I know of a law firm marketing director who’s firm allowed her to entitle herself as “Director of Mischief.” While she might disagree, this may be the most forward-thinking law firm – when it comes to marketing and business development – in existence. Personally, I like the phrase “monkey business.” I like to answer the question, “What business are you in?” with “monkey business.” Yes, of course it’s one of my favorite Marx Brothers movies. To me it means stirring things up. It means playing. It means trying new things and not being afraid to make a little mess (emphasis on “little”).
Most of the law firms I have worked with have been self-admittedly very conservative. They don’t want to do anything that will make them stand out, in the belief that their successes in the court room or at the negotiating table will magically do that for them. No question, those successes help. But they are like having a drivers license: all they do is get you onto the road. The people who hire lawyers for high-dollar commercial matters are nearly always lawyers themselves. They’re logical, analytical people (emphasis on “people.”) But they are not immune to things like humor, the effects of color, a well-written phrase. Law school did not, in fact, suck all the fun out of most of them. So if a firm and its lawyers have the credentials to play in their chosen arena, they need to think about what will turn the crowd’s eyes toward them.
I’m not talking about abandoning professionalism – not in the least. What I’m talking about is considering the audience first, and thinking of them as people. If a firm wants a company to hire it for legal work, it makes its pitch to people, not the company’s legal issues, but rather to a group of people who need to have a positive impression of the firm and its people beyond the record of its success. That impression is created by lots of different inputs, and one thing is certain, going out of your way not to stand out will have precisely the intended effect.
My point is simply this: lawyers and other professional service providers who want to grow their businesses and cause people to want to hire them need to engage in a bit o’ the monkey business. They should listen to the monkeys they hired to determine exactly what that means. Oh, and if the monkeys have been around too long and are starting to look and sound too much like their captors, it’s time to get some fresh monkeys who are willing to mash a little banana on the conference room table.
That’s what this monkey thinks.