Prospecting for Clients

Ran across an interesting article on JDSupra Business Advisor by Josh Beser. He offers good advice on how to follow up after meetings, so they don’t end up having been a waste of time. First, he tells a story about meeting with an unhappy associate and how he gave free advice. And then sometime later, not having heard anything in terms of a thank you or buzz off, he received an email requesting additional unrelated advice from the same attorney.

He was put off by the failure of a “follow up” by this young lawyer.  And, remarked that he would waste no more time with this person.  My sentiments exactly.  I too am asked and give free advice occasionally.  But, if I don’t receive some follow up (including a thank you), they’re off my list.

Although Beser’s advice addresses meeting follow up, he says, one “could adapt this framework for following up with people you meet” at networking events, but I gather he was primarily referring to one-on-one meetings whether in-person or by phone.

His suggestions and some of my thoughts include:

  • Take notes during your discussion. Obviously, that will be helpful in remembering the conversation and following up with the person. It also shows real interest in what the person is saying;
  • Follow up by email (and a handwritten note, I suggest).  I like his idea about make the email brief and easily readable on a smart phone. Yes, do both email and a note, start the latter with “Again, I want to take the opportunity to thank you……etc.”  Such notes have a real impact IMHO.
  • Include actions for each follow-up.  Not only should the email be brief and to the point, but it should include numbered action items and/or comments on points of interest discussed;
  • Save something for later. Hold back something to follow up with at a later time to keep the conversation going, and have a reason for contacting the person again, particularly if they did not respond.  The first time might have been bad timing on the recipients end, and they could have just overlooked your email among the myriad of emails we all receive; and
  • Schedule a three-week check-in. For some of the reasons above, follow up again.  As I tell the lawyers I coach, NEVER leave action items in the other person’s court.  Always, follow up.

Beser provides two examples of follow up emails, and they are well worth a read on how to follow up on meetings. And don’t forget to thank the other person for their time, sage advice, comments, or whatever.

 

P.S. Thanks to Dee Schiavelli for the heads up on this article via LinkedIn.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&item=5897040994641133568&type=member&gid=1738237&trk=eml-b2_anet_digest_weekly-group_discussions-5-grouppost-disc-0&midToken=AQHOtRqZtBCd8w&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=2t0Mcqu2ttDSk1

I consider myself a fair writer. So, when I was asked to evaluate and write about an editing software I was skeptical.  [Those who have been with me for the past 8-plus years know that, as a general rule, I do not endorse products or services by writing about them on this blog, although I am often asked to do so.]  After receiving a free one-year subscription (with no commitment to comment on it), I tried it out.

Since good content – whether on a web site, newsletter, in a proposal or elsewhere – is very important in marketing your law firm, it is equally important that the content be well-written or you will rapidly lose your readers.

So, I gave WordRake 2 a test on two of my earlier posts, segments of which show the results below:

There’s the story about the annoying client who called all the time, so the lawyer didn’t call her back.  After a number of several attempts to reach her lawyer, she gave up and called another firm about her cousin who had just been run over by a Coca Cola truck that ran a red light.

Oops.

Another story was related by a lawyer I heard speak at a conference. He said he never goes to sleep at night without returning every call from that day.  Even at 9:00 p.m.  He said he usually doesn’t have rarely has the client’s file at home, but he extends the courtesy of telling the client what time in the next day or two in which he would get back to the client with more information.  He said his clients loved it, and I believed him.

True story: my doctor returned from vacation and called me at six p.m. on a Saturday night to give me the favorable results of blood work done in his absence.  NOW that was amazing!!!   Of course, my My blood pressure went through the roof due to his unexpected call, but you can be assured that I became a hell of a referral source for his budding practice. (Excerpted from my April 30, 2014 post entitled “Return Phone Calls, NOW!”)

And,

When flat or fixed fees started to be was bantered about in the last few years, partners in several of my firms said: “Won’t work for litigation, since it is too unpredictable.”  Well, welcome to the new world.

….

What is the point? you may ask.  The point is that offering Offering fixed fees is smart marketing. Firms that do will have an advantage over law firms that don’t.  Those that won’t offer fixed fees may just be sending may just send a message to potential clients that includes: (1) we may not have enough experience in the practice area to predict how a case is likely to proceed, (2) don’t have a history of similar cases have no history of similar cases so we don’t know how much it will cost, and (3) are not willing to share in the risk.

