Thursday, December 10, 2015

Your Clients Don't Need You To Explain The Law

Your clients don't need you to explain the law to them. They need you to explain how the law affects their ability to do business. Anything else, writes Olga Mack, Head of Legal at ClearSlide, in The Art and Science of Being Useful to In-House Counsel,doesn't do much good:
Summarizing the news without any commentary is not helpful. By the time I see the alerts I’ve already read most popular newspapers and likely at least browsed the underlying decision. 
Writing about the legal implications of business and political issues is a great way to show clients and potential clients that you understand what they do, the challenges they face, the solutions they need. But you have to tell them what they need to hear. Read the post. And start helping your clients.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lawyers: Would Your Own Mother Read Your Content?

Is your writing so filled with jargon, so dry, so "cure-for-insomnia boring" that your own mother wouldn't read it? You wouldn't be alone if it were, writes John Byrne in Lawyers: Want Your Content Read? Follow These 7 Tips! Fortunately, you can get your mom sharing your content in no time if you take Byrne's advice. Like this:
Don’t bury your leads or write like you’re getting paid by the word. Get to your points quickly and try your hardest to keep things moving. Oh, and try as hard as humanly possible to leave out the legal jargon, esoteric legal principles and the Latin. Carpe cut it out!
Read the post. Start writing to be read. And while you're at it, would it kill you to send your mother a note?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Do You Know If Your Client Is Changing Lawyers?

It's true that a client can fire her lawyer for any number of reasons. But most of the time, writes Pam Woldow in How You’ll Know When Your Firm’s Been Fired. you won't see it coming. That's because she probably won't ever come out and say that you're going to lose her work:
The fired firm was just quietly going to be choked off, using a tactic the GC called “the long tail,” meaning don’t jerk ‘em around or humiliate ‘em, just gradually turn down the wick until the light goes out.
Read the post. Pay special attention to Woldow's five signals that the work is drying up. Ask yourself which of your clients might be sending them. Then convince them to stop.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Client Focus" Is In The Eye Of The ... Client

There's only one way to give your client she expects, writes Gina Rubel in How In House Counsel Defines Client Focus. You ask her:
The phrase “client focus” can take on many meanings for lawyers. [...] One thing is certain, it is important for every attorney to ask his or her client what their expectations are as they relate to providing client-focused service and then do everything it takes to meet those expectations.
Read the post for Rubel's take - and that of a handful of in-house lawyers - on what it really means to "focus on the client." Then start doing it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Do You Hear What Your Client Isn't Saying?

It's important to listen to everything your client tells you. But, writes Michael Rynowecer in 13 Unspoken Rules of Client Relationships, it's probably more important that you hear what she isn't saying. Because you need to follow the same unspoken rules that your clients have made "part of their core personality, behavior and decision making." Like these:
1. Clients always find a way to hire the people they want when they want to.
2. Clients don't fire their law firms, they just stop giving them work.
3. “Your rates are too high” is a euphemism for “I want to give the work to someone else”.
Read the post. Let these unspoken rules guide your behavior. You may not master all 13, but you just might start hearing more of what your client wants. And isn't that the goal?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The First Step in Marketing: Identify Your Ideal Client

Writing your marketing plan? Identify who you want to work for before you decide what you want to say and where you want to say it, writes Sam Glover in Let Your Ideal Client Guide Your Marketing Strategy. And he's right: if you're marketing your practice without a clear idea of the person you want to represent and the problems you want to solve, you're doing it wrong.
Many lawyers ask whether they ought to use Twitter or write a blog or join a networking group. This is like asking whether you should use Word or Photoshop for your next project before you know what it is. [...] But if you already have a clear picture of your ideal client — your laser-targeted demographic — your marketing strategy will probably be pretty obvious.
Read the post. Figure who your ideal client is (Glover's questions will help). Then start connecting.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Want To Add Value? Stop Talking About The Law

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail," wrote Abraham Maslow in The Psychology of Science. For lawyers, that often translates into talking about the law, about legal issues, about rules and regulations and requirements. And that's precisely where they go wrong when they're trying to develop and enhance professional relationships, explains Josh Beser in Lawyers: How to Be Valuable ... Aside from Practicing Law:
Lawyers have a problem. We’re consistently perceived as experts on one thing: law. This not only dominates how others view us, but also dominates how we view ourselves. If we start talking about law, especially early on in a conversation, we will only be viewed as lawyers. This dramatically limits how others perceive what we can do to help.
Read the post. Then find ways to implement Beser's three strategies to help others without practicing law. You - and they - will be glad you did.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Are You Cross-Selling? Or Just Sharing Space?

