For firms that are only interested in associates cranking hours until they get burned out, this post is not for you. More likely it is for medium to smaller firms who really want to build their firm; and want it to survive with new rainmakers as partners age.
Two notable exceptions are Quinn Emanuel and Jones Day, according to Kevin McMurdo, with Wicker Park Group. He mentions in “’Switch’ on Business Development Skills With Associates,” that those firms tie associate compensation/bonuses to their involvement in business development. There may be other firms I’m not aware of.
According to McMurdo, some of those business development actions by associates might include:
- attend brown bag training sessions;
- meet with partners to learn how they attract/retain clients;
- work with practice group leader to develop a niche in the coming year;
- attend networking events/conferences;
- complete a marketing plan; and
- read Ross Fishman’s “The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist,”(which I recently discussed here and here).
McMurdo sums up my point by quoting a partner, “Involving associates in business development is a great way to protect and retain good associates.”
More than 10 years ago I started talking about:
I now know that those posts were a “touch” premature. I’m not so sure they still are. I can confidently state that the “traditional” hourly billing is dead. According to the “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” by Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thompson’s Reuters Legal Executive Institute, in many firms, AFAs (only 15-20% of revenues) and budget-based pricing “combined may well account for 80-90 percent of all revenues.”
The “widespread client insistence on budgets (with caps) for both transactional and litigation matters” over the past decade is the reason, according to the report. While firms may still keep track of their time on a billable hour basis, be assured that it is a different animal when it comes to invoices sent out. Debra Cassens Weiss’s take on the topic can be seen online at ABA Journal and is entitled “Billable hour pricing is effectively dead because of budget caps, report says”.
After discussing other significant changes to the legal profession over the past decade, the report concludes that “those firms that are most likely to survive and prosper in the new market environment are not necessarily the oldest or the strongest or the smartest, but rather those most able to adapt to the changes around them.” A good start would be to read the entire 17-page report.
From the very beginning of this blog, I have urged lawyers to visit their clients (off the clock) at their place of business (also referred to as their “problem space”). It often results in immediate new business. It worked for me, and many attorneys I’ve coached over the years said it worked for them.
That is why when I first posted my Top Ten Marketing Tips in 2005, I made it my No. 1 most effective tactic for getting new business. It still is! And there is no matter tip I can give as we begin 2017.
Below is a post from April 22, 2015 that could serve as a good place to start reading about doing so, and contains a link to many other posts on the topic over the years:
Visit Clients, Period!
Whenever I get writers block, I like to look at my old standby source of inspiration, 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals authored by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick at Levick Strategic Communications.
As I have preached, preached, and yes preached some more over the past 10 years, the quickest, fastest, swiftest (okay, okay I know ENOUGH already) way to get new business is to visit your clients off the clock. And fortuitously this week, the marketing meditations for Monday through today deal with that very point. They are:
- April 20: “Visit all clients. Visit clients across the street. Visit clients around the world.
- April 21: “Visit clients without an agenda.
- April 22: “She who visits clients comes back with work.”
That really says it all! If you would like to read more of my posts over the years on this topic, look here for several of them.
So, start planning your visits to KEY clients, at least.
For some lawyers, this is like preaching to the choir and may simply serve as a reminder for them. For others, hopefully, you start visiting your clients ASAP.
With the crush of year-end and the busyness of the holidays, I decided to post an encore of a
holiday post I did on December 18, 2007 on reaching out to clients and referral sources by telephone (at least) during the holidays. Personal attention is better than (but not to the exclusion of) holiday cards. Here it is:
Work Your Network During the Holidays
It’s a good idea to touch base with contacts within your network during the holidays. It’s even
better than sending holiday cards. Pick up the phone and reach out to everyone you know (okay,
if you are THAT popular, not everyone) and wish them a happy holiday season. It especially
makes sense to at least speak to every referral source and client, including those you haven’t
done work for lately or received a recent referral.
And talking about networking, I thought I would call your attention to a post I did in December
2005 entitled “Ignore Your Friends At the ‘Business’ Holiday Party.” The premise of that post
was that you can get together with your friends anytime, so use business-related holiday parties
as productive networking and business development opportunities that you can cultivate further
during the next year. Give that post a look if you are interested in reading more of my thoughts
on that subject.
