Prospecting for Clients

My friend Candace Duff is a litigator, mediator and author. Between the two of us we have self-published 10 books. You can say, “we know the ropes.” And most importantly what a book can do for your practice. We have collaborated here to inspire you to consider what a book could do for you.

When a lawyer can say… “I’ve written a book on the subject.” it’s impressive.

Here’s what a book could do for you?

  1. It’s a big audacious business card. When you speak to prospective clients give them a copy to encourage them to hire you.
  2. It differentiates you from your competition. When it is on your website people doing research will find you and your book.
  3. It helps you get speaking gigs. It is always an advantage for event organizers to be able to promote you as a lawyer and an author in your area of expertise.
  4. It can be a tool to instruct your clients. Some practice areas could benefit from having a guide for their clients.

What it shouldn’t do.

  1. It shouldn’t be a guide to help other lawyers do what you do. This is not the purpose.
  2. It shouldn’t be riddled with legal ease. Define your market and speak to them in a language they readily understand.
  3. You shouldn’t expect to get rich selling your book. It will serve you best by generously giving it away. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t sell and promote it, you should.

Selling and Promoting

  1. List it on Amazon, with an authors page and be mindful of the categories you select. There are many other sites but it must be on Amazon to gain credibility, fast.
  2. Promote it on all your social media by announcing the launch, every month pull quotes from chapters and find ways to talk about it.
  3. Find publications that will run excepts from the book.

Now that you know how writing a book can help you establish your expertise, gain exposure, and grow your practice, the next question is how to actually write the book itself. The obvious answer is to acquire what one bestselling English writer refers to as “bum glue,” paste yourself into your chair every day, bang out a draft manuscript, and refine it until it’s ready to be sent to an editor. If the thought of sitting down and typing out a book gives you hives, there are other ways to get the job done.

Seven ways to write your book—FAST!

  1. Dictate the Book

If you are a prolific speaker but a terrible typist, you could dictate the book and then have the recording transcribed either by a human being through a service like Rev.com or by someone you hire on Fiverr.com* or Upwork. Alternatively, you could run the recording through transcription software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or Dragon Professional. The software is not cheap, but it boasts a 99%accuracy rate and you’ll have it available for all your transcription needs.

If you use this method, it’s best to outline the book first so you know where you’re going and stay on track when you dictate it. You can speak much faster than you can type. With this method, you can achieve speeds of up to 5000 words an hour and get the first draft of your book done in a week if not a weekend.

  1. Use PowerPoint Presentations

Take the PowerPoint presentations you’ve given in the past, use them to help you outline and structure your content, then dictate your book. This option allows you to test your material with live audiences prior to writing the book to see if it is well received.

  1. Hire a Ghostwriter

You don’t have to write the book yourself. Instead, you can hire a professional writer (a/k/a a ghostwriter) to write your book for you. You can find ghostwriters on Upwork, through writers associations, word of mouth, referrals, etc. You and the ghostwriter agree upon a fee. They usually ask for a down payment and then receive final payment upon completion. You enter into an agreement that allows you to put your name as the author of the book, keep all the rights of the book, and keep all future book royalties.

This arrangement relieves you of the responsibility of writing the book yourself; however, it still requires an investment of time spent in meetings or interviews with the ghostwriter, in reading and revising or suggesting revisions, in getting the book edited, formatted and getting a book cover.

If you decide to hire a ghostwriter, be sure to get samples of their work and ask for references. You may also want to test them first by having them write articles or blog posts for you prior to writing the book.

  1. Organize an Anthology

Another option for writing a book is to organize an anthology – in other words a collection of short stories or articles or chapters from various authors. If you decide to take this route, you could find other experts in your area of expertise to participate and submit chapters or articles. Then, you would only need to write an introduction, the conclusion, and one or more of the chapters or stories.

You will have to enter into an agreement regarding what happens with respect to the rights to the articles and/or stories contained in the book, any proceeds or book royalties derived from the sale of it, and any expenses incurred in connection with the book.

You would also need to establish a deadline for author submissions and a theme or topic for the book, and recruit authors who would be a good fit for the work.

  1. Hire an editor to create your book

Under this option, you would outline and dictate the book, and then hire an editor to transform the transcript into a viable tome.

This is different than option #2 in that, under this arrangement, the editor takes on the responsibility for revising and editing the book, getting information from you to fill in any gaps, and putting it into final form for publication. You would be asked to review the draft and provide any comments or suggestions prior to publication and to pay a fee for the service. If you decide to take this route, be sure to negotiate a contract that clearly states who owns the rights to the book, the book royalties, etc. You want to make sure that it’s you.

  1. Coauthor the book

In this case, you and another author would agree to collaborate on the book and divide the responsibility for writing it in any way you see fit. I’ve seen arrangements were each author writes different parts of the book, or one author writes the first draft and the second author revises the book, or one author creates an elaborate outline, character profiles, and fiction beats for the project and the other writes it, or any mix of these arrangements. There are a myriad of possibilities.

