By Meranda M. Vieyra
Good etiquette doesn’t cost a thing. Bad etiquette can cost you everything.
In the legal industry, we have our own ways, customs, standards and norms when it comes to marketing etiquette. Lawyers can use etiquette as a tool to cultivate relationships with potential client sources, establish their professional reputation and develop their personal brand. Use this guide to incorporate modern etiquette into your legal marketing strategy.
Marketing Etiquette: In Person
- The Name Game. There are thousands of lawyers in Colorado, and at networking events it can feel like they are all in one place at one time. Don’t take it personally when a professional contact you have met before can’t remember your name. Rather, handle this situation with class by doing them a favor and reminding them of your name. You can kick up your own marketing game by doing your best to remember names and something anecdotal about what the person shared with you the last time you met.
- Give Your Attention. When you are speaking with someone, actually look at them. Take the time to pay attention to what they are saying. They can tell if you are looking around or over their shoulder during your conversation to find the next person to chat with. In networking situations, try to listen more than you speak and be sure to engage in the conversation by asking questions and making eye contact.
- Overdressed Is Better than Underdressed. Law firm culture is generally conventional and conservative. Although many firms support a casual Friday policy, not all of them observe the same protocol. If you are attending an event at another law firm or at a client’s office, make sure that you are dressed appropriately, from head-to-toe, even if it’s a Friday.
- Use Titles. There are a handful of elevated positions in the legal industry that have titles, and you should address justices, judges and magistrates accordingly unless they insist otherwise. There are also lawyers with political job titles that should be used as well.
- Be On Time. Be mindful of what time an event starts, and try to arrive shortly after it begins. If you are meeting a client or referral source for lunch, you should arrive exactly on time. Being late is not fashionable. If you are invited to someone’s house, be there on time and bring a gift for the host. (A bottle of wine or a bouquet of seasonal flowers are two excellent options.)
Marketing Etiquette: In Writing
- Timing is Everything. When you meet someone at an event whom you want to stay connected with, make sure that you follow up on your initial meeting promptly with a LinkedIn request and an email. Although you can send electronic correspondence at any time during the day, be mindful that your email is sent during normal business hours and on a weekday. Although many lawyers do not bat an eye at receiving an email near midnight on a Sunday, that is not necessarily the practice in other industries.
- Notecards 101. Handwritten notecards are one of the fastest and most effective ways to stay “visible” in your network and showcase your manners. At a minimum, be sure to send a handwritten notecard to the referring attorney when they send you a case. You should also send a notecard to your client at the closure of their matter to thank them for their business. You can also send notecards to acknowledge a client or referral source’s awards, new additions to their firm or other professional successes.
- Emailing and Texting. Emailing and texting can be two of the most informal forms of communication in marketing. If you are communicating with a professional contact in writing, regardless of the medium, make sure that you are professional in tone and text. Steer clear of casual abbreviations (BTW, etc.) and typos. Trend toward formal on any closing salutations.
- Be Respectful. Make sure to respond to invitations promptly. Ignoring an invitation by not responding is not a declination of the invitation. It actually creates more work and uncertainty for the event host if they don’t know whether or not you will come. When you are at an event, be respectful toward all people that you meet, regardless of their current position and views. Remember that one day the in-house associate that you are speaking with won’t always be an associate. Everyone will (and should) remember how you have treated them during their career.
- Don’t Criticize. Your reputation will always precede you. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or what you have accomplished, it is never appropriate to criticize other people in the legal industry. The Colorado legal community is small. Gossip and meanness will earn you a reputation that will not be conducive to business development or marketing your practice.
Marketing Etiquette: Online
- Social Media. Many lawyers and law firms are embracing social media platforms in their marketing strategies. However, posting is not a free-for-all, and more is not always better. Marketing etiquette on social media is centered on respect for people’s time. The value of your insight and legal services is the most important aspect of what you post. Avoid over promotion on social media and limit posting to what will effectively reinforce your brand or marketing message. A great rule of thumb to follow is for every three informational posts on social media, post one promotional piece.
- Lawyer Ranking Sites. More and more, meeting new clients doesn’t necessarily happen in a traditional setting. Every year, there are new websites coming out to serve as online portals related to law. Websites, such as LegalZoom, have revolutionized legal document preparation by removing local lawyers from the equation. There are also sites, like AVVO, that are meant specifically to connect lawyers with potential clients. Some of these sites allow reviews of lawyers to be written by former clients. In the event of a negative online review, first try to take the review down by researching the site’s guidelines to find applicable exceptions. If you are unable to have the review removed, it is critical to respond to it professionally if the site allows you to do so. In your response, be sure to address the issue that the negative review speaks of in a respectful tone. Keep in mind that the angry former client will not be the only one reading your response — potential clients and professional peers will be doing so as well.
- Email Marketing Campaigns. Marketing by email is a great way to get in front of new and current clients. Be sure to follow the current spam laws with these types of messages. Your email campaigns should include an “opt out” option so that your newsletter doesn’t work against your marketing efforts by becoming an annoyance to someone who does not want to receive it.
Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC, which was founded to bring her years of experience in high-level legal marketing to solo practitioners and small law firms. Her impactful marketing services focus on recognition, promotion and visibility for Colorado lawyers in all practice areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in The Docket.