In the movie The Godfather: Part III, Michael Corleone, head of the Corleone crime family, tries to escape from his life of crime and become a legitimate businessman. In the original movie, Michael made a promise to his second wife, Kay, that he would remove the Corleone family from the mafia business.

While attempting to honor his promise to his wife and establish a legitimate business, Michael is double-crossed by his mafia “friends.” Clearly agitated, he exclaims, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

That utterance quickly became the most famous line of the movie. It epitomized Michael’s biggest fear — that he would never escape his past life. He was powerless to escape the prison he had built for himself.

Most lawyers who have been practicing law for more than 20 years can relate to Michael’s feeling of helplessness. They remember a time early in their careers when making money was easy. But lately it’s become more difficult for them to increase their income because of economic changes that have decimated the middle class, discounted settlement offers from insurance companies that have become the norm in the legal industry, and competition that thrives on the Internet.

Like Michael Corleone, most lawyers feel as though they are in an inescapable prison. One of their greatest fears is that they’ll never be able break free from the prison that demands that they expend an inordinate amount of time and energy in return for reduced fees and a lower standard of living.

While you may feel as though you are trapped in such a prison, there is a key that will open the prison door and set you free.

The key I’m referring to can only be created by putting strategic marketing systems in place (as opposed to the random episodic attempts that most lawyers utilize to market their law practices).

The key phrase here is marketing systems.

A “system” by definition has to be reliable, predictable, and consistent.

It makes sense that before you can ever be assured that you will have a consistent flow of new clients calling your office on a regular basis, you must first have in place several good marketing systems. With marketing systems in place, you can go to bed at night knowing that, within a small range of variance, a certain number of new clients will be calling your office during the next month.

If you are starting each new month uncertain as to whether you will have a good month or a bad month, you don’t have a real functioning business — all you have is a job, and you’re working for a “boss” who demands more out of you than you would allow any other boss to demand of you.

Besides reliability, predictability, and consistency, a good marketing system has to also be affordable and efficient.

By affordable, I mean you should not have to spend a small fortune to bring a new client into your office. I’m not saying you should be cheap or cut corners. What I am saying is that for every dollar you spend on marketing, you should be getting at least four to five (or more) dollars back in fees.

By efficient, I mean that each of your marketing systems should run smoothly without any major complications and without a lot of hassles.

Do you really want to consistently earn a top income from your law practice? It’s not going to happen until you have the right marketing systems in place.