Header graphic for print

Legal Marketing Blog

A blog dedicated to lawyer marketing in any size law firm

To Market or Not While on Vacation?

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

Yes and no. Or maybe. Currently, my personal recommendation is to chill out, and devote your vacation time to family and friends. Lawyers need to unwind, to prevent burnout. But most of all they need to spend quality time with those they love.

Having said that, it isn’t criminal or a mortal sin to get in a little business development when a situation presents itself. I’ve talked about this before in a blog post I wrote in 2014.

Today I ran across a post by The BTI Consulting Group that contained a couple of pages from their latest book The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service. It states that the “only time inaction is good… is when you’re on vacation.”

Inaction

HOWEVER, the main message from the ABCs of Client Service is, when it comes to client service, “Inaction speaks much louder than words.” Clients will remember “acts of omission or process more than actions taken.”

So, do take time off and enjoy your vacation with family and friends this summer. Treat yourself to some “inaction” time. BUT, don’t be afraid to do a little business development (networking or whatever), if the opportunity presents itself. The important thing is to keep in mind, when you are back at work, the danger of inaction when it comes to client service.

 

Cross-Selling:  A Goal, but Very Difficult

Posted in Marketing Team, Marketing Tips

Why is it difficult? First, because many corporate clients do not want to put all their eggs on one basket.  For political, financial and/or relationship reasons they want to spread the work around.  Sure, a number of major corporations are reducing the number of outside law firms.  Often doing so to better manage administrative headaches. Rarely will they reduce the number of law firms to one.

Reasons within the law firm itself are just as likely to make cross-selling difficult to pull off. Since I have written on the topic numerous times in the past, I thought I would refer to just four of my posts.  Hopefully, they will shed light on why it is so difficult to cross-sell, and offer ideas on how to overcome the difficulties:

After 25-plus years in marketing lawyers, it continues to amaze me that some lawyers do not understand why cross-selling so often doesn’t work.  The thinking seems to go, “I’m good at… (fill in the blank), we’re partners, and they should just refer ‘their’ clients to me so I’ll have more work.” The question is “why…Continue Reading

Are you to blame for the failure of your partners to cross-sell you to their client contacts? Not necessarily, but you could be part of the problem. Clients select lawyers they know, like and trust. Referral sources, including your partners, send you clients for the same reason. Since they know, like and trust you, they…Continue Reading

Semantics sometimes get in the way of some good advice. When you try to convince clients (subtly or otherwise) to engage your law firm for additional services not previously rendered, I think it is silly to argue about whether you are cross-selling or cross-marketing clients. I’ve known and admired Bob Denney for many years. He’s…Continue Reading

There are obstacles to cross-selling that explains why law firms are so bad at it. But with the right kind of leadership and incentives, the obstacles can be overcome. It isn’t easy though. When I was an in-house legal marketer, I actually saw cross-selling work – maybe 1% of the time. An article on Law360.com…Continue Reading

Cross-selling can work in law firms, but it isn’t easy.  It takes knowing, liking and trusting one another among  partners, and… a client’s concurrence, of course.

People Skills are as Important as Legal Skills

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

Put another way, how a lawyer services his/her client can be the most important factor in terms of ongoing client relationships. Most clients place a very high value on quality legal services. I am not referring here to the outcome of a legal matter, although that certainly is important. But considering how many talented lawyers are out there, it often comes down to how good a lawyer’s reputation is for providing good service. A lawyer with a reputation for poor service often has poor people skills.

Over the years, there have been many in-house counsel panels at various legal marketing conferences. They’re usually well-attended because lawyers want to know what their clients and potential clients are saying about the services provided by law firms.

For years we have heard that clients want:

  • understanding of their business;
  • better communications;
  • no surprises, especially when it comes to budgets;
  • prompt billing;
  • greater value, including customized CLE;
  • current technology, especially regarding data security.

A post this week on Attorney at Work by Susan Kostal talks about what she heard from such a panel at a recent conference. She suggests lawyers “use soft skills” to become a favorite of in-house counsel. They include:

  • learn what keeps them up at night;
  • learn about their personal life (as appropriate);
  • ask about their work routine;
  • asked what their preferred manner/format for receiving updates (memo, email, telephone, etc.); and
  • have a sense of humor.