So, law firms that are prepared to offer alternative fees, including fixed fees, have a jump on the competition IMHO. (Excerpted from my April 24, 2014 post entitled “Litigators: Prepare for Fixed Fees”)

On careful reading, you may note it isn’t perfect; and I did not accept all of the suggested changes (rightly or wrongly), due to my personal writing style.  But, I agreed with several changes, and overall consider the software a worthwhile tool.

The software costs $129 per year (other pricing options are available), which I mentioned to their rep may be a bit steep for solos and small firms.  The rep said she would pass that along.  I get no cut from any sales. A 30-day free trial is available, and suggest you give it a go.  It just might improve your marketing message.

There is an interesting discussion going on over on LinkedIn’s CMO Forum initiated by Heather Suttie about investing in yourself instead of legal directories.  One paragraph that caught my eye:

“Last October—repeating themselves for the sixth year in a row—a panel of General Counsel at a Toronto Legal Marketing Association event said directories are not used to make decisions about whom to approach or hire, and that some of the best lawyers are not found in directories.”

I was prepared to concur after reading Suttie’s post, since I believe most people, especially corporate counsel mostly hire outside law firms through referrals and online sources.

Two years ago, I wrote a post on this blog about not wasting your firm’s money on yellow pages. Sure some people still have no computer and may use them to find a lawyer; but I hold that as a general rule they’re expensive and a waste.  I still believe so.

Were I to argue that legal directories are a waste of money too, I’d be wrong apparently.  After Bob Weiss disagreed with Suttie’s premise, I did some research myself.  A simple search on Google uncovered a summary of a 2011 survey by The BTI Consulting Group, commissioned by LexisNexis, about the Role of Legal Directories and Online Lawyer Profiles.  Since a BTI survey is a more credible indicator than a panel of in-house counsel at an LMA conference or two, I quickly scolded myself on my initial, instinctive reaction (Well, I didn’t scold toooooo much).

So, what did the survey show?  That Martindale-Hubbell and LinkedIn have an important role to play in the hiring of outside counsel, specifically:

  • “77.1% of in-house counsel and staff use a legal directory or online lawyer profile to validate the credentials of a referral
  • “Absence from a legal directory hinders up to 51.4% of clients from hiring a law firm…
  • “LinkedIn and Martindale-Hubbell are the most frequently used resources overall, for any reason…”

I still believe that yellow pages are a waste of money.  Legal Directories?…not so much.

If you get work from other lawyers, you need to market L2L just like you would B2B or in any other manner.  I work with lawyers whose source of business – whether litigation, appellate practice, PI, or other niche practices –depends in part on referrals from other lawyers.  It is often their life blood for legal work.

If other lawyers are a meaningful source of legal work for your practice, you need to focus your business development activities with them in mind, as you would with any other of your prospects.  Sally Schmidt’s recent post on Attorney at Work provides helpful tips on marketing lawyer-to-lawyer:

  • Identify your lawyer-targets.  Quite simply, they are the lawyers who don’t do what you do.  They could even be lawyers in your firm (yes, look at marketing your service to your partners), or toward other firms that don’t provide your legal services;
  • Educate them about your practice. Let other lawyers know that their clients might be at risk, and how you might help them.  Find ways to not only educate the other lawyers, who could refer work, about your practice; but offer ways to educate their clients as well;
  • Network with lawyers. Just like clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust, lawyers who would refer their clients to you are no different. So, build relationships with other lawyers by networking where they hang out – at bar meetings (specifically committees/sections not full of competitors), and entertain at lunch or in other settings; and
  • Add value to their practice and clients.  This tip runs with educating your audience:
    • Look for opportunities to write for their blog, journal, newsletter or other venues;
    • Pull together a brief but informative piece about your practice for others to give to their clients; and
    • Offer to consult with their clients at no charge.

Remember, risks are involved for lawyers to refer you to their clients.   It is vital that you build solid relationships so they will know, like and trust that you will take VERY good care of THEIR clients.

Why not? Rainmakers never stop networking. Yeah, I know, its family time, and they should be your priority. No question about it.

However, vacation time doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t take advantage of networking opportunities that present themselves – on an airplane, at the beach, or yes, standing in line at a restaurant.

And, if such opportunities occur, it would be silly not to take advantage .  Merrilyn Astin Tarlton has 40 networking tips she posted on Attorney at Work this month I commend to your summer reading list.

A few of her tips I particularly like include:

  • Develop an effective elevator (or standing-in-line) speech or two, depending on your different target audiences (P.S. don’t start with “I’m a lawyer”;
  • Listen twice as much as you talk (remember the old saying that that is why we have two ears and only one mouth);
  • Ask smart, open-ended questions so you can learn more about the other person. Don’t waste time talking about yourself (you already know everything there is to know there);
  • Be selective about what networking events you attend (i.e., go where your preferred clients and prospects hang out); and
  • Smile and show genuine interest.

