This session was facilitated by Ifeoma Ben on the 1st December 2019.
Ifeoma Ben is a Lawyer based in Lagos and the Founder of the Legal Business Network. The main aim of the Group is to equip Lawyers with business skills and to educate Lawyers on how to leverage technology to build a 21st Century Law Business.
A BRIEF PROFILE OF IFEOMA BEN
Ifeoma Ben is an accomplished Law Professional with experience in presenting and delivering solutions and services in the legal field, a result driven professional who has worked well in breaking down the barriers between the functions and the business and delivering momentum with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Ifeoma holds a Masters’ Degree in Law from the University of Lagos, Akoka and a Bachelor of Laws Degree from Imo State University, Owerri. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2012. Prior to obtaining a Law Degree, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religious Studies from the University of Calabar.
She is also an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK, a Graduate of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria and the Nigerian Institute of Management respectively. Ifeoma is a Writer, Content Creator, Public Speaker, among other talents.
Before we go into the topic, it will be appreciated if the Class is not interrupted with questions. We can have questions and answers at the end of the class. Is that okay by us?
TOPIC: HOW TO MARKET YOUR LAW BUSINESS WITHOUT BREACHING THE RPC
What is Marketing?
Marketing has to do with activities which a company carry out for the promotion of its goods and services. Marketing is one of the basic elements of business management. Generally, there are 4 P’s in the marketing model – Product, Price, Promotion and Place.
Your product (or service) should fill a gap in the market. E.g. You must create solutions to problems of your potential Clients. Your services must address the needs of your Clients.
We will now look at some components of marketing
- Market research. You need to research about the market. What are the needs of your potential clients? Can you create solutions to their problems?
- Target market. Who are your target market? Who are you creating solutions for? What services do you render and who are those who need those services? Identify your target market.
- Positioning. How do Clients or potential Clients perceive your brand in the marketplace?
- Competitive analysis. Who are your competitors? What services are they rendering and what is their Client base? Why should a Client choose you and not your competitor?
- Market strategy. What are your strategies of attracting your dream Clients? Where are your dream Clients located? Where do they hang out? Where do they worship? How do you gain access to your dream Clients? You must map out strategies on how to attract your dream Clients. You need to engage in activities that will help you attract your dream Clients.
Is Law Practice a Business?
Business has to do with commercial activities carried out by a person or an organization. A person’s regular occupation, trade or profession is a business.
The issue of whether law practice is a business or a profession has been debated over the years. Your answer depends on where you sit.
Lawyers in private and in-house practice would see law as a business while Academics, government lawyers and Judges, would look at it more like a profession. To me, whether you regard it as a business or a profession does not really matter. What matters most to me is to have a thriving law practice.
How do other jurisdictions look at Law Firm Marketing?
In jurisdictions like the United States, advertising by Lawyers and Law Firms are permitted subject to regulation.
In Nigeria, the Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers also permits advertising within the ambit of the law.
What does the RPC say about Advertising and Soliciting?
We will consider some provisions of the RPC especially Rules 39, 40, 41, 42 and 46
Generally, the RPC permits advertising by Lawyers subject to certain exceptions.
39—– (1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) of this rule a lawyer may engage in any advertising or promotion in connection with his practice of the law, provided it —-
(a) is fair and proper in all the circumstances; and
(b) complies with the provisions of these Rules.
(2) A lawyer shall not engage or be involved in any advertising or promotion of his practice of the law which —–
(a) is inaccurate or likely to mislead;
(b) is likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession, or the administration of justice, or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute;
(c) makes comparison with or criticizes other lawyers or other professions or professionals;
(d) includes any statement about the quality of the lawyer’s work, the size or success of his practice or his success rate; or
(e) is so frequent or obstructive as to cause annoyance to those to whom it is directed.
(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1) of this rule, a lawyer shall not solicit professional employment either directly or indirectly by —–
(a) circulars, handbills, advertisement, through touts or by personal communication or interview;
(b) furnishing, permitting or inspiring newspaper, radio or television comments in relation to his practice of the law;
(c) procuring his photograph to be published in connection with matter in which he has been or is engaged, or concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved or the importance of the lawyers position;
(d) permitting or inspiring sound recording in relation to his practice of law; or
(e) such similar self-aggrandisment
(4) Nothing in this rule shall preclude a lawyer from publishing in a reputable law list or Law Directory, a brief biographical or informative data of himself, including all or any of the following matters —–
(a) his name or names of his professional association;
(b) his address, telephone number, telex number, e-mail address, etc;
(c) the school, colleges, or other institutions attended with dates of graduation, degree and other educational or academic qualifications or distinctions;
(d) date and place of birth and admission to practice law;
(e) any public or quasi-public office, post of honour, legal authority, etc;
(f) any legal teaching position;
(g) any national Honours;
(h) membership and office in the Bar Association and duties thereon; and
(i) any position held in legal scientific societies.
- A lawyer may cause to be printed on his note-paper, envelopes and visiting card-
(a) his name and address;
(b) his academic and professional qualifications and title including the words “Barrister-at-Law” , “Barrister and Solicitor” Solicitor and Advocate” “Legal Practitioner” “ Attorney-at-Law”; and
(c) any National Honours.
- A lawyer or a firm may display at the entrance of, or outside, any building or office in which he or it carries on practice, a sign or notice containing his or its name and professional qualifications. The sign or notice shall be of reasonable size and sober design.
