Word of mouth for marketing for lawyersBoston employment and labor law attorney, Jay Shepherd appears to take a swipe at “Word of Mouth” as a means of marketing for small law firms in a post at Above the Law this week.

The impetus for Shepherd’s post was the 2011 Small Law Firm Report (pdf) published by Total Attorneys and its survey of small law firms as to what the firms believed were their most effective marketing efforts.

Shepherd was struck that two-thirds of the law firm respondents don’t do social-media marketing at all. I was struck by what Shepherd had to say about “word of mouth” as an effective means of marketing.

Shepherd is a believer in social media for business. He publishes two blogs, Gruntled Employees and The Client Revolution, he’s a regular use of Twitter (@jayshep), and has a nice LinkedIn profile.

Shepherd also looks to be a heck of an employment lawyer from the recognition he’s received from a number of organizations ranging from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly to Chambers USA – which he displays on LinkedIn.

He also appears to do a nice job of networking based on the groups he’s a member of in LinkedIn. My guess is that Shepherd is active networking in the Boston community.

Though I don’t think I’ve met Shepherd in person, I’ve come to know him from his blog and the information he shares on Twitter. Though he needn’t care what I think of him, I respect the thoughts and insight he shares via blogging and Twitter. My impression of Shepherd was only buttressed by reviewing his background in preparation for this post. My guess is when people meet him in person, he represents himself pretty well and leaves folks with the impression he’s a capable lawyer.

Knowing all this, it struck me as odd what Shepherd had to say about “Word of Mouth,” cited as the most effective method of marketing by many small law firms.

  • Word of mouth — which isn’t really a method, but more of a thing that happens.
  • “Word of mouth” means sit back and hope someone tells someone else to hire me…

Though he’s questioning word of mouth as a method marketing, Shepherd’s marketing focus, or business development efforts, appear to focus on word of mouth. I developed an impression of Shepherd by word of mouth. I expect many others have as well.

Looking closely at the Small Law Firm Report, you realize small firms believe “word of mouth” is their most effective means of marketing. When you group those that answered ‘word of mouth’ – 15.5%, referrals – 4.4 %, and networking – 6.6%, you’re at over 26% of small law firms who believe word of mouth is the most effective way to market. Beats any other category in the survey.

But word of mouth marketing is not a passive sport where you sit back and hope that someone hires you. Like Shepherd and many other good lawyers you need to build your reputation, and get out and network — whether you do it on or offline. The Internet just accelerates relationship building and word of mouth.

Building relationships and enhancing your reputation to create a word of mouth reputation is also not easy. It takes time, and it can take money in expense and in loss of billable hours. But word of mouth reputation is the most proven method of marketing for lawyers.