There’s more good stuff in Tarlton’s post, so do take a look. Networking needs to become a habit anywhere you are.

Okay, maybe now is not possible or realistic.  But, ASAP should be your mantra. Especially for clients, but really everyone.  Yes, that means even those you do not want to speak with.

Monday’s meditation from 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals, by Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications, has a simple mandate:

“Return all calls (the) same day, period.  Exceptions are as follows: None.”

 There’s the story about the annoying client who called all the time, so the lawyer didn’t call her back.  After a number of attempts to reach her lawyer, she gave up and called another firm about her cousin who had just been run over by a Coca Cola truck that ran a red light.

Oops.

Another story was related by a lawyer I heard speak at a conference. He said he never goes to sleep at night without returning every call from that day.  Even at 9:00 p.m.  He said he usually doesn’t have the client’s file at home, but he extends the courtesy of telling the client what time in the next day or two in which he would get back to the client with more information.  He said his clients loved it, and I believed him.

True story: my doctor returned from vacation and called me at six p.m. on a Saturday night to give me the favorable results of blood work done in his absence.  NOW that was amazing!!!  Of course, my blood pressure went through the roof due to his unexpected call, but you can be assured that I became a hell of a referral source for his budding practice.

If you really cannot return a call or email promptly, empower someone to do so on your behalf. They can let the person know when you will connect. If you want to grow your practice, always follow this simple, common sense tactic. Return calls ASAP!

When flat or fixed fees started to be bantered about in the last few years, partners in several of my firms said: “Won’t work for litigation, since it is too unpredictable.”  Well, welcome to the new world.

A recent article by Catherine Ho that appeared on The Washington Post’s “Capital Business” raised the question about the death of the billable hour. She pointed out that five years ago only 28% of law firms “believed that non-hourly billing would be a permanent change in the legal industry.”  That is according to the Altman Weil’s “2013 Law Firms in Transition” flash survey. In 2013, that percentage had grown to 80%.  Amazing, even though there are those (yours truly being one of many) who believed that it was a definite trend just waiting to be fully realized.

Ho also pointed out how some large firms – Holland & Knight and McDermott Will & Emery – “have even ditched the billable hour model altogether for entire teams of people.”

What is the point? you may ask.  The point is that offering fixed fees is smart marketing. Firms that do will have an advantage over law firms that don’t.  Those that won’t offer fixed fees may just be sending a message to potential clients that includes: (1) we may not have enough experience in the practice area to predict how a case is likely to proceed, (2) don’t have a history of similar cases so we don’t know how much it will cost, and (3) are not willing to share in the risk.

So, law firms that are prepared to offer alternative fees, including fixed fees, have a jump on the competition IMHO.

I’m serious! The world has changed. In my 27 years as a legal marketer and in-house in several firms, I have never seen the situation more serious in terms of lawyers being de-equitized or flat-out fired for not bringing in business.  Back in the nineties I was with law firms that quietly – very quietly – would advise partners to leave because they were not pulling their weight in terms of bringing in work.

That was the inspiration behind a post I did in the first month of this blog in January 2005.  My post “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired” discussed a messy firing of a partner at then named Sidley Austin Brown & Wood.  As I pointed out then, I had not seen a rainmaker who developed significant business for themselves or other lawyers in a firm ever be let go.

And it is no different today. But, more and more lawyers will be let go in today’s tough, competitive legal world.  The reason is simple.  Clients are more demanding and less willing to pay whatever a firm wants to charge.  Accordingly, there is and will continue to be much smaller pies to share, and too many partners do not want to “sell” or don’t know how. In the the “good ole days” most lawyers didn’t have to market, because their plates were usually pretty full, especially in BigLaw firms.  So, not to worry.  Things will be fine.

With the definite move to outsourcing specific work to smaller or foreign firms, and to the use of high quality, mid-size regional firms, it is only going to get worse for the non-producers in any size firm.  It is time partners woke up to the need to develop business NOW!

Further, if your firm has a marketing department, don’t fool yourself into thinking that they will (or should) solve the problem.  Developing business (selling) is primarily up to the individual lawyer.  The marketing/business development staff is there to assist, guide and otherwise support the lawyers’ efforts.

Fellow legal marketing coach, Mike O’Horo had an interesting article last week about how lawyers avoid selling in favor of the latest marketing fad, which, of course, they hope means they won’t have to personally sell.