- Where a lawyer writes a book or an article for publication in which he gives information on the law, he may add his professional qualification after his name.
- (1) A lawyer may write articles for publications, or participate in radio and television programmes in which he gives information on the law, but he shall not accept employment from any publication or programme to advise on inquiries in respect of their individual rights.
(2) A lawyer shall not —–
(a) insert in any newspaper periodical or any other publication, an advertisement offering as a lawyer, to undertake, to undertake confidential enquiries ;
(b) write for publication or otherwise cause or permit to be published, except in a legal periodical, any particulars of his practice or earnings in the Courts or cases where the time for appeal has not expired on any matter in which he has been engaged as a lawyer; and
(c) take steps to procure the publication of his photograph as a lawyer press or any periodical.
(3) Where a lawyer is instructed by a client to publish an advertisement or notice, the lawyer may put his name, address and his academic professional qualifications.
I reproduced the above provisions of the RPC in order to guide our discussions.
How Lawyers can legally market their law business.
Having looked at the provisions of the RPC pertaining to advertising and soliciting, we will then proceed to consider how Lawyers can legally market their law business.
i. Content/Education Marketing: This has to do with the writing and publication of legal materials in a designated field or different fields. This is a very potent tool for growing your law business. It has several advantages including positioning you as an authority in an area(s) in which you write. Research is a very important aspect of legal practice. As you research, you can educate your Clients and potential Clients on different aspects of law. You may even choose an emerging area, research in that area and keep putting out very educative content to your audience in that area. You can create a niche for yourself and become an authority in a specialized area of law. Your audience might not engage you at that moment but they will likely engage you when they have legal issues in the areas that you are an authority. In this era of social media, content marketing is very easy. You can create a Facebook Page, Instagram and Twitter accounts where you can be educating your audience. I know some Young Lawyers who are gaining online visibility and this has far reaching effects in their law Practice. A lot of Clients have reached out to me via Social Media because of the content I post especially in corporate and commercial matters.
ii. Speaking Engagements: This is also a very potent tool. When you position yourself as an authority in an area of law, you are likely to be contacted to speak at events in your area of expertise. While speaking at those events, you are marketing yourself and your Firm and it gives you an opportunity to network with people.
iii. Organise Programmes: This is another way of promoting your Law Practice. Though this can be capital intensive, it yields very positive results. You can take a cue from some of the big Law Firms. They organize programmes from time to time and sponsor events. Those events afford opportunities to the Organisers and Sponsors to market their Law Practice. When Lawyers and Law Firms sponsor Conferences, provide branded conference materials like jotters, pens, bags, anywhere those materials are used, they provide some form of marketing for the Firm. It is not compulsory that the event must be a physical event. It can be online Masterclasses.
iv. Radio/TV Shows: You can also grant interviews and speak on burning legal issues on Radio and Television. This goes a long way in personal branding. I remember the first time I featured on the “Just Business Show” of the Lagos Television. As I was on air, my friends who were watching the interview did some videos and shared them. I was surprised when a friend in the UK posted it on Facebook congratulating me and said that someone shared it in a WhatsApp group where he belongs. Social Media can be used to our advantage.
v. Newspaper Articles/Interviews: You can publish legal articles in the Newspaper. You can also grant interviews on burning legal issues stating the position of the law in respect of those issues.
vi. Blogging: Legal bloggers are trending these days. I’m sure you know about Thenigerialawyer, Newswire, et cetera. You can create a blog where you can publish articles and law events. This is another way of gaining visibility in legal practice.
vii. Website: Every Lawyer needs a website. I mean every 21st Century Lawyer or Law Firm must have a website. It does not cost so much. It is a major way of being visible in your law practice. Have you ever visited the website of some of the established Law Firms? What do you find there? In your website, you can share your Firm’s profile and that of your Partners and Associates; areas of practice, et cetera.
I cannot conclude this class without talking about personal branding. You are a brand. You need to develop yourself. Invest in continuous professional development and network with people in your areas of interest. Personal branding involves discovering your uniqueness and building a reputation on the things you want to be known for. Personal branding builds your visibility in law practice.
Thank you all for being here. We can now have questions.
Q & A
What’s the nexus between the marketing theories you earlier espoused and the restrictions in the RPC? What I mean is the relevance of those marketing techniques vis-a-vis the practice of law and the prohibitions to marketing/advertising contained in the RPC.
They are not marketing theories per se. We needed to give a background of what marketing is and how it works. The RPC talks about improper attraction of business and makes provision about how one can legally market his law practice. When we started the conversation, we defined some of the terms in the topic for proper understanding of the topic. The relevance of those marketing techniques is to help us understand that every business needs marketing in order to be profitable. Now, relating marketing to the RPC, the RPC provides ways of legally marketing your law business. When we look at law as a business, we can apply those making techniques in order to grow our law business. Taking the 4 P’s of marketing for instance – Product, Price, Promotion and Place, this can be applied to law business. When we talk about product here, it includes services as we are service providers. When we say that your product must fill a gap in the market, it relates to solutions you provide for your Client. Let’s say, your target market is Small and Medium Enterprises. You can market your law business to SME’s through content marketing of information that will help SME’s build legally provided businesses. The whole essence of this class is for us to have a business mindset and apply business principles to our law practice.