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Legal Marketing Blog

A blog dedicated to lawyer marketing in any size law firm

Want More Business? Manage Client Relationships Better

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

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.”


Turning Associates into Rainmakers

Posted in Marketing Team, Marketing Tips

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Tips A-to-Z to Increase Client Service

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

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)

a for action

  • L is for Listen Listen Listen… Listen until it hurts… (Read on)

L is for listen

  • N is for No… No drives clients crazy… (Read on)

n is for no

  • S is for Surprises… Clients hate them…

s is for surprise

  • V is for Value… The point where your client believes they have received substantially more than they pay… (Read on)

v is for value

  • Z is for Zeal… Your fervor and commitment to client service shines through everything you do and every action you take… (Read on)

z for zeal

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.


Vacation Resolution:  Fire That Difficult Client…or Not!

Posted in Marketing Tips

Now that you are back from vacation, refreshed, focused and feisty; it is time to consider firing that bad client. There are any number of reasons to fire a client. Annoying, always complaining about fees and opinions, slow paying, disrespectful, argumentative, etc. Ran across a post today on CPATrendlines entitled “How to Fire a Client,” which made it clear that accountants too encounter difficult clients; and it pointed out similar reasons they encounter. For instance, a client that makes you nervous because of their type of business, ethical issues, and belligerence.

The post recommended that one should be pleasant and send a disengagement letter by certified mail advising them of your decision and any upcoming deadlines that may apply to them. Obviously this is a CYA situation to ensure the decision doesn’t come back to bite you in a sensitive location.

This is a topic I have covered several times over the years. Here are a few:

New Year’s Resolution: Fire a Client or Two!!

Yes, I’m serious.  Get rid of those annoying, non-paying, difficult clients of 2012!  Some of whom likely keep you up at night. You will feel better and be happier in the new year. Such is the advice from Canadian lawyer Simon Chester on Attorney at Work this week also. For those who think we’re both…Continue Reading

Stop Procrastinating – Fire Those Bad Clients

This is a topic I have addressed before, but is worth repeating. Your firm would be better off firing bad clients. Your time would be better spent focusing your law firm marketing efforts on landing the clients you want, and the type of work you want to do. Sure, you may take a hit financially…Continue Reading

Do You Need to Fire A Client?

Sometimes it is a wise legal marketing decision to fire a client. There could be any number of reasons you should, including: Client consistently challenges your invoices Always is slow in paying Challenges your legal analysis and recommended strategies Is overly demanding of your time You no longer want to handle that client’s type of…Continue Reading

When to Fire a Client

This is the first time this year that I have touched on one of my favorite subjects – lawyers should do the legal work they want to do for the clients they want to do it for. That should be the ultimate goal of every lawyer who wants to have a satisfying, successful, and long-term…Continue Reading

ON THE OTHER HAND, there may be another option to consider:

Fire that Annoying Client – NOT So Fast!

We’ve all had clients we would like to fire, but may not have had the nerve or want to lose the revenue. I remember a story told at a conference I attended about the small law firm that spent hours at its weekend retreat discussing firing a client that provided 25% of their revenues. Many…Continue Reading

I hope you will return from your summer vacation with a focus to deal with troublesome clients!


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.”


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