Evaluating Your Law Firm’s Marketing Program: A Marketing & Business Development Checklist for Managing Partners and Administrators

By Carl Whitaker

[Published in the December 2003 issue of The Bridge, the newsletter of the Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators.]

Law firms of all sizes struggle when it comes to realistically evaluating their own marketing programs, but smaller and mid-sized firms are particularly challenged in this regard. Smaller firms (and the branch offices of larger firms) that can’t justify hiring an experienced legal marketing professional are often at sea when it comes to knowing what makes an effective marketing and business development program. Even firms that do have marketing professionals, find themselves questioning whether that person has the firm on the right track. The firm’s lawyers usually have opinions about what’s not going right, but have little to offer in terms of positive suggestions for the development of marketing initiatives. As one of the people in your firm with at least some responsibility for the firm’s marketing programs, you are faced with some basic questions. What should the firm be doing institutionally to market itself? How can the firm encourage its lawyers to do more marketing? How can your firm get the most bang for its buck? If you’re a law firm managing partner or senior administrator asked to “do something about marketing,” where do you begin?

The first place to start is with an evaluation of your current program. This article provides a checklist of factors to consider when conducting such an evaluation. Consider the issues that arise within each of the following categories and evaluate how your firm currently shapes up in each of these areas. Answer the questions that I’ve posed and make a list of concrete results and accomplishments. Examine whether your marketing program is supporting your firm’s most important and profitable practice areas. Consider whether your marketing program supports your firm’s plans for growth or for an increase in profitability. A firm’s marketing priorities will change over time based on a wide range of factors from the state of the economy to the firm’s own strategic goals, but almost every firm can benefit from an annual review of current strengths and weaknesses and the development of a simple marketing plan. Few firms have the resources to cover all the bases when it comes to marketing, but if you currently have a strong marketing program you should have positive answers to many of the questions listed below.

Client Relations

Client relations and development should be your first order of business. We all know that getting work from an existing client is enormously easier than landing a new one.

  • Who are your best clients?
  • What are you doing institutionally to nurture those relationships?
  • What are you doing to expand them?
  • Does your firm have client teams?
  • Do you conduct client surveys or otherwise check in with clients regularly to make sure that they are happy with both the service and the legal advice that they are receiving?
  • Do you send clients legal updates on subjects of interest?
  • Do you hold seminars tailored to the client needs?
  • Do you invite clients to sporting or other social events?
  • Are you letting your best clients know that you value the relationship?


  • How visible is your firm in the local legal and business community?
  • Do you have efforts underway to raise the firm and individual attorney visibility in target markets?
  • Does the firm maintain contacts with the local legal and business press?
  • How much press coverage does the firm receive either on its own behalf or in the context of its client work?
  • Do firm attorneys participate in bar association, trade association and community events?


  • Take a look at the firm’s stationery, signage, marketing materials, and website -- do all these elements of the firm’s identity program have a consistent look and feel?
  • Do your materials have a professional, up-to-date image consistent with the firm’s identity and reputation?
  • Are your marketing materials up to date?
  • Is your website updated consistently?
  • Do your materials convey that “this is a leading law firm”?


  • How would you rate the success of cross-selling activities within the firm?
  • Do you have a culture that supports sharing of clients?
  • Do attorneys meet regularly to discuss strategies for expanding client relationships?

Practice Group Marketing

  • What are your practice and industry groups doing in terms of marketing?
  • Do these groups have marketing plans?
  • Do they coordinate their activities with colleagues in other offices (if you’re part of a multi-office firm)?
  • Are practice group leaders aware of the marketing activities of group members and conducting marketing brainstorming sessions with group members?

Supporting Attorney Marketing Activities

  • Do your attorneys feel that the firm supports their business development efforts?
  • What are the firm policies that affect business development?
  • Does the firm encourage and award effective use of marketing time?
  • Are more junior attorneys encouraged to be active in the bar and the business community?

Business Development Training

  • Does the firm provide formal business development training for its lawyers?
  • Do you have a mentoring program in place that includes business development as part of the program?
  • Do you provide ongoing training and awareness sessions for all attorneys on client retention and business development issues?

Business Contact Management

  • Do you have a system for tracking the firm’s business contacts?
  • Is it integrated with your attorneys’ personal contact files?
  • Do you track information about the firm’s ongoing contacts with important clients and prospects?
  • Do you utilize the database for seminar invitations and the mailing of legal updates?

Marketing Planning

  • Does the firm or local office have a marketing plan?
  • If so, is it ever reviewed and updated?
  • Does the marketing plan support the firm’s strategic plan?
  • Is anyone responsible for implementation of the plan?
  • Are attorneys in the office aware of the plan or of the firm’s marketing priorities generally?

Marketing Responsibility

  • Marketing programs often fail because there is not “buy-in” at the attorney level or anyone in a leadership position willing to push them through. Who in the firm is ultimately responsible for the success of the firm’s marketing programs?
  • Do you have a marketing partner or marketing committee who is responsible to the rest of the firm for the results of the firm’s marketing program?