I question how soft they really are, since I believe they are vital for lawyers in today’s competitive marketplace.  In many cases they are as important as how smart the lawyer is.

 

 

Do Your Clients Refer You/Your Firm To Others?  Most Don’t

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

According to a survey by The BTI Consulting Group, only 40.1% of clients “recommend their primary law firm to a peer.” As bad as that statistic is, the good news is that it is better by almost 7% over the previous year, and better slightly than five years ago.  According to the survey it “still leaves more than half of all clients wanting.”

As I, and many others have consistently stated, clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust.  Not only as to the quality of the legal product, but how the services are provided.  And referrals from satisfied clients is the “express lane” to more work and new business.

So, what should you do?  A few recommendations include:

  • Seek feedback (No. 3 on my list of Top Ten Marketing Tips)
  • Set goals that match those of the client
  • Invest in understanding the client’s business (a failing I’ve heard from clients over the years)
  • Don’t wait for the client to ask about succession plans
  • Educate the clients “in new, high-value topics (off the clock I would add)

The good news is that more and more firms, according to BTI, are doing a better job of systematically adopting practices to “improve client service on a continuing basis.”

Are you and your firm doing the same?

 

Ten Commandments of Client Service – Part II

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

As mentioned last time, one in-house counsel on the InHouseBlog posted his ten commandments applicable to outside firms when providing legal services to his company. And I suggested that his rules could come just as well from individual clients or entities without an attorney on staff. In the interest of brevity, I only covered five in my last post.

Here are the other five plus:

  1. No surprises… about anything.  This is one of, if not the most critical, edict. No one likes (unpleasant) surprises.  You don’t, I don’t, and I can assure you clients don’t. I have commented on this topic before;
  2. Remain calm and focused. Even if the client does not. You must remain professional, whether the client contacts are “freaking out.”  Critical that you keep a “cool, clinical level-head” so the situation stays under control;
  3. Focus long term.Keep in mind that if you do a good job at a reasonable cost to the client, and otherwise add value to the relationship, it is in your long term interests in obtaining more work.  So, avoid charging for every little phone call, offer free advice, CLE, etc.;
  4. Observe all my rules.Do not contact client executives except through counsel, and bill as requested, as well as respect all other guidelines spelled out; and
  5. Be ethical (DUH).This goes without saying, but he also points out that outside counsel should avoid upstaging the other side, or take unreasonable negotiating positions to score points.  Rather, use good, sound and practical approaches.

His eleventh “commandment” is an admonition to “be pleasant and be yourself.”  Remember, clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust… and follow in-house counsel’s commandments.  Otherwise, your marketing efforts may be for naught.

Ten Commandments of Client Service – Part I

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

Not every client is a company or entity that has in-house counsel. Smaller companies often do not have a lawyer on staff. So, when I visited InHouseBlog and read a post about one in-house counsel’s “Ten Commandments“, I thought that those directives could be applicable to all clients, including individuals.

Here are the first 5 of the ten Commandments, and you judge which would also apply to an individual client or a company without in-house counsel:

  1. Understand their business and goals. Nine years ago I wrote a post about how important it was for lawyers to know the client’s business. In fact, it has been shown to be a client pet peeve according to surveys.  The same can be said for knowing all you can about an individual’s goals relating to why they retained your services in the first place;
  2. Communicate succinctly. “Think PowerPoint, not Word. Use pictures.” In other words don’t burden clients with too much information, but rather a summary that can be easily understood by them and, in the case of in-house counsel, senior management;
  3. Don’t waffle. Or give them choices in order for you to avoid making a decision based on your expertise. After all that is why clients hire you.  There are times to provide clients with alternatives, but not for CYA reasons;
  4. Be practical. That doesn’t mean that your decision can not be challenged by the client, and altered. The point is to work with the client to reach a practical solution; and
  5. Be honest and forthright. “Tell me what I need to hear, not what you think I want to hear.” If what I say I want is, in in your judgment a bad idea, tell me … diplomatically, of course.

Violating the in-house “commandments”, may not condemn your immortal soul for eternity, but it can sure hurt your marketing efforts in obtaining more work from a client here on earth.

