Victoria Edwards, a personal injury lawyer with Siskinds LLP, was recently published in Law360.
This article was originally published by Law360™ Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.
Read the full article below.
Victoria Edwards – Law360™ Canada – Posted: September 21, 2023
Entering my fourth year as a personal injury lawyer, I have found that navigating the legal field requires more than just an understanding of the law; it requires a strategic approach to marketing and self-promotion. I have been fortunate to receive guidance from many senior lawyers, each of whom has imparted their wisdom and shared their own experiences with me. One of the most important takeaways I’ve garnered is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing.
But how exactly do you tailor your marketing strategy to your individual strengths, values and objectives? Some of the tips and practices that I have picked up so far include:
- Draft an annual business and marketing plan;
- Leverage senior lawyers and firm resources;
- Tailor your approach to the centre you work in; and
- Build genuine connections.
Let’s talk about what actions you can take under each tip.
1. Drafting a business and marketing plan annually
It may sound basic, but setting aside time each year to craft a comprehensive business plan is important. My mentor insisted that I set aside time each year to craft a comprehensive business plan immediately after I was hired. It has been a helpful tool to get me thinking about what I want to achieve in a year, and how to set achievable and measurable goals.
A marketing plan is not just a static document to be shelved and forgotten. It is a living guide that shapes my decisions and actions throughout the year. Within my plan, I focus on four core areas:
- Personal practice development: Here, I set specific goals for skill improvement, areas of specialization and client relationship management. This might involve attending seminars, seeking mentorship, or undergoing further training.
- Practise development within my department: Collaboration is crucial. By understanding the strengths and specializations of my colleagues and keeping up to date on what projects they are working on, we can jointly approach cases that benefit from a multidisciplinary approach.
- Practise development within my firm: A cohesive firm is a successful firm. Engaging in firm-wide initiatives, volunteering for interdepartmental projects and being active in firm events has expanded my network and fortified my standing within the organization.
- Practise development within my community: Law isn’t just about cases; it’s about people. Being involved in community events, providing pro bono services when possible and staying attuned to local issues allows me to be not just a lawyer, but a community advocate. This is especially important for lawyers practising in smaller centres.
2. Leverage senior lawyers and firm resources for authentic networking opportunities
It can be intimidating to walk into a room not knowing anyone and being expected to network. Luckily, if you can attend larger networking events with senior lawyers, they can make introductions for you. Likewise, many law firms sponsor community and networking events. You can attend such events as an ambassador for your firm and meet industry experts.
The first few events I attended on behalf of my firm included golf tournaments and galas. I went with a couple of senior lawyers from my firm. As we went around the room, they introduced me to the rehabilitation specialists, accountants and other experts that they have regularly worked with on their files. I know that if my mentors trust these people to do a good job for our clients, they are definitely good people to know. I like to think that their endorsement of me to these experts is equally valuable for cementing new relationships.
It is helpful going forward to attend events with at least one other person you know well so that you can make introductions for each other.
A word of caution, however. Make sure you actually go out and spend time with new people at networking events. It can be tempting to stay with the people you are most comfortable with, such as the people from your firm. Once the introductions are made, try not to spend too much time exclusively with the people from your firm.
3. Tailor your approach to marketing to your community
I practise primarily in Sarnia, Ont., as well as in London, Ont. It was immediately clear that big city and small city marketing are different beasts.
In the smaller centres, the community wants to know that you are actually a part of the community. Face time and genuine connections are key. In the larger centres, there tend to be larger events with the same people coming out each time. Larger events are an excellent opportunity to see many referral sources in one place.
There are opportunities to build genuine and meaningful connections in any sort of community, but it is important to approach your marketing plan strategically and authentically.
Besides formal networking events, there are a variety of ways to get out into the community to meet with potential referral sources. Try to find opportunities that fit with who you are as a person.
Volunteering: More than just goodwill
- Board of directors participation: Volunteering on a board of directors doesn’t just serve the community; it places you in a unique position to provide a legal perspective, which many organizations deeply value. Moreover, this role can foster leadership skills which are invaluable both in and outside the courtroom.
- Diverse volunteer opportunities: Whether it’s coaching a local sports team, participating in community clubs, mentoring youth, or teaching a skill you’re passionate about, putting yourself out there helps etch your name into the community’s consciousness. It’s not just about being seen, but about making a meaningful impact.
Marketing with heart and authenticity
Marketing does not always mean billboards and TV ads, especially in smaller centres. Here’s how you can blend passion with profession:
- Choose causes close to your heart: Your genuineness shines brightest when you’re supporting causes you deeply believe in. When you truly enjoy what you’re involved in, it does not feel like “work,” and people are drawn to authenticity.
- Blog posts: Sharing your insights, experiences and knowledge through regular blog posts can establish you as a trusted figure in the community. Not only do blog posts showcase your expertise, but they also provide value to readers, making them more likely to seek you out in their time of need.
- Lunches, dinners and planning committees: Face-to-face interactions, especially in smaller centres, are invaluable. Casual lunches, dinners or being part of a community planning committee allows you to form bonds that transcend mere professional connections.
Building a two-way referral system
While it’s beneficial to develop sources that refer work to you, it’s equally crucial, especially as a new lawyer, to cultivate a trusted network for your clients. Connecting them to reliable, evidence-based treatment and support is a testament to your commitment to their well-being. Such acts do not go unnoticed. In a smaller community, word-of-mouth is powerful, and a recommendation from one satisfied individual can ripple throughout the community.
4. Building genuine connections: beyond traditional networking
The era of all-day golf events as the cornerstone of networking might be waning. While they still have their place, it is essential to recognize that genuine connections often form outside structured, traditional events. Once an introduction is made, there are plenty of ways for you to build a connection with potential referral sources. Here is how to get creative:
- Shared interests: Instead of sticking to conventional networking activities, seek out common interests. Do both of you have a penchant for pickleball or tennis? Or maybe a shared love for theatre or museums? These activities allow for more relaxed interactions, creating a fertile ground for genuine relationships to blossom.
- Adventurous outings: If both of you are food enthusiasts, exploring new restaurants or cafes can be a great way to bond. It’s a more informal setting where conversations can flow freely without the rigidity of a typical networking event.
- Engage in local events: Whether it’s a movie night, sports event or a visit to the local aquarium, such outings allow you to experience shared moments. It’s in these shared moments that real connections are forged.
The road to establishing oneself in this profession is long and winding, but with strategic planning, adaptability and the right mindset, success is not just a possibility – it’s a certainty.
Marketing in a smaller centre requires a blend of strategy and genuine commitment to the community. The personal connections you make can have lasting impacts on both your career and personal life. Embrace the community, and they will embrace you right back.
The marketing landscape for lawyers is evolving. While the traditional methods remain relevant, there is an undeniable shift towards authenticity and shared experiences. By leveraging the support of senior lawyers and adapting to modern networking approaches, young lawyers can forge meaningful relationships that will aid their career for years to come.
If you are a new lawyer looking to brainstorm marketing ideas, or a senior lawyer with additional wisdom to impart, I am happy to continue the discussion at [email protected].