Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Making your firm's pitch exemplary. But not in the "don't do this" way.

Mark Herrmann's "Inside Straight: A Tale of Two Pitches" at Above the Law. It's hard to say what makes a pitch successful. Or unsuccessful for that matter, though the anecdotes are generally a lot more interesting when pitches don't go well. Most of the time it's just a matter of degree, of nuance, of being able to convince the in-house team that you and your firm are smarter / more experienced / more efficient and that you really can help them better / cheaper / more quickly than the others. Herrmann's post gives a little bit of insight into those nuances, the ones that make the difference between doing it right and doing it wrong.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Marketing your law practice: are you asking yourself the right questions?

Lee Rosen's "Marketing: Does It Take Time or Money?" on his blog, Divorce Discourse. Sometimes the difference between success and failure comes from asking the right questions. Rosen's post does just that. But you shouldn't read this post solely because Rosen asks an important question, one that you should ask yourself, early and often. You should also read it because Rosen answers that question, and because his answer gives valuable insight into the who, what, when, where, why, and how of marketing a law practice.  Read it and you'll agree.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saving money on online research is good. Saving time is better.

Louis Abramovitz's "Cost-Effective Web Tools for Business Intelligence" at Law.com. Online resources for competitive information and business intelligence have never been more plentiful, or more comprehensive. It wasn't so long ago that the only way one could find the latest SEC filings or last month's news stories or the educational background and personal interests and work history or this or that general counsel was very expensive. But there's still a cost associated with online research, even if the data itself is free. Sure, Abramovitz's post will help you control the money you pay for business intelligence. But more importantly, it will allow you to reduce the time you spend gathering intelligence. And that's value you can take to the bank.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's 10:00 am. Do you know what your firm's new business intake procedures are?

Steven Burchell's "Rethinking New Business Intake at Law Firms" in Law.com's Law Technology News. Let's face it. Automating the new client and matter process generally doesn't sit in one of the top spots on a law firm's to-do list. But that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense: "A well-designed automated new business intake system will also improve business continuity, reduce cost, and improve the integrity of data across the IT enterprise." Burchell's post identifies the key challenges establishing and adopting a system, and provides the solutions you'll need to overcome them. Read it, even if you're convinced your firm doesn't need an automated system. Because you just might need one more than you think.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting the most from your marketing efforts, the single-minded way.

Merrilyn Astin Tarlton's "Six Steps to Single-Minded Marketing" on the Attorney at Work blog. If you're not reading Attorney at Work every day, you should be. Because their "one really good idea every day" is almost without fail just that: a good idea, that will help you better market your firm, run your practice, understand technology, and do just about anything you do.

Today's post is no exception. Before you join all the social media sites you can find, before you start blogging, before you buy that ad space or sponsor that dinner or hire a PR pro to help you get the word out, you need to figure out just what it is you like to do, are good at, and want to be when you grow up. You need a plan, or you might just find yourself somewhere you don't want to be. Astin Tarlton's post will help you write that plan.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Maybe the ability to say "no" is the real silver bullet.

Eric Fletcher's "The Quest For A Silver Bullet" on his eponymous Eric Fletcher Blog. Looking for a silver bullet? Yeah, you and every other cowboy who rode into this crowded legal services marketplace. But the truth is that silver bullets don't exist, for lawyers or anybody else. Success is a function of effort and focus and discipline, not volume and hope and chasing down everything that even remotely looks like an opportunity, whether it sits in your sweet spot or not. And more often than not, success comes from knowing what you cannot do, the work you should not try to land, the opportunities you should not pursue. Fletcher's post reminds us that saying "no" is an important part of strategies that work.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

C'mon in, lawyers! The social networking water's fine!

Aviva Cuyler's "LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter: The Changing Face(s) of Social Networking for Lawyers" on JD Supra. "Lawyers understand networking," writes Cuyler. So why is "social networking" so hard for so many? For starters, it's the vocabulary, which makes "everything just a touch harder to understand than it needs to be." But there's nothing hard to understand about Cuyler's article. And after you've read it, there probably won't be much that is hard to understand about social networking, either. It's a great overview of the Big Three for lawyers, as well legal marketers and anyone trying to articulate the value of social networking to lawyers. Read it, and jump in. You might get a little wet, but there's no better way to figure out how it works for you and your practice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Better communication? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3 (and 4, 5, 6)

Kevin Allen's "Preparing for a job interview? Read these 6 tips first" in Ragan's PR Daily. The title for this post is a bit misleading, because Allen's advice applies to far more than job interviews. He's really writing about communication. Of all shapes and sizes. So it's relevant not only to job seekers, but to everyone who has to sell themselves and their work, in job interviews and client pitches and sales calls and even at the cocktail reception. Allen reminds us that communicating well takes forethought, organization, and self-evaluation, and his post will help you with all three.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tired of hiding in plain sight? Optimize your website and you won't be.

"Optimizing Your Online Shingle: On-Page and Off-Page Best Practices" by Robert Ambrogi and Steve Matthews in the ABA's Law Practice Magazine. Google's announcement that three-week-old Google+ has already reached 10,000,000 users serves as a powerful reminder of the increasingly fragmented landscape for marketing a legal practice online. But an active online presence is useless if you don't have a website that describes what you do, one that communicates how you help your clients and articulates your value. Because social networking is only part of the picture: sometimes (and perhaps most of the time), clients and potential clients find you not when they're chatting with friends on Twitter, but when they're looking for a lawyer that does what you do. So before you populate your Google+ feed, before you build your firm's Facebook page, before you create your YouTube channel, you need to optimize your website. Because if the search engines don't know about it, a tree falling in the forest can make all the sound it wants and still not be heard. Don't be that tree. Read today's post.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The secret to a successful client relationship? Teamwork.

J. Richard Hackman's "Six Common Misperceptions about Teamwork" at the Harvard Business Review's HBR Blog Network. Lawyers may have know all along that conflict and face-to-face interaction and hard work lead to greater success, but they should still be able to learn something from this post. And they should: when you frame the lawyer-client relationship as a team dedicated to achieving your client's business and strategic and personal objectives, figuring out how to make that team more successful becomes your principal priority. Because if you don't, your client may just decide to change teams. And that's not good for anyone.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sorry Google+: a lawyer's best friends are her clients, not her tech tools.

Scott Preston's "Technology is not your friend – your client is" on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. To honor this week's release of Google+, today's post is about using technology, the cutting edge kind, to interact with clients. But it's not a post about shiny, happy people using shiny, happy tools to foster shinier, happier relationships. It's more like a giant level-set for everyone who thinks that Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and all of the private and semi-private law practice networks they have joined will automatically give them something they never had before. They don't. Technology is a tool. And while tools may facilitate communication, they don't build relationships. People do. Start using technology the right way. It's a lot more work than sending a few tweets, but in the end, it might actually pay off. Preston's post will point you in the right direction.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Finding your zen. The legal pricing way.

John Wallbillich's "Zen and the Art of Legal Pricing: Summary" on his blog Wired GC. Still trying to sort out alternative legal pricing? Understand the billing arrangements that clients are looking for, and how you can provide them? Rebuild your delivery of service model around value instead of time or documents or stuff? You should be. Because doing nothing is standing still. And standing still is the new moving backwards. Wallbillich's post, and the eight "Zen and the Art of Legal Pricing" posts behind it, will give you the perspective you need to move your pricing strategy to the next level. You clients will thank you. And making clients happier is a great way to find your zen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Law firm pitches from a buyer's perspective. Any questions?

Nino Cusimano's "In-House Counsel Tips for Landing an Outside Counsel Gig" in Corporate Counsel. If yesterday's post told you how to make your client happy once she hired you, today's will get you in the door. Part common sense, part insider baseball, part plea for raising the typical law firm pitch bar, Cusimano's post is full of invaluable advice for saying and doing the things that make in-house counsel -- the people who decide whether or not to hire you -- sit up and take notice. In a good way. Because when you make the right pitch, the one that demonstrates your ability to do the work, your sincere interest in working for that company, your integrity, your honesty, your focus, "sit up and take notice" often manifests itself as "when can you start?"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Want to be a good lawyer? Think like a client.

