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You’re a Marketer, Whether You Like It Or Not

Some lawyers love marketing. They take people to lunch regardless of whether they need to simply because they like taking people to lunch. Those lawyers have plenty of clients.

Other lawyers hate marketing.

Some hate it so much that they seek out employment that doesn’t require (they think) any marketing at all.

They take jobs as associates in law firms. They know that some lawyers bring in lots of business, and some sit in their offices and do the work. They want to fill the “sit in the office working” role.

If you’re a “sit in the office working” kind of lawyer, I’ve got news for you: you need to market as much as anyone, sorry.

What can I call the “sit in the office working” lawyer without being offensive?

The last thing I want to do is offend. The lawyers doing work day-to-day on the front lines are essential to the success of the firm. These folks are critical to keeping clients happy. Without someone to do the work, the value of the rainmaker goes way down. Every firm needs to generate business as well as get results for clients. You can’t have the front end without the back end if you’re going to succeed.

How about we call the folks doing the work the “grinders” and the folks bringing in the work the “finders”? Those terms have been around for a while, and I hope they aren’t offensive. If they are, then I apologize.

In many instances, grinders choose grinding over finding because they seek to avoid sales and marketing. They don’t want to sell.

Realistically, however, the grinders need to sell. They’re selling not to the client but rather to the finder. The grinder’s market is the finder.

Here’s the reality: the finder sells to the client, and the grinder sells to the finder. Everybody sells.

In any firm, there are grinders who are better at sales than the other grinders. The better-selling grinder gets the better assignments. Those assignments might sometimes be better learning opportunities, be easier, or be more lucrative. There’s always a broad range of assignments at every firm, and assignments aren’t usually distributed randomly. Some call it politics, and some call it relationships; I call it sales. It doesn’t matter what you call it: the better salesperson gets the better assignments.

It is essential that you, the grinder, build your relationship with the finders. You must sell to them, or you’re going to end up with the crap, and you’re going to make less money. This is reality: accept it and take action.

If you’re a grinder, then you need to define your market (the people generating the assignments) and move yourself along on the know-like-trust continuum. The finders need to know who you are, like you, and trust you if you expect the best assignments.

You’ll move the finders toward trusting you by talking with them (about work as well as their other interests), going to lunch with them, meeting for drinks after work, chatting at the water cooler (or on Skype if you’re distributed), playing golf, or meeting at the gym. You need to get to know one another’s spouses at dinner, allow your kids to develop relationships, and look for other opportunities to connect.

The relationship between the grinder and the finder is critical to the grinder’s success. Doing excellent work on the assignments coming from the finder is important, but good work is table stakes. All grinders are required to do good work, or they aren’t going to stay employed. You’ve got to do more than good work. You need relationships.

Selling is as important for grinders as it is for finders. The only sales distinction between finders and grinders is the target market. Finders sell to clients; grinders sell to finders. You’re a marketer, whether you like it or not.

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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.