  1. Create a book comprised of interview transcripts

You could have a colleague interview you or hire someone to do it, then have the interview transcribed, add some additional content, and create both an e-book and an audiobook out of that. Alternatively, you could interview a number of industry experts or thought leaders around a specific topic, get the interviews transcribed, and create a nonfiction book out of that. Or, you could interview someone who has a compelling story and a great hook and create a book out of that.

In this arrangement, you would be responsible for getting the book edited and otherwise finalized for publication. You also want to be sure to get releases and have contracts in place outlining everyone’s rights concerning the book and any royalties derived therefrom.

With all these options, you’ll still have to revise and organize the book, and find a copy editor, cover designer, and book formatter to finish it, but the most painful part of the process – writing the first draft of the book, will be done quickly.

If you’re serious about wanting to get more clients and increase your credibility, consider what a book could do for you and your practice.

Chances are this is how you’re networking, collecting business cards that will remain in your pocket until you wear that jacket again. Instead, you could be building relationships that really matter?

Let me ask you. Do you look at an event on your calendar and think… I would give my right arm to just go home rather than this event? I hate smiling and acting as though I’m interested in what anyone is saying. Actually I don’t even like those people. Then you snap out of it. You grab a cup of coffee that gives you a little jolt and vow… I’m going and I will be the most charming person in the room!

Tell me which YOU really shows up at that event? Chances are its someone in between. And I guarantee you that whomever you meet recognizes the insincerity, forced smile and faked interest. I’m telling you now, instead go home because the event will be a big waste of time… yours and everyone you meet.

There is a better way.

Instead go home and think about what you really want in your practice. Who is your ideal client? Where do they go? What is important to them? How could you help them? What circles would you like to be a part of? NOW… how can you act on the answers to these questions? This process is strategic and it’s the foundation to building relationships that matter.

How can you build trust with these new people? There is one question that Inc. Magazine writer John Hall asserts will be a game changer.

How can I be helpful to you?

Yes, it’s a simple question that could change the trajectory of your practice and your life. Hall points out:

  • It allows you to help others better.
  • It cuts through any potential awkwardness of a new relationship.
  • It enables you to be proactive.

Try it! You will be building relationships that matter, and that IS a game changer!

More than 10 years ago I started talking about:

I now know that those posts were a “touch” premature. I’m not so sure they still are. I can confidently state that the “traditional” hourly billing is dead. According to the “2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market” by Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession and Thompson’s Reuters Legal Executive Institute, in many firms, AFAs (only 15-20% of revenues) and  budget-based pricing “combined may well account for 80-90 percent of all revenues.”

The “widespread client insistence on budgets (with caps) for both transactional and litigation matters” over the past decade is the reason, according to the report. While firms may still keep track of their time on a billable hour basis, be assured that it is a different animal when it comes to invoices sent out. Debra Cassens Weiss’s take on the topic can be seen online at ABA Journal and  is entitled “Billable hour pricing is effectively dead because of budget caps, report says”.

After discussing other significant changes to the legal profession over the past decade, the report concludes that “those firms that are most likely to survive and prosper in the new market environment are not necessarily the oldest or the strongest or the smartest, but rather those most able to adapt to the changes around them.” A good start would be to read the entire 17-page report.

This is the second of two posts on associate marketing early in their career.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve addressed the topic in 2014; and friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has recently completed his treatise entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.

In this post, I’ll speak to some of Fishman’s marketing ideas for years two through five and beyond. [Again, a caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are young lawyers not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, my posts are for the rest of you attorneys.  Many of the activities covered you should continue throughout your career.  They are not just year-specific.

Second Year

  • Continue working on becoming a “great lawyer” (never stop this);
  • Add names to your mailing lists and increase connections on LinkedIn and Facebook (classmates, new contacts, clients and bar association lawyers you meet);
  • Focus on LinkedIn professional groups in your practice area; and
  • Read bar and trade publications/blogs to increase technical skills.

Third Year

  • Increase activity in bar and trade associations that could be the source of new work;
  • Become more proactive within your network;
  • Master one or more “elevator speeches” for different audiences;
  • Find a marketing mentor within or outside the firm;
  • Attend training opportunities by firm’s marketing and business development staff; and
  • Consistently update your bio and LinkedIn profile.

Fourth/Fifth Year and Beyond

  • Be more active and seek leadership positions in bar, civic and trade organizations (where permissible);
  • Latch on early to a young rainmaker within the firm;
  • Learn more about the business and industry of clients you do work for;
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your cases/transactions;
  • Look to write and speak on topics relating to your growing expertise (and look for other opportunities to re-use an article as a speech, and vice a versa);
  • Build up your network with other professionals who can refer clients;
  • Reduce bar activities (as a marketing tool), if other lawyers are not a source of referrals;
  • Seek assistance regularly for the firm’s marketing professionals; and
  • Visit your client contacts often (off-the-clock).

“Remember that providing highest-quality technical skills and extremely responsive client service (emphasis mine) are essential elements of your firm’s marketing to its existing clients,” according to Fishman.  I couldn’t agree more, and with many other things he says in his book.  You should get a copy, if your marketing department hasn’t purchased copies it yet.

 

P.S. No I do not receive a penny from the sale of the book, but maybe I ………… never mind.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

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.

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.

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.