Until 2009 legal marketing was overregulated in Hungary. Since then lawyer ads are basically allowed, but they have to comply with the Hungarian Bar Association’s guidelines.
Everything is Online
There are around 12,000 active attorneys in Hungary, and still only a small fraction of them have an online presence. Although in the US and the UK law firm websites are obvious tools of the practice, in Hungary we are still behind in the penetration of online tools. Obviously, the top 50 law firms in the country (including the international and large locals) have nice websites, and most of them are active in social media (mostly LinkedIn) as well. The problem starts with smaller law firms and solo practitioners, who make up 95% of all Hungarian attorneys. Most of them don’t have a website, and those that do exist are usually outdated. Around 100 of them have a Facebook page, but most of them are inactive or have an average of only 200 followers – mainly friends and family. They use hardly any online marketing tools like AdWords, Facebook ads, or even banners.
Why do I start with their online presence? Because in 2017 online is everything. Potential clients search for lawyers on Google or at least use the website to verify that they are really experts in their fields. If the lawyer doesn’t even have a professional website, the client will find one who does.
Content Marketing is Still the Thing
Since Hungarian lawyers are traditionally not comfortable with regular advertisements, content marketing is a perfect solution for them. A well-written and -told story sticks harder and longer in the heads of potential clients than any slogan, offer, or discount. The legal environment is in a constant state of change, so this provides many opportunities for lawyers to comment on the changes, to provide expert analysis, or simply to blog about fresh legislation. The trend in the marketing world is towards graphic content, especially infographics and video – probably the most visible tools in communications arsenals. Only a few law firms in Hungary use these kinds of tools at the moment, but I predict a huge increase in their use in coming years.
PR and Marketing for Everyone
Most of the top 50 law firms in Hungary are active in public relations (PR). More and more firms are working with outside experts to plan and execute their communications strategies. They use all of the classic PR tools like press relations and brand image campaigns to increase visibility, sponsorships, and employer branding. Last year there was a day when four law firms issued press releases on different legal topics!
On the marketing side they create and publish press articles and even print and online ads. The large, multinational firms have strict and centralized policies and international know-how regarding the perfect usage of these tools. But more and more mid-sized locals are implementing these solutions and competing with their larger competitors. Recognizable branding, a strong presence in the business press, newsletters and office management tools for leads conversations, and CRM systems are all part of the arsenal of this new breed, which are typically spinoffs from larger firms, and which therefore have the client management attitude of an international firm but the flexibility and pricing of a local law firm. And they do this on a quite impressive level: for example, one of our campaigns for a Hungarian law firm won a B2B marketing award in November 2016 - so legal marketing is becoming a recognized specialty of professional marketers as well.
The trend in coming years will be that all firms will acknowledge the importance of PR and promote themselves in their own way. Responsive webpages, search engine optimization, AdWords, social media (LinkedIn and Facebook especially) – these don’t require significant extra effort or a dedicated budget but are nonetheless a critical part of the day-to-day business of a 21st century law firm. Modern solo practitioners, especially outside of Budapest, could have a huge advantage over their competitors with the smart use of online tools.
And a Word on Legal Directories
The above-mentioned top 50 law firms are the ones present in the usual international legal rankings. In recent years more and more firms have started to submit to these publications, even though we learned from CEE Legal Matters’ Corporate Counsel Handbook that GCs are more than three times more interested in a firm’s brand and track record than they are in its legal ranking. Still, law firms spend serious time and energy on these submissions instead of building a strong and recognizable brand for themselves.
By Mate Bende, Managing Partner, Pro/Lawyer Consulting
This Article was originally published in Issue 4.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.