Bradley Tupi's "What I Learned In-House That Helps Me Succeed in a Law Firm" in Corporate Counsel. If you're one of the lucky few like Tupi, who cut his teeth practicing as a government then in-house lawyer before moving into a firm, then you might not need to read this post. But if your background hasn't given you the chance to see the world from the other side of the fence, to understand what the people who send you checks every month are thinking, Tupi's insight will. Read the post. You'll learn something. And that just might help you be a better lawyer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sorry Ford: digital security is the new Job One.

Stephanie Kimbro's "Top Ten Basic Security Practices for a Virtual Law Office" on her blog Virtual Law Practice. Although Kimbro's intended audience for this post is the virtual law office crowd, her security tips make sense for everyone. Keeping your data secure--whether you're working from home or in a brick and mortar office or even (gasp...) sitting at your favorite coffee shop--is vital to your practice, to your clients, to your reputation. And it's getting harder to do: according to a recent Ponemon Institute study, the chance of being hacked has become a "statistical certainty" for businesses of every type and size. Read the post. You need to know this stuff.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hunting for an LPM solution? Make sure you're using the right gun.

Pam Woldow's "Legal Project Management Tools: Let Rube Goldberg Rest in Peace" on her blog At The Intersection. I'm far from an expert on legal project management. But even I know that successful implementation of a meaningful legal project management system isn't only about the software, but also the people, the buy-in, the firm's commitment to change. Nevertheless, writes Woldow, the right software can make or break an LPM initiative. So when you're shopping for LPM software, concentrate on what you need, not what's the fanciest or most expensive or most complicated software solution And if you're not yet sure what you need, read Woldow's post. Because you don't need an elephant gun if you're hunting squirrels.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Law marketing made easy, the stellar service way.

Julian Summerhayes' "Why Law Firm Marketing Is E-A-S-Y" on his blog at JulianSummerhayes.com. I'm not sure that I completely agree with Summerhayes when he declares that law firm marketing is easy. But I get it. Because he doesn't mean that it's simple or that it doesn't require any particular effort or that lawyers can market their firms in their sleep. For Summerhayes, law marketing is easy because it all boils down to one thing: service. And if you get that part right, if you provide your clients with best service you possibly can, the kind of service that leaves them completely amazed, then your marketing will indeed be easy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lose a client? Don't squander the opportunity to learn from it.

Leo Bottary's "How Did You Lose Your Client?" at Executive Street. Everybody loses clients from time to time. So what do you do when a client stops sending you work? When she calls to tell you to send her files to the competition? Do you have a plan in place for analyzing what went wrong, for looking at your strengths and weaknesses and mapping them to the client's needs, for determining if you can save the relationship even if you lose the work? You should. Bottary calls it an autopsy report. Everybody loses clients. The smart firms learn from the experience.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Not getting the answers you want? Maybe you're asking the wrong questions.

Martin Baker's "A Manager’s Primer on Asking Better Questions" on his blog Creativity Central. Want to know what your clients are thinking, what they are worried about, how they measure success and failure and essential client service? Ask them. But don't be surprised if your questions don't elicit the responses you want. Not because your clients aren't telling the truth, or aren't giving complete answers, or perhaps aren't being honest with themselves about a question they really don't want to answer. (That's what people often think when they don't get the answers they expect.) Sometimes it's more simple. Because you need to ask the right questions if you want meaningful answers. Baker's post will help. Read it, and see if you can get the answers you need by modifying the questions you ask.

Hat tip to Matt Homann for pointing me to this post, on his blog the [non]billable hour.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strategic planning is more than writing a good plan. Much more.

Paramjit Mahli's "Planning Pitfalls for Lawyers and Professionals" on her blog Profiting with Public Relations. We've said it before. Several times in fact. And we'll no doubt say it again. If you don't know where you're going, you'll most likely end up somewhere else. But strategic planning isn't just about the plan, as complex and challenging and comprehensive as it may be. To be successful, you need more than a good road map. Like accountability. And commitment. And leadership, communication, and focused, disciplined execution. Mahli's post will give you useful insight into the pitfalls that derail the best of plans. Read it and take note.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Q: Is blogging useful for law firm business development? A: You are what you blog.

Brian Inkster's "The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room" on his blog, The Time Blawg. Is blogging useful for law firm business development? In posing this question, Inkster clearly has touched a nerve (63 comments so far!). Of course there's no single right answer, no overarching principle that guides legal blogging, no one-size-fits-all solution that articulates the value, payoff, and validity of any given blawg (how boring would that be?). But that's a good thing, because there's value in the debate, in questioning your motivation for blogging as well as that of your colleagues and peers, in setting your own standards and objectives. Read the post. Join the discussion.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Selling your strengths starts before you ever walk in the door.

Elizabeth Sosnow's "6 Ways to Show You Give a Damn in a Job Interview" on Jay Baer's Convince & Convert. Whether it's for a job interview or a client pitch or a presentation to a room full of general counsel, selling yourself is often the hardest part of your job. But perfecting your talking points shouldn't keep you from doing your homework about the people you're talking to. On the contrary. The more you know know about your audience's business, their objectives, their struggles, their successes and how you can help them meet / overcome / continue them, the more you will stand out. In a good way. Because nobody is looking to hire narcissists. Sosnow's post tells you how to do it right.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stop fishing at the referral stream.

Thom Singer's "How To Refer Thom Singer" on his blog, Some Assembly Required. I've featured Singer's posts before. Thom knows relationships: how to establish them, how to nurture them, how to turn them into revenue. So when he writes that it's your job to give your contacts the tools they need to send potential new business your way, you'd do well to heed his advice. Because you don't need referrals for work you cannot or should not or absolutely will not do. Educating your referral sources is your responsibility. If you want them to help you succeed, that is. Still not convinced? I'll bet Brian Tannebaum can persuade you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The problem with the evolution is that it never stands still.

Tim Corcoran's "Law Firm Leaders: Moving the Needle" on Corcoran's Business of Law Blog. Want some insight into the competition's strategy? How it's adapting to an evolving profession? How it defines client service, innovation, diversity? What it's doing to address the key issues shaping the profession today and in the future? Here's your chance. Corcoran's post recaps a panel discussion featuring the heads of Miles & Stockbridge, Williams Mullen, and McKenna Long & Aldridge (hosted by the Capital Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association) where these topics, and many more, were on the agenda. But it's more than a mere summary of an interesting and insightful discussion from a group of law firm leaders. It's also a thoughtful commentary on those very same issues, from one of the people leading the innovation charge. Read it. You'll learn something.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Branding is no longer just for cattle. But if you're not careful you'll still get burned.

Dan Pallotta's "A Logo Is Not a Brand" in his blog at the Harvard Business Review. If you still think lawyers don't need to worry about "brand," then you need to read this post. Right away. (The rest of you can wait until you've had your morning coffee.) Because, as Pallotta writes, your brand isn't your name, or your logo. Your brand is your strategy, your customer service, your people. It's your facilities, your communication practices, your website and the way it is organized. It's the way you respond to inquiries. Your brand is everything your clients and peers and colleagues and friends think when they think of you, be it "hard-working" or "smart" or "slow to get back to me" or "always looking to run up the bill on work that doesn't seem relevant."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It takes a village to build a law firm.

Ken's "Thoughts After Six Years" at Popehat. A lot can happen in six years. Presidents change, kids grow up, cutting-edge technology becomes obsolete (oh wait, that only takes six months). Law firms are established and lessons learned. In this post Ken shares nine solid pieces of start-up advice that he picked up while building his own firm, but the lessons aren't just for lawyers starting out on their own. Any lawyer, whether she's running a firm, an office, or a practice, or working in a firm, or practicing on her own, will benefit from Ken's advice. Because it reminds us that being a lawyer is all about the people who help you succeed: colleagues, clients, peers, mentors, staff. And that's a valuable lesson for all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sorry Mr Wells: you don't need a potion to be invisible online.

Allison Shields' "Is Your Law Firm Invisible Online? Do Something About It" on her Legal Ease Blog. There's really no good excuse for not having a meaningful online presence. No, I'm not talking about spending 18 hours a day updating your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Or answering 15 law-related questions every day on LinkedIn, Quora, Avvo and other sites, day in and day out. Or even writing a legal blog, though that works for many lawyers. No, an online presence that helps you build your practice doesn't have to be particularly complicated. But it does require a website, one that says what you do and where you are and how potential clients can reach you. And maybe even a LinkedIn page that outlines your employment and educational history and has a photo so people can recognize you at a networking event. But don't take my word for it. Let Shields convince you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's 9:00 pm. Do you know where your lawyer is?

