Oh my goodness! How unfortunate.
You obviously must not be a very good lawyer. Or just maybe you were smart enough to fend off the snake-oil-directory salesperson. Sure, some unsophisticated clients may be impressed with your being in the “Best”, “Top”, “Prominent”, “Super”, etc. lawyer directory. Most clients, particularly corporate clients, don’t care, period. They want to know what you can do for them.
IMHO these directories, particularly the “pay-to-play” ones, are worthless. They are a waste of valuable marketing dollars. I could go on and on about why, but I won’t.
Reason: I couldn’t begin to put it as well as one of the brightest legal marketing consultants out there has put it. Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has a post today on Attorney at Work entitled “Those Stupid Superlative Directories.” Not only is it an entertaining piece, but spot on. It is a MUST read.
I simply can’t improve on it.
P.S. I got an email from a reporter today asking me to comment on what should be left out of RFPs. Take a WILD guess what one of my suggestions will be.
I’ve always loved the expression KISS because it is just that simple and telling at the same time. In reviewing the book this week on marketing meditations by Larry Smith and Richard Levick I often quote, I ran across one that I posted about 3 years ago this month. It reminded me of how “keeping it simple, stupid”, really is a wonderful phrase.
That meditation: “Marketing is a lifestyle” really brings home this simple but compelling statement. My post on October 26, 2012 is set forth below:
Marketing Success in 4 Words
Make it your lifestyle.
That’s it. Simple, huh?
It is according to Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications in their 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals. Their meditation for Wednesday of this week consists of just four words:
“Marketing is a lifestyle”.
For many lawyers that would mean a change in their behavior. At least their thinking. Marketing is not to be hated, nor, at a lawyers peril, ignored. It must become part of the lawyer’s very being.
When I was the head of marketing at one of my firms, I had the privilege of having one of the most brilliant lawyers I have ever known as my mentor and marketing partner. I remember his advice to a new crop of associates as we were introducing them to the concept of marketing as part of their orientation:
“Marketing is everything you do as a lawyer.”
He meant EVERYTHING. How a lawyer dresses, acts in public, treats other lawyers and clients, respects the “little” people they come in contact with everywhere, staff, etc. etc. Basically there isn’t any part of a lawyer’s life that doesn’t reflect on who they are as a person and professional.
In my 27 years of legal marketing, I don’t think I have heard anything simpler or more profound, and will never forget his words. So, if marketing is all about the whole person and their experience interacting with others, it truly is about lifestyle.
Enough said. And in just four words.
Well run and successful law firms in my experience always seemed to have a good marketing sense. Even in the days before the “M” word came into vogue, these firms had a rainmaker (usually a founding partner) or two good at bringing in business. As the legal industry became more competitive, more firms have recognized how critical marketing is to their success; and a lot more partners must get involved
So it wasn’t a big surprise when I ran across an article by Michael Rynowecer, president and founder of The BTI Consulting Group, identifying 8 key habits of highly profitable law firms, which appeared in John Remsen’s Managing Partner Forum weekly newsletter. The habits were identified as the result of a survey of over 330 law firms. Although not mentioning marketing specifically, I realized the habits are all excellent marketing tools
- Smaller number of mega clients. According to Rynowecer, this can lead to deeper client understanding, more cross-selling opportunities, economies of scale and opportunities to mentor team members. (It can also ensure the firm remains profitable, if a mega client were to fire the firm);
- Ongoing client dialogue. Even when you are not working on a matter, keep up a dialogue about the client’s business. It’s a good way to show that you’re not just interested in them because of fees, but are genuinely interested in them and their organization;
- Focus on more niche practices. Niche law firms have a deeper understanding of a practice, and can focus on an in-depth capability and expertise. As Rynowecer states these “firms go narrow and deep.” And, of course, in this day and age most firms cannot be all things to all clients;
- Educate clients to avoid problems. Offer ideas and solutions to clients before they become a problem. It’s just another way to add value to client relationships;
- Greater firm socializing among partners. One of the biggest reasons that cross-selling doesn’t work in many firms is because there isn’t enough knowledge, familiarity and trust among the partners. There should be a lot more internal socializing beyond the annual retreat. If a firm wants cross-selling to occur, there needs to be a great deal more relationship building within the firm;
- Firm uniformity across offices and practices. Without a solid management structure that ensures consistency and uniformity across office boundaries and practice areas, it will be more difficult to reduce client anxiety if they decide to use an unfamiliar practice area;
- Inform clients early regarding changes. Clients do not like surprises about anything. Accordingly, it’s best to keep clients informed about any potential changes and problem areas in the representation; and
- Focus on clients with ongoing work. It’s of a no-brainer that if you like the client and the work you do for them, then it’s a good idea to work at obtaining more of it. It’s just an obvious and less expensive marketing strategy.
