I like to think that I’m a pretty good multitasker. While typing this post on my laptop, for instance, I’m also checking my emails on my iPhone, and sometimes surfing the Internet on my iPad. All at the same time. Pretty good huh? Oops, I just sent an unfinished message that won’t go over well.
Most people are capable of multitasking (except one guy I knew in the Navy who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but that’s another story). One of the more troublesome aspects of multitasking in today’s digital world is the potential for adverse impacts it can have on relationships with clients, referral sources and prospects. A post last week by the old curmudgeon, Otto Sorts, over on Attorney at Work brings into focus for me a couple of concerns relating to the multitasking as it relates to lawyers.
The first one I gleaned by inference from the curmudgeon’s post involves the ethical issue of billing clients while distracted. Some may thing a quick peek at your email upon hearing the “ding” of an incoming is no big deal. Yeah, and 3 to 5 minutes later you return to the client task, and you have spent less than .1 of an hour distracted. No sweat. If it happens several times a day..… then you’ve got a more serious ethical issue IMHO, unless you subtract these “distractions” from the client’s timesheet.
The second issue deals more with marketing. Otto Sorts points out that clients come to lawyers that focus on them and their matter. To do so, he adds:
- Make sure you are always making eye contact with the client during meetings and concentrating on the conversation whether in person or by phone, rather than on other electronic distractions around you;
- listen intently more than 80% (okay at least 50%) of the time to your client, or whomever you are talking with, so that you fully understand what the issues are and that you are hearing what is important to them; and
- keep your focus on guiding them through the legal system/issues in order to meet their personal or business needs.
These items require a lack of distraction caused by multitasking. If a client does not feel that you are so focused, it can definitely hurt you from a marketing standpoint. Why? Because they will likely use someone else for their next legal matter, and certainly won’t refer others to you for their legal work.
In my 27-plus years in legal marketing, I can assure you I have never – let me repeat, never – encountered lawyers who spent too much time on developing business. On the contrary, I’ve met too many who didn’t and don’t spend enough time on it. And I have run across a lot who wasted time doing the wrong things and thus were ineffective in bringing in more work for the firm. But, spending too much time on really effective business development? Never.
Additionally, I’ve heard many a lawyer say that they are too busy to do marketing. When delving further, it usually means “don’t want to, ain’t gonna.” If a lawyer is really busy doing client work that she enjoys for enjoyable clients, then I’ll extend a pass… for this week. Because no matter what, the pipeline needs to be fed and kept flowing. Furthermore, the “busyness” often complained about involves non-productive time doing things that other lawyers or administrative staff could do more effectively and efficiently.
That is why I got a kick out of a recent discussion on LinkedIn’s Law Practice Management Professionals Group. The question was asked as to whether 20% (or one day per week) of a lawyer’s time spent on business development was too much. One person responded that “is way too much time;” and proceeded to equate the time (assuming an 8-hour day) to lost revenue of 8 times (let’s say) $250 per hour = $2000 lost. Of course, it is “silly” (I’m trying to be nice here) to assume that if you aren’t spending “too much” time developing business you would otherwise be billing clients for those same hours.
In the end it is foolish to put a number on what is too little or too much time spent on marketing, client work, admin, recreation and, hopefully, family time. What is important is to spend all of the time doing all of those things necessary for you to be a successful lawyer in a well-rounded sense, and serve clients well. If you have client work that needs to be done, do it. But don’t overlook the need to be generating more. If you don’t have enough work to sustain your life style long term, best to think about how to spend more time – a lot more time – effectively developing business now.
Do I think you might ever spend too much time on marketing? Not a chance!!
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 nuts, take a look at a few of my earlier posts on this subject going back to 2006 and 2007.
Are Bad Clients Keeping You Up at Night?
Praise the Lord and Pass the … (Client to Someone Else)
Stop Procrastinating – Fire Those Bad Clients
Do You Need to Fire A Client?