Jordan Furlong's "Be the World’s Most Client-Accessible Lawyer" on the Attorney-at-Work blog. There's been a lot of talk over the past few years about the "virtual law office." What it is, where it is and isn't permitted, how to run one, what are the risks and rewards, etc. But Jordan's post is one of the first I've read that looks at virtual law offices from the client's perspective. Not in the lower-overhead-means-lower-cost-to-clients sense, but rather in the making-yourself-accessible-to-clients-when-the-clients-need-you-to-be-accessible-means-being-a-better-lawyer sense. Sure, Jordan's suggestion is not for everybody. But isn't meeting your clients' needs a core part of your strategy? What's wrong with doing it on their terms once in a while?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Succession planning in your law firm. Crystal ball need not apply.

Tom Grella's "Five Questions to Ask About Your Firm’s Succession Readiness" in the May / June 2011 edition of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine. Is your firm ready for the future? Not the "practicing in the cloud" future or the paperless office future or the Watson advising clients future. The future as in the next generation of leadership, when the current managing partner and practice leaders and office heads have retired, taking the recipe for success with them, leaving new leaders the challenge of practicing law and managing a firm and figuring out how to create value for the partnership. Think you're ready for that future? Shouldn't you be sure before it arrives? Grella's article, along with every other piece in this issue of Law Practice Magazine, is a big step in the right direction.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Think strategic planning's just for the other guys? Think again.

Colin Cameron's "Planning for Success" on the Small Firm Innovation blog. Is strategic planning for every firm? Absolutely, writes Cameron. And it's particularly important for solos and small firms in today's competitive environment. But it doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. And it doesn't have to be difficult. Just a plan that articulates where you are now, where you want to go, what it's going to take to get there. Cameron's post will help you get started.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What's the management equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot?

Patrick McKenna's "Hurdles to Executing Your Strategic Plan" at Slaw.ca. "Hope is not a strategy," writes McKenna. Neither are good intentions, good ideas, or even good karma. But even when you have a solid strategic plan, one that articulates realistic, measurable objectives and the steps required to achieve them, the real world is going to throw countless unexpected (and unforeseeable) obstacles into your path. So the last thing you should have to worry about are the internal hurdles to executing your plan. McKenna's post outlines the most common of those barriers, and provides valuable advice on how to work through them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Are RFPs a valuable tool or a waste of time? What if they were both?

Ken Robbins' "Why we quit participating in RFPs" on his blog, Ken Robbins: thoughts on business strategy, marketing, ideas. Robbins is a marketer, not a lawyer (and not even a legal marketer), but his post on RFPs is no less relevant to the legal profession. It's clear that more and more clients are using RFPs as a tool for hiring lawyers. And it's equally clear that they aren't going to stop anytime soon. You may love RFPs or you may hate them, but sooner or later, you're going to have to decide whether or not a particular RFP -- or RFPs in general -- makes sense for you. Robbins' perspective, and those of his readers (as articulated in the comments), will help you sort through the pros and cons of that decision.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

If you build it, will they come? Only if you do it right.

Adrian Lurssen's "3 Steps to Building Corporate Presence on Facebook" at JD Supra's The Scoop. To Facebook, or not to Facebook? That is indeed the question for many lawyers. Whether you're a solo estates lawyer who wants to market her practice to friends and family, a large firm looking for an additional communications channel to reach clients, potential clients, and recruits, or a mid-size firm seeking a broader footprint, a Facebook page can help you meet your marketing objectives. But deciding you want a page is only the first step. Building it is a different beast altogether. Lurssen's post will help you do that right. Read it, and get started.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hey buddy, can you spare some time? I promise you won't regret it.

Heather Townsend's "9 classic mistakes guest speakers make" on her blog The Thoughts and Ideas Of The Efficiency Coach (now at The Efficiency Coach). Don't let the title fool you. These mistakes aren't limited to guest speakers. And frankly, if you step back and think about them, the nine mistakes Townsend identifies are probably committed in one way or another by virtually every professional at any networking event: "not thinking about your audience," "no prepared introduction," "going on too long," etc. The point is that whether you're speaking to one person or one hundred, they're giving you their time. Townsend's post will help ensure that they don't regret it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Too busy to market? Or just waiting for someone else to do it for you?

Stacy West Clark's "10 Marketing Tips for Time-Pressed Lawyers" at Law.com. Marketing isn't a luxury, something you do when all the client work is done and the kids are in bed and you've finally finished War and Peace. But putting it off is easy to do. Today's post will help you break that habit. West Clark has compiled a list of ten practical tips that will help you go from "I'm too busy with client work" to "glad you could join me for lunch" in no time flat. Read it. Stop making excuses. Start marketing. No one else is going to do it for you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Making your first time count, every time.

Allison Shields' "Elevating the Elevator Speech" at Lawyerist.com. An elevator speech, like a cover letter for job seekers or a slogan for law firms, is most conspicuous when it's bad. Rather than engaging your interlocutor, it makes them want to flee. But a good elevator speech isn't easy: it needs to pique your interlocutor's interest, engage them, articulate what you do in terms they understand and can relate to. Shields' post will help you prepare that speech, the one people like to hear, the one that demonstrates the value you add, the one that just might get you to Step 2. Read it, and start practicing. Because, as the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Language, location, and other lessons from the classics.

Adrian Baron's "Star Wars Taught Me to Be a Better Lawyer" on his blog The Nutmeg Lawyer. You can always count on Baron to spin a good tale, and this one lives up to his reputation. But the post isn't just a clever story. It's a clever story that's full of solid advice on some of the core challenges and opportunities facing freshly minted lawyers. And those who might be considering a move to solo practitioner. And even those with long-established practices who might be looking for new ideas. I'd go on, but you probably get the picture. Read the post. You'll enjoy it, and might even learn something.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pull up a chair and I'll persuade you to act.

John Baldoni's "Using Stories to Persuade" in The Conversation at the Harvard Business Review. It's hard to resist a good story. With a strong narrative, some facts thrown in to back it up, and a healthy dose of passion, you're sure to convey your message and persuade your listener. Baldoni's post offers useful examples for improving your storytelling and, when needed, changing minds and convincing skeptics. Valuable skills when you're selling your services, wouldn't you agree?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Did you want fries with that patent application, Ma'am?

"Law firms need to stop selling and start listening" in Lawyers Weekly. For any law firm, cross-selling is a key step in expanding client relationships and growing revenues. It's important. As well it should be. But cross-selling isn't a commercial running non-stop, every time you pick up the phone. That's up-selling ("Did you want fries with that patent application, Ma'am?"), and it doesn't help anyone. Not your clients. Not your firm. Not your bottom line.

Don't believe me? Then read what Paul Rogerson has to say about it. Rogerson is the former head of compliance at Westpac and current head of legal at NRMA Motoring & Services in Australia, so he's heard it all. And the things he likes to hear best are those that offer meaningful solutions to the issues facing his company. Read the post. Listen to your clients. If the solution they need sits in an office down the hall, tell them. But don't pitch your tax practice when they need antitrust advice.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keeping up with the Joneses just got a little easier.

Altman Weil's "Law Firms in Transition Survey 2011," authored by Thomas Clay and Eric Seeger. Struggling to keep up with the Joneses? You're probably not alone. And thanks to Clay and Seeger, you now know exactly what the Joneses are doing. 240 US law firms with 50 or more lawyers responded to their survey covering a broad range of themes, like economic performance and pricing, use of alternative fee arrangements, partners and partnerships, growth, and law firms in transition. It's a useful report on the state of the profession, on the goals and challenges and objectives of your competitors. And according to Clay and Seeger, it's a positive report, indicating that "confidence [is] high among US law firm leaders in firms of all sizes." Read it, and see for yourself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Too busy to be productive? No you're not.

Robert Pozen's "Managing Yourself: Extreme Productivity" in The Magazine at the Harvard Business Review. Yeah, I know, not everyone will carry a flashlight in her briefcase so she can read in a dimly lit taxi. Or shower, shave, and dress in 15 minutes, lay out his clothes the night before, and eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, day in and day out. But Pozen's lessons on productivity are still helpful, if only because they make us reflect on everything we do, when we do it, and how we get it done.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Leaving your future to chance is never a good strategy.