If all of the above are done consistently, it reflects good marketing and business development savvy that will make your firm highly profitable.
If it wasn’t so darn important, I wouldn’t harp on the topic so much. As I mentioned in my last post, I got to wondering how many posts I have made on this blog over the past 10 years that touched on the subject. As said there, I went to my trusty search box above and entered “client feedback.” Having preached over and over on the topic, I can’t really say whether I was surprised there were over 90 posts that referred to it.
Many of my readers may not have seen or been following my blog in those days, I thought it might be beneficial to revisit some of them. Seeking feedback has always been No. 3 on my list of Top 10 Marketing Tips from the beginning. So, here are three more posts on seeking feedback:
In-House Counsel Want Their Law Firms To Seek Feedback
More and more it seems that in-house counsel are expecting their law firms to ask for their feedback. Even though “most general counsel and consultants say those law firms (seeking client feedback) are still in the minority and there isn’t nearly enough of this type of dialogue going on” according to an article on Law.com’s…Continue Reading
Now, More Than Ever, Talk With Your Clients
Two recent surveys really point out how important it is for law firms to stay very close to their existing clients. Not only by communicating constantly, but seeking feedback on how the firm is doing. Why? Because clients, especially in-house counsel, continue to be concerned about the costs of outside legal services. As a result, both…Continue Reading
Why Some Client Feedback Programs Don’t Work
The good news is that some firms are doing client feedback programs; the bad news is that they aren’t really getting the feedback they need. That is, the feedback questions are superficial, and don’t really offer the kinds of return that will actually benefit the firm in retaining the client over the long haul. An…Continue Reading
Hopefully, these revisited posts will encourage you and your firm to seek feedback from your clients.
P.S. My apologies for some broken links in some of these posts. I wasn’t able to repair them, but still believe they are worth sharing.
After seeing a couple of post in the last few days about client satisfaction, I got to wondering how many posts I have made on this blog over the past 10 years that touched on the subject. So I went to my trusty search box above and entered “client feedback.” Having preached over and over on the topic, I can’t really say whether I was surprised there were over 90 posts that referred to it.
Many of my readers may not have seen or been following my blog in those days, I thought it might be beneficial to revisit some of them. Seeking feedback has always been number three on my list of Top 10 Marketing Tips from the beginning. Here are a few:
Seeking Client Feedback: More Critical Than Ever
It’s been awhile since I harped on how important client satisfaction with their legal service provider is. Since starting this blog in January 2005, I have preached many, many times on how important feedback is for firms to retain existing clients or obtain referrals from them (See a few posts below on the subject). It…Continue Reading
How to Seek Client Feedback
Well, 2015 is almost here. Time to plan your business development strategies for the coming year. One simple one (albeit a feared one by some lawyers), involves seeking feedback from clients to ensure (or improve) the quality of legal services provided. No one needs to be reminded of how tough and competitive the legal marketplace…Continue Reading
Client Feedback Pointer
Seeking client feedback is not only important for every law firm, but it needs to be done right. Following a recent post of mine on the topic, my friend Stacy West Clark raised some issues that got me to thinking about the Who, What, When, Why’s and How’s of getting client feedback: Who should conduct…Continue Reading
Seek Client Feedback For The Right Reasons
Although I believe that law firms will gain more work from clients because they seek feedback on how they are doing, that cannot be the reason for undertaking such a program. The honest reason for seeking client feedback must be based on caring for the client and the relationship. All else will take care of itself….Continue Reading
There was a time, in the early days of legal marketing (mid-80’s) that hiring PR firms was what BigLaw management thought solved this “marketing thing.”
