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Attorney Marketing: Asking For the Kind of Cases You Want

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To get the best cases, your goal should be to develop a message that speaks in an authentic way to the people you really want as clients.

By Harlan Schillinger, VP/ Director of Marketing at Network Affiliates.

An important element in your to marketing strategy is knowing what you’re asking for. To recognize what kind of cases are you’re actually seeking, start by taking an honest look at whether the ever-popular but ever-ineffective “speed and greed” approach is really working. It might be time to step back and survey the big picture.

It may sound like a sensible business strategy to broadcast loud, bold, call-to-action TV commercials with the goal of obtaining as many quick-settlement cases as possible. But what you will find is that most of those leads either don’t pan out or are so low-value that they actually undercut your revenue in the long run. Clients are getting smarter, using the Internet to do their homework and weighing their legal options while taking into account advice from friends and family.

After 35 years of helping lawyers market their practices, We have found that a smarter long-term plan is to build a multi-pronged marketing strategy around obtaining quality, high-value, big-referral cases that deliver reliable results for both the client and the practice. So where do you start? First, gauge where you are on the value scale by asking these questions:

  • What is our current reputation in the marketplace?
  • Is our firm known for high-quality or high-turnover settlements?
  • Are we leaving too much on the table with a churn-and-burn approach?
  • Are we really prepared to take cases to trial as we say we are?
  • Are we offering cookie-cutter law or something more specialized?


Asking tough questions is the first step in developing a smarter marketing strategy. The bottom line is law will always be about the money—how much can you get for a client and how much will you charge to get it. But by positioning your legal services as a cheap commodity, you may be devaluing the importance of the services you provide to the community.

Next start to focus on marketing practices that help your firm:

  • Position how unique you are in your legal niche or specific market.
  • Demonstrate how you can solve a specific problem for a client in need.
  • Build on valuable referrals from past clients and your professional network.
  • Prove your lawyers’ integrity, approachability and transparency.
  • Build deeper, lasting relationships with clients.


Making the message count

Ultimately, the only way to re-position your firm, prove your worth to potential clients and attract the high-quality cases is to demonstrate that through your marketing and advertising campaigns. So rather than expecting that people will believe that you’re the fastest, the best-educated or the most experienced and, give clients a little credit. They’re smarter than you think.

Begin to find creative ways to show how you have successfully processed a high-quality case, solved a specific problem for a client or earned a proven reputation for success. As the old adage goes, “show, don’t tell.” There’s a big difference and if you don’t know what it is, find an advertising agency that does.

Getting the best cases

Your goal should be to develop a message that speaks in an authentic way to the people you really want as clients. These are not the people tempted by quick settlements who are driven to call a number on the TV screen to get cash in hand now. The best cases will be brought by people who have a legitimate legal need and are willing to work patiently with the best attorneys until a case is settled or tried to its fullest extent. These are the cases that yield the best return on investment and lead to lucrative referrals in the future.

One example of demonstrating worth could be a series of TV commercials that build a campaign around real case studies with satisfied clients who speak on your firm’s behalf. In reality, clients don’t know if they received a great settlement or not. But they do know how they were treated. And they may be more than willing than you think to talk about the services your firm provided. The point is you may not have to convince people of the quality of your work -- your clients can do it for you. After all, we are social beings and we rely on other people’s opinions to make decisions. Leverage that to demonstrate the kinds of cases your firm wants.

Speaking of that, one of the smartest ways to build your caseload is to work your existing network. The best cases are typically ones coming from people who have already experienced what your firm has to offer and have been satisfied by the result. It’s human nature to want to share, so why not capitalize on the “viral” nature of referrals. Consider ways to build social marketing campaign around what people are already saying about your firm and to tie it into your TV messaging.

Building on the concept of demonstrating your value through messaging is the critical element of relating to your target audience. Again, this is not about shouting at them in a feeble attempt to be louder than the competitor, but trying to reach your audience in a way that positions your firm as believable. So whether your commercial is explaining the value of hiring a personal injury lawyer or the importance of strong legal representation in a brain or spinal injury case, use characters and situations with which viewers can quickly identify on a visceral level.

Using emotion to connect

One powerful way to develop a memorable message is creating a human connection through emotion. The human brain not only registers something that makes it cry, laugh or react, it stores (remembers) these moments, which is the ultimate goal of an ad. When a potential client needs a lawyer, the ability to recall a commercial (and firm your name) stored in that place where feelings reside is priceless.

Relaying information in a static way in an ad will not make a memorable impact. People need simple communication that tells a message through a compelling, entertaining story. Better yet, where possible, use dialogue rather than prose to bring your brand to life and help viewers make a visual and auditory imprint of your ad.

To complement the quality of your message, consider the quality of your commercial production. If you want to attract a more valuable case, make sure your sound, light, talent and post-production lives up to the quality of your message. If you are spending more time developing a message that matters, don’t cut corners when it comes to actualizing that message in video format. Make sure your advertising agency is paying attention to what your commercial looks and sounds like—using interesting graphics and optimal editing so that your spot will effectively convey the authenticity of the message behind it.

Sending a high-quality message to attract high-quality cases requires some upfront work. But don’t sell your firm short. It you put in the time now to develop a genuine message that relates to an audience, bringing better cases and more referrals, your legwork will more than pay off in the long run.

Perhaps the best way to re-think the value that your law firm is providing is to picture your practice like the best brands. You don’t have to be the Neiman Marcus of your market, but maybe you can start to provide Nordstrom-quality service. Be the kind of firm that puts the clients’ needs first. The kind that stands out among the competition. The kind that you would want.

You get what you ask for.

Harlan Schillinger is a thirty-four year veteran of the advertising industry who joined Network in 1985 to lead their attorney marketing efforts. Prior to joining Network Affiliates, Harlan was Vice President and one of the founding partners of Madison, Muyskens & Jones, in Lakeville, Connecticut. Along with his partners, Harlan founded the first syndication firm for retailers using television commercials throughout the United States.

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