Posts tagged: Marketing

Coaching for PA Lawyers to Improve Marketing and Other Skills

My first major step onto the coaching soapbox came in the form of an article entitled “Coaching to Improve Skills,”  which appeared in the December 3, 2007 issue of The Pennsylvania Bar News.  I wrote it because I was sick and tired of hearing attorneys say that if an attorney did not instinctively know how to market, they would never learn.  It’s just wrong.

Most attorneys are not instinctively good at marketing.  However, marketing is very much a learned skill.  Any attorney is capable of learning how to become an effective rainmaker, or at least a strong contributor to a firm’s efforts.

The fact is that Baby Boomer attorneys grew up in a rapidly expanding marketplace.   Individuals and companies were happy to find an attorney who did decent work, and had a nice “bedside” manner.  That’s about all that was required to grow one’s practice through word of mouth.  There was plenty of room for new attorneys to try one methodology or another, and make mistakes along the way to honing one’s skills in asking for legal work, and referrals to new clients.  Those who chose not to do so were able to make partner by serving the needs of other partners’ clients.  Those “worker bees” chose not to develop skills outside their comfort level, because they didn’t need to do so in order to succeed.  That doesn’t mean that they weren’t capable of doing so.  Maybe they would have needed some assistance to get there, but if motivated, they could have.

When the marketplace leveled off, development of marketing skills started to become a determinant of who would make partner, and who would not.  Firms would invest enormous resources in helping attorneys develop professional skills.  But when the same attorneys did not “naturally” develop marketing skills by a certain point in their career, they were cut loose, on the assumption that they were a lost cause.  Such a shame.  Many who were cast aside went on to develop the skills out of necessity, in order to survive on their own.  Some did better than others, but most managed to survive in the profession.

Now that we’re in a highly-competitive, contracting marketplace, there is even less room for experimentation and trial and error in client development.  Smart firms are realizing that training in this area is as necessary as any other area.  And let’s keep in mind that real learning by lawyers is acquired by “doing” and not by “studying” about it.  That means one must know what to do, how to do it, and then practice and perfect the skills.

For many attorneys, coaching can provide the difference between success and failure.  And that doesn’t apply just to development of rainmaking skills.  Coaches work directly with attorneys to help them create a personal action plan.  They help attorneys identify what is holding them back, and develop strategies to overcome the roadblocks.

I have searched for coaches I can recommend for many years.  Most that I have met over the years do not meet my expectations.  It’s not about the credentials; it’s about the person and their methodology.  I have a few I can recommend to PA Bar Members.  Some focus just in marketing.  Others in more general areas contributing to success.  However, I was recently so impressed by one in particular, I will mention her here.

We became acquainted through LinkedIn.  After some e-conversation, we met in person.  Obviously I was impressed.  So let me recommend you take a look at the credentials of Dena Lefkowitz.  If you decide to call, tell her Ellen sent you.  I don’t get any referral,  just satisfaction knowing attorneys are getting the additional skill training they need to be successful.

 

Custom Apps Created by Law Firms – Brilliant Marketing

A terrific next step in education-based marketing strategy is the law firm mobile device app, designed to address a specific client need.  Law Technology News recently reported on  apps designed by Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers, to inform users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws.

The Latham & Watkins iPhone and iPad app, which is called the AB&C  Laws Application, was launched on  July 18th.  It is free from Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. The app serves as a reference tool informing users about anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws  in major jurisdictions around the world. In November, 2012,  O’Melveny & Myers released a similar app with a more narrow scope, which focuses exclusively on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA).  The app can be downloaded free from  Apple Inc.’s iTunes app store. (search: “OMM FCPA”), and is designed for use on the iPhone® and iPad® devices. According to a firm spokesperson, the app has been downloaded 550 times since it  was launched.

More firms are jumping on board to develop apps.  Fox Rothschild launched its New Jersey Divorce app in June 2013, after taking six months to build it.

I completely agree with legal marketing guru Micah Buchdahl, owner of marketing company HTMLawyers, who is quoted saying, “there are more law firm apps on the market than people may realize. But that  doesn’t mean they are all effective. . . . The reality is that most of these apps that the law firms have developed have  very small usage and really it’s just about saying that you have one . . . If a firm does create an app, the best bet is to be practice-area specific . . . the apps have come down in price and can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to  create, depending on the app’s sophistication.”