Thom Singer's "Telling, Gelling, and Selling: Three Tips To More Business" on his blog Some Assembly Required. Communication, connecting, and closing. They're not just for people in sales. Singer's tips on telling a story, on creating meaningful relationships, on moving the conversation from "this is what I do" to "I'm excited to be working with you" will also resonate with those for whom selling is just a means to an end. Like lawyers (and everybody else). Don't leave your future to chance. Read the post. Think about how you get business, and how you might use this advice to get more. Then get out and do it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another good example of what not to do.

Bill Sheridan's "Trouble's brewing on the horizon. Pay attention" at CPA Success. Written for accountants, this post is no less relevant for lawyers. And not only because it involves beer. The story of how Anheuser-Busch lost its place at the top of the heap, and what happened to them as a result, provides a useful lesson for lawyers and firms in today's rapidly evolving market. Surviving the challenges of today, tomorrow, and the next decade won't happen by putting your head down and working harder. You need to read the signals of change in the profession. Adapt to them. Innovate. And as Sheridan suggests, let Anheuser-Busch InBev serve as an example.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Think you know your clients' business? Your clients may not agree.

Rees Morrison's "How to help your law firms understand your business better" on his blog Law Department Management. We've featured Morrison's posts before. They provide valuable insight into what clients are thinking, what they are looking for, what they consider to be problems with the delivery of legal services. Apparently, the ignorance of outside counsel with respect to the business of their clients is one of those problems. But I wouldn't say that resolving this one is the responsibility of the client (though I certainly understand Morrison suggesting client-based solutions). On the contrary. Knowing their client's business -- what they do, where they do it, who they're competing with, etc. --  is some of the best "business development" a lawyer can do. Read the post. Then read up on your client. They'll be glad you did.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Managing a network isn't all fun and games.

Sally Schmidt's "Creating a Game Plan for Your Contacts" in the ABA's May / June 2011 Law Practice Magazine. Don't let the title fool you. Managing a network of clients, referral sources and other influencers isn't a game, it's work. A lot of work. Serious work. Valuable work. Schmidt knows that, and has laid out a practical and comprehensive plan for making sure you don't miss out on opportunities because you aren't following up with the right people. Six steps that will help you go from a stack of business cards to an executed plan of action. Read it, and get to work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sure you're listening. But do you hear what your clients are saying?

Pam Woldow's "5 Key Takeaways from General Counsel Outside the US" on her blog At The Intersection. Ever wonder what keeps your clients up at night? Read this post, and you'll have a pretty good idea. Woldow surveyed more than 60 in-house lawyers on legal costs, budget control, and outside counsel when she was at the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association annual meeting last month. If you've been paying attention, the results probably won't surprise you much (although the frank responses might). But the question that should be keeping you up at night isn't whether you already knew that in-house lawyers are increasingly concerned about their legal spend and budget overruns. The one worth losing sleep over? What you are going to do about it now that you know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All's fair in love and war. Shouldn't it be the same for legal fees?

Ed Wesemann's "Regain Control of Pricing: 7 Tactics for Law Firms" in the Fall 2010 edition of the Edge International Review. It's no secret that the pricing of legal services is one of the most significant challenges currently facing lawyers, law firms, and clients alike. Or that it is also one of the most written-about topics in law firm circles. So why should you read this piece? Because Wesemann isn't content with merely adding his perspective to the ongoing debate. Instead, he proposes practical solutions, the kind that will help lawyers and firms meet the pricing challenge head on and provide their clients with the value they need, at a fair price that generates a fair profit.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Finding the islands of value in a sea of connections.

Valeria Maltoni's "You're Connected, Now What?" on her blog Conversation Agent. In today's world, where even those who claim not to use Twitter followers and Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections as metrics still do, it's easy to fall into the "more is better" trap. It isn't. More is simply more. But whether you've got five or five thousand connections, the real challenge is Step 2, identifying the valuable ones and taking them to the next level. Maltoni's post will show you how to put the "work" back into networking and perhaps even turn some of your connections into value, if you do it right.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Managing for the future: what you need to know today.

Robert Denney's "What's Hot in the Legal Profession" at Law.com. More newspaper article than blog post, this piece warrants more than a quick glance as you skim the feeds in your reader. Read it for a comprehensive overview of the directions the legal profession is taking, in 2011 and beyond. It's up to you to figure out what all of them mean -- how outsourcing will affect the delivery of legal services, how a client interview program to can improve the relationship you have with your clients, how clients and competitors are using alternative fee arrangements -- but thanks to Denney, the trends you need to understand, those that will have an impact on your practice and your clients, just got a little more manageable.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Structure and deadlines. They're not just for clients.

Dan Hull's "In Praise of Structure" from his blog "What About Clients?" This post nailed it so well -- the working style of this culture, of the BigLaw environment where I learned how to work -- that it reached out of my computer screen and slapped me in the face. There's no guarantee it will do the same for you, but chances are pretty good that it will cause you to think about your work habits, about your project management skills, about the importance of setting deadlines and sticking to them. On every single project you touch. And it will also serve to remind you that no matter what you might read elsewhere, you can count on Hull to tell it like it really is, to tell you what's really important, to articulate why perfect is the new good enough.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sometimes the best professional development tool is a library card.

Frank Kimball's "A Book Shelf For Professional Success and Development: The First 34 You Should Read" at Ms. JD. Your summer reading list just got longer. In a good way. Kimball's list is a comprehensive guide to the things that a lawyer needs to know, whether she's a first-year BigLaw associate looking for guidance or a twenty-year veteran solo looking for inspiration. So dig out that library card, head to your local library, and get reading. You might not get through the whole list this summer (Kimball's suggestion, more modest, is one book per month), but you'll learn something while you try.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Networking 101: read this post.

Michelle Villalobos's "Biggest Tip For Effective Networking?" on her eponymous blog, Michelle Villalobos. Villalobos shares a useful set of networking tips -- from entrepreneurs, coaches, marketers, headhunters and a whole lot more -- in this post. 56 tips in fact. Yes, there's some repetition ("give before you ask") and yes, there are a few clunkers ("increase traffic to your website"), but overall it's a solid list of advice from people who all appear to have a pretty significant stake in the game: making a living from effective networking. Like you. Read it. You'll learn something.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sorry Nike: sometimes "just do it" needs an instruction manual.

Carolyn Elefant's "Some Open Questions for Flat Fee Aficionados and Ethics Gurus" on her blog at MyShingle.com. Wherever you sit on the fixed-fees-v-billable-hours bus, you'll like this post. Because unlike many fixed-fee proponents, Elefant isn't content telling her peers to "just do it." That won't bring about meaningful change. She wants to guide them as they move fixed fees from the theoretical to the practical. To articulate the challenges of flat-rate billing in terms they understand, through situations they're likely to encounter. To help real lawyers with real practices effect real change. Like she does in most of her posts on this blog (and at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg). Read it, then add your thoughts to the discussion.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Making your clients happy by asking them what they think.

Tom Kane's "Client Feedback Pointers" on his blog Legal Marketing Blog.com. Let's face it: everybody tells you to talk to your clients. But getting client feedback isn't easy. Not if you want to go beyond the standard "good job, good job" comments, that is. Kane's post, his who, what, when, why, and how of client feedback, will help. It's good advice for getting started. And while you're at it, go back and read what the Maister (David Maister, that is) has to say: "Getting Good at Getting Feedback." The best ten minutes you'll spend today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Committed to Excellence? Yeah, you and every other firm.

Ross Fishman's "The 20 Best Law Firm Tag Lines. Is your firm "Committed to Mediocrity TM"?" at Ross's Law Marketing Blog. Fishman's right: tag lines are hard. I'm not sure how much time, effort and money it took Apple to come up with "Think Different," though I'm guessing it was more than the AmLaw 100 spent on their own tag lines. Combined. But you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good tag line, you just have to, well, think different. As in "what's different about our firm, and how can we articulate it in a tag line?" (Hint: it's not focus. Or size. Or geography. Or confidence. Or intelligence. Or success. Or results.) Read the post. It's funny and you'll learn something. And you just might be compelled to revise your tag line when you're done. Because your competition is probably "Committed to Excellence" too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sorry Mr Sedaka: starting up is hard to do, too.

Heather Townsend's "Ten things you MUST do before starting a business" at The Efficiency Coach's Partnership Potential blog. This post is for lawyers thinking about striking it out on their own. And for those who have already started a firm. And those just beginning to scratch out an idea on the back of a napkin. And even those who don't think they'll ever hang out their own shingle. Does that cover everyone? Good. Townsend's post compiles ten pieces of solid, practical advice for generating success, advice that will help you focus your efforts and maximize the value of your time NOT spent on client work. Read it and you'll agree.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Earning your stripes at 3:00 am: fixing client problems is the best business development tool ever.