When to Fire a Client
The advice is just as valid in 2013. Happy New Year!
It should come as no surprise that clients don’t like surprises. Who does? Well, most of us wouldn’t mind being surprised with a nice Hanukkah or Christmas present about now. But, you get the point.
I have written a number of posts (three listed below) over the past eight years regarding the dangers (and benefits of a few) surprises when it comes to clients. And I’m sure you can find a gazillion more on the Internet.
But, particularly around this time of year when law firms raise rates (or try to), that is a bad idea. That’s putting it mildly, according to Susan Hackett’s Corporate Counsel “annual rant” on the topic earlier this month. I remember many years ago, when I was in-house as a marketer, the CFO informed the “C” level staff that the firm was going to raise rates for the third time that year. In DECEMBER no less, to ensure the January bills reflected the increase. Well, it was a different era, and I’m sure no firm would be crazy enough to attempt that today in the New Normal.
It isn’t just surprise rate increases that are a problem though. Any unwanted surprises relating to a client is BAD. Whether regarding missing deadlines, failure to keep them informed about their matter, bad news of any kind, and so forth. It’s a value thing, and surprises are anti-value.
So, do not surprise your clients…except for that very nice holiday gift you are certainly intending to or have already sent. BTW, I like surprises this time of year myself.
Clients Abhor Surprises
Surprise Your Clients!
Work on the Good Surprises, and Avoid the Bad Ones in Your Client Relationships
One might ask how networking tips for brand new associates would be applicable to partners. Stick with me here, because in my experience there are many partners who know what they should have been doing in terms of staying in touch with former classmates, colleagues, people they’ve met, etc. but haven’t. So, they could gain from Steven Taylor’s interview of Scott Westfahl, director of professional development at Goodwin Procter recently on Attorney at Work.
As Taylor points out, the old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” (1951, G. P. Bush and L. H. Hattery in an article on obtaining federal employment in Science magazine) is not applicable to lawyers, of course. But don’t downplay the value of who you know, and who you know that can help you get legal work.
It’s what networking is all about. And Taylor’s and Westfahl’s tips can be helpful to any lawyer, since it is not taught as part of the core curriculum in law schools. So, the networking tips mentioned include:
- Keep in touch with law school classmates (and with college and high schools ones as well – surprising how that little nerd in junior high turned out to be very successful). You should reach out and touch your contacts on a quarterly or least semi-annual basis to catch up and stay top of mind. Don’t wait until you need their help with an introduction;
- Identify groups of good contacts, and build those newer, external relationships as well;
- Offer to help them with their goals (based on the idea “give to get”); and
- Use social media as a tool (but don’t forget that networking is personal, and face-to-face meetings are still important).
New lawyers should not overlook the importance of maintaining and developing networks, just because they are busy learning the skills needed to be a good lawyer. Nor should partners who have not got as effective a network as they would like, since it is not too late to reconnect with those former classmates and other contacts they have ignored for many years.
Ran across an interesting article about getting things done and thus being more effective in practicing law by adopting five principles of GTD discussed by Daniel Gold in a piece he wrote for Attorney at Work. It struck me that the same ideas are applicable to greater effectiveness when it comes to marketing.
His five phases of productivity include (as I see them applicable to marketing):
- Collection. First, it is important to gather all your marketing tasks from your various “in-boxes,” which may include both the physical and digital versions, as well as the poorly organized ideas on loose stickies or papers lying around;
- Processing. When you have gathered all your ideas or “stuff” into one place, then you should analyze them for worthiness and discard those that you shouldn’t waste your time on. You need to ask whether your marketing idea is sensible, doable, likely to lead to profitable new business, or just a waste of time;
- Organizing. Of course, then you should decide on priorities, and list the activities, targets, and time frames to accomplish your marketing tasks;
- Reviewing. When it comes to legal project tasks, I agree with Gold that setting aside time on a Friday afternoon is a good idea to assess where things stand, including what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done. And so it should be for marketing tasks. This review can deal with things that need to be re-prioritized for the coming week or possibly dropped for whatever reason. As Gold points out: “The weekly review allows you to empty those in-boxes reflect on the past week and prepare to the week ahead.” Oh yes, and free up your mind for an enjoyable weekend, since things will be more under control; and
- Doing. Obviously, the most important phase in all of this is actually getting things done. Most lawyers are very good at planning, but implementing not so much. This in part is due to the time conflict between producing the legal product, and bringing in the next project. Nonetheless, accomplishing both things is what today’s law practice is all about.
