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Legal Marketing Blog

A blog dedicated to lawyer marketing in any size law firm

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.

The Best Advertising Is Free

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

It’s called publicity. When you or your firm gets mentioned in the media, and better if you are quoted, it’s instant credibility. And it’s FREE (unless you hire a PR agency to help)

Regular advertising is less effective IMHO because you are writing the copy and, of course, it is self-serving. Further it costs you money. When someone else says things about you and hopefully quotes you, it is more likely to be believed.

We all believe what we read in the newspaper or magazine, right?  “If I read it, it must be true” is what Larry Smith and Richard Levick opined (somewhat facetiously I’m sure) in a meditation contained in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing and Communications Professionals. For more on that meditation look at my post “Publicity vs. Advertising” for the full quote, and for more about the difference between the two.

Actually, we all know better, but there certainly is more credibility given to what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself. You may ask, how do I get this here free “advertising”? Well, you need to befriend a reporter or editor, as I suggest in my “Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 8 – Take a Reporter to Lunch.” It’s a start and my post gives some suggestions and cautions on how to go about building a relationship with a reporter.

So, it is better if you spend your time talking to reporters and editors rather than those in the business who sell advertising. Accordingly it’s a good idea to get to know and develop relationships with reporters and editors. Your time and (lunch) money will be better spent.

Plan for the Worst

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

When it comes to marketing and business development, plan to lose. HUH, you may say.

Stay with me.

Hope to win, but don’t assume that you will get the next engagement – either from an existing client or from a prospect. With the competitive nature of our industry (yes, law services is an industry, despite those who say NO, it’s a PROFESSION – Yeah right), things are changing rapidly. Clients are dissatisfied, angry with the cost of legal services and the value of those services. So, just because your client appears to be happy with your firm today, doesn’t mean they will be satisfied tomorrow.

Today’s meditation from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick points out the dangers of not anticipating the possibility of change:

“The captain of the Titanic had such a great safety record that when the great ship struck an iceberg, precious hours were lost because the possibility of sinking was so far beyond his experience. Yesterday’s success is always a trap when conditions change. And they always change.”

Don’t let precious time pass before you and your firm wake up to today’s realities. Awake every day with the thought of making your clients’ experience even better. It is not a foregone conclusion you will succeed, but you sure as heck better give it your all. Because things change and clients are becoming more demanding. Overconfidence and the lack of client-centric thinking could eventually sink your firm.

Law Firms: Are You Listening to Clients? It’s More Critical Than Ever

Posted in Client Communications, Marketing Tips

For over 10 years here I’ve been pleading with firms to talk with their clients about how they’re doing. Whether the process was seeking realistic client feedback, or simply conducting a general client survey, the important thing is whether firms were doing it at all.  Most were not. It is critical in this day and age that they be doing so.

Most will not. So, why don’t I give up beating that drum.

Well, I have to thank Patrick Lamb for his post of Monday. In it he posed the rhetorical question whether “law firms need to have their institutional hearing checked.” He drew his question from the “2016 Report On The State All of The Legal Market” by Georgetown Law Center and Peer Monitor. And from it he drew to strong messages:

“1. More work is going places other than law firms.

“2. Law Firms keep raising rates. Clients refuse to keep paying.”

He also pointed out using graphs that while legal services are increasing – and oh, so are billing rates – realization rates (the amount of billings collected) is falling “precipitously.”

He then asks the hard question: “what does it all mean?”  Many clients are not satisfied!  Law firms will make more money by improving client service than by raising rates.  Lamb’s wonder about institutional deafness should resonant with more firms.

Does your firm need hearing aids?

 

P.S. There’s more worth reading in the Georgetown/Peer Monitor report.

 

 

I Should Ask for Referrals and Testimonials? You’re Kidding, Right??

Posted in Marketing Tips, Prospecting for Clients

I’m not. However, I realize that many lawyers are uncomfortable – actually many people are – asking for referrals.

It gets worse when one suggests that lawyers should ask for testimonials. Both are important for business development however. It’s instant credibility. If a client or former client or even just a contact suggests that someone hire you as their lawyer, it’s like gold in the bank. It means that the person is endorsing your legal abilities, and putting their reputation on the line.

Eric Dewey has written an article on soliciting testimonials. It’s lengthy compared to a post, but you might find it helpful if you have been thinking about asking for testimonials. (Don’t forget to check your bar rules regarding using testimonials.) He covers:

  • the reasons people don’t write testimonials;
  • make your request personal in nature;
  • remind them of the reasons they should;
  • remind them also that testimonials can help others in need;
  • include suggestions to make it easy; and
  • provide a sample of a testimonial (of course, keep it simple and not too verbose).

Back to referrals.  The majority of new business comes from referrals, whether they are from satisfied clients or other contacts.  In excess of 70% of lawyers business comes that way, if not more.  It’s simple really why would a stranger hire someone whom s/he neither knows, likes or trusts.  Whether corporate or personal clients, when all else is considered, will ASK someone who they should hire.

So, why not ask your clients, friends and other people who know you, to recommend you.  For some of my posts on referrals – check out this compilation for tips on when and how to ask for them.  Oh, and don’t forget to ask for testimonials too.