It amazes me that so many law firm websites say the same thing. Like we “are client focused”, “care about our clients”, “efficient”, “responsive”, “client’s interest comes first”, etc., etc.  Your firm may actually do and emphasize all these attributes. Problem is, how will prospects know that before hiring you.

One way is to truly differentiate your firm from others when pitching a prospect or client for work. Sally Schmidt in a post this week on Attorney at Work has suggestions on how to do that; including:

Offer more than promises:

  • If you claim a team approach, include a group picture and bios;
  • Demonstrate your experience on a matter by laying out the strategy and process (consider a Gantt chart or spreadsheet);
  • Provide an organizational chart with each person’s role and contact information; and
  • If you offer an alternative fee arrangement, indicate how you arrived at the figure to show it didn’t come out of thin air.

Give a service guarantee:

  • Lawyers cannot ethically guarantee the outcome of a matter, so provide a service guarantee.  It might include returning calls and emails within a specified period of time (as I have preached in the past, empowered other lawyers or staff to respond to inquiries, if for no other purpose than to let the client know when you will get back to them); when and how you will provide status reports (ask the client for their preferences); and communications in general; and
  • Offer to visit the client (off the clock) to better understand their business issues (a big client complaint about outside law firms), plans and how the issue relates to the business.

Back up your claims:

  • If you claim a particular expertise, back up the claims with the types and number of matters handled.
  • List representative matters handled, without naming clients without their permission even if it is a matter of public record; and
  • Provide a list of references happy with your services.

Your behavior matters, not your words:

  • If you say you are accessible, mean it by giving out your direct dial and cell numbers;
  • Send a welcome letter that sets forth how the process will proceed, who will handle their matter, and how to reach members of the team; and
  • Show how responsive you are likely to be by getting the proposal to them ahead of the deadline.

If you want to show that your firm is really different from the competition, prove it from your very first contact.

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.

Some lawyers still are hesitant to give a lot of information away. Whether when asked a legal question or during seminars.  What brought this on was an experience I had with my computer.  Stay with me here.

My computer died last weekend.  Problems began with a blank screen and when I tried to reboot, nothing happened.  The “experts” at a computer supply store couldn’t figure it out, but did refer me to a local one-man shop.  He told me in about 15 minutes after some Internet research, and taking the back off the laptop, that it was the motherboard in combination with the graphics card.  With this particular computer model, he said he gave up trying to fix the problem, because he had learned from previous experience (and unhappy customers), the problem was likely to return in six to eight months.  He referred me to someone else. I decided to buy a new computer.

In all he spent about 40-45 minutes with me, and didn’t charge me!!  I said “aw, come on, certainly I owe you for your time,” but he refused.  He suggested I purchase a Gateway (didn’t know they still made them), Toshiba or Dell, since I was insisting on sticking with Windows 7.  Now, do you think I will refer others to him, if I get a chance? Of course!!

Bottom line:  received my new Dell Wednesday, and even though I had a recent backup of my hard drive, who do you think I went to transfer my old hard drive to the Dell? Duh! And I didn’t even ask him what he charges to do that. It’s call trust.

Which brings me to today’s meditation from my old standby 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals  by Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick Strategic Communications.  It is: “The best client giveaway is information. They’ll value it enough to pay for more.”  Amen.