4 Marketing Tips From Successful Attorneys

08/28/2014 01:17 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

When it comes to law firm marketing, no single solution works for all attorneys or all law firms. For example, personal injury attorneys use a mass-market approach, which can turn them into household names, while other attorneys abhor the idea of purchasing any advertising, cringing at the thought of a billboard with their picture gracing interstate highways.

I have worked with law firms and their marketing teams for decades, and while I'm confident about what traditional public relations tactics work well, I set out to ask some attorneys in Florida about their best marketing initiatives. The attorneys interviewed are recognized as being good lawyers, but all agree that being a good lawyer doesn't necessarily translate into success these days. Here are four interesting perspectives on how to market a legal practice.

Take Full Advantage of the Web. For attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina, and Winkleman, PA, the biggest marketing driver is the Internet. According to shareholder Jason Margulies, an aggressive and full-scale approach to web marketing has been the biggest marketing move his firm has ever made. Well-respected as attorneys representing individuals and crewmembers injured on cruise ships, the firm competes for clients online within hours of passengers ending a cruise and sometimes while they are still on vacation.

Knowing that most plaintiffs search for and scrutinize potential attorneys online, the firm has separated itself from its competitors by being easy to find and acting quickly when contacted by a potential client. The firm also created a "Work in Progress" section on its website and continually posts updates on current cases, which shows that the firm is very active and regularly contributes to the development of maritime law within the cruise industry."Even though we have a narrow focus, we need to constantly review our online marketing mix and always act quickly," said Margulies.

Find and Work One Niche Area. Attorney Mark Gold of The Ticket Clinic in Miami spends generously on advertising, but he credits his success to finding a niche in the market and then working it hard and exclusively. Gold pioneered traffic ticket defense law and became the first law firm to only handle traffic tickets. He said he expanded his business and built his brand by advertising on radio when "no one else was doing it."

But advertising isn't enough, according to Gold. He states that you have to deliver, and The Ticket Clinic has a 97 percent success rate of not guilty, dismissals, or no points. The Ticket Clinic has 22 offices in Florida, and Gold believes that having visible locations builds his brand and gives his clients options. He also has lobbyists protecting drivers' rights in the state capital and an appellate firm on retainer. While lawyers at The Ticket Clinic have the skills to handle other types of cases, Gold rarely gets referrals for cases other than traffic tickets. For example, he's rarely referred personal injury cases, which can be very lucrative. "We are known as the top ticket defense firm in the country, so I miss out on those cases," said Gold. "But that's OK, because we are the dominant attorneys in our market."

Get Personal When it Comes to Referrals. Defense attorney Brian Tannebaum of Tannebaum Weiss doesn't advertise on the radio or TV, and his website is no work of art, but he's very active among his referral sources. A Miami native, Tannebaum has cultivated his referral base through structured networking groups and by staying in contact with his friends and colleagues on social media. Prolific on Twitter, Tannebaum regularly engages his network with honest, humorous, and sometimes no-holds-barred commentary, but he also likes to press the flesh. "The best marketing move I ever made was spending more money on developing relationships than on running ads," said Tannebaum. "Bringing people together at a wine tasting or charity event, where the marketing is secondary, results in better referrals than spending money on advertising."

Be Visible and Sometimes Outspoken. Mark Delegal of Holland & Knight in Tallahassee is consistently ranked among the top lobbyists in the state but never rests on his laurels. Delegal regularly speaks on industry panels on healthcare and insurance topics and recommends attending events where prospects congregate. He says that there's more to attending a conference than sitting in a ballroom all morning and playing golf in the afternoon. "I want to speak on a panel if I can and fill my schedule with one-on-one meetings with prospects," said Delegal. He also advocates writing articles for trade publications and submitting op-ed pieces on controversial topics. Not known for backing down from a good argument, Delegal also makes himself available to reporters covering contentious issues. "There's no single thing that you can do to market because it has to be multi-faceted," said Delegal, "but you can become influential in an industry with planning and perseverance."

Law firm and attorney marketing continues to evolve, but one thing is clear: Attorneys need to continually work on their marketing efforts if they hope to grow and prosper.