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Law Firm Marketing

We discuss law firm marketing with Chris Allen, the Managing Partner of Blacks Solicitors LLP based on Leeds. He came to the helm at Blacks on April 1st in 2008. He was born in Bradford. He was very keen to change the branding of Blacks, because he was jealous!

That’s right, Chris was jealous of a law firm at the time known as Hammond Suddards, who had a brand, enthusiastic staff, they were everywhere! They had newsletters, pens, everything!

So, what was Chris Allen’s approach to law firm marketing?

Chris took advice from business owners. They advised get advice! He got 3 agencies in. Blacks’ target market was the business person. The lesson, was they were all brilliant, they all showed him things that took his breath away. They all went away. Two weeks later, he sat down with Assad, a partner and Chris posed a question “What do you remember?”.

Assad smiled and said “I remember the yellow dot on black.”. Chris is a squash player and he got the similarity. He realised that it stuck in his mind and that is what a brand is. It needs to stick in your mind.

See the branding in action:

Chris was a part of a networking group Vistage, comprised on fellow business owners. He asked them their views of a lawyer’s brochure. Do you want one? Are you bothered? The feedback was “I’m not interested in you looking miserable and moody”! One person said the startlingly obvious, “all I really care is What’s In It For Me”. What do I get? That’s what the customer is thinking.

That’s why the 46 second video on his website starts with the line…

“My name is Chris Allen, this is what you get if you instruct Blacks Solicitors”.

Chris advises that you keep your website videos short enough to get across the core message of the WIFM factor. Chris developed his brand using yellow and black. The theme helped his potential clients as very approachable.

The branding sticks in the mind.

He operates in a saturated market. There are lots of very good lawyers. So how do you stand apart from your competitors? Chris’s answer was through branding. Through newsletters, postcards, business cards.

His business card is so thick. He finds that people apologise for the quality of their cards. But if you don’t have a great service, attention to detail, 4-hour call backs, all the branding is for nothing.

It took Chris a year to change the branding. In 2008, there was a significant downturn. Turnover and profits went down. Blacks did not have a strong brand, but they were also known for something they no longer did – criminal law!

Social media was a gift from the Gods to Chris. He liked Twitter. Short punchy, free. Would his brand stick in other people’s minds too?

How did his brand resonate with his audience?

It helped that at the time he was in his early 40s. Not late 50s. But he didn’t want to do something damaging to his brand. He picks 12 or 15 out of 180 people who actively use social media for the firm?

He picks them based on people coming to him and saying “Chris, can I get involved”. He believes people will become more and more comfortable with video. He advises you invest in presentational skills because video is about to transform the internet.

The legal industry has conservatism. His male employees wear suit and ties. He encourages his team to develop. The people who’ll rise to the top will be those who are approachable and have a wider profile. So, he needs people to be proud of the brand and deliver the service.

His staff are magnetically attracting people to Blacks. Compared to competitors, it must help attract clients. Turnover and profits are heading in the right direction. Law firm marketing works!

Differentiating the firm

Chris wanted the challenge of creating a differentiated law firm brand, where his customers and staff believe in their product. His approach to law firm marketing achieves this, and its not just about websites and stationery.

Newsletter – he does a paper and e-version. It is brand consistent. Not too many articles, has staff profiles and lots of pictures that are engaging. Goes out 3 times a year. It comes with a grabber – like an ice scrapper (yellow and black). Chris advises you can pick up more new clients on the back of your existing clients.

Chris’s love of football saw his firm’s young stars play the Yorkshire County Cricket club at football. They lost to the professional sportsmen 9-3, but the game was loads of fun and produced great images and content to share about their ‘approachability’.

See pictures of the event on Chris Allen’s Twitter feed: @callenblacks

How does Chris recruit great staff? With younger solicitors, he gets them in for a few days. Over the 4 or 5 days, it helps you weed out those not suited to the firm. They should all be able to interview well. Most of the young staff he hires come from the people he has seen over those 4 or 5 days.

 How are Chris Allen’s next 100 days going to be?

  • Probably the most exciting in years.
  • Because he plans to move his firm into new premises.
  • Guess what the colour scheme will be???

How would Chris advise business owners generally?

  • Follow your gut instinct
  • Remain positive
  • Listen to negative views but don’t be downhearted by them
  • Avoid arguments
  • Consult regularly with people
  • Don’t bang the table and shout and scream
  • Keep lines of communication open even with the most difficult of people
  • Put a big smile on your face because it is only business!