 

Next Time:  the next five

Meet and Greet Tips

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

Networking is no less dreaded by many lawyers than it has always been. But, it doesn’t have to be.  Hopefully, a few of my 40-plus posts on this blog about networking over the past 11 years will be useful. A few of which I have highlighted below.  They may prove of interest to those who may not have seen them previously.

Mike O’Horo has a recent post on Attorney at Work that mentions a couple of networking tips, one I hadn’t thought about or covered before.

  • It concerns the awkwardness of the situation where you are not sure whether you’ve met a person before or have but forgotten their name. His suggestion: “Hi Denise, nice to see you.”  Thus, avoiding the risk of  “… nice to meet you” (when you already have) or “… nice seeing you again” (when you haven’t);
  • Another suggestion involves the buddy system. Work with a “partner” to help each other in situations where you’re not sure, or need help with an introduction; and
  • Name tag game. Put it on your handshaking side or, if on a lanyard, up high enough to be seen to avoid stares in the general area of the belly button. For more about name tags check out Scott Ginsburg, the Nametag Guy, if you question the importance of such things.

A few of my networking posts include: (my apologies for any broken links)

Basic Networking Tips

Do you feel uncomfortable networking? Maybe better questions include: Do you enjoy helping friends and acquaintances? Are you a good listener? Do you like to party?? Then, you may be better at networking than you think. So, maybe it is the word “networking” that is the culprit. Think of it as enjoying yourself at events….Continue Reading

7 Ideas To Improve Your Networking

Effective networking is more important as the legal marketplace becomes more competitive. A lot of lawyers do not embrace networking and wish they didn’t have to do it. It is not why we went to law school after all. Notwithstanding one’s aversion to networking, it is necessary! So you might as well make networking work…Continue Reading

Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 9 – Networking With Super-Connectors

I recently posted a couple of items on networking, one about normal encounters during your daily routines and the other which required more focused activity. A recent post on Inc.com’s blog highlighted an excerpt from a chapter of Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone which is called “Connecting with the Connectors”; that is, those who…Continue Reading

Networking Requires Getting Off Your Duff!

Social media is obviously one way to network these days, and it can work. But, it is not as effective as face-to-face events with clients, referral sources and prospects. So, it’s time to get up from your desk, and get out and about. That is the theme of an article on Attorney at Work by…Continue Reading

P.S. Heaven forbid, if you want to read more of the 40 or so networking posts, go here.

Business Development: Are You a Driver or Passenger in Your Law Firm?

Posted in Marketing Team, Marketing Tips

In today’s competitive marketplace, and with the client scrutiny that impacts many firms, it is more critical than ever that all lawyers contribute to the growth of their law firms.

On the Managing Partner Forum this month, there is an article by Gail Crosley, CPA that was pretty darn good about pointing out the differences between drivers and passengers, and their respective contributions (or lack thereof) to the growth of their firms. Being an accountant, presumably she was talking about accounting firms; but the analogy is just as applicable to law firms.

She talks about how drivers:

  • exercise initiative;
  • assume a leadership role;
  • develop or expand a practice area; and
  • take the firm in a favorable direction;

In the legal world, I like to refer to drivers as rainmakers.  Those partners who contribute little in terms of marketing and business development are pretty much along for the ride; thus, simply passengers.  They rely on others to keep the work coming in, and expect it will always be that way.

In the New Normal, that approach is not viable or sustainable. Partners who rely on other partners to support their practice by giving them work will find it increasingly difficult for their partners to continue doing so.  Other more junior lawyers at lower rates will be given the work, if for no other reason that clients will/are refusing to pay the higher rates.

The result is not pretty.  The non-rainmakers will be de-equitized, paid less, or, as is often the case, asked to leave.  In the first month of this blog’s existence (January 2005), I wrote a post entitled “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired!” It is no less true today, but in Crosley’s parlance, I should say that drivers won’t be left behind, but there will be less and less room for passengers.

It seems pretty straight forward then, that you should become a driver in your firm, if you are not already.

Is the Lack of Cross-Selling Your Fault?

