Legal Marketing Conferences: Are They Valuable?

If you are an attorney I am sure that you frequently see advertisements for legal marketing conferences in the practice management and trade publications.  You probably get brochures and postcards for similar seminars in the mail each week.  And your inbox is probably flooded with annoying, unsolicited  email invitations to those same conferences and seminars every day.

You know that you should be spending more time focused on marketing your practice and attracting the kind of cases that are most interesting and profitable.  But where to begin?  A seminar or conference seems like a good place to start.  But is it?

Introduction To Marketing vs. Advanced Strategic Marketing

Over the course of the last 10 years I have attended a number of legal marketing conferences.  And because of my marketing pedigree and the success of my husband’s law firm, I have often been invited to speak at marketing conferences and seminars that are targeted to attorneys.  I am VERY familiar with how they work and the kind of content that is typically presented.

If you don’t know anything about marketing legal the attending a conference will give you a nice introduction.  I think that legal marketing conferences are good for lawyers that are new to the idea of investing time and financial resources into marketing their law practice.  If you have never been to a legal marketing conference then get online; find a conference, register, and book your travel plans today.  It will be a great experience.  But manage your expectations.  Make sure you understand what you will and won’t get out of a legal marketing conference.

What You Won’t Get At A Legal Marketing Conference

Most legal marketing conferences lack details and specifics.  Sadly, you are not going to leave a legal marketing conference with a customized strategic marketing plan for their law firm.  You are not going to leave with a detailed competitive strategy to help you directly combat YOUR top competitors in YOUR geographic area.  You are not going to leave with specific, actionable tactics and ‘to do’ that will support your marketing and competitive strategy and help you reach their  business goals.

There are no one-site-fits-all marketing programs that will work for every law firm in every geography.  Nothing works for everywhere!  There are demographic and cultural differences from one area of the country to another.  Bar association marketing and advertising rules vary from state-to-state.  The political preferences of the population in your area can impact what marketing messages resonate.  What marketing strategies the leading firms in your market are utilizing have a huge impact on what will or will not work for you.  And, most importantly, the area(s) of law you practice is a critical factor— what works for family law may or may not work for personal injury law.

Lack of Evidentiary Support

One of the most frustrating aspects of most legal marketing conferences is that the speakers do not offer specific data, metrics or facts to support their claims that the marketing techniques they are sharing or the programs that they are selling have actually work.

In fact, you’ll hear very little, if anything, about how to measure the success of marketing programs or how to define your firm’s key performance indicators.

You’ll hear terms such as ‘wildly successful’, ‘dominating their market’, ‘rapid growth’, ‘getting more cases’, ‘more revenue’.  But you probably won’t see actual proof of success.  Such as before and after comparisons of the number of potential client contacts, signed cases, average case value, firm revenue, firm profit.

And if you have an informal, side-bar discussion with some of the speakers you might discover that their definition of success is not the same as yours.

What You Will Out Of A Legal Marketing Conference

Attending a legal marketing seminar each is a great way to get an introduction to marketing; learn some interesting marketing techniques that can help you get started (you gotta start somewhere); network with other marketing-minded attorneys; and, most importantly, is a wonderful motivator—it can compel you to get to work on your law firm marketing sooner rather than later.

However, for those who have more advanced marketing skills or who wish to aggressively work to separate themselves from their competition and truly dominate their market, I believe that the run-of-the-mill legal marketing conferences just aren’t enough.  If you are a regular, repeat attendee you’ll probably see the same regurgitated presentations over and over; you’ll start to get bored; and you’ll be there more for the networking than the marketing content.

Sales Pitches At Marketing Conferences

In my experience, at most legal marketing conferences the vast majority of the presentations are organized or lead by event sponsor and exhibiting vendors and thus the content is geared toward selling their products or services rather than really teaching you strategies and techniques that really make a difference.  Although some of the product/service vendors can actually provide useful tools for helping to market a law practice, they are really more tactical–just one piece of the puzzle.  Their conference presentations do little, if anything,  to help you learn how to create a strategic marketing plan or competitive strategy that will grow your practice.

Conference organizers often spend a great deal of time promoting the following :

  • their own books, programs, and toolkits which are conveniently for sale nearby;
  • the conference exhibitors and their products/services;
  • joining their coaching/consulting programs;
  • joining participating in their high-priced and ‘exclusive’ mastermind groups;
  • early-bird pricing specials for their next conference.

All of the above make money for the organizers but may or may not be what your practice actually needs.

Most conference agendas include at least one speaker who is a member of the conference organizer’s mastermind group.  The attorney may present his/her firm as a case study for why focusing energy and attention on marketing your firm is a great idea.  And they may share some of the novel marketing ideas that have worked for them.  But their presentation will certainly end with a sales pitch for joining the expensive mastermind group.

How Legal Marketing Conferences Are Useful

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not poo-pooing legal marketing conferences or saying that you shouldn’t attend them.  Nor am I saying that you’ll never see me at a marketing conference.

As I said earlier in this article, if nothing else they can be a HUGE motivator.  And you will get some great ideas from time-to-time.  I try to attend at least one conference per year—-hopefully one that is held in a location that would make for a nice vacation or long-weekend.

I am just wanted to share my very frank thoughts and feelings about what type of content you can actually expect to see at a legal marketing conference.  Don’t expect to attend one of the conferences and walk away with a marketing miracle that will be the answer to all of your business prayers.

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