Highly successful small businesses stay successful and prosper by continually striving to deliver ever-higher levels of client service and satisfaction. The same is true for law firms, especially when the firms marketing goals are intended to also bring about a fundamental change in the firm's culture. This often requires creating major momentum for change at every level of the law firms business.
The process of change has no distinct beginning or end. It's about law partners building leadership skills in themselves and in those associates and staff they mentor. It is not a continuing education course – but rather it's education that keeps on continuing. This is the nature of the change process. As the process begins, the firm may experience resistance, but it must not allow the momentum to falter at the first sign of a problem.
It's wise to keep the first few marketing initiatives a bit tempered and measured. While the core leadership will be eager to get the rest of the firm on board by working on marketing action plans, it must also consider how the rest of the firm might view the marketing proposals.
Change is a very sensitive issue in law firms, and proposing it usually tends to rock the boat. So firms must pay close attention to timing. Introducing too much too soon might alienate those the firm would like to see fully on board at the early stages of the marketing process.
While some key law partners and associates may be already on board and prepared to lead the charge, the firm still needs to create momentum around the idea of change outside of the firms core leadership. While inspiration is unquestionably a contagious emotion and will help the core leadership in its efforts to spread the word, you will need to tread softly at the very beginning.
As the firms marketing plans are presented to the rest of the firm, be sure that it is not perceived as being imposed from the outside. It must be seen as something that has evolved from the center of the firm's leadership. If not, many employees will view it as just another practice development strategy designed to improve the firm's bottom line-a strategy from which only the firm's partners will truly benefit.
Making The Firms Vision Relevant to Everyone At The Firm
How do you jump-start the change process? The firm's top leadership must first work to bring into the fold the less-senior lawyers and staff who make up their immediate teams. It is very important that these employees understand how their own personal and professional lives will be advanced by the changes being proposed by the firm. Others in the firm who are not part of its core leadership must also perceive that they are professionally and personally vested in the results of the change process.
It's not enough to make firm managers and employees feel like they are part of the process - they must actually be part of the process. They must have a tangible role in the creative process, and the way to get them involved is to learn what motivates them.
All firm employees, whether or not they acknowledge it, want and need to fulfill their individual potential. It's in our genes. Our need to grow and develop is innate. Some people ignore or deny this truth. Some embrace it with all their might. In either case, the need to become more than we are now is a fundamental fact of evolution. In a sense, we would all like to one day become our own visionary- the author of our own professional lives.
Making the firm's vision of change meaningful and personal to every employee is the responsibility of members of the firm's leadership. They must make concrete efforts to learn more about people as individuals, specifically learning about their personal and professional lives and goals. They must understand their employees in order to show them how their personal and professional growth can be realized through the firm's growth. The goal is to jump-start support, build momentum and establish credibility as quickly as possible.
Change Requires Both Success and Failure
No one accomplishes something great without making mistakes in the process. The path to marketing success is, more often than not, laden with mistakes. You cannot have success without experiencing failure.
Every part of the firm's leadership must develop and communicate an attitude of active tolerance toward mistakes. In law firms in particular (where people thrive on being right and of course, on winning), there can be a real and palpable intolerance to making mistakes to the point that being wrong on an issue is considered almost shameful. This mind-set often destroys the greatest of efforts, and it is the single most challenging barrier for law firms to achieve their overall marketing goals.
In building a law firm mistakes will happen. What must be discouraged, however, is people hiding their mistakes and not sharing what they have learned from them. Mistakes often produce valuable insights, and discovering these insights sometimes brings people together. Sharing what they've learned from mistakes can keep moving people forward and encourage risk taking. It is the foundation from which people take personal initiative. Without accepting, indeed embracing, the risk of failure, people won't try new ways of doing things at the firm.
Keeping the Firm Energized
Great leaders can inspire others by showing them how their dreams can be concretely realized in the context of the larger of dreams of the firm. This alignment of interests is what generates and sustains forward-moving energy. Contrary to what most of us believe, dreaming about our goals and ambitions is a good thing, even in the company of lawyers. It is no coincidence that, throughout history, those who have been the biggest dreamers were also the biggest doers.
Small to medium sized law firms can learn a great deal from marketing and mastering the change process. It requires that the firm’s leadership go beyond conventional thinking about the role of law firm marketing within their firm. It requires the law firm’s leadership to view their marketing, not just as a discreet business function, but also rather as a valuable and consolidated view of the firms entire business process.
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