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Law Firm Timetables: Setting Up an Appropriate Marketing Campaign.

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The time required to perform marketing activities is usually greater than expected. Further, the completion of the marketing activity does not mean that marketing is successful, because results from the activity will take even longer to return. With few exceptions, most marketing activities take weeks to complete and may take months to produce results.

Law Firm Timetables: Setting Up an Appropriate Marketing Campaign

The time required to perform marketing activities is usually greater than expected. Further, the completion of the marketing activity does not mean that marketing is successful, because results from the activity will take even longer to return. With few exceptions, most marketing activities take weeks to complete and may take months to produce results.

Timetables are probably the most easily understood yet most likely error-filled elements of marketing plans. That's because most attorneys, unaccustomed to marketing, will severely underestimate the time required to get things done.
Attorneys realize that quick resolution to many complex legal problems is not possible. They understand that things take time to complete. Nevertheless, it is amazing how frequently attorneys will embrace a marketing plan, create strong goals, develop reasonable tactics, and estimate accurate costs. Yet they will create totally unreasonable expectations as to when it will all be accomplished.

FACTORS AFFECTING TIMETABLES

The skills and attitudes of the participants determine the speed at which plans get carried out. This applies, of course, to most human endeavors but is especially true in business development activities for attorneys. If the attorney marketing skills are limited and the interest is low, very few if any successful activities will be completed. On the other hand, a marketing program led by a skilled attorney, capable administrator, or experienced consultant and supported by enthusiastic colleagues and staff can provide marvelous results for all concerned.

The attorney's desire to control costs and reduce expenses is a common limitation to marketing. But these factors are frequently a disguise for lack of interest. They are also indicative of an attorney or firm who doesn't understand business development as not a cost item but rather an investment in the future.

The most common limitation is availability of attorney time. This, of course, is the attorney's inventory-the product with value. It is rationed carefully, and hours devoted to marketing may be taken away from billable time or from personal lives. Attorneys do not willingly let go of billable hours for the sake of marketing or any other reason if they feel they will not be compensated for non-billable activity. In many cases, the time devoted to marketing is clearly lost revenue to the firm. An attorney billing $100 an hour, devoting only two hours a week to marketing, "costs" a firm roughly $10,000 annually. No wonder this is a limiting factor not only for the firm, but for the individual attorney who may receive less favorable reviews for recording fewer billable hours.

TIMETABLE GUIDELINES

The following list provides a general guideline on the time required to accomplish specific activities. These timetables are established for a 15-member firm practicing in two or three major areas of the law.

The "time to complete" for these activities is based on an assumption that the activity occurs within the framework of a well-planned marketing program. This means that each activity is launched from a foundation of internal consensus, direction, and communication. For example, a brochure can be written and produced within two months if consensus is already achieved. If not, the process can take much longer. Therefore, the times listed are realistic only within a generally supported and reasonably well- functioning marketing program.

WHEN TO EXPECT RESULTS

Some of these marketing activities provide immediate, tangible results, such as a television advertisement that generates 15 responses from potential clients within one week. Other activities result in meaningful benefits only after months, such as a consistent media relations campaign to establish oneself as an "informed source."

It is helpful for attorneys to understand that very few marketing activities have immediate results. Further, a single marketing activity is rarely responsible for marketing success. Typically, many activities over time provide a total package of service and product delivery that result for the totally satisfied