Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

Articles: Strategic Business Development Archives

Bookmark and Share

Internal Marketing Often Overlooked: Improve Communication To Increase Success

Lawyers tend to underestimate and neglect the value of internal marketing to their own success and the overall success of their firm. Some forget about it; others feel uncomfortable with what they perceive as "boasting" about themselves. Still others think it should be up to their colleagues to find out what they have done and what they can do. Waiting for someone else to make the first move may be a long wait in many firms.

The concept of internal marketing actually includes a number of tactics: formal cross-selling briefings;

  • Informal one-on-one or group conversations;
  • overtures for getting support from firm management for new services and niche marketing; and
  • internal communications through e-mail, intranets, print newsletters and memos.

We will look at each of these to demonstrate an integrated internal marketing approach.

Whatever the medium, the first requirement for success is to get over the feeling that internal marketing is boasting or, equally problematic, unnecessary. Whether based on inflated ego or not, it is foolish to think that everyone who could be helpful in referring business and making introductions already knows enough to do that effectively.

Speaking up, tactfully, is a virtue. The quiet ones can miss out. At the other extreme, internal marketing, if done right, is not puffery, narcissism or idle boasting. Rather it is a way of expanding the possibilities for the practice group and firm as well as the individual. It is a positive contribution to the institution.


In most firms of 30 or more lawyers, individuals tend to be unaware or lose track of the capabilities and accomplishments of their colleagues in the firm. A good way to share this information and seek ways to work together for mutual benefit, is for the firm to hold monthly breakfast practice briefings.

A formal structure and outline of topics and issues to address helps to focus the discussion and keep it on point. Guidelines can be prepared by the marketing director, consultant or marketing partner. At each briefing, one practice group (usually from one to five individuals) can present updated information on services and products provided, typical clients, war stories on accomplishments, current client targets, and help wanted.

The presenters can also explain how they can help colleagues in the firm with their business development and client service. The Q & A part of the session is usually quite lively and leads to follow up of ideas sparked among people attending. The briefings should be audio-taped for people who were not able to attend, and summaries should be prepared for distribution throughout the firm.
These summaries should be made available for marketing purposes and can serve as the foundation for marketing pieces and web site content. Once all the practice areas are covered, another rotation can be started, as by then, there will be new experience and targets to discuss, and it is often necessary to refresh people's memories in order for them to have cross-selling on their brains.

In addition to or instead of these large briefings open to all legal personnel, smaller gatherings by invitation are useful for building rapport and mutual confidence in each other as well as planning specific action steps. This is especially important when new lateral attorneys are brought into the firm through an acquisition or merger. These can be more informal, but everyone attending should be aware of the objectives of the meeting and the need to make efficient use of the time while giving some attention to prospective opportunities.


While a few attorneys in every firm will make and take every opportunity to spread the news of their professional achievements, speaking engagements and writings, the majority neglect to do it because they are focused on getting their work out. It is important for everyone, but particularly associates and junior partners, to find a way to tactfully toot their own horn.

How colleagues in the firm view you will influence the assignments you get, the people to whom they introduce you, your chances for promotions, bonuses and partnership. Here are some suggestions for individuals.

One easy way to raise your internal visibility is to seek out influentials in the firm, including people you don't usually work with but whose practices or contacts are good cross-selling possibilities with yours. Have a lunch, breakfast, or cup of coffee to find out what they are up to, what they have accomplished recently, and tell them what you have done and want to do.

Remember to ask about the other person's interests and accomplishments first. Everyone wants to know "what's in it for me?" Offer them whatever help you can, and volunteer to provide details and materials on anything they have shown an interest in. By doing this, you build relationships - confidence, trust, knowledge, which will make you a more important player.


If you want to get management support, you have to ask for it. Whether seeking approval for developing new practice niche, for a marketing budget or support for specific reputation building activities, request a meeting with management and present "a business case."

To help you do that effectively, prepare a written mini-business plan, laying out: the need it fulfills (objectives); benefits to the firm; how the objectives will be accomplished; resources needed; who will be involved; expected results. Submit the written document after you discuss it at an in-person meeting. Be prepared to address all questions you may get. Than ask when you may expect a decisionif you don't get one on the spot.

To maintain management support over time, be sure to submit brief progress reports, even if just a memo on the results of attending an industry conference or education seminar. It is amazing how pleased and impressed they will be, since very few people bother to do this.


Most firms, even small ones, have a variety of channels for communicating accomplishments and asking for help with business development contacts and ideas.

Writing up cases studies for a print or electronic newsletter is one effective way to get the word around. If written to emphasize the client or team's efforts or victories rather than your own, it will not sound like boasting but will get the point across and make a favorable impression. Send e-mail throughout the firm when you can use input on an interesting matter that you have brought in.
Make sure all legal, marketing and recruiting personnel receive copies of your published articles and notices of your speaking engagements, and encourage selected people to attend so you can make introductions for them. Of course, these are opportunities for them to see you in action and gain additional respect for your capabilities.

Just keep in mind that internal communications are a two-way street. If you show interest in your colleagues and speak up about your efforts and achievements, you will gain respect, visibility and support where it counts - and often from unexpected places.


© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2001. All rights reserved

Published in the new York Law Journal 2001.