I didn’t say this was a cheap strategy.  I said it was a smart one.

Most firms don’t have the internal resources to develop an app.  Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny & Myers had the talent on staff.  I’m not sure whether Fox Rothschild did their own design work on the app, but suspect they did.  When West Virginia-based Spilman Thomas & Battle, which has an office in  Pittsburgh, decided to develop a human-resources-focused app, they turned to  Pittsburgh-based Quest Fore for assistance.  They launched their app, SuperVision in early July, 2013.

There is no doubt that we’re just scratching the surface of the development of law firm apps which are actually useful to clients, rather than being a glorified advertisement for the firm.  Right now this is a strategy which requires a significant investment of time and dollars.  Given increased demand by law firms,  I anticipate that tools will be developed which will make app development an affordable strategy for smaller firms.

 

Big Time Competition Just Arrived

The legal marketplace has become extremely competitive.  You know that.  But it just became a lot worse, and you may not yet be aware of the new threat.

A 700 lawyer private law firm in China — Zhong Lun Law Firm — has opened an office in New York.  The firm announced in a press release that the purpose of the office is to help American clients investing or doing business in China, and also to help Chinese clients conduct business and make investments in America.

Two attorneys with degrees from top American law schools — Philip Zhang and T.K. Chang — will head the firm’s NYC office. They will be supported by  over 40 partners in the firm’s worldwide offices who have American law degrees.  Thanks to varying time zones, they will be able to support clients 24 hours a day.

So many of you are reading this and thinking that this is not a threat to your firm, but rather to the huge firms which handle international law.  True enough.  But contemplate for a minute what happens when this foreign law firm starts trolling the waters and catching clients formerly netted by these large firms.  Those firms will in turn need to find a new fishing spot.  Maybe your fishing spot.  And it will take a whole lot more fish of the size you catch to replace the ones they will be losing.

Where will you fish next?

Upcoming Seminar Presentations

I have quite a few CLE seminar presentations scheduled for May & June.  If you’re going to be in the area, you might want to register for the CLE credits.  I promise you will be both educated and entertained :-) !

Allegheny County Bar Association Institute for Gender Equality
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Client Service and Marketing for Women Attorneys Within Ethical Boundaries
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. (registration 8:00 a.m.)
Register online at www.ACBA.org

Beaver County Bar Association
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Technology Tools to Level the Playing Field for Solo & Small Firm Attorneys
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. followed by a reception
Contact the Bar Association for additional details.

Erie County Bar Association
Friday, May 17, 2013
Social Media:  Part of Today’s Client Development and Retention Toolkit
8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
The Art & Science of Setting and Raising Rates
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Survival 101:  Emergency Planning for Your Law Practice
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Register here.

I am also pleased to be returning to Maryland this year to present at the Maryland State Bar Association Annual Meeting on Friday, June 14, 2013.  The event is being held at the fabulous Clarion Resort Fountainbleau Hotel in Ocean City, MD.   What a great location for June.

Get a Grip! Effectively and Efficiently Administering Your Practice While Making the Most of Your Time
8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
50 Finance Tips in 60 Minutes
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

If we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face, please be sure to stop by after the presentation to introduce yourself!

 

 

 

Law Firm Layoffs Continue — Quietly — to the Detriment of Service Partners

At a recent presentation to students at a local law school, I emphasized that law firms are still downsizing, in order to deal with continuing underutilization.  The layoffs are not as spectacular as they were in the past few years, and therefore rarely make headlines like this recent one anymore.  But they continue nonetheless.

I was making this point in order to emphasize the perils of becoming a service partner.  In “olden days” this was often called a “worker bee” partner.  In the Finders, Minders, Grinders scenario, this would be a Minder as a partner, or perhaps Grinder as a partner or associate.  In short, if you are not familiar with these terms, we are referring to an attorney whose career involves servicing clients of some other partner(s).

How does one become a service partner?  Early in one’s career, one is convinced by one or more partners with heavy books of business, that they do not have to do any rainmaking on their own in order to do well, and even to become a partner; just service the partner(s) clients and that will be sufficient.