Again, Happy Holiday(ing) everyone!
Ran across The BTI Consulting Group’s concept of “Targeting Clients with a Market of One Approach.” Their “market-of-one” approach does not mean you only market to one client. Obviously, starvation would quickly follow.
What they mean is that instead of focusing your marketing on your firm/practice area or concentrating on a geographical area, you should approach business development and marketing from the client’s side. You should direct your efforts, especially toward key clients, as if each was your only client. More specifically (extracting from the brief BTI video snippet), you need to be:
- seeking client feedback, and yes, act on what you hear;
- making sure that the responsible attorneys’ objectives are in line with the clients, i.e. the client’s objectives and strategic plans are the partners’ key concern and focus;
- increasing value, for instance, by providing specific client-focused CLE; and
- treating each client so they perceive themselves as your most important client.
This is also commonly referred to as client-centric marketing and business development. BTI’s terminology is just another way of stating that if you put the client at the center of the universe, rather than yourself or the firm, your marketing efforts will pay much greater dividends. Not only in improving your bottom line, but making more sense than a shotgun or scattered (brain) approach to marketing.
This is the second of two posts on associate marketing early in their career. As I mentioned last time, I’ve addressed the topic in 2014; and friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has recently completed his treatise entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.
In this post, I’ll speak to some of Fishman’s marketing ideas for years two through five and beyond. [Again, a caveat: in many BigLaw firms not only are young lawyers not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.] So, my posts are for the rest of you attorneys. Many of the activities covered you should continue throughout your career. They are not just year-specific.
- Continue working on becoming a “great lawyer” (never stop this);
- Add names to your mailing lists and increase connections on LinkedIn and Facebook (classmates, new contacts, clients and bar association lawyers you meet);
- Focus on LinkedIn professional groups in your practice area; and
- Read bar and trade publications/blogs to increase technical skills.
- Increase activity in bar and trade associations that could be the source of new work;
- Become more proactive within your network;
- Master one or more “elevator speeches” for different audiences;
- Find a marketing mentor within or outside the firm;
- Attend training opportunities by firm’s marketing and business development staff; and
- Consistently update your bio and LinkedIn profile.
Fourth/Fifth Year and Beyond
- Be more active and seek leadership positions in bar, civic and trade organizations (where permissible);
- Latch on early to a young rainmaker within the firm;
- Learn more about the business and industry of clients you do work for;
- Keep an up-to-date list of your cases/transactions;
- Look to write and speak on topics relating to your growing expertise (and look for other opportunities to re-use an article as a speech, and vice a versa);
- Build up your network with other professionals who can refer clients;
- Reduce bar activities (as a marketing tool), if other lawyers are not a source of referrals;
- Seek assistance regularly for the firm’s marketing professionals; and
- Visit your client contacts often (off-the-clock).
“Remember that providing highest-quality technical skills and extremely responsive client service (emphasis mine) are essential elements of your firm’s marketing to its existing clients,” according to Fishman. I couldn’t agree more, and with many other things he says in his book. You should get a copy, if your marketing department hasn’t purchased copies it yet.
P.S. No I do not receive a penny from the sale of the book, but maybe I ………… never mind.
This topic relating to marketing for new lawyers has been addressed previously on this blog. Recently, friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has completed a book entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist. Not surprisingly, Fishman has done a great job, and since he sent me an e-book version, I decided to feature his missive in several blog posts.
Let’s address what a new, first year associate should do. [Caveat: in many BigLaw firms not only are you not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.] So, this post is for the rest of you young attorneys.
Accordingly, the following are some of Fishman’s suggestions (with my usual comments):
- First and foremost, “learn to be a great lawyer” and develop “a reputation for providing the highest-quality client service”;
- Learn as much as possible about your firm and its practices (from its website, newsletters, partners, senior associates, paralegals… and yes, staff);
- Join social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), but for heaven’s sake don’t waste precious time on it to your detriment, and lack of face time, which is far more valuable;
- Focus on internal marketing to build your brand within the firm – meeting/lunch with other firm lawyers who can refer work, and help educate you on the practice of law;
- Build your network, starting with people you already know – classmates (law school, college, and even high school), friends, relatives, etc.; and
- Set up Google Alerts for your contacts, as well as your name and the firm’s.