At that time law firm’s PR efforts were NOT very successful. Reason: Whether they were just bashful or afraid of repercussions from the state bar, some lawyers wouldn’t even cooperate with their own PR folks. Talking with reporters was out of the question.
Things have changed of course, but not for some lawyers. They still have failed to utilize the power of being quoted in the press.
No. 8 among my Top 10 Marketing Tips first published in 2005 still works; to wit: “Take a Reporter to Lunch.” The purpose is simple. When you get to know reporters and editors who cover the businesses and clients you would like, it can pay dividends. You could become a valuable source in your field or on general legal topics. If reporters/editors get to know and like you, your name could turn up in the trade and local press. That’s a good thing.
- Return their calls ASAP;
- Ask for their deadline;
- Don’t be afraid to tell them you will need to get back to them, if you have no immediate response;
- Or, refer them to another attorney; and
- Don’t reveal ANYTHING about a client or matter without permission.
I have quoted the August 21 meditation before from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications:
“Don’t snub reporters because you’ve never heard of their publications. They have a funny way of eventually landing at The Wall Street Journal.”
Keep in mind that reporters can help your business development efforts by raising your profile and providing free publicity. So, don’t avoid them.
Start with lunch.
Seventy to 90% of lawyers’ business comes because of referrals from clients and other contacts in your network. You are more likely to get more, if you concentrate on enhancing your network.
Mary Taylor Lokensgard has a post on Attorney at Work that provides good ideas on getting referrals. She suggests 3 steps:
1. Ask for them.
- From people who know, like and trust you, and vica versa. They will come, if you develop meaningful relationships with people who are likely to be in a position to refer the clients you want;
- Make sure your contacts know what you do, not just that you are a lawyer;
- Work up an elevator speech (or two or three) that lets them know that kinds of law you practice and HOW you can help people;
- Let clients know that you can always handle work from other great clients like them.
2. Build up your network of contacts who could be referral sources, including:
- Lawyers who don’t do what you do; or
- Ones who do not want to represent the clients you do; and
- Other professionals, such as financial advisors, bankers, real estate agents/brokers, insurance agents, estate planners, etc.
Keep in touch with potential referral sources at least quarterly by telephone, email, lunch and so forth.
3. How to ask.
- Build relationships first. One way to enhance relationships quickly is “giving to get.” Actively think of, and work at, making referrals to contacts in your network;
- Don’t be bashful, but avoid appearing desperate. Remember you know your contacts and you’re not asking strangers; and
- Remember the line about your welcoming the opportunity to service other good clients like them.
Remember to show appreciation for all referrals with a handwritten note – yes, even in these days of easy emails – even if they do not work out. If they do, then consider sending a small token of your appreciation, such as a bottle of wine, or whatever. Remember the ethical rules against sharing fees with non-lawyers.
Developing a referral network isn’t easy or a short term project. It is a never-ending and critical to the success of your law firm.
P.S. Here’s a link to numerous additional posts of mine about referrals over the past 10 years.
Having covered how crucial staff is to the practice of law numerous times several times over the last 10+ years on this blog, a refresher on some issues may be in order.
- Receptionist. I have argued that the receptionist should be the highest paid marketing person, because of his or her being the initial face and voice of the firm often. He or she should be the best you can hire, which is why you need to pay them more;
- Marketing staff. Beyond the official marketing staff, everyone employed by the law firm is marketing the law firm, one way or another – good or bad. How they treat not only clients, but people in general, how they act in public, how they dress, and so forth all project a brand; and
- And everyone else, including accounting, HR, copy room, etc. for the same reasons. (click here for 21 posts on the importance of the receptionist, empowering your staff, their importance in the marketing effort, and other related topics.)
Beyond the obvious, the critical point to remember is that law firms wouldn’t exist without staff. They should be treated with upmost respect. If they are not appreciated, morale is low, turnover is high, and hiring and training new staff is expensive. Just ask your HR department or administrator, if you have any doubts.