Posted in Marketing Tips

Are you to blame for the failure of your partners to cross-sell you to their client contacts? Not necessarily, but you could be part of the problem. Clients select lawyers they know, like and trust. Referral sources, including your partners, send you clients for the same reason. Since they know, like and trust you, they transfer those qualities by recommending you.

Maybe your partner doesn’t know enough about you or your practice, especially in a large firm. And, there may be selfish reasons he is protecting the relationship with the client.  In my 30 years in this business, I can assure you that a “bit” of that goes on.  So, you must work on enhancing your relationships with your partners, and making sure she knows enough about your practice and is comfortable that you won’t displace/hurt her client relationship.

According to Mike O’Horo, in a recent article on Attorney at Work, “cross-selling problems are self-created.” He argues, among other points, that lawyers focus on the product they’re trying to sell versus whether the client has a need for such services. The important point is that any attempt to cross sell should be client-centric (i.e., benefit the client), rather than product-centric (i.e., what service can benefit me and the firm). The client must understand that they have a need for such additional services and agree that your firm, rather than another, is the best choice for them.

Cross-selling can often fail based on a client’s unfavorable reaction to the idea.  They may prefer to spread the work around, or they are not convinced the cross-sellee is the right lawyer for the job.  For cross-selling to work, the client must recognize the need for the services, and have faith that the cross-sellor has confidence that the cross-sellee will do a good job.

So, it may not be entirely your fault that your partners don’t cross-sell your services, but, if you don’t grow those internal relationships, you may never find out why they don’t.

The Sky is Falling … NO, Really it is!

Posted in Marketing Plans, Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

I’m no Chicken Little, but I do have a sinking feeling about our profession. In my more than four decades as a lawyer, I have seen huge changes, not the least of which include:

  • Too many lawyers, too few jobs relatively speaking
  • accountants practicing tax law;
  • financial advisors drafting estate plans, wills and trusts;
  • unhappy and rebellious clients;
  • offshore research and drafting;
  • software created legal documents (e.g., LegalZoom);
  • realization rates woefully low;
  • a significant drop in the percentage of grads getting legal jobs within nine months;
  • …and so on.

I don’t know many lawyers who would realistically disagree that the profession is in a bunch of hurt. I have told friends who have a child or grandchild considering law school, to forget it. I don’t know whether that makes me a traitor to our guild or not. I realize the old-timers and those charging $900 an hour (I was advised that someone was bragging recently that he charges $1500 an hour) see no problem.  How long do you think clients are going to put up with that nonsense?  But, this message is not for those lawyers anyway.

Rather it’s for the much younger members of the bar, who dream (and expect) to reach that zenith. They might, but the vast majority won’t even come close. In fact, if Richard and Daniel Susskind, who co-authored The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Humans are right, there will be “technology unemployment” in the professions (not just law, but architecture, medical, financial professions as well) and there will eventually be less need for lawyers.

Hogwash, you say?  Listen to their podcast about the book hosted by Jim Calloway and Sharon Nelson on LegalTalkNetwork.  Unfortunately, 90% of lawyers won’t because it is slightly over 40 minutes in length. There is that billable hour demand after all.  I’m glad I spent the time, however.

Another recent article that cites the Susskind’s book is “The End of Lawyers, Period” by D. Casey Flaherty on   ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels under the New Normal. It contains links to some contrarian views, but also citing the “2015 Altman Weil Law Firms in Transitions Survey” points out that “Only 20 percent (of those responding stated)… that computers will never replace human practitioners.”

If you think technology can NEVER replace people, think about all the artificial intelligence already out there; such as, while doing a query on the Internet, the rest of your search term pops up before you’ve typed half of it.  Also, remember Deep Blue, the chess challenge that beat Garry Kasparov in 1997.  What is to prevent some Silicon Valley genius developing an algorithm using a database of gazillions of reported cases that will answer most, if not the majority, of legal issues down the road.  Will lawyers become extinct? Surely not, but for certain the need will be for less as technology advances.

My message is really directed at younger lawyers and future grads still in law school.  And it is: Learn quickly how to market your services and develop business in order to survive in today’s new normal and build a nest egg to temporary outwit that (technology) Foxy Loxy that Chicken Little and friends failed to. Maybe the sky won’t fall on your head, but a whole lot of acorns are going to give you a massive headache before your career is over, IMHO.