Betsy Munnell's "What Do Blogging and Vegas Have in Common?? ....Building a Niche Law Practice in the Digital Age" on her blog. Marketing and business development weren't always about blog posts and tweets and Facebook pages. Back in the day, a lawyer did her best networking when she was doing her best work. Munnell's post reminds us of that, even as she looks at digital tools as a way to enhance your reputation in today's world, where "personal interaction is at a premium." Are the good old days gone forever? Maybe. Or maybe you just have to do it differently, to build a reputation online so that you don't have to start building it from scratch at each and every in-person encounter offline. Either way, your reputation is just the starting point. You always have to earn your stripes the old-fashioned way: adding value. This post reminds us of that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Trying to get from here to there? It won't be easy.

Adam Richardson's "Lessons from the Three Cups of Tea Controversy" on The Conversation at the Harvard Business Review. I generally try to avoid making connections of the "what folding my shirts in the all-night laundromat has taught me about running a law practice" variety, but I couldn't help it this time. Because Richardson's post about the Three Cups of Tea controversy contains a couple of lessons about setting goals and effecting change that law firm leaders need to know. Now more than ever.

Change is hard, often harder than one could ever imagine. The change itself doesn't have to be significant or even important. Want to implement a new CRM system? Bring greater discipline to your business development and marketing budget? Create an environment where partners regularly talk to each other about business opportunities? It doesn't matter, because what you're really trying to do is change habits, culture, and attitudes. And that is hard. Read the post. It doesn't have the answers, but it will help you better understand the challenges you're facing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Please, people, let's be civil. Everyone will have a chance to speak.

Peter Slattery's "The time-based billing debate is not a matter of good versus evil" in The Australian. Slattery is the managing partner of a five-office Australian firm, so you might expect that he'd be in favor of the old-school approach to billing clients. But what might appear at first glance to be an apologia of the heavy-handed tactics of hourly billing turns out to be a call for reason and temperance in the billing debate. Sure, it's easy to mock the billable hour as an outdated vestige of a soon-to-be-irrelevant past, just as it's equally easy to discount alternative fees because clients haven't embraced them or because they're very hard to get right or because some clients will abuse them. But that's not going to help the client, is it? Value-billing, the real kind, is probably a little more complicated than "not this" or "not that." We've known all along that there are two sides to the billing story. Slattery's post makes it clear that they're both right. Now what are you going to do?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

You want me to pay for what?!?

Robert Mattern's "Cost Recovery Breeds Client Frustration in New Survey" on Law.com. According to the law firms Mattern polled as part of his biennial survey on cost recovery practices, "client pushback [on costs] is increasing." This observation isn't particularly new or revealing. Even in good times, clients question the charges that law firms pass along (as well they should). So why read this post? Because whenever you read "client frustration" you should be looking for the opportunity to alleviate that frustration. What are your charge-back policies? What do your clients think of them? Have you ever asked? How much money can the 30% of firms that charge clients for printing documents be recovering for those services? Think they're making less profit than the 70% of firms that don't? Maybe clients would be happier if they weren't paying for printing. Or scanning. Or even telephone calls. How much are happier clients worth? Think they'd agree that less frustration = greater value?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Talking to strangers just got a little easier.

Mary Ellen Sullivan's "Big Ideas for Small Talk" on the Attorney at Work blog. Let's face it: networking is tough. You have to identify the right events, the ones where potential clients and influencers hang out. You have to identify the right people, the ones who might give you work or an introduction or whatever else you might need. And then you have to talk: ask the right questions, listen to the answers, carry on interesting conversations. Sullivan's post will help with you that part. Sure, you'll still have to figure out the who, where, and why. But once you do, these icebreakers (and conversation killers) are bound to ease the pain of striking up a conversation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Storytelling. It's not just for campfires and kids.

Nick Morgan's "Win by Telling Great Stories with Peter Guber" on his blog Public Words. Unless you're new here, you know that I like posts about telling stories. Stories articulate your value as a lawyer. They communicate your passion, your knowledge, your experience. They help you translate the facts and figures of your work into people and problems and solutions. Most importantly, they give clients a reason to like you, to want to work with you, to trust you with their success, their career, their fears. I didn't know who Peter Guber was before I read this post. And I don't know if I will ever by his book, Tell to WinBut that doesn't mean I didn't learn a lot about telling a good story from this post. Read it, and you will too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Too big to succeed? A client's take on hiring law firms.

Mark Herrmann's "Inside Straight: Hiring Law Firms or Lawyers?" at Above The Law. Yes, it would be nice to put this question to rest, as Herrmann longingly suggests. But that's probably not going to happen, at least not until law firms realize that their brand isn't their firm, but their people (right Mr Hellerman?). But this post is more than an exploration -- albeit an exhaustive one -- of why clients hire lawyers and not law firms. It's also a gauntlet thrown down at the feet of every firm that seeks to provide comprehensive service across multiple jurisdictions. It's an indictment of the "bigger is better" theory. It's a call for law firms to step up and apply stringent standards of quality across the board (and maybe even the globe). How are you going to respond?

Friday, April 22, 2011

I get help with a list of resources from my friends.

Debra Bruce's "Do Bar Associations Really Benefit Solos?" on the Solo Practice University blog. Don't let the title of this post fool you: Bruce isn't interested in a philosophical discussion of the role Bar Associations should play in helping solos establish and manage their practices. Her objectives are much more practical: identify all of the resources Bar Associations across the country currently make available to solos. And thanks to her friends and fellow lawyers, this post is well on the way to becoming the definitive resource list. Read it, and add your favorite resource to the list.

Another corny headline. Maybe this will make up for it:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Finding your zen. In front of a crowd.

Garr Reynolds' "Dealing with public speaking nerves" on his blog, Presentation Zen. I just discovered this blog (when I read this post) and added it to my RSS feed. You should too. It's clever, funny, and full of practical advice. Like the content of this post. Public speaking is a great way to showcase your expertise, connect with potential clients, get feedback on your ideas, build your brand. But if you're like me, you'd rather be sitting in the dentist's chair than standing at the dais. Reynolds' post just might help you reduce some of that fear and find your presentation zen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Strategy as it should be.

Bruce MacEwen's "Third in Our Series on Strategy: Bad Strategy" on his blog Adam Smith, Esq. Think you've got strategy? Then you need to read this post, which is easily one of the best pieces on law firm strategy I have read (and I read a lot of 'em). Law firms are notorious for spending time, money, and resources developing strategic plans that do little more than confirm a broad range of unrealistic assumptions, about the market, the firm, the competition, the potential for increased revenue. Not on purpose, mind you. It just happens. Because they fear dissent if everyone doesn't have a voice. Because they think if they want something bad enough it will come true. Because good strategy is hard: it requires making difficult choices, admitting weaknesses, setting unpopular priorities. MacEwen's post can help you break that cycle. If you heed his advice, that is:
"Doing it the hard way-the right way-may be more painful in the short run, but anything else is sure to be far more painful in the long run."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You can't always give what they want. Not without asking questions, anyway.

Allison Shields' "Do You Know What Your Clients Really Want?" at her Legal Ease Blog. No, it's not the start of a bad lawyer joke. Giving your clients what they want and what they need -- even when the two are in conflict -- is part of the adding value equation. But much of the time you won't know what they really without doing a little digging. Without asking a few questions. Without challenging their answers a little bit. Without understanding their short-, medium-, and long-term objectives. Without articulating what you can realistically provide, and comparing it to the results they hope to achieve. But don't take my word for it. Read the post and draw your own conclusions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Working the crowd. And doing it right.

Whitney Johnson's "Building a Network That Works Takes Work" on her blog at the Harvard Business Review. We've written about networking before, but this post reminds us that there's always more to learn. Networking done right, the way that builds meaningful relationships, the way that makes people want to get to know you better, the way that leads to doors opening and client engagements, doesn't just happen. It takes planning and effort and follow-up. It takes work. This post talks about the work you should be doing to build the network you want. Read it, and start doing it right.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's a brand new day. Don't you need a brand new strategy?