When I was in-house marketer, I remember a lateral hire from a prominent New York law firm, who lasted two years. His demise was in no small measure due to the way he treated staff, especially his shared secretary. His inflated ego and distain for the “peons” led to problems in getting things accomplished. His secretary was often “too busy” with her other lawyers to do his work. His work, apparently, became substandard due to missing deadlines. I expect the attitude toward his secretary and others wasn’t the main reason he was let go, but it hurt his cause. Another example involved a paralegal and “missing” pages from documents because of how the copy room staff was treated. Then, there was the legacy partner who couldn’t keep a secretary for more than a month or two. All either quit or obtained a new assignments.
It is shameful how ignorant some “educated” people really are. Such behavior is not unique to lawyers, of course, but that is beyond the scope here.
Jared Correia, assistant director and senior law practice advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, had a post on Attorney at Work last week that reminds us how important support staff is to any law practice. Because, as he states, they :
- do the majority of the office’s work;
- are better with technology;
- are better with the business/financial aspects;
- often are more involved with client service; and
- particularly with newer lawyers, often “know more … about substantive law, and probably the practice of it, too.”
Bottom line: not only does staff play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of a law firm, but due to their interaction with clients and what that can mean in retaining and attracting clients, they deserve a great deal more respect than some receive.
Lawyers should do the kind to work they enjoy and for the clients they like. Duh, you may say, thinking that that is a simplistic and obvious statement. Not so fast. That may be the ideal, but not often accomplished. According to David Maister in his famous book True Professionalism (pages 23-24) he found in his surveys of lawyers over the years that a majority either merely tolerated or disliked the work they did and the clients they represented.
There are practical reasons that lawyers shouldn’t take all the work that comes their way. If they concentrate in a niche practice and even more so on specific industry(ies), they will be better service providers. With a better understanding of their clients’ business and industry, they will assuredly be more successful both in their technical abilities and business development skills.
A common complaint I’ve heard in surveying law firm clients over three decades is that lawyers do not understand the client’s business. It is one reason that clients will not use a particular lawyer or firm again. Gerry Riskin in a post on Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices points out:
“Clients are hungry to find lawyers who really understand their businesses, but some firms are reluctant to market their services to specific industries.”
Unfortunately, some law firms don’t market to industry segments because they are afraid they’ll miss out on other work. The solution is to list numerous industry segments in a firm’s areas of practice, and provide links to more information about the firm’s experience in each. So, list dozens of industries where the firm has experience.
In today’s competitive legal market, it is logical for lawyers to focus their practices and not try to be all things to all comers. Marketing to industry segments is one way to do that to benefit both the clients and the firm.
We hear a lot today about how law firms must add more value to their client services in light of the competitive nature of our industry. Value-added services might include recognizing the value of a client’s time in reading emails. It may be a simple thing and on first thought not significant in adding value. I would respectfully disagree.
There is too much crud sent in emails, and everyone, no matter what business they’re in, is overwhelmed with emails daily. Clients are no different, and lawyers can be as guilty as anyone in sending emails that could be more succinct.
Patrick Lamb has a post on his In Search of Perfect Client Service blog that struck me as a simple and effective way to get to the point in an email. His three suggestions should help avoid wasting people’s time in reading them:
- Subject line. It should be short and to the point. State “Jones” or “Jones case” instead of Jones vs. ABC international Manufacturing Corporation. As Lamb states, the client knows their name. It should also include the urgency or time sensitivity or “not urgent”, and finally what action is needed;
- Get to the point in the first sentence. Let the client know what needs to be done and when right up front; for example “Signature required by COB 3/31/2015.” Then you can elaborate as necessary; and
- Explain the attachment. Since most people today look at their emails on their smart phone and attachments are not easily opened, let them know what is in the attachment. They can decide whether they need to open it right now.
So, if you want to impress clients with your efficiency and respect for their valuable time, you might take Lamb’s suggestions to heart. It’s a good way to add value to your services. A simple process, and one that could pay marketing dividends.