Many a capable attorney has been drawn by the siren’s call of no marketing necessity, and the ability to do nothing but practice law to their greatest capacity.  Many have made the ranks of partner, although for the majority who worked at firms with non-equity partners, that is the level of partner they achieved.  Still, even without a share of profits, and perhaps no say in management, having the title and a nice compensation package was more than adequate when coupled with the ability to ignore rainmaking responsibilities.

Here’s the problem.  It’s a lie.  Maybe a good-intentioned lie, but a self-serving lie nonetheless.  Because when a lawyer depends on someone else to fill his or her plate with work, in all likelihood that lawyer will eventually have an empty plate, and no justification for continued employment.  In some small percentage of such cases, the service partner may eventually “inherit” the desirable clients when the rainmaking attorney dies or retires.  But that assumes that the rainmaking attorney makes it a point to actively work on succession such that the relationships that matter are passed on to the service partner.  In my experience, that’s not going to happen often.  So eventually, at the point in one’s career when the attorney expects to start working less hard, he or she becomes a liability due to a lack of work, and has to start all over again somewhere else, or as a solo with no business and lots of experience.

Some firms have called me in to deliver the bad news, because no one within the firm had the ability to look the 70+ year old attorney in the face and tell him/her that the firm could no longer economically justify their existence at the firm.  The feelings of betrayal are incalculable.  The attorney feels that the “deal” with the firm required them to continue to fill his/her plate.  Why aren’t other partners, younger partners, feeding them work to make up for the partner who retired or died?  Simple:  they are going to push the work downward, so as to maximize their profit, as well as their control.  They are not comfortable pushing the work up.  They can not critique performance comfortably, and many times, the older partner doesn’t treat their clients with the same significance as clients from the more senior partner(s) who used to feed them work.

Law firms today can’t afford to elevate attorneys to true equity partnership positions unless they are also rainmakers.  So don’t be drawn by the siren’s call of alleviation of rainmaking necessity, to rocky waters where your ship will eventually crash and sink.  Stay the course.  Even if it means asserting your rights to keep some time to work on your own meager clients, as you build your book of business.  Your very existence will some day depend on it.

Newsletters are Only Valuable When They Deliver Timely Information That’s Useful

We’re all tired of getting newsletters containing information which we’ve already gotten from several sources.  If it isn’t timely, don’t bother.  And usually it’s written in unintelligible legalese.  That makes it useless for most prospects and clients.  Unbelievably, most firms still don’t “get” who their audience really is.  They write in a style which only another attorney might understand.  And by the time the editing cycle is done — each attorney in line who reviews, makes stylistic changes to the wording of the person beforehand, requiring the document to loop back for another round — the news is stale by the time it arrives in the inbox.  Yawn.  Yet another viewpoint about a topic that was fleetingly important.  When will firms stop over editing? 

When a firm gets it “right” the difference is clear. A tip of the hat goes out to Conshohocken-PA based Heckscher, Teillon, Terrill & Sager for their timely January 2, 2013 “Death and Taxes” newsletter. Heckscher, Teillon, Terrill & Sager, founded in 1994, provides sophisticated estate and tax planning and fiduciary related services in a personalized setting for individuals, families and small businesses.  They know their stuff.  And their timely news is expertly written.  Plain english.  Understandable, and by that I mean crystal clear. 

My only criticism, and it’s minor, is that their newsletter mentions that all previous newsletters are available on their web site.  I’ve been all over their site, and can’t find them.  So I am hopeful that my link above will work, even though it was a customized link for me.

If you’ve been sending out a newsletter, or are thinking about it, look at this as an example of how to do it right!  Bravo and kudos to HTTS.  And thank you for enabling me to understand the estate implications of the new tax law.  And for getting this information into my hands so quickly.

A Nice “Soft Touch” for Clients and Prospects

It takes a whole lot of “touches” to turn a stranger into a prospect, and a prospect into a client.  And a whole lot more to hold onto precious clients.  Soft touches work well this time of year.  People are in the holiday spirit.  They are feeling sentimental.  So anything which touches the sweet spot of sentimentality gives an extra charge.  I find that the good old-fashioned holiday letter is especially appreciated.

