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.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Relationships, Not Screen Time, Are The Key To Business Development

You might think that Sam Glover is an anti-social media Luddite when you read the title of his latest post, 4 Things to Do Before You Spend a Dollar on Online Marketing. But he's not: his piece is less a critique of online marketing than a reminder to leverage your existing relationships - with friends, current and former clients, referral sources, and the like - before you plop down any hard-earned cash on the newest, coolest, shiniest digital tool. Because relationships, not screen time, will get you more work:
Stay in touch with your former clients. And no, adding them to your email list and sending a holiday care do not constitute staying in touch (although they are better than nothing, if only a little). Take some time to consider what you could do for former clients that would keep them connected to you and your firm. [...] Be familiar enough that when they need more legal work or when someone asks them for a referral, you are the first person they think of.
Read the post. Step away from the computer. And start spending your money wisely.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tweeting and Blogging and Posting, Oh My! Let The Master Guide You

Whether you're taking tentative first steps on Twitter, or looking for ways to drive readers to your established law blog, you'll find practical pointers for creating and maintaining a valuable online presence in Guy Kawasaki's How to Integrate Social Media and Blogging from The Art of Social Media. Kawasaki's one of the masters of social media marketing, so his post on "us[ing] a blog to enrich your social media ... and ... social media to promote your blog," is full of valuable - and effective - tips for connecting your written work with the people you need to reach:
  • If I had a choice between someone following us on a social-media platform or subscribing to our emails, I would pick the an email subscription any day.
  • [O]f all content, you should share your own blog posts. If a blog post is not worth sharing, it’s not worth writing.
  • Include links to your social-media accounts on your blog so that people can easily follow you. If your blog is interesting, people will follow you on social media, and if your social media is interesting, people will read your blog.
 Read the post. Then get tweeting. And blogging. And posting. Oh my.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When The Best Way To Stay Focused Is Saying "No"

It's hard to say "no," explains Tim Harford in "The power of saying no." Nevertheless, it's important to get better at saying it. Not just because you cannot possible accomplish everything you're asked to do - that much you know. But there's a significant opportunity cost that accompanies every "sure, I can help:" all the other things you'll have to give up to fulfill the new request.

What does this have to do with business development? Just this: every time you decide to chase down a new target, develop a new plan, pursue a new objective without exhausting your efforts on the clients, industries, and targets you've already determined to be valuable to your practice, you've just thrown away all the time and effort you've spent on those initiatives. Of course you need to be opportunistic. But not at the cost of your long-term goals. Here's how Harford recommends you keep on track:
Adopt a rule that no new task can be deferred: if accepted, it must be the new priority. Last come, first served. The immediate consequence is that no project may be taken on unless it’s worth dropping everything to work on it.
Read the post. Start saying "no" to random acts of business development.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jimmy Fallon + Content Marketing = Watch and Learn

Lawyers can learn a lot about content marketing from Jimmy Fallon, writes Adrian Lurssen in Is Jimmy Fallon the King of Content Marketing?. For starters, Fallon's distribution of his material on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other channels - and the millions of subscribers he's attracted - clearly demonstrates why lawyers must share their work in the places where their clients and potential clients hang out. Another lesson? Give the people what they want (to share):
What do you have to offer that addresses what people really need? Build a content plan around the answer to that question. Again, this is as true for a celebrity comedian as it is for a technology lawyer who solves the problems of, say, startup entrepreneurs, or an accountant who makes sense of financial matters for people who are busy raising families, planning vacations, saving for retirement.
Read the post. Then get to work on your content.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Do You Know How Your Clients Define "Value"?

Like every business, writes Bruce MacEwen in What's Value? Answer One Question, in law there is room for the "sell it for more" firms (the equivalent of Ritz-Carlton and BMW), just like there is room for the "make it for less" ones (think Ikea and Motel 6). But it only works if you're defining "value" in exactly the same terms as your clients, something very few firms are able to do successfully. And that means that everybody else is fighting for the same clients in the middle:
... the middle market is an extremely tough place to survive and thrive, precisely because it is so densely populated with law firms which, to many clients, are indistinguishable from yours.
For MacEwen, the key to success in this "awkward in-between space" is giving your client a different kind of value than "best" or "cheapest," precisely because that value is so hard to define. Read the post. Then call your clients.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Be a Jerk, and Other Tips for Promoting Yourself

There's a fine line between ensuring that your skills and experience are recognized, and coming across as an arrogant braggart, writes Dorie Clark in How to Promote Yourself Without Looking Like a Jerk. One way to avoid crossing it? Be humble:
... even when you’re promoting yourself, it’s essential to express humility. That doesn’t in any way mean hiding your abilities. However, it does require being sensitive to the fact that some accomplishments may make others feel jealous or inadequate, and you don’t want to appear glib or self-congratulatory.
Read the post. Take Clark's advice. Because nobody likes to talk to a jerk...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fill In The Blank: In 2015, I Resolve To __________

Still struggling with your resolutions for the coming year? Matt Homann's latest post on the [non]billable hour has for all the "resolution inspiration" you'll ever need.

Homann has compiled ten of his favorite posts (from the more than 100 he has written) for lawyers and firms on setting - and achieving - the right kind of goals, those that will make you and your clients happier and calmer and better. And they're all worth reading. Our favorite? "Resolve to get less business:"
If too much income comes from clients you hate serving, find a different practice area or a different job.
Read the post. Resolve to change for the better this year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Do You Call a 20-Year Relationship With Your Clients? A Good Start

When you're building your practice, stay away from the "fire and forget" work, writes Keith Lee, founder of Associate's Mind, in How To Build A 20 Year Relationship With Your Clients. Instead, focus on building a long-lasting relationship with your clients, providing customized, high-quality products and services that they'll brag about. Like apparel companies Gramicci and American Giant:
Gramicci built a relationship with me by providing a product that has lasted decades. American Giant wants to build that same sort of relationship. They’ve told me – everyone – that when you buy their products you buy them for life. These relationships are built on a high degree of quality that encourage me to place my trust in their products.
Read the post. Turn your clients into advocates and ambassadors for your work.