Marketing the Legal Mind: Turning New Perspectives Into Powerful Opportunities
by Henry Dahut 200 pp. LMG Press. $62.00
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The book does bear the caveat that it "does not promise to make marketing fast or easy, nor does it promise instant results." The statement is a fair warning, as the connection to marketing at first seems somewhat attenuated. The book is more about changing firm vision by becoming or supporting a fine managing partner. Indeed, a subtitle on the cover, "A Search for Leadership," probably more accurately defines the book's purpose.
A major point of the book is that in order to feel satisfied in their personal lives, attorneys must believe that their professional lives are meaningful. With a firm full of satisfied attorneys, it is easier to conduct business. It is an accurate observation and a goal that eludes many members of the legal profession. It is also an observation that is not new in the realm of self-help for attorneys (see Success Briefs for Lawyers: Inspirational Insights on How to Succeed at Law and Life, published in 2001 by The Vorkell Group); it is just newly framed by Mr. Dahut as an overt marketing strategy.
That said, the book does offer an interesting angle. Make the public more confident, in general, about the character of lawyers, and every firm—under the appropriate leader and charter of goals—will find a service niche and a client base.
The best part about the book is the straightforward quotations from attorneys and clients that yield insight into the vastly different perspectives that arise in the context of any legal matter. Particularly jarring is the comment by a client who, in the midst of a bitter divorce negotiation, was appalled by the attorneys' lighthearted banter among themselves. A great lesson, since attorneys often engage in idle chatter—perhaps oblivious to the result—but a marketing tip? Maybe.
The greatest disappointment about the book is that it does not meet Mr. Dahut's own expectations for improved marketing. He discourages fear-based advertising campaigns as being manipulative, insulting, and detrimental to the legal profession. He particularly highlights the undesirable submessage of many marketing slogans: "If you don't use our firm, you may not have a future." Yet, 75 pages later, he urges the reader to oust all "toxic partners" from his or her firm with the comments: "Remember, keeping the status quo is only an illusion. If you're not moving forward, you're moving backward." Talk about fear-based. And, of course, the best way to insure that your firm moves forward: hire a professional facilitator.
While the fact that the book is written by a professional facilitator may render the reader skeptical, Mr. Dahut does have a point. When it comes to making major changes, particularly regarding issues like marketing, lawyers do seem to become paralyzed. Whether it is because they would rather avoid malpractice in heavy caseloads than ponder the colors of the next firm brochure, or because lawyers, trained in adversity, cannot agree on a uniform tack, lawyers looking to reinvent their firms most likely do need outside help.
For law firms looking to begin a difficult process, Marketing the Legal Mind is as good a place to start as any. It is a quick, easy read (less than 200 pages), peppered with marginally useful graphics and many interesting and insightful quotations. It also ends with a statement that successfully ties marketing into Mr. Dahut's theory of firm reinvention: "marketing can be viewed as the total process by which the firm freely and intelligently chooses what it will ultimately become."
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