Since restrictions on marketing were relaxed a few years ago, Hong Kong's law firms have gradually begun to belie their image as bastions of conservatism, embracing increasingly progressive marketing agendas in their attempts to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace. In-house marketing teams are now the norm rather than the exception, and firms regularly employ a full range of advertising and communications campaigns to effectively convey the message to potential clients that their firm is worth hiring. With the increasing sophistication of law firm marketing techniques comes an awareness of targeted strategies that can bring more concrete results, says Baker & McKenzie managing partner David Fleming. 'Increasingly, marketing activities are focused on tailored business development, rather than broad-brush profile-raising activities,' says Mr Fleming. 'More resources are required to provide the necessary support and back-up for this type of activity, to enhance client relationships and potentially position firms to win new work. Such activities do bring client relationships and retention management to the fore.' Deacons managing partner Lindsay Esler underscores this need for specialised marketing techniques. 'We have always had in-house marketing capability, but we are now focusing on more specialised marketing in areas where we believe the greatest potential will lie,' says Mr Esler. US-based Levick Strategic Communications is a leading provider of strategic communications solutions to the legal sector. Its president, Richard Levick, believes many law firms do not possess an effective understanding of branding, and pay too much attention to their overall corporate image - often at the expense of individual practice groups. 'Each practice area needs to identify the industries it sells to,' says Mr Levick. 'The single biggest obstacle law firms face is that they do not sell their expertise to industries. 'For example, there is no firm that says it is the firm for investment banks.' With this in mind, advertising or public relations strategies can help raise the profile of a firm. While PR is seen as a useful tool, many question the value of costly advertising campaigns. '[Advertising] is an expensive mode of promotion and requires a good strategy behind it to make it a successful one,' says Mr Fleming. 'Without the right profile, you don't even get asked to bid for work - therefore an effective PR strategy is the key to positioning the firm within the relevant target sector/industry from a branding perspective.' Mr Esler says regardless of PR or marketing techniques, nothing can beat the kudos of a job well done. 'Law firms use a wide range of PR campaigns, including TV advertising,' says Mr Esler. 'Generally, however, the best PR is to ensure that efficient and cost-effective services are provided to existing clients, who will then refer new clients to the firm.'