Which Marketing Book Can Help You?

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

Many of my clients ask me to recommend books that can be good tools or reference materials for enhancing their law practice management skills. Today I’m sharing with you my reviews of three popular books that address business development for lawyers.

1. Rainmaking Made Simple: What Every Professional Must Know by Mark M. Maraia. Maraia writes in an easy to read style, and gives numerous real life examples of how attorneys have successfully implemented the techniques he recommends. Those anecdotes shift the conceptual into the concrete, a real strength of the book.

Maraia’s book is ideal for attorneys who find marketing daunting, unpleasant or bothersome. He teaches the reader how to make marketing fun, or at least, in his words, “less torture.” He helps lawyers find ways to market their law practice while doing things they already like doing. He teaches them how to become more effective at the marketing techniques they have already attempted, and encourages them to stretch a little into some new activities.

The Maraia Method® focuses on relationship development. Some other business development books say things like (and I’m quoting) “Develop a relationship as early as you can….This can start in modest ways, such as gathering information about the prospect and establishing a rapport during the selling process.” Duh! But exactly how do you accomplish that? Maraia tells you. For example, in Chapter 18: The Myth of Asking for the Business, Maraia gives specific advice on how to build your prospect’s trust through the kinds of questions you ask.

Each chapter is only about 4-5 pages long. That allows you to pick a topic and read up on it on a “just in time” basis. Going to lunch with a prospect? Read Chapter 17: Avoiding Random Acts of Lunch. Scheduled to give a speech? Read Chapter 34: Using Speaking to Win New Clients. Serving on a non-profit board? Read Chapter 31: Building Relationships with Board Members.

Small firm attorneys may be turned off by the book’s tendency to focus on the business development issues of big law firms, with chapters such as “Making Cross-Selling Work in Your Firm” and “Measuring the Return on Investment in Marketing Training.” Nevertheless, most of the principles in the book will also apply to solo and small firm practices.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must point out that I have been a member of the team giving follow-on coaching in connection with the Rainmaking Made Simple training program for several years. I formed my positive opinions about the book before teaming up with Mark Maraia, however.

2. How to Get and Keep Good Clients by Jay G. Foonberg and How to Start and Build a Law Practice by Jay G. Foonberg. Foonberg is an icon among law students who want to start their own law firms. His books have the “honor” of being the most frequently stolen from law school libraries. How to Start and Build a Law Practice is in its fifth edition and How to Get and Keep Good Clients is in its third edition, attesting to their long-term value in the legal marketplace.

I applaud Foonberg for giving very specific suggestions, such as a sample draft of a follow-up letter after attending a convention or trade show; suggested language to use in inquiring about why a client doesn’t send you referrals; and what to say when someone asks for a business card and you don’t have one.

A weak point: sometimes Foonberg addresses extremely basic issues, such as “The Role of Clothing in Marketing Yourself.” A strong point: he peppers the books with concrete suggestions on how to increase your visibility in the marketplace and position yourself as an expert. Many of those suggestions can be implemented by both new and more seasoned lawyers.

Foonberg’s books are good resources for new lawyers, providing advice on how to get started from the ground floor. A new lawyer should seek other resources in addition to Foonberg, however. Despite the revised editions, his books have become a bit outdated.

Although I think Foonberg gives a lot of sound advice, I disagree with some of it. For example, in his chapter on what to say when someone asks what you do, Foonberg leans toward trying to sell yourself as able to handle a wide range of matters. In my article in the June 2007 issue of The Practice Manager titled “Get Remembered,” I advised keeping your answer simple and concrete, which usually requires you to narrow the field, instead of broaden it. Concrete imagery makes your response more memorable and repeatable. That increases the likelihood that your listener will think of you when he (or a friend) has a need for your services. (If this explanation isn’t concrete enough, just read my other article.)

Some people don’t like the format of Foonberg’s books. Many of the “chapters” are less than a page in length, with each chapter starting on a new page. That presents the content in a choppy way, and makes the hardback copy fat and heavy.

I don’t really recommend Foonberg’s books for experienced lawyers. They are more appropriate for newer lawyers who haven’t really found their niche yet, and aren’t familiar with the myriad of issues they will face in managing a law practice.

3. Rainmaking: The Professional’s Guide to Attracting New Clients by Ford Harding. Harding’s 1994 classic was updated, re-titled and re-released in March 2008 as Rainmaking: Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field. The newer version contains some added chapters, but whichever version you purchase, it will be well worth the price.

Many lawyers go about their marketing efforts in a haphazard fashion, trying this and that, now and then. They have little clue as to which efforts really pay off. If you recognize that you need to become more systematic and strategic about your marketing, Harding tells you how to do it. He provides charts, lists, questionnaires and forms that guide you step-by-step in networking, writing articles, getting publicity, making presentations, building client relationships, writing proposals, setting fees and identifying which marketing strategies are more suited to your practice.

This book would be a great help to a lawyer who has experienced modest success, but wants to ramp up the revenues. Harding’s method requires the lawyer to invest some time in planning and analysis, but if she does all of the exercises he recommends and implements a consistent marketing plan, I have no doubt she’ll succeed.

Today even seasoned lawyers find the ground shifting under their feet when it comes to legal marketing, and they are looking for resources. I hope these book reviews will give attorneys a sense of where to start. For finding strategies that involve the Internet and technology, however, I recommend surfing the web. Technology and the opportunities it creates keep changing too fast for book publishing to keep up.

© 2008 Debra L. Bruce
This article was originally published in April 2008 in The Practice Manager published by the State Bar of Texas.

Debra Bruce (www.lawyer-coach.com) practiced law for 18 years, before becoming a professionally trained Executive Coach for lawyers. She is Vice Chair of the Law Practice Management Committee of the State Bar of Texas, and board member and past leader of Houston Coaches Inc., the Houston Chapter of the International Coach Federation. She can be contacted for questions or comments at 713-682-4353 or debra@lawyer-coach.com.


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