities?

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You need to bill.  Chances are that you need to record around 6 – 8 billable hours each day, every day.

In the legal profession there are a significant number of tasks that, despite being compulsory, are not billable.  And so, in the context of a 10 hour work day (for some that’s a short day, I know) trying to ensure those things are done, while simultaneously keeping your billable tasks up, can be a real burden.

So in the context of that environment, the question has to be asked: when you are a junior lawyer, should marketing and networking even be on your radar?

“Leave the marketing to the partners”

“Your billables were down last month – why?”

“Are you pulling your weight – your time recording isn’t as high as the others?”

Even put in less direct terms, many of you feel the expectation anyway.  There’s a sense that you aren’t there to contribute to the marketing program – you are there to do the legal work.

It’s a Marathon

Remember my article about how your legal career was a long journey, not a sprint?  Well if you’re going to run a marathon, you need to train for it.

The chances are fairly slim, as a very junior lawyer, your marketing efforts will have much of a direct impact on the bottom line.  But that isn’t a reason not to market.

Marketing is long term.  It’s relationship development.  It’s an investment.

Marketing is the call you make to the friend before the race, who is then waiting for you at the 10 mile mark with water.  It doesn’t help you at the start, and you don’t see the benefits until you get to the cup of water.  Without that call though, there’s no water – and you go thirsty.

It’s Habit Forming

Far and away the biggest issue confronting senior lawyers (myself included) is that they need to generate business for the firm.  And it’s hard – very hard.

Part of the struggle, however, is that we are caught up in legal issues, without looking at the broader picture of legal practice.

Those who succeed are the ones who consistently and habitually engage in marketing activities and relationship development.  They are the ones who live and breath marketing.  You know how they do it?  It’s habit.  They’ve done it for so long, and so many times, that identifying and capitalizing on opportunities to develop relationship and engage with clients is simply second nature.

You can’t form habits overnight.  So starting now will simply make it easier later on.

It’s an Investment

When you put money into your nest egg for retirement, you can’t access it now.  You don’t get the benefits.  You don’t see the returns of compounding interest.  Instead, those things come home to roost later in life.

So it is with networking.

The relationships you develop now with your peers, and sustain through the years, are those which you can leverage later.  Don’t forget that as you become more senior, so will your contacts.

The people who are comfortable with you, your work, and your diligence – they are the ones who will call in a time of need for your services.

But if you think that you can call someone after 10 years for a coffee and build a $1m pile of legal fees, then you’re dead wrong.  That work comes from investment.

It’s investment of your time.

Investment of your energy.

Investment of your emotions.

Sometimes investments fail, and sometimes marketing efforts are wasted.  But that doesn’t mean people stop investing – it just means they learn from the experience and try and make wiser decisions next time.

What about the Firm?

Hopefully you work at a firm that understands this.  Unfortunately many do not.  Some firms are nervous about young lawyers investing time in marketing because they don’t see the immediate benefit (it costs the firm money, after all).  Some because they are worried that you’ll leave.

Be careful here, because the firm’s arguments aren’t completely unfounded.  They need to make money, and a significant way they do that is through leverage.  That is: you do the legal work so that senior lawyers are freed up to do higher value work (like marketing).

There is a middle ground though, where you still meet your obligations to your firm, but are building your investment over time.  My view is that every young lawyer should implement a series of habits from early in their careers directed specifically towards marketing and networking.  If you don’t, you’ll find yourself out of your depth before you know it, and you’ll have to develop those skills on the fly.

It’s Not a Waste of Time

So can I encourage you, today, to start your marketing habits.  Start something.  It doesn’t matter how junior you are, the habits you form and the investment you make now are going to be essential to your legal career in time.

Although it’s not the subject of this article, I’d also encourage you not to get stuck in the realm of “gutless” marketing.  Don’t write an article.  Don’t go to a seminar and speak to nobody.  Or at least, if you do those things then appreciate that they aren’t developing relationships without something more.  Any lawyer can write an article (some worse than others), but not every lawyer can shake somebody’s hand and develop rapport within a few minutes.

So what are you going to do this week?

Happy Lawyering!


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  1. Hi Chris…

    Liked this very much as usual thanks…good practical, true, stuff…

    In firms I manage i expect the Junior lawyers also to develop marketing skills and habits and it’s built into their WorkPlan™ so it’s clear to all that the firm values it. Half an hour a day minimum average…around 115 hours a year minimum…and at varying opportunity cost for the time it’s clear the firm values it a lot…if a nominal rate for Lawyer A is say $250/hr ex taxes then the annual investment provided for as a minimum is getting close to $30,000.

    I’m also big on training in the various tools and techniques, and on ensuring people’s skills are developed as far as possible to suit their personalities and interests. That almost always sets you up for both lawyer and firm to get the greatest long term returns, and the satisfaction that even relative successes bring.

    • Thanks Rob appreciate the comment. Key in what you’ve said is a clear indication that the firm actually values the BD efforts of younger/newer lawyers. It’s hard to see the short term benefit (for both the lawyer and the firm) so a clear statement of that (both through words and in actions) is a great step.

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