First, let’s start by defining what a “touch” is.  The following are examples of touches.  The prospect / referral source / client:

  1. Attends a seminar you present
  2. Reads an article you wrote
  3. Is given your name by a trusted colleague or service provider
  4. Meets you at a social event
  5. Meets you at a charitable event
  6. Meets you at a political event
  7. Meets you at a  sports event
  8. Meets you at an industry conference
  9. Is introduced to you through a connection on social media
  10. Sees your seminar or reads something you wrote on social media
  11. Finds your web site in response to a search
  12. Sits on a Board with you
  13. Serves on a committee or event you chair, or vice versa
  14. Hears your name mentioned when a topic comes up
  15. Is personally introduced to you by someone you both know
  16. Receives a personal communication from you, such as an article which might be of interest with a personal note, or a holiday letter

It can take anywhere from 10 – 17 quality touches to turn a stranger into a prospect, and subsequently into a client.  And then retention strategies must be employed, in addition to doing a “good job” for the client.  Otherwise, your experience may be “one and done” instead of a long-term client who refers others as well. 

As I mentioned earlier, this time of year lends itself to holiday letters to “clients and friends.”  Many of you are thinking that your holiday card is enough.  Yes, a holiday card is nice.  It is more nice when it’s hand signed.  And it’s effective if it arrives early in December, rather than after the holiday.  Yes, I get tons of holiday cards from attorneys which don’t arrive until after the holiday.  Not only do they go right into the trash, but they leave an impression of the law firm as disorganized.  Not the message you want to spend your hard-earned money creating.  However, a card just isn’t the same personal touch as a letter.

I usually only receive two or three each year.  So they stand out.  This year I want to commend Montgomery County attorney David Feldheim for his letter.  Thank you, David, for including me on your mailing list.  While David’s letter acknowledged the reality of a difficult year with many challenges, it also expressed gratitude over professional and personal milestones achieved.  It was a perfect balance that left me feeling like I know David better than I knew him before the letter arrived.  I felt warmed by his upbeat outlook for the future, and appreciation for his sharing his best moments in 2012.  We all love good news this time of year!

Let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for your contribution to a wonderful year at Freedman Consulting, Inc.  I also experienced many challenges, professionally and personally.  But I have come through all in better condition than I was when the year started, and I have all of you to thank for that.  Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous new year!!

 

Law Firms on the Edge

Loans to law firms used to be a “no brainer” until some spectacular failures created losses in the millions.  Now, law firms are watched and analyzed carefully by banks.  An article entitled “Consultant Has ‘Somewhat Robust’ Watch List of Law Firms in Possible Danger” which was appeared in ABA Journal Law News Now, included a video of an interview of Dan DiPietro, chairman of the Law Firm Group at Citi Private Bank.  I was impressed with the interview, and the fact that Dan uses “real” indicators of whether a law firm is in trouble, rather than just focus on the P&L.  He knows that underbidding jobs, partner defections, and excess capacity are all surer advance indicators that a law firm is heading for the fiscal cliff’s edge.  He rightly recognizes that only later do these trends reflect in the bottom line.

His view is that transactional work is strong in a few industries, but otherwise is mostly still flat, causing financial hardship at large law firms.  And that trend will continue for the foreseeable future.  Although his focus seems to be exclusively with “BigLaw” I can confirm that this trend is affecting mid-size firms as well.  Especially because of increased competitive pressure from larger firms now focusing marketing attention on smaller clients than normal, in an attempt to increase utilization of professional staff. 

I convey these increasing competition principles to attorneys by using a fishing analogy.  Think of the BigLaw firms as the deep sea fishermen.  They’re after the big scores.  But when their favorite locales are overfished, they look for new spots.  Next thing you know, they invade the waters formerly favored exclusively by the mid-size firms. Smaller fish, but still reasonable size and quantity.  They make up for the size difference in fishing for greater volume.  So what do the smaller firms have to do, faced with better-equipped increased competition that outclasses their operations?  They come and fish off the local pier of small-firm.   Firms that never expected competition; firms that always felt that larger firms were not interested in their clients.  They are now facing increased and daunting competition. 

When you know that you are or will shortly face steep competition where there was little or none before, it’s time to bring on your A-game.  Excellent service — defined from the perspective of the client, not the law firm — will be the number one determining factor of who gets or keeps the client.   Cost management and innovative pricing strategies will be another.  The days of clients rewarding inefficiencies are over.  If you haven’t taken quality-control measures to leverage your firm with knowledge management and workflow innovations, you will be unable to remain competitive.

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