Monday, February 23, 2015

Collaboration Is The Future of Growth

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

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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

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

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Your "To-Do" List Is Not A Strategy

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

It Takes More Than Good Work To Stand Out

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

Are You Writing for a 4th Grader?

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

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Social Media Is For Listening, Too

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

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

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

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

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is There A Brand In This Law Firm?

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