There is a lot more in Fishman’s book, and I commend it to you. And stand by for further posts about it.
If any lawyer does not understand how important client relationships are they need to find another line of work. In this month’s issue of Edge International’s Communiqué there is an article by Shirley Anne Fortina that points out how important strategic CRM is to business development.
She states “Client relationship management should be your number one business development activity.” I could not agree more. I have preached over and over that clients are the number one source of new business (whether in the form of new work or referrals to new clients).
Fortina lists 24 questions you should ask yourself to determine the type of relationship you have/want with clients. Here are 5 of my favorites:
- Do you care – I mean really care – about your clients?
- Do you clearly communicate what you’re doing and why?
- Do you keep the client sufficiently informed?
- Do you keep your promises on deadlines and targets?
- What are you doing to maintain, build and/or enhance relationships?
If you are truly interested in better client relationships, I recommend that you read the other 19 questions as well.
In conclusion, Fortina provides a great quote from Dale Carnegie; to wit: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
I’m a big fan of The BTI Consulting Group and their The Mad Clientist blog. Recently, they had a post that discussed turning first year associates into bionic associates; and accordingly make them more productive. They lost me on this one, because the thrust of their message was to teach these associates essential skills such as better (1) listening, (2) writing, (3) anticipation of client needs, and (4) knowledge of clients’ business. I’m not sure why those skills turn associates into artificial (bionic) ones. I’d rather like to think that it would create more effective lawyers and future rainmakers.
Learning these attributes early on could produce great benefits for young lawyers (and their law firm) over the long haul. However, BigLaw isn’t, in the least bit, interested in young associates learning anything except how to crank out hours. Lots of hours. The more the merrier (ah, I mean requirement).
The sad thing is that first year, and second year, and third year, etc. etc. associates are not encouraged to develop the skills to become better business generators for when (or in the more unlikely case) they become an equity partner. In fact, most junior partners I have encountered have absolutely no knowledge on how to develop business. (That’s why I get so many phone calls). It is not a requirement in many firms in order to be elevated to partner. Their elevation is more likely the gratis of a mentor looking after a prodigy; and unlikely to have anything to do with their marketing skills.
Let’s look at these four “bionic” skills and how they can be better benefit all the lawyers in a firm; and provide success for the both the firm and individual lawyers over the long term:
- Listening. Listening to clients will make any lawyer a better service provider by fostering understanding of a client’s problem, concerns and goals; and the ability then to do a better job in meeting those client needs;
- Writing. Forget about law review or brief writing taught in law school. More and more clients are looking for less legalese and a clearer explanation, plainly written so they can better understand what hell is going on with their matter;
- Anticipate client needs. (This may actually be one of the skills that needs to come after the one below) Understand and anticipate the needs of client, rather than just generate more hours, and thus avoid more costly client problems in the future; and
- Research and understand the client’s business. A common complaint (I have heard over my 31 years in legal marketing) is that lawyers do not understand the client’s business (and apparently don’t give a darn), and the client resents having to (re-) educate them when a new matter comes up. The more that lawyers understand a client’s business, the more likely they continue to get work from them, as well as referrals.
The only thing a truly bionic associate will produce IMHO is more hours, burn out, and less chance of being a successful and long term productive lawyer for the benefit of his/her clients. How much more fruitful would it be to train a rainmaker in these skills instead.
Recently, I mentioned the latest book by The BTI Consulting Group entitled The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service in a post about how it is okay to be “inactive” on summer vacation. After taking a look at BTI’s blog post about the book and the other letters of the alphabet (with their pithy suggestions on how to improve client service), I selected six I particularly like:
- A is for Action… Your Actions to find your clients experience… (Read on)
- L is for Listen Listen Listen… Listen until it hurts… (Read on)
- N is for No… No drives clients crazy… (Read on)
- S is for Surprises… Clients hate them…
- V is for Value… The point where your client believes they have received substantially more than they pay… (Read on)
- Z is for Zeal… Your fervor and commitment to client service shines through everything you do and every action you take… (Read on)
The other letters of the alphabet covered in The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service are worth every nugget of insight and merit your time. Take a look at the ways you can enhance your client service.