There Are Only Two Ways to Grow Your Law Firm

There are only two ways to grow your law firm

There are only two ways to effectively grow your law firm, and only one of them creates new value to the partners:

Lateral hires: recruit partners from other firms. Creates immediate growth because the majority of clients follow the partner.
Word of mouth: leverage the one form of marketing that actually works in legal, amplifying the effect of your word of mouth.

Lateral hires work beautifully: you get an immediate increase in clientele and prestige. It’s a valid strategy for growing a firm as part of a larger, long-term strategy. But as a one-off, it’s a zero-sum game: you’ve simply moved numbers from one column to another. Rarely is there a partner worth recruiting to your firm that will do so on a deal that actually creates new, additive value to the firm for the existing partners. The rationale comes from the synergy that will get created by adding or expanding that new practice area. The stark reality is that most M&A deals don’t add value. Attorneys should know this because they’re the ones structuring all of those M&A deals for their clients. Harvard Business Review estimates that 70-90% of acquisitions fail. KPMG’s study indicates 83% of mergers did not increase shareholder value.

It’s no better in legal, where 47% of laterals don’t make it five years with their new firm, which is how long it takes to cross over the recruiting and compensation-above-contribution lines into positive territory.

That’s a cautionary light flashing on that lateral hire you’re contemplating: it can be worth it if it’s a great strategic fit along with a great culture fit, leading to long-term retention. A lot of firms overly focus on lateral hires because, well, there aren’t any good alternatives for growth.

There is, however, a core marketing approach that does work in legal: Word of Mouth. But how do you proactively make it happen? It seems like referrals just come in – how do you get more?

Capture more referrals

You are generating a lot more referrals than what you actually see. A lot of referrals are actually coming through individual attorneys, and the first thing a prospective client finds is the attorney’s bio page on the firm’s website, which almost all universally do a horrible job of selling why they should choose your firm. Yes, selling. Law firms actually need to sell.

Cross Pollinate

Don’t assume your clients know what you do. Cross-pollinating practice areas and showcasing additional capabilities within practice areas is by far the easiest way for firms to bring in additional work. Show off your expertise with regular content that is relevant to your clients. Do this not by talking about what you do, but by sharing expertise that is relevant to your audience and directly impacts them.

The hard part, of course, is actually doing it. Creating high quality, regular content to stay top-of-mind with your clients and prospective clients is time-consuming. Many firms start out with the best intentions, but client work is always going to take priority. A more effective approach is to use outside attorneys with subject matter expertise on a contract basis. It is vastly more efficient to review fully formed content than stare at a blank screen, trying to write something relevant to your clients in the 15 minutes you have between meetings. The challenge is that it takes real effort to manage the process in a way that you capture the firm’s voice and perspective to save your attorneys significant time.

Build Your Network

LinkedIn is the modern-day equivalent of networking at cocktail parties, just without the empty calories and the ability to reach the right people much more efficiently. You could easily spend an hour a day researching potential contacts on LinkedIn and connecting with them. Many attorneys have built their practices doing exactly that. But then they get busy, and building their network falls to the wayside. It’s a better long-term strategy to have other resources do it on behalf of your attorneys.

Bottom Line

Word of Mouth marketing is the best way to leverage your firm’s reputation. Smaller firms have to look at building a marketing staff to execute on this approach, while larger firms are always struggling to accomplish as much as they’d like in their marketing department.

We’ve created an alternative with boomtime: for less than the cost of one additional marketing staff, we become an extension of your internal resources, giving you a full Word of Mouth marketing team that has already gone through the trial and error and knows exactly how to execute effective campaigns. We leverage the data and experience from all of the firms that we work with to the benefit of each firm.

If you’re interested in how boomtime can you grow your firm, visit our website at to learn more.

All the best,

Ken Bassham profile image

Ken Bassham
Chief Revenue Officer

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