Prospecting for Clients

A common comment and justification for certain activities in the early stages of legal marketing was “because other firms are doing it.” I believe some firms still cling to that reasoning. Last week Otto Sorts, the curmudgeon of Attorney at Work fame, raised several questions about his firm’s focus on social media as part of a business development plan.

Relating to BizDev, he questioned what the firm wants to do, what does it want to happen, what tool is best suited to accomplish that, and what resources are required. His point being that social media should help answer those questions, or not.

Longtime readers would know that I’m not a big fan of social media because I just haven’t seen where it has made significant contributions to marketing and business development efforts of the firm. Granted it could be one to in the overall mix, but I am just not convinced that it makes significant enough contribution to overcome the disadvantages in my mind as a potential lawyer time waster. I could stand corrected but have been up to this point. I see social media being used more for self- promotion, rather than a social networking tool that leads to more business.

Some posts of mine include (unfortunately, a couple of links are broken):

Marketing and Social Media Survey Results

Since we are in the personal services business, I remain skeptical of social media as an effective tool of legal marketing. Clients hire lawyers they know, like or trust (or are referred by someone they do). I think that social media is too impersonal, remote and time-consuming as a business development tool to cross that…Continue Reading

Social Media Doesn’t Replace Face-to-Face Networking

More and more employers are finding that social media is an effective way to network. However it is not an excuse to sit at your desk and think that that is all there is to it. Social media can be and is for many an effective way to make friends connections and raise one’s profile….Continue Reading

Has Social Media Gotten Lawyers Out of Focus?

There is a very interesting article by Anthony Green in Law Practice Today which talks about Web 2.0, Web 1.0 and social media in general. Not being one completing sold on all the hype surrounding social media, I agree with several points Green raises about the need to get back to basics. He (and I)…Continue Reading

Is “Social Media” Networking’s Nirvana? Possibly Not!

According to a guest post on Duct Tape Marketing by Susan Wilson Solovic, CEO and co-founder of SBTV.com (as in Small Business TV), she prefers to network “the old fashion way.” Her post probes the issue whether anyone really knows what networking means anymore. Before I turn off my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter friends, let…Continue Reading

Should You Pay Attention To The Social Networking Craze?

Most everyone who has heard about the Internet, or has a child capable of educating them, has heard about social networks like MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, etc. etc. etc. The “etc’s” are part of my point. There are new ones springing up almost every day. There is some question as to which one or two will be the…Continue Reading

Most importantly, what do you readers say?  Has social media produced significant legal business for you?

 

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.

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.

Just remember:

  • 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.

For example:

  • 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 :

  1. do the majority of the office’s work;
  2. are better with technology;
  3. are better with the business/financial aspects;
  4. often are more involved with client service; and
  5. 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.

How sad.

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.

In my 30 years in this business, I have found that lawyers are pretty good at planning marketing activities. With guidance, even in the early days, some were enthusiastic about putting a plan together. Maybe it was the challenge, possibly, as time went on, more attorneys recognize the need for developing business, as they realize the marketplace becoming more competitive.

But over the years, I found that even with a simple, straightforward marketing plan, the biggest problem was the failure to implement the plan. Often the excuses range from not having enough time or being overloaded with legal work, or simply procrastination.

Sally Schmidt offered 9 tips relating to marketing organization and discipline last week on Attorney at Work. In a nutshell her tips include:

  • Prepare a list of contacts and prioritize the frequency of contact. Set up Google alerts or case filing notifications to help with reasons for contacting them. (Personally I prefer a quarterly contact list using an Excel spreadsheet containing the names of former clients/potential referral sources, and how and when each will be contacted on a quarterly basis. Comments can be added to the spreadsheet to capture the results of each contact);
  • Develop a marketing and business development plan for the year that includes specific, measurable goals and objectives to raise your profile, and persons you will contact, preferably in person, and for what purpose;
  • Schedule your business development activity like any appointment using whatever technology tools are at your disposal, which should help you set aside a specific amount of time each week for implementing your plan;
  • Break your activities into manageable segments (one time management tool I learned years ago was to limit the segments to 15-20 minutes) which will help keep from being overwhelmed or from procrastinating. The shorter periods will also remove guilt for not working on a file during that period; and
  • Don’t overlook the resources available in your firm to help with your marketing and business development efforts.

When I begin a one-on-one coaching assignment with lawyers, I mention that my responsibilities include being their CNO (Chief Nagging Officer) during our calls and by email. Several clients have said they find that of great value in getting them to actually implement the plan.  So, start nagging yourself today!

Well, that might be an overstatement; but a three-part series by Mary Lokensgard on Attorney at Work presents a good outline of an effective referral system to follow.  If you do so there is a good chance that you will be guaranteed referrals. They are not automatic and they require work, but if you’re serious about getting new business remember that one of the best sources his referrals (either from clients or other friends and contacts).

In a nutshell the suggestions by Lokensgard cover three aspects:

1. Who is likely to refer to and how to ask.

  • Make a list of lawyers who do not do what you do, as well as a list of those who do and are likely to refer to you (and you to them) when there is a conflict or other reason;
  • List other non-lawyer professionals likely to have clients that could use your services (and vice versa);
  • Let your clients know that you welcome referrals to serve “other great clients like them”; and
  • Inform all appropriate contacts of your willingness to refer clients to them.

2. Rules when getting and giving referrals.

  • Suggest to referral source that the potential client, for ethical reasons, make the first contact. Subtly remind referrer if you don’t hear from the person;
  • With the new client’s permission, let the referral source know the referral succeeded;
  • Thank the referral source for the business repeatedly – by email AND handwritten note, and consider a token gift as a thank you; and
  • Let the referral source know how things are going with the matter ONLY with the client’s knowledge and consent.

3. Care and maintenance of your referral network.

  • Continue to broaden referral network by raising profile by educational and nonprofit activities;
  • Stay in constant contact with existing referral sources;
  • Look for opportunities to make referrals;
  • Show appreciation by entertaining referral sources.

Building a referral network takes work, but can pay big dividends if done efficiently and effectively. Check out Lokensgard’s three-part series for more details.

 

 

The vast majority of new legal work for lawyers comes from referrals, whether they be from clients, former clients, or other people who, know like and trust you. Often called word-of-mouth marketing, primarily new work comes because of what other people say about you. (One exception obviously is plaintiff’s work, which is basically garnered through advertising).

I have written many posts over this blog’s 10 years on the subject of referrals. And I have included links to 10 below, and invite you to breeze through them for tidbits you might find helpful.

But today I will list, with no further explanation needed IMHO, seven tips I am convinced will guarantee you referrals. So here goes:

  1. Do excellent legal work
  2. Dress professionally
  3. Beat deadlines
  4. Respect clients
  5. Never (unfavorably) surprise a client about anything
  6. Charge reasonable fees
  7. Be a nice person

That’s all folks.

….

Except for other of my posts on referrals (I apologize in advance for broken links, as some no longer are available):