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.