It's not all that surprising that more lawyers don't cross-sell (just ask Dan Hull). But it's good for you. And not coincidentally, it's good for your clients too, when you do it right.

But knowing that doesn't fix the problem. You need to make time to get to know your colleagues, writes Tim Corcoran in Law Firm Cross Selling Basics:
Work from another office periodically. Pick two or three colleagues you don’t know, even if your clients have never had a need in this area, and take them to lunch this year. When traveling to a client site, if there’s a satellite office nearby, drop in and walk the halls. Your colleagues will refer business to you when they trust you, and they won’t generally trust you until they know you.
Read the post. Then get up out of your chair and onto your partners' schedule. You'll both be better off.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Good Writing Is Good For Business

While readers may forgive a grammatical error, a run-on sentence, or even a typo, they're likely to find your work less professional, less organized, and most importantly less valuable when they do. That's what journalism professor Fred Vultee found when he asked students to read both edited and unedited versions of news articles, writes Natalie Jomini Stroud in Study shows the value of copy editing. Vultee's conclusion? It pays to spend on an editor:
Copy editing affects audiences' perceptions about the news and their willingness to pay for it.
The lesson for lawyers and law firms is no less powerful, particularly when you substitute "your legal advice" for "the news" in the above sentence. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to hire a full-time copy editor to review your weekly blog post. But it almost certainly means that you should be relentless when editing your work to correct mistakes, avoid jargon, and make sure your intended audience will understand your message. 

Don't let a typo damage your credibility. Read the post, then get out your red pencil and start editing.

Monday, March 2, 2015

3 Reasons People Will Read Your Post: The Title, The Title, & The Title

But don't take my word for it. Hear what Adrian Lurssen, co-founder of JD Supra, journalist, and content marketing strategist, has to say:

Watch the clip. Then start writing titles that tell people why they need to read your work.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Collaboration Is The Future of Growth

Want to grow revenues, make your clients happier, and gain a competitive edge? Collaborate more with your partners, writes Heidi Gardner in When Senior Managers Won't Collaborate
Firms that are landing the highest-value work are focusing more on integrating than on acquiring specialized expertise. They’re developing and communicating a strategy that explicitly emphasizes collaboration so that partners understand that their investment in learning to combine forces is part of a broader initiative that the firm will support. [...] These firms understand that if they can serve the most complex needs of their clients, they will earn their loyalty and the lion’s share of the most valuable revenue streams, and leave their competitors to scramble after the increasingly lower-value, commodity work.
Of course it isn't easy. Of course it takes time. Of course it requires additional resources and increased communication and more non-billable hours to pull it off. But finding a way to bring your colleagues together in the name of client service can pay off handsomely.

Read the post. Pick up the phone. Start collaborating. You'll be happier, and so will your partners and your clients.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The First Rule of Innovation: Identify Your Client's Problem. Then Solve It

Looking for innovation in the legal profession? Look no further than Mark Harris, founder of Axiom Law: 
“The incumbent model is largely artisanal,” said Harris. “It’s perfect for novel challenges that are irreducibly complex, but it’s not necessary for the bulk of commerce.” 
Harris just inked a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal with a "major financial institution" to process the bank's standardized contracts governing swaps and other complicated, lengthy, and arcane agreements that generate significant regulatory and financial risk. Read Legal-Services Firm's $73 Million Deal Strips The Mystery From Derivatives Trading for details on the deal and how it could change the way the financial industry responds to increasing regulation without, well, breaking the bank. 
Then think about how a non-traditional provider of legal services is shaking things up in ways that should make every other lawyer and firm worried. About why a former SEC Chair joined Axiom's board of directors after she learned about the deal. About what you can do to identify your client's problems, and then solve them. Before somebody else does.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sorry Mr. Lennon - Lawyers Need To Imagine There's No Billable Hour, Too

Hourly rates are starting to look a little dated, says Maria Polczynski, head of legal at Australia's Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. That's why the bank is no longer working with law firms that don't offer value-based pricing.

