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Workaholic attorneys may be spending too little time marketing and too much time lawyering. In the long term, this can make lawyers vulnerable to economic dips.
The realities of today's economy make it necessary for attorneys both at large firms and small to be mindful of making hay while the sun still shines. Increasingly, the law is as much about selling oneself and marketing a business as it is about practicing law.
Paying for Marketing
A recent study by Thomson Reuters found that "full service" firms spend 44 percent of their time handling marketing and managing the practice. This is surprising. It seems to conflict with the usual image of BigLaw associates constantly grinding away at armloads of cases. After all, BigLaw is supposed to be about big cases and big law. This is also a surprise when one remembers that most associates are expected to bill such a crazy number of hours per year. Promotion is not a billable activity.
Meanwhile, the study found that "business boutique" firms reportedly only spend 17 percent of their workday on marketing and managing tasks. This may sound reasonable, but compared to full service firms, it's a slim figure. The important question being: is 17 percent enough?
Small Law and Solo Selling
Small law firms and solo attorneys should probably be spending a lot more time niche marketing -- and marketing more in general. Unless you are skilled in areas of the law that can weather an economic downturn, it is a good idea to fish for more clients. Otherwise, you may find that hard time hit much harder than you could anticipate. In this regard, it's also important to find clients who will provide ongoing business, regardless of economic fluctuations.
So, relax on the caseload a little and get into the business of patting yourself on the back. But you'd better get your name and image out there, because if you don't, you may be running on that hamster-wheel forever.