Joe Altonji's "Thinking about Strategy in a Post-Crisis World" at the Hildebrandt Baker-Robbins blog. Sure, the economy's getting better. But it's not where it was and, says Altonji, probably won't ever get back there again. That means the way you did things in the past is not going to drive your success in the future. So what are you going to do about it?

A good first step: redefine your strategy. Figure out what's important to you, to your partners, to your clients. Develop a plan for making sure you stay relevant. This post will help you get started. But don't read it if you're just looking for answers, for a "one-size-fits-all" strategy that you can tweak to your firm's needs. Because this post only asks the questions. You have to supply the answers. Fortunately, these are the very questions you need to prepare your firm for the brand new day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The future of law firms: irrelevant?

Jordan Furlong's "Not wanted on the voyage" at Law21.ca. What if we staged a revolution, and none of the law firms came? According to Furlong, that is a real possibility. Nobody disputes the fact that change, true change, the kind that requires you to step off the cliff without knowing if there's a ledge below, is hard. Really hard. But what appears to be still up for grabs is whether or not that kind of change is all that necessary. The visionaries certainly think so. The consultants certainly think so. A lot of clients seem to think so. But the law firms? Not so much. Furlong's thoughtful post takes a look at what that means -- for lawyers, law firms, and clients -- and offers some useful advice on avoiding irrelevance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This is creative? Innovative? Can't you do better than that?

Julie Kay's "Companies Get Creative to Cut Legal Costs" at Law.com. Unless you've been living under a rock, you're well aware of the ever-increasing pressure on in-house counsel to reduce legal costs. So the fact that Microsoft and H-P are outsourcing their work to India, using solos instead of BigLaw whenever they can, and negotiating alternative and fixed fee deals isn't particularly newsworthy. So why read this article? Two reasons. First, because there's an interesting discussion of just how important international skills and experience have become to global clients:
"When I started, everything I did ... all the regulatory work ... was centered in Washington,"
[Microsoft Corporate VP and Deputy GC Horacio] Gutierrez said. "Now the centers of power are Asia, Sao Paulo and Moscow. The majority of our revenue comes from outside the United States." 
That drives corporate counsel to hire lawyers who are multilingual and understand the cultural sensitivities of other countries, Gutierrez said.
But more importantly, because if H-P and Microsoft look at outsourcing, solo practitioners, and alternative and fixed fees as "innovative" and "creative," it's clear that they still measure the value of legal services by the cost of those services. Doesn't that leave room for the firm that is truly creative, truly innovative, truly interested in solving their clients' problems, whether they be obtaining patents across the globe, or managing a diverse team of 50 patent lawyers, or demonstrating to corporate that they are getting maximum value from their legal spend? Maybe that could be your firm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Solving your client's problems. The right way.

Dan Hull's "Cross-Selling: You Folks Really Partners? Or Just Sharing Space?" at What About Paris? Cross-selling isn't up-selling, convincing the client to buy additional services merely because you offer them. It's knowing your client, her legal needs, her business objectives, her pressure points. It's knowing your partners, their strengths, their experience, their weaknesses. It's putting the pieces together to determine if indeed the solution to your client's problem sits in the office down the hall. When done right, cross-selling is introducing one friend with a problem to another with a solution. Isn't that what you do, solve your client's problems?

Some lawyers believe cross-selling is a myth. Not Hull. And he's right: cross-selling isn't a tall tale, it's your job, your duty to your clients and to your partners.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm a legal marketer and I endorse this post.

George Wallace's "Blather. Wince. Repeat. [Mutterings on Marketing]" at his blog Declarations and Exclusions. Although this post starts out a little like The Killers (albeit with less mystery), Wallace only admits to the sins of his past to provide context for his rather unique perspective on legal marketing. And when I say "perspective" I really mean "critique." Of legal marketing. Of selling legal services. Of the Legal Marketing Association.

So why is this legal marketer telling you to read it? Because the questions Wallace raises are the ones we all--lawyers and legal marketers alike--should be asking. And answering. For ourselves, our clients, our peers, our colleagues. Is legal marketing "as much about the interests of the marketer as it is about anything else"? Are "[t]ime and resources spent selling legal services" truly "time and resources not spent performing legal services"? Are the two always in conflict? Is it naive to think that lawyers need to know how to sell themselves, their skills, their expertise? Or is it naive to think that they never will? Is the raison d'être of legal marketing really "persuading the prospect that he or she needs and wants what is on offer, regardless of whether what is on offer is actually what the client needs and regardless of whether the proffered service matches, in reality, the appealing description offered by the marketer"?

Read the post. Think about how you're marketing and why. Make it better and everyone wins. Especially the client.

Friday, April 8, 2011

One secret of success? A rock-solid foundation.

Joe Evans' "What Every Business Executive Should Know About Creating a Comprehensive and Executable Strategic Plan – Part 1" at the Vistage Buzz Blog. Strategic planning is one of the pillars of starting and maintaining a successful practice. Yet many lawyers give it only lip service (when they're not ignoring it altogether). If you're in that group, this post is for you. Come to think of it, if you're not in that group, the post is for you, too. In it -- and in the nine other posts in the series -- Evans lays out the "components of a comprehensive business strategic plan and ... a checklist for evaluating strategic planning process effectiveness." Sound useful? It is.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Come together. Right now. Over fees.

"Two Veteran Lawyers Say Now Is the Time for Fixed Fees" by Ben W. Heineman Jr. and William F. Lee in Law.com's Corporate Counsel. When a former General Electric GC and the head of WilmerHale get together to tell the world why the time is right for fixed fees, I listen. You should too. Because this piece isn't just a manifesto in favor of fixed fees. It's also a fairly detailed guide on how to make them work for you and for your clients. And when that happens, everybody wins.

To make up for today's corny headline, here's the real deal:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sorry Santayana: it's the ones who don't heed the lessons of the past that are doomed.

John Hellerman's "5 Marketing Lessons From Howrey’s Graveside" at Law 360. RIP, Howrey. And Brobeck, Thelen, Coudert Brothers, Heller Ehrman. What can we learn from the demise of these almost too successful, too well known, too traditional, too well established to fail law firms? Plenty, if we listen closely enough. Hellerman does, and has written a thoughtful piece on marketing, branding, and products, and how they played a role in Howrey's failure. Can these lessons alone save your firm from collapse? Probably not. But if you're listening, they might just help you make it a little stronger.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trying to price value? Talk to your clients.

Meredith Hobbs' "In-House, Firm Lawyer Trade Views on Alternative Billing" in Law.com's Law Technology News. Lawyers should be talking to their clients about many things: service, value, delivery, skills, etc. But alternative fee arrangements ought to be at the top of that list. Why? AFAs are unknown. They're different. They're daunting. And they are important to clients. Very important. To offer AFAs that make their clients happy, that make their partners happy, that reflect the value of the services they provide, lawyers need to develop arrangements that are win / win for everyone involved. The only way they can get there is by talking to their clients, by understanding what's important for them, by setting goals that reflect the needs of both the firm and the client. Kevin Gallagher and Ronan Doherty had one of those conversations at this ACC Georgia panel discussion. Now it's your turn. Read this post. Talk to your clients. And figure out different ways to price the value you give them. Your clients will thank you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"It's a very Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest firm." The future of law?

Steven Harper's "The Goldman Model for Big Law" at The AmLaw Daily. Wondering what BigLaw's future looks like? Look no further than Goldman Sachs, says Harper. What would it mean for a firm's culture if Partners could trade future returns for payoff today? If firms were structured on a 1:73 partners to staff ratio? Is this the future of big global law firms? Maybe. According to Harper, some of them might already be there. Either way, it's clearly a direction to which the big firms are trending.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Baby steps to a better practice. Baby steps.

Nora Riva Bergman's "50 Ways to Grow Your Practice in 2011 and Beyond" on her JD Supra page. Most of the time, big change comes from little actions. Like we learned in What about Bob?, it's all about baby steps. You don't need to need to make 20 new contacts a week, just one, week in and week out. You don't need to write five blog posts a week, just a couple, week in and week out. Bergman's presentation is full of little actions you can take, little habits you can form, little changes you can make to grow your practice. They're not all for everyone, but with 50 there's bound to be a few for you.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Signing the checks means clients get to determine value.

