Okay, okay.  I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t marketing by definition proactive? Well, I’m thinking about a slightly different twist. It involves anticipating future problems that a client may encounter and discussing them with them in advance before they ask somebody else.

A couple of days ago The BTI Consulting Group published the results of a survey pointing out how the time is right for cross-selling. The survey involved interviews with 330 “independent, individual interviews with CLO’s and general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations,” and 200 law firm leaders.  According to BTI, the top 3 reasons the interviewee’s have insomnia are actually cross-selling opportunities for law firms.

While they may have been too polite to say so, I am not. The reasons given – IMHO – relate to the absolutely, chaotic, political world we find ourselves in currently. Although the survey was completed two months prior to our national election last fall, the results are no less valid today. They are:

  1. The Potential Breakdown of the Regulatory World. Whatever changes are likely (additions or deletions) will have a profound impact on clients.  And heavens know the threat of change is greater than ever.  Starting discussions with clients in whatever could impact their business or industry in the regulatory arena will be marketing time well spent;
  2. Cybersecurity. This “was not even on the list of concerns prior to 2014.” By staying current on federal and state legislative and regulatory changes which impact security requirements will put you ahead of the pact;
  3. Managing Risk. Assessing the unknown is the most difficult task, whether for a firm or a client. Pulling together a risk management database to use “for each specific client by practice, industry, and type of company” will come in handy when discussing potential risks with specific clients.

It is suggested that partners start a dialogue with clients about possible changes, even if you don’t have all the answers.  I am not sure I agree that there a limited window for cross-selling, but there is no reason to delay. By raising the possibilities early on, the more likely clients will turn to you in time of need.

As mentioned last time, one in-house counsel on the InHouseBlog posted his ten commandments applicable to outside firms when providing legal services to his company. And I suggested that his rules could come just as well from individual clients or entities without an attorney on staff. In the interest of brevity, I only covered five in my last post.

Here are the other five plus:

  1. No surprises… about anything.  This is one of, if not the most critical, edict. No one likes (unpleasant) surprises.  You don’t, I don’t, and I can assure you clients don’t. I have commented on this topic before;
  2. Remain calm and focused. Even if the client does not. You must remain professional, whether the client contacts are “freaking out.”  Critical that you keep a “cool, clinical level-head” so the situation stays under control;
  3. Focus long term.Keep in mind that if you do a good job at a reasonable cost to the client, and otherwise add value to the relationship, it is in your long term interests in obtaining more work.  So, avoid charging for every little phone call, offer free advice, CLE, etc.;
  4. Observe all my rules.Do not contact client executives except through counsel, and bill as requested, as well as respect all other guidelines spelled out; and
  5. Be ethical (DUH).This goes without saying, but he also points out that outside counsel should avoid upstaging the other side, or take unreasonable negotiating positions to score points.  Rather, use good, sound and practical approaches.

His eleventh “commandment” is an admonition to “be pleasant and be yourself.”  Remember, clients hire lawyers they know, like and trust… and follow in-house counsel’s commandments.  Otherwise, your marketing efforts may be for naught.

Not every client is a company or entity that has in-house counsel. Smaller companies often do not have a lawyer on staff. So, when I visited InHouseBlog and read a post about one in-house counsel’s “Ten Commandments“, I thought that those directives could be applicable to all clients, including individuals.

Here are the first 5 of the ten Commandments, and you judge which would also apply to an individual client or a company without in-house counsel:

  1. Understand their business and goals. Nine years ago I wrote a post about how important it was for lawyers to know the client’s business. In fact, it has been shown to be a client pet peeve according to surveys.  The same can be said for knowing all you can about an individual’s goals relating to why they retained your services in the first place;
  2. Communicate succinctly. “Think PowerPoint, not Word. Use pictures.” In other words don’t burden clients with too much information, but rather a summary that can be easily understood by them and, in the case of in-house counsel, senior management;
  3. Don’t waffle. Or give them choices in order for you to avoid making a decision based on your expertise. After all that is why clients hire you.  There are times to provide clients with alternatives, but not for CYA reasons;
  4. Be practical. That doesn’t mean that your decision can not be challenged by the client, and altered. The point is to work with the client to reach a practical solution; and
  5. Be honest and forthright. “Tell me what I need to hear, not what you think I want to hear.” If what I say I want is, in in your judgment a bad idea, tell me … diplomatically, of course.

Violating the in-house “commandments”, may not condemn your immortal soul for eternity, but it can sure hurt your marketing efforts in obtaining more work from a client here on earth.


Next Time:  the next five

It isn’t too late to send a Thanksgiving Day card, at least to key clients.  Why?  As I have commented before, it has several benefits:

  • Avoids religious connotations for those sensitive about such things;
  • You beat the holiday crowd;
  • Don’t get lost in said crowd; and
  • Most importantly, you can, in a truly meaningful way, thank your clients and referral sources for their business and loyalty.

Simple, huh!  The cards can be the everyday drug store variety.  They REALLY don’t have to be pre-ordered with the firm’s name on them.  Actually, they’ll come across as more personal, if they don’t.  Just include your business card.

I have been advocating T-Day cards since 2005 and had clients buy into the idea.  Here a few earlier posts on the topic (unfortunately some links are broken):

Be Especially Thankful to Those Who Help Your Business

Since this is officially “Thankful” week in the United States, let’s not forget all those great clients and contacts who help sustain our law firms and businesses. I got to thinking about how people forget to thank others based on a personal experience last week. It happened early one day when I was contacted by…Continue Reading

Business Development for Solos (and Everyone Else)

Been meaning to comment on some marketing advice I saw on Law Practice Today back in August.  The article entitled “A Business Development Checklist for Young Lawyers” by Kelly O’Malley at Fox Rothschild struck me for two reasons:  her checklist should get the attention of more than young lawyers, and, at least in part, should…Continue Reading

Drats! Time to Think About Holiday Cards – Or Not

One of the most dreaded tasks that lawyers and law firms encounter each year is the annual holiday card marathon. The only exception I can think of that might be more painful is the yearly collection fiasco that goes on in the last month of a firm’s fiscal year.  At least there is obvious value…Continue Reading

BTW Happy Thanksgiving!!



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.

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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
  3. 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.

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.

Some results:

  • 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.