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Legal marketing around the globe: Focus on Latin America

Marco Antonio P. Gonçalves & Silvia Hodges


While there has been a great deal of musing and writing about legal marketing in some regions, little is known about the state of legal marketing in others. To shed light on Latin America, the Legal Marketing Association commissioned research among law firms in the seven largest economies there: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. The findings of the study1 give both Latin American and foreign firms an indepth view of the status quo of legal marketing in this region that, often in the shadow of economic development in China and India, has reached a regional gross domestic product of US$ 2.95 trillion with a population of 546 million.

Still a relatively new phenomenon, legal marketing in the largest economies in the region ranges from just emerging to relatively sophisticated. Due to each country’s unique cultural and ethnic background, stage of economic development, regulatory restrictions and competitive situation, law firms approach marketing with different urgencies and apply different instruments. In some countries, the national bar association significantly regulates and limits marketing and promotional activities, challenging lawyers and marketers alike.

While the findings might appear relatively similar at first glance, rolling out a cookie-cutter regional Latin America marketing campaign is likely to be a mistake. Effective instruments in one country might be detrimental– or forbidden–in another one. Methods deemed acceptable and effective in one may be rejected by lawyers and clients in another.

Generally speaking, Latin American law firms appear rather enthusiastic about the concept of marketing: 82 percent of respondents declared that lawyers in their firms perceive marketing as “very important” or “important.” However, this might not translate into active participation by lawyers.

Marketing departments in Latin American law firms are relatively small compared to U.S. law firms. “Generalists” departments typically include communications, public relations and business development activities. The two largest economies in the region, Brazil and Mexico, typically have the largest marketing departments, often with four or more full-time staff members. Legal marketers in Colombia and Chile are most likely to work in one or two-person departments, where half of the Venezuelan law firms have one or two marketers. Law firms in Argentina and Peru are the least likely to have a full-time marketer.

A little more than half of the firms in the study have a strategic marketing plan. Mexican, Colombian and Chilean firms are rather likely to plan strategically, while Argentinean and Peruvian firms generally prefer a more ad hoc approach to marketing. Firms in Brazil and Venezuela show no clear preference [see chart].

Chart

Latin American law firms spend, on average, less than two percent of the firm’s annual revenue on marketing, excluding personnel costs and marketing-related lawyer travel expenses.

Marketing decision-making is still very much in lawyers’ hands in Latin America. By and large, marketers do not appear to have earned their “seat at the table.”

Tracking Time, Appraisal and Compensation
An important, albeit not sufficient, prerequisite for successful marketing activities is the quantification of efforts. Slightly more than half of responding firms track attorney time spent on marketing and business development activities. Typically, the time spent on marketing is also taken into account for lawyers’ appraisals and compensation. Venezuelan and Colombian lawyers are most likely to be appraised by and compensated for their marketing efforts, followed by firms in Mexico, Brazil and Chile.

Measuring Effectiveness
Despite the rather widespread practice of quantifying marketing efforts, the survey found that law firms in Latin America typically do not measure the other – arguably more important – prerequisite of marketing: the effectiveness of marketing activities. Only a third of respondents reported measuring the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. While measuring marketing in terms of activity is generally a useful first step, the evolution of marketing from a tactical activity to a strategic process demands proof of effectiveness. Comments from the participants in the study, however, suggest a lack of sensitivity to this issue.

Education and Information 
Latin American law firms use a wide range of sources for education and information about legal marketing. Professional organizations and Web sites are the most popular, followed closely by magazines, seminars, networking groups, newsletters and books.

Like other jurisdictions that experienced the unfolding and establishment of marketing in the legal profession, it is likely that firms in Latin America will gradually move from the current focus on relatively tactical communications and promotion activities by lawyers to more sophisticated, strategic activities carried out by seasoned marketing specialists in growing marketing departments.

Marketers can help accelerate this process and earn their seat at the table by demonstrating that legal marketing is not a management fad that evolves only around enhancing a firm’s visibility in the market, but a necessary focus on clients’ needs that result in an improved competitiveness of the firm. Instead of solely quantifying marketing efforts, firms will also have to measure the qualitative effects of marketing, which will emphasize results, establish marketing credibility and increase the probability of commitment from the lawyers.

 

Nota:

  1. O Estado do Marketing Jurídico na América Latina, desenvolvido por Marco Antonio P. Gonçalves em conjunto com a pesquisadora Silvia Hodges.
Sobre o artigo

Veiculado na publicação:
  • Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing [Jan/2008]

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