Fred Wilson's "A Challenge to Startup Lawyers" at his blog AVC. Here we go again with the client perspective.... Regardless of what lawyers tell themselves, fees are generally a pretty big deal for most clients. Whether you charge $5,000 or $17,000 for a specific transaction (in this post, it's an incorporation and seed round), your clients are probably looking at the work done and the fees paid to determine value received. Does that mean you should lowball fees on every representation? Of course not. It means that you should know your clients and their expectations, their challenges, their pressure points. It means that you should take a long-term perspective in evaluating the relationship and its value to you. It means that you should be open to change. Read the post. And read the comments. Are you ready to accept Wilson's challenge?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stop selling yourself short. Own your achievements.

J. Kelly Hoey's "I Am….Narrate Your Career Story" on Kelly's Blog. I've said it before: lawyers should tell stories more often. Stories that convey their passions, their successes, their personalities. Stories that contextualize their work, their experience, their expertise. But most of all, stories that give clients and potential clients a reason to like them, to want to connect with them, to want to hire them. Marketing isn't just about facts and figures, numbers of deals, cases won, dollars recovered. It's mostly about people, and articulating what you do in a way that causes others to sit up and listen. Hoey's post challenges you to turn your bio into a "career story," to inject some personality, to own your achievements. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sending an email? It's probably too long already.

Leo Babauta's "Your Emails Are Too Long" on the zenhabits blog. It all starts with communication, doesn't it? And it all ends with communication, too. So the next time you're writing an email, focus less on enumerating everything you have to say and more on what the recipient has to read. Be concise. Have a point. Get to it quickly. Use no more than five sentences. Ask no more than one question. Don't make your recipient work too hard, because she probably won't. It's your email, after all: isn't it only fair that you do the work? Read this post, then start cutting. Your clients and colleagues and friends and family will appreciate it.
"Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte"
                          - Blaise Pascal, Lettres provinciales

Monday, March 28, 2011

The value of the client's perspective.

Toby Brown's "The Value of Law Firm Experience Lists and Other Musings from an AGC" at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. Like Brown, I geek out on this kind of stuff. The Associate General Counsel for Litigation at the 37th largest US corporation? Sharing his perspective on how law firms sell themselves, what they do right and what they do wrong? It rarely gets any better than this. I've said it before, when clients talk, law firms need to sit up and listen. Because more often than not, they tell you exactly what they are looking for. Paul Beach, AGC at United Technologies, is no different. Up to 95% of experience not worth mentioning? Proposals in hard copy only? Proclaiming how much time you are writing off because they client is so important to you? Read the post. Change the way you sell. Your clients will appreciate it. And when your clients appreciate you, you're light years ahead of the competition.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The future of law? You fill in the blank.

"'Bet the Farm' Versus 'Law Factory': Which One Works?" from Toby Brown and Ron Friedmann on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog (it's also posted at Friedmann's blog, Strategic Legal Technology). How will law firms adapt to change? Will there be a new business model? More than one? How can firms respond to market and client pressures for lower prices and greater efficiency and increasing specialization? What will the new firm look like? Are firms facing a "transform or die" decision? Friedmann and Brown explore these questions, possible futures for BigLaw, and what it all means for lawyers and firms, for clients, and for the practice of law. This is stuff you need to know. And while you're at it, read these posts too (list compiled by Jordan Furlong - thanks, Jordan!). More stuff you should know.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Got a brand? Um, maybe not.

Rees Morrison's "Brands of law firms – doubtful thoughts after a Georgetown Law Center conference" on his Law Department Management blog. Morrison writes for law departments, not the lawyers who serve them. As such, his blog is full of valuable and often unique insight into the ways that lawyers can improve the delivery of the services they provide and the value they add. This post is a good example. Think your branding efforts are working, that they are resonating with your clients, that they are articulating your "promise to clients"? Morrison doesn't. Read the post. Should you change the way you communicate the value of your firm? How?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a crowded marketplace. Being the same doesn't help.

Intelli Challenge's "Dude, your collateral sucks!" at The Intelligent Challenge. When I saw the title of today's post, I knew I had to read it. Once I did, I knew you had to read it too. Lawyers, from solos to small firm lawyers to BigLaw, generate a massive amount of marketing collateral. Lawyer biographies. Practice brochures. Firm descriptions. Newsletters, white papers, client alerts. Does yours stand out? Does it engage your readers? Does it sell your firm and your practices and your lawyers? It's a crowded marketplace. Being the same isn't going to help you get more clients. Read this post, then take pen to paper. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How many times do you have to hear this?

Ron Friedmann's "Empirical Overview: The Life Cycle of the Client-Law Firm Relationship" from the Integreon blog. Miss this year's Georgetown University Law Center’s Future of Law Conference? No worries. Friedmann didn't, and has recapped several key sessions from the seminar on his blog, including this one presented by Lisa Hart, Chief Executive of Acritas, who talked to more than 2000 general counsels to find out what makes a law firm "top of mind" for their clients. There's clearly a lot more to Hart's study than the statistics included in this post, but when you learn that only 5% of clients cited "low cost" as a driver of selection, do you really need more data?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The future of law? Different.

Patrick Lamb's "What Does the Future of Law Hold? Three Predictions" from his The New Normal column at the ABA Journal Online. For the first time in three years, I wasn't able to attend Georgetown University Law Center’s Future of Law Conference. Fortunately, Lamb was (as were others whose posts we will be featuring this week). This post contains Lamb's takeaways from the sessions, three changes in the legal profession that he sees happening in the relatively near future. They're not particularly revolutionary, at least not at the start, but as they take hold, they could certainly help revolutionize the way law is practiced, the way clients obtain legal services, the nature of those services and the value the that clients receive. Sound over the top? Maybe. Read the post (and comments) and decide for yourself.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Plan. Pitch. Think. Talk. Network. Repeat.

P.J. McGuire's "Don’t Let Networking Work You" on the Shy to Social Butterfly Blog. Networking isn't easy for everyone. But it can be easier. McGuire's steps for making the most of your networking activities are simple, practical, and best of all, easy to implement. There's no guarantee they will take you from shy to social butterfly, but they will certainly help you articulate what you do, engage with others, and build relationships with the people who can help you meet your objectives. What's so hard about that?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

See the world. Learn a new language. Make your own luck.

Michael Chang's "Luck - It Depends on How You Look at It" at In-house ACCess. This isn't the first time we've recommended a post from Michael Chang. And it likely will not be the last. Chang exemplifies the true nature of globalization: not money moving around the globe or products being made ever more cheaply or the exotic reduced to kitsch and stereotype, but discovery and enrichment and empowerment. He's a road warrior working out of a suitcase and a hotel lobby, an immigrant learning the language by watching TV, and a California surfer dude all rolled up into one. And he's a potential client. So when he writes about being multilingual and multicultural, you need to read it. And then get out there and expand your own world. Prepare your own future. Make your own luck.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mind the gap.

John Wallbillich's "Howrey 3: When is a Law Firm Brand Too Good?" on Wired GC. Day Three of Wallbillich's Howrey retrospective is about brands, branding, and slogans. But underneath all that, it's about the same thing we talked about yesterday: perception. Perception of value, of client service, of skills and expertise. The gap between the message you think you are sending and the message the rest of the world receives can be huge. Sometimes unbridgeable. Don't get caught out. Talk to your clients. Talk to your friends. Talk to your competition. If they message they're getting isn't the one you're sending, don't expect them to change. Adjust your message. Then talk to them again. And repeat the process until you know they're hearing what you want to say. Mind the gap.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sometimes picking up the phone is the first step.

Debra Baker's "Value Perceptions: Real or Illusory?" on her blog, Law Firm Transitions. Think you're adding value? Meaningful value? The kind of value that goes beyond providing legal advice and helps your clients run their businesses better, sleep better at night, make more money? The kind that gives you a distinct competitive advantage over all the other law firms that provide the same services? Maybe you should ask your clients. The gulf between what you believe and what your clients perceive can be significant. Talk to them. Figure out what you're doing right (and what you're doing wrong). Make it better. This post is a good place to start.

We've recommended a lot of posts on value. Baker's post is a good addition to the list.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I calls 'em like I sees 'em: blah, blah, blah.

Aric Press' "A Cleansing Look at Law Firm Marketing and Messaging" in the AmLaw Daily. Think your marketing materials are the cat's meow? Your PowerPoint presentation a cut above the rest? Your proposal letter an on-target, informative, meaningful analysis of how your firm will help the potential client solve its problem and meet its business objectives? Then you might want to read this article. Ken Grady, an actual general counsel at an actual corporation (Wolverine World Wide) calls 'em like he sees 'em. All you have to do is listen. So if you weren't at Georgetown Law School last week for its annual conference on the state of law firms, read this post. Then take another look at your marketing materials, from the client's perspective. Will they read: "Blah, blah, blah Law Firm name. Blah, blah, blah, Law Firm name"?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wanna increase profitability? Take my advice.