But there's good news for the firms able to make the switch, Ms Polczynski recently told Lawyers Weekly (Resistance to value-based pricing: a failure of imagination): not only do they get to keep an important client, they can ratchet up profitability when they get the formula right:
“If what you are delivering is worth a whole lot more [than the cost of your time] then we accept that [and] will pay considerably more than … [the] standard hourly rate. That’s where we think the opportunities are for the firms to up their profitability even while they are reducing their billable hours."
Read the post. Ask yourself which clients are likely to follow Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. Then figure out a way to help them.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Your "To-Do" List Is Not A Strategy

"Strategy is an exercise in problem solving," writes Peter Winick in Strategy Is Not the Same as Goal Setting, not the list of things you have to do to get where you're going. Of course you need to define your objectives, identify the tactics that will support your efforts, and execute, execute, execute. But if you're looking for a strategy, you must remember that "activity is [just] activity:"
When a potential client tells me what their current strategy is, what I often hear is a list of activities, a description of various tactics, and a summary of how they are progressing against their goals. My response is typically something along the lines of, “What problems in the marketplace are you and your work uniquely qualified to solve and why do you believe that to be so?”
Read the post. Identify your problems and the strategies that allow you to solve them. Then get to work.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

It Takes More Than Good Work To Stand Out

If you still believe that working hard and pleasing your clients is the only business development a lawyer needs to do, writes Cordell Parvin in In 2015, Will You Still Doing Good Work and Waiting for the Phone to Ring?, you may be stuck in the past. That's not enough anymore. Today, you must stand out:
I believe that ... lawyers and law firms have to either be remarkable or create content and value that clients find remarkable. 
Read the post. Because 2015 is a good time for a change,

Friday, February 6, 2015

Are You Writing for a 4th Grader?

Is your work written for 10-year-olds? Maybe it should be: that's the reading-level calculation of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. And it turns out, explains Shane Snow in Why History’s Best Writers Wrote for Middle Schoolers, that writing at a lower reading level gives your content a higher likelihood of reaching more people.

That doesn't mean that you should be writing for children, of course. Instead, you should strive to make the complicated legal and business issues you cover accessible to a broader range of readers:
The other lesson from this study is that we should aim to reduce complexity in our writing as much as possible. We won’t lose credibility by doing so. Our readers will comprehend and retain our ideas more reliably. And we’ll have a higher likelihood of reaching more people.
Read the post. Make your work easier to read. Your readers will thank you.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"2 Parts Vague and 1 Part Potential" Is Not A Recipe For BD Success

A business development plan full of vague opportunities and potential connections isn't going to get you anywhere, writes Eric Fletcher in Targeted Business Development, Or Pursuit Of The Broad Side Of An Empty Barn? To turn opportunities into work, you must identify specifics: people to call, lunches to host, introductions to make. Like "take Jane Smith to lunch on May 17" and "invite Bob and new head of HR to February board meeting." Otherwise, you're just spinning your wheels:
... successfully building a practice begins and ends with the nuts-and-bolts-work of strategic pursuits — action items calculated to put you face-to-face with the individual or team empowered to hire you or your firm.
Read the post. Then dust off your BD plan, pull out your red pencil, and get to work.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Social Media Is For Listening, Too

Law firms have a lot to gain from social media, writes James Mulvey in The 5 Ways Law Firms Are Using Social Media for Listening, because they are "innately social organizations," built on social interactions. But better relationships aren't the only benefit of online activity;
[B]road social media listening, using software to analyze millions of bits of data to find the conversations impacting their clients, cases, and firm’s reputation ... offers your firm immediate returns, even if these results fall outside of your typical marketing uses of social media.
Read the post. Start listening - and learning - on social media.

(Hat-tip to Nancy Myrland, one of Mulvey's sources, for alerting me to the post.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

If Social Media Isn't Working, What Are You Doing About It?

The editors at Attorney At Work have pulled together some insightful facts and figures about social media in the legal profession in How Do You Use Social Media? Among them: according to the 340 lawyers who responded to a recent AAW survey, the #2 most effective online platform for bringing in new business is "none." That's right, 31% of respondents said that the absence of social media was more effective than marketing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or YouTube.

Why is that? And more importantly, what are you doing about it? Read the post. Then start making social media work for you (the Lawyer's Guide to Social Media will help).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is There A Brand In This Law Firm?

Clients don't hire law firms, explains Mark Cohen in Law Firms, Condominiums, and A New Model Law Firm. They hire lawyers:
The reality is that except for those few lawyers who enjoy “trusted adviser” status with a client, other lawyers in the firm seldom figure into the retention process. Put another way—and many GC’s have told me this—they “put up” with certain law firms because they want to work with a particular lawyer. 
For Cohen, that means the law firm model is broken. But there's a more fundamental lesson here, too, even if Cohen doesn't say it: your firm's brand is no more than the brand of every single individual lawyer. Market - and practice - accordingly.