Well, folks.  That ain’t going to cut it.  More and more partners will get fired, if they do not get involved in serious business development efforts directly.  Planning to do it won’t work alone.  If you haven’t been developing business all along, you will need a coach to help you IMHO.  He/she could be an internal coach (if you are lucky enough to have one in-house) or an external one that you feel comfortable working with.  Because chances are you won’t pull it off by yourself.

Bottom line: time to start developing business or looking for a new job.

I’m not much of a fisherman but I do understand some of the basics around those who take this sport seriously. They know that you must have the right equipment, learn as much as possible as to where the fish are hanging out, and be patient.

There is a very entertaining article by Sue Bramall that appears in the UK’s The Law Society Gazette. Bramall relates good fly fishing techniques to effective business development.

Her tips include:

  • Not the right time.  Basically, this refers to clients that do not have a need for your services.  Timing just isn’t right, and thus is similar to a fisherman trying to catch fish when they’re not feeding;
  • Nor the right place. Obviously if the fish are not where you are fishing, you will not be very successful. Nor would you be effective in marketing, if your clients don’t hang out where you spend your business development dollars and efforts;
  • The right lure. Fisherman use different lures for different fish.  Clients too respond to different marketing activities.  A shotgun approach is more likely to work for plaintiffs’ attorneys, where a more focused rifle shot would not.  Know your marketplace;
  • Planning ahead.  By paying attention to activities by location, season, etc., you can better estimate where the fish will be and possibly in a feeding frenzy.  So too when it comes to specific legislative activity, or high profile cases, or changes in public policy.  Anticipating and preparing in advance can put you in a better position to provide the needed advice when things start happening;
  • Fly on the water. Like having the right fly on the water to snare fish, it is important for lawyers to have the right marketing tools ready and to USE them.  Doesn’t help to know what needs to be done, but continue to sit behind your desk when you should be out and about;
  • Respond to opportunities quickly.  Fishermen know that when there is a tug on the line, they need to react quickly.  No different when your firm receives an inquiry about its services;
  • Be patient. Patience is synonymous with fishing, which was not one of my assets in my youth.  A pal and I after a night of “partying” would often go fishing at the Cape Cod Canal after midnight.  We would give it 15 minutes and if we didn’t get a bite, we’d pack it in.  If you make a presentation at a conference, and then you don’t get immediate work out of it, do you no longer seek speaking opportunities?    Patience is truly a virtue we can learn from fisherman;
  • Don’t give up. Developing business is part of the profession.  More today than ever.  If something doesn’t work (and you’ve given it the old college try), then try something else.  Try to enjoy the moment.

Like good fisherman and rainmakers, both of whom love the sport of it, keep at it.

P.S. Thanks to my LegalBizDev colleague, Gary Richards, for putting me on to Bramall’s article.

Lawyers know about networking, but most, except the real Rainmakers, don’t like it. It isn’t exactly like having a root canal to them, but they would rather be practicing law.  Nonetheless, the majority do recognize the need for it.

Roy Ginsburg has a post on Attorney at Work that talks about how networking is a numbers game and compares the undertaking to baseball.  His analogy to baseball is of course timely, as my beloved Red Sox just won the World Series (yes, I’m a real fan, who suffered all those many years growing up in the area).

Although Ginsburg is primarily focusing on networking for prospects, I prefer to concentrate on clients and referral sources, since they are the reason for 80-90% of legal work for lawyers (although the purpose is prospecting as well).  I like his four points:

  • Keep swinging.  Even with clients and referral sources, getting them to agree to a lunch or coffee sometimes is not easy, as they are busy people too.  I tell lawyers I coach to not give up easily.  Don’t take it personally, when they don’t immediately return your call or email about taking time out of their day.  Marketing is also a game of percentages;
  • Don’t get bogged down or in a slump. Eventually, you need to refocus your efforts, but not without giving it a major league effort (sorry, couldn’t resist).  I encourage the development of a quarterly contact list, and then reaching out in some manner (quick email, telephone call, and yes, even lunch) to each person on the list at least quarterly;
  • Network trade groups. Get actively involved in trade groups where your ideal clients hang out. That can be a certain bar association committee, if those lawyers are an important source of your referrals.  Like in baseball, it’s a game of contact….contact and more contact; and
  • Hang in there and be persistent.  No one said it would be easy.  From high school ball to the major leagues is not a walk in the park (I know, I need to stop this, but the analogy is valid).  It is hard work and takes time to become a legal major league player (rainmaker).

Hell, it took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to win another World Series.  And their hard work has paid off again!  Yours will too.