Erin Smith Aebel: Integrating Legal Marketing into your Practice
Erin Smith Aebel has spent her almost twenty year career developing knowledge in the field of Health Care Law, and a significant amount of her effort has gone into integrating solid marketing techniques into her legal practice. This combination has proved highly successful, as she has accumulated a long list of awards and a bustling, busy practice. As aPartner and Health Care Practice Co-Administrator for Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick Law Firm in Tampa, Florida she graciously allowed the National Law Review the chance to ask her some questions about where she’s been and what she does in her practice.
Aebel began her career with a feeling many law student graduates have: relief. “I took whatever job I could get. My main consideration at my first job was that they hired me,” Aebel says with a laugh. For the first few years of Aebel’s career she spent getting experience—learning litigation, and really finding out what she wanted to do.
It turned out Aebel wanted to work in Health Law. “Health Law was a new, growing field at that point, and I realized that was the work I wanted to do. But I also realized I needed to learn, that I needed to develop the know-how so I could be effective.” This led her to Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, a firm that had a senior partner working in Health Law. Along with realizing she wanted to work in Health Law, Aebel says, “I realized that I wanted to prevent problems before they started.” This realization led her away from litigation based practice to more transactional work. Over the years, Aebel developed that expertise and grew to love the field of Health Law. “The law is constantly changing,” Aebel says, “each new year brings new federal and state regulations, so there is always something to learn. It’s never a rote practice. But the longer I’ve practiced, the more I know, and my depth of knowledge has grown.”
One of the most striking things about speaking with Aebel is how fluidly she’s integrated good marketing practices into her work. It comes across that she genuinely enjoys marketing, and she understands completely how it benefits her practice and her firm.
One thing she shares is that she works systematically to figure out a plan for her business. She says, “I identify who I want to work with, and I figure out the steps I need to take, and I keep all that information in one place. I make a chart, and I look at it regularly. This identifies the steps and forces you to take them.” By creating this road map, her marketing activities have a purpose and a function. That said, she also works hard to keep herself active in the community and to keep herself front of mind with clients and potential clients. She says, “I speak and write whenever I can because they are excellent ways to market yourself as a specialist.” Aebel herself started small with public speaking. She began by doing paralegal seminars to get more comfortable with being in front of a group, and her public speaking grew from there. Now she is sought after for her expertise, and she says, “With practice, almost anyone can become comfortable public speaking.”
Additionally, Aebel methodically works out who her referral sources are, and where her business comes from, and nurtures those relationships. She says,” I work to develop good relationships with other attorneys who don’t do what I do, financial advisors, and CPAs. These relationships are like growing a garden in some ways: I nurture them, water them, making sure I’m professional, quick to return communications and that I’m generally good to work with. I find people who are meaningfully in my business and I grow those relationships, so they will continue to want to work with me.”
To hear Aebel talk about it, marketing is easy. But keep in mind she has been on the firm’s Marketing Committee for eight years, and she was just recently been appointed as a co-chair to the firm-wide marketing and business development committee. and she was instrumental in growing her firm’s marketing philosophy. Her interest in marketing grew from an unlikely source: a rough mentor experience. Aebel says, “I didn’t have a good mentor experience, but this turned out to be a good thing. It taught me to be more independent.”
Now, Aebel is eager to find other women in business to connect with, and she is eager to help young attorneys find their way. Her advice is simple. Aebel says, “I would advise young attorneys that what they do now grows the foundation for ten years down the road. In that spirit, young attorneys should network with their peers, not just in the community, and spend time on it—think ahead!”