So, getting better productivity – whether it’s in doing your legal work or bringing in the next piece of business – in both areas is critically important in creating efficiencies, effectiveness, and of course profitability.
How timely in this particular month that my old standby for marketing ideas would address the relationship between politics and marketing. Larry Smith and Richard Levick in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals state in today’s meditation:
“All marketing is even more local than politics. Marketing is one person at a time.”
We are in the personal service business, which means that we need to get just that – personal.
And that is done one person at a time. Whether that is face-to-face or via social media, it is still one person at a time. Surrogates can’t do it for you in the end.
This is more critical today. If you aren’t sure about that, just read Jennifer Smith’s post on WSJ’s Law Blog entitled “Law Firm 3rd Quarter Checkup” from last week. The state of the legal business is NOT good. All the more reason to be undertaking more marketing and business development, and doing so by focusing on one person at a time. Oh yeah, and since it is hunting season that means focusing with a rifle, rather than a shotgun.
A recently released survey by LexisNexis® reported on an increased level of RFP activity by law firms of various sizes. (See Summary here). The results surprised me somewhat for a couple of reasons.
- Close to half the 359 survey participants (41%) couldn’t tell how many RFPs they dealt with on a monthly basis (undoubtedly due in part to the lawyer-Lone Ranger syndrome);
- The rest of the respondents reported they handled an average of 5 to 16 proposals per month (with larger firms a bit higher) and 68% reporting less than 10 per month;
- 42 percent reported an increase in RFP activity over the previous year;
- The process consumes a LOT of resources over the year in responding to RFPs; and
- Most shocking, only 58% of firms bothered to track wins and losses.
But what was most surprising to me is that RFPs are increasing, rather than decreasing. Presumably, some of the proposal requests come from clients (which unfortunately was my experience in-house). Which raises the question – WHY?
In the case of clients, it tells me that the firm needs to do a lot better at client relations work in the area of relationships, providing value and communicating more effectively. You shouldn’t have to compete in this manner, if you are doing your attorney-client overall job properly.
So, avoid client RFPs by doing a more effective job in your dealings with your clients in the first place.
Thanks to RFPAttorney|The Blog for drawing attention to the survey.
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.
Do not – repeat – do not send stupid, overly emotional, inappropriate emails.
Have you ever sent an email that you wish you hadn’t? Of course you have. And I stand guilty as charged myself. I’m not just talking about an incomplete one, or hitting the Send key before proof reading typos or such. Everyone has done that! What I am referring to is the REALLY stupid ones that could come back to bite you big time. Like ones that are sent:
- In anger,
- Without thinking through the ramifications,
- That could hurt you or your firm’s brand (read: marketing damage), and
- Heaven forbid, any of the above sent to a client (read: marketing disaster).
Other email blunders include “I really shouldn’t put this in writing” or “I could get in trouble for telling you this.” Those are a couple of Bernadette Bulacan’s favorites posted over on Legal Current as takeaways from the recent 2012 Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting in Orlando. Her favorite though was “DELETE THIS EMAIL IMMEDIATELY.”(Yeah, right!!!)
So, type, read, correct, review again…..and then maybe send it. But before you do, ask yourself would I be uncomfortable (as in break out in a cold sweat) if a client saw it or it appeared on the front page of The New York Times.
If so, it is a DUMB e-mail.