By Pamela Foster, Principal, Pamela Powered Inc., and Co-Chair, Plaintiff Firm SIG
Note from the editor: The following article gives an inside perspective about life in a plaintiff firm, as written by Pamela Foster, co-chair of the LMA Plaintiff Firm Shared Interest Group (SIG). LMA welcomes the diversity of backgrounds of our members — whether they are solo practitioners, work in small firms or in an AmLaw 200 firm, support corporate practices or dedicate their time supporting plaintiff firm. This blog post is intended to paint a picture for LMA Members who are not as familiar with plaintiff firms.
Picture the last time you walked through your firm’s reception area, perhaps to greet a vendor who has come for a meeting. Did you notice any clients patiently waiting to meet with one of your attorneys? Were these individuals well dressed in suits or business casual? Did you notice anyone, or did they simply blend into the room?
Now try to imagine the waiting room of a plaintiff law firm. Often times, there are families with young children for whom receptionists have toys and coloring books at the ready. The latest pop culture magazines occupy the coffee tables. There are women and men of all ages and races. A personal injury firm’s reception looks more like your doctor’s waiting room, and an immigration lawyer’s office like the United Nations. Employment lawyer clients include men and women in suits, but they no longer wear their corporate uniforms because they have lost their jobs. They all wear a shared look of stress and anxiety; boxes of tissues are everywhere, from the reception area to the boardroom. Each comes seeking legal advice, but more importantly, comfort during the most stressful time of their life.
It is no coincidence that plaintiff lawyers see themselves as heroes in a David versus Goliath fight for justice. They see their compassion, negotiation skills and problem-solving abilities as superpowers to right wrongs and navigate legal barriers put up by corporations.
Marketing for plaintiff lawyers is unique. Clients are not just individuals, but individuals in their moment of need — they did not plan to get in an accident, take a harmful drug, get fired or divorced. Brand awareness plays a part in our marketing strategies, but building close referral relationships with other plaintiff lawyers is a more profitable investment of time and resources. Attorneys who represent individuals are likely to be contacted by their clients for help outside their area of law.
And then there is the internet, which has changed the way consumers shop. They do most of their research online to narrow their choices and then look for affirmation of their results. So while they may still check in with the lawyer they used for their house sale, they are also closely checking online reviews. Plaintiff marketers spend a lot of energy collecting reviews from clients who received their settlements and compare with the closest competitors. You may be surprised at how many clients mention they retained a plaintiff firm after comparing Google reviews.
It is also hard to miss the personal injury billboards and commercials, which seem to be everywhere, as solo practitioners and large firms compete for clients. With over 30% of attorneys listed in Best Lawyers being from the plaintiff bar, this area of law is far more a collection of “ambulance chasers,” a term sometimes used to describe the industry. It is a highly competitive marketplace, often with millions of dollars riding on one client.
Plaintiff firm marketers find a thrill in the constantly changing marketplace, and there is great satisfaction working with lawyers who help individuals in their greatest times of need. I am constantly reminded of this as I walk through the reception area or look at the box of tissues in the boardroom.
There is much that legal marketers from all disciplines can learn from each other, and, as we welcome more plaintiff firm marketers to LMA, I look forward to more interactive discussions within the Plaintiff Firm SIG and across the wider LMA community.
This article highlights the perspective of the LMA Plaintiff Firm SIG. To learn more about this SIG and others, visit the LMA website at: https://www.legalmarketing.org/SIGS
Pamela Foster has been a leader in professional services marketing for over 30 years, working locally and internationally with KPMG, PwC and top-ranked corporate and personal injury law firms. She has achieved multiple Your Honors Awards, served LMA at the regional and national levels and founded the Plaintiff SIG. Her passion for process improvement, using technology, has been constant throughout her career.