Q: What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer?

A: A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.

This lawyer joke reminds me of the huge difference I see in lawyers who are involved in public relations for their firms and those who are not.

On one side, I see the lawyers who see no value in managing their reputations outside of the contacts and business relationships they already have. These are the “old school” rainmakers who believe knowledge and expertise are the only things that win them new business.

On the other side, I see the “new school” lawyers who are on Twitter hourly, update their Facebook pages three times a day and try to be a featured speaker at every bar association and business organization event.

Here’s the PR laugh for me. Business is down for many law firms to the point where first year associates who used to start out at $160,000 are beginning at $60,000. Not poverty level for most families, but still it will slow down the tuition loan payments. For the “old school” rainmakers, this is a disaster in the making. Your business is down and you’re likely to hire the less talented people.

For the lawyers who are trying new marketing techniques without knowing what is working for them, they are on the “right track,” but not always going in the best direction. That’s because to do new social media marketing will takes an average of five hours per media platform per week to do it right. If these “new rainmakers” are on three social media platforms, what is the “investment” based on billable rates? It’s a value of $300,000 a year in marketing costs!

So the joke we started with should be rewritten: What’s the difference between a lawyer who knows how to market and one who does not? About $300,000. Not very funny, but the joke is on the lawyers who have not taken the time to “know” what works with marketing and communicate with those audiences.