Colin Cameron's "The Top 5 Things Law Firms Need To Do Now To Increase Profitability" at Cameron's Profits for Partners Blog. This post, like all of the ones Cameron writes, is short, to the point, and full of solid advice. No-nonsense advice. Practical advice. The kind you need when you're thinking about your firm's future and its profitability, its management, its strategy, people, and clients. So take my advice: read this post, and add this blog to your feed. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sorry, Einstein: E = mc² just might apply to law firms, too.

Stephen Mayson's "Law firms and the formula for success." What makes some firms more successful than others? What exactly is "success"? Is there a formula? Today's announcement of Howrey's dissolution makes it painfully clear just how important these questions are to you, to your partners, and to your clients. Mayson's article doesn't have all the answers, but his exploration of key factors that contribute to success -- market, commitment, and contribution -- provides valuable insight to firms of all sizes in this era of "fundamental change and restructuring."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How do you spell transformation? L-P-M.

Jim Hassett's "Case study: Legal project management at Williams Mullen" on his blog Legal Business Development. If you're trying to figure out legal project management -- what it means, what's different about it, what's the right way to do it, what benefits it offers you and your clients and how to capture them -- then today's post is for you. Hassett's case study provides a rare perspective on how one firm is implementing LPM to improve efficiency and client service. Already past that point? Read it anyway. Don't you owe it to yourself and to your clients to see how others are transforming the practice of law?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sorry, Edison: for lawyers, it's 99% preparation.

Janet Ellen Raasch's "How to 'pitch' your legal services: The preparation factor" on her blog Constant Content. Winning new work isn't always about being cheaper or being in more cities or having a bigger team. Most of the time, winning comes from just being prepared, from knowing what the client needs, from knowing what your own firm can do, from articulating -- in terms the client understands -- how you can help them achieve their business objectives. This post (and parts one and two in the same series) provide good, practical, advice on doing just that.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Does this passion make my practice fit right?

Monick Halm's "You Have a J.D., But are You Passionate about the Law?" from Gen Y J.D. Unless this is your first visit to my blog, you know that in my book, practical beats theoretical any day of the week. Hands down. Posts that lay out specific steps for marketing your practice, building your business, and providing your clients with ever-increasing value are the ones that most often appear on this blog. So why is today's post about "passion"? Because passion counts. A lot. Ask your clients. Ask your family and friends. And most importantly, ask yourself. Are you passionate about the law?

Friday, March 4, 2011

There's no built-in GPS for clients.

"Give Your Clients a Roadmap" from David Bilinsky and Laura Calloway on Slaw.ca's SlawTips. For most non-lawyers, the law is uncharted territory. It's typically confusing, occasionally frightening and more often than not simply unknowable. So why not make it better? Why not give your clients a roadmap at the start of your representation? Tell them what needs to be done, when you are going to do it, and what they can expect as a result. Because good client service is all about good communication, and this is a great place to start.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flipping burgers for your clients.

The Legal Bizzle's "How flipping burgers can make you a better lawyer" at his blog, The Bizzle. What did you do before you became a lawyer? According to this post, even it was working in a burger joint, that experience can make you a better lawyer, as in better advisor, better negotiator, better provider of client value. And it just might give you an edge over the competition, too. But don't despair if you went to law school directly, without a stop in the workaday world. You probably have some life experience that you can draw upon for the benefit of your clients. Like this lawyer. And this one. And this one and this one too. Find it and use it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Smiles, handshakes and helping others.

James Clear's "24 networking tips that actually work" from the Passive Panda blog. Networking isn't just smiles and handshakes, says Clear. But we already knew that, like we knew that networking success doesn't just happen on its own, it requires planning and focus and effort. Then why read this post? Because it's full of practical tips on doing it right, on setting expectations, on building relationships, on making networking a habit, and on much more. And even if you don't agree with everything that Clear says, the happy baby picture in this post is hands down a great way to start your day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sooner or later, you're gonna need to talk to people.

Kevin O'Keefe's "What's the role of PR in promoting your law blog to traditional media?" at Real Lawyers Have Blogs. Web 2.0 is great. You can publish your work on a blog, push it out to the world via Twitter, share it with your friends and connections on Facebook and LinkedIn and JD Supra. But sooner or later, you're going to have to develop real relationships with people if you want all those efforts to lead to something, like reputation or revenue. O'Keefe's post about PR in a Web 2.0 world reminds us that the real value of social media isn't the push of media, but the engagement of social.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Solving problems and having fun. A guide to BigLaw.

Kimberly Egan's "Everything associates didn't learn in law school" from The National Law Journal. Want to work in BigLaw? Understand the unwritten rules? Meet and exceed the unspoken expectations? This piece from Egan, a partner and practice chair at DLA Piper, will help. But even if that's not you, you should read the article. Because it's really about providing service and adding value and being the lawyer who clients want to work with.

Friday, February 25, 2011

So what do you want to do when you grow up?

Jay Shepherd's "Small Firms, Big Lawyers: The Key Question for Shingle-Hangers" at Above the Law. Running a law firm is more than doing great client work. You've got to rent space and buy equipment. Pay the bills and do the books. Market your practice and send out invoices and water the plants and wait for the repair guy to come out and fix your DSL connection. While doing all of the client work that makes it all possible. It's not for everyone. But it might just be for you. Read this post before you decide. And while you're at it, read this response from Carolyn Elefant.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stop trying to find time to sell. Make it.

Erica Strich's "How to Find Time to Sell Your Services" on the Rain Maker Blog. For most of us, the days are far shorter than the work that needs to get done, leaving the important but not necessarily urgent business development efforts undone when we turn out the lights and go home. This post provides some practical tips on breaking that habit, and on planting the seeds that will lead to additional work down the road. Don't neglect your garden. Read this post.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How am I doing up here?

Whitney Johnson's "The Essence of a Great Presentation" on her blog at Harvard Business Review. Worried about nailing your next presentation? About showing the potential client how smart you are, how well you can do their work, how perfect you are for the job? Then read this post. Great presentations are not about perfection, they're about communication. They're not about you, but about your audience and how well you connect with them. Read this before you sit down to write.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's all about the client. And you.

Brian Tannebaum's "What Will Always Matter In The Legal Profession" from his blog My Law License. Although I don't agree with Tannebaum's position that "the internet is where people go to find the best deal on whatever they are going to buy," including lawyers, the rest of this post is spot on. Being a good lawyer -- and a successful one -- is not about having the newest toys, the coolest apps, the best spot on Google. It's about much more. Like people and clients and skill and compassion. Read this post and you'll agree.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The next frontier. Same-same. But different.

Mark Beese's "Legal Marketing's Next Frontier" from The Docket. Like me, you've probably read a lot of posts on leveraging social media to market a law practice (I've even written a few). Write a blog. Start a Twitter account. Set up a Facebook page. Get on LinkedIn. What's different about this one? Beese takes a more practical approach than most, outlining both the what-social-media-is and the how-to-do-it-right, giving lawyers a comprehensive guide to using social media "to communicate with [their] audience, provide value to [their] clients, and strengthen [their] reputation and brand."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Themes in the state of marketing

Tim Corcoran's "Insights from the Marketing Partner Forum 2011" on Corcoran's Business of Law Blog. The Marketing Partner Forum brings together practicing lawyers, legal marketers, and legal consultants of all stripes to talk about, as you might suspect, marketing the law firm. Corcoran's post picks up some of the more significant trends discussed at this year's conference. It's a good overview of what firms are thinking and how it is changing the way they market their practices. The bonus? Links to conference recaps from a variety of attendees. Read them all.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome to Law 2.0. Please enter ID and password.

Bob Weber's "Why 'Watson' matters to lawyers" in the National Law Journal. This post, from IBM's General Counsel, imagines a new kind of world, one where Deep QA computers "can analyze hundreds of millions of pages of content and mine them for facts and conclusions — in about the time it takes to answer a question on a quiz show." After watching Watson dominate Jeopardy!'s greatest champions over the past three days, we share that vision. The future is now. What are you going to do? (Hint: sticking your head in the sand isn't the right answer.)