Great venn diagram on the subject.
I write a lot in this space about relationship building, reputation building and the tools you need to market your law practice. For those of you who practice in a law firm setting (either as an associate or as a partner), there are some bigger issues you should also address in your career.
There will always be tradeoffs when deciding where to build your career. But, what are some other questions you should ask yourself in order to assess whether your platform is the “right” platform?
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When you get right down to it, fear is the biggest obstacle to marketing success for most professionals. No one likes rejection and if you plan to ask anyone for business or referrals, the odds are very high that you will experience a significant amount of rejection. The key is to get beyond the fear and act.
Set up a system that rewards yourself for your actions not your results. Over time, you will achieve the volume of contacts you need in order to get the success you want. The important thing is to ignore the “no’s”, “not interested’s”, “not now’s” and the ever pervasive “no response whatsoever”. Click here to read more.
Building relationships with potential referral sources is an important part of building your law practice. But given the huge range of possibilities about who you can spend your time with, where do you begin?
The starting point of course is deciding who you identify as your ideal client. Once you have established this, your next step is to identify who are the referral sources who work with these same clients. These can be other professionals who provide different services to the same clientele; they can also be other lawyers who are billing at a different rate and need a lower-cost alternative to refer work to when prospective clients cannot afford their fee.
Beyond this, how do you spend your time efficiently and focus on good “potential referral sources”. The following is a four step process for making that determination:
1. While your referral source may serve some of the same clients that you would like to serve, is that referral source well-connected to that clientele? Does that individual seem like someone who is interested in relationship building and do they seem well connected to those clients?
2. Is the individual the type of professional who likes to connect professionals with each other? In other words, is the person a connector who has a helpful personality and who will go out of his or her way to try to make connections on your behalf? (This certainly does not describe many professionals you may encounter, not because professionals are antisocial; rather, because being a good connector is a skill in and of itself – so look for the bright spots.)
3. Is the individual someone you like and someone that you feel you can relate to? Don’t underestimate the value of spending your time with people who you like and whose company you enjoy. If you focus on this group, you will be much more motivated to spend time with them, and you are much more likely to make connections that will result in referrals.
4. Does the individual have any shared interests? This of course is related to item number three. If you both happen to enjoy baseball, then not only will you have more to discuss, but you may have an activity that you can spend time doing together. In contrast if you think you have a good referral source but you have nothing in common with that individual and you don’t particularly care for their company, it will be very difficult to form a relationship with that individual.
While this may all seem like common sense, it is easy to fall into the trap of chasing individuals with whom you have little in common and whom you do not care for. We have all met charismatic individuals who seem to be the key to our future success. While these individuals may be seemingly well-connected to the clientele that you want to serve, the barrier of trying to build relationships with these individuals is likely to be high. So aim for your ‘best’ prospects when putting together your list of potential contacts
Instead you are much better off trying to spend time with people that you do like and with individuals who share your interests. This is the foundation that relationships are built on this is the kind of trust you need in order to generate referrals.
I was speaking to one of my clients the other day and he described for me what he does any time he makes a court appearance. At the end of the day, he goes back to his office and takes a few minutes to document what happened. He has a longstanding practice of doing this and he always tries to do it the same days so that his memory is fresh. In effect, he has created a habit which ensures that he does not have to rely on his memory to keep track of his cases.
Many lawyers do this as a matter of course. In fact it is good practice whether you are a litigator or a transactional lawyer to generate file memos that are written after you have met with a client or interviewed someone on behalf of a client. As lawyers, we are very good at documenting in our case work.
But when it comes to networking meetings, we forget to use the skills we use all the time in practicing law. We do not prepare in the same way. I wrote about this after the blizzard in February. And we do not take the time to document our activities (and calendar next steps).
This litigation client of mine has begun incorporating his regular business practices into his marketing activities. After each networking meeting, he makes sure to write down notes about the conversation (including both personal and professional things he learned from the individual). I am also encouraging him to “docket” a next step with that individual (if he deems the individual to be a potential referral source or client).
No one likes to take time to do this. Tracking time, documenting what you have done and making a point of deciding on next steps before the day ends is all cumbersome. But when it comes to relationship building, documenting is an invaluable activity that can help you greatly as you cultivate relationships over time.
Posted by Stephen Seckler
Technology has been a great equalizer for small law firms and other professional services businesses. There are an ever-increasing array of tools to help you with your practice management, marketing and casework. In fact figuring out how to incorporate technology effectively into your practice is really an imperative in 2013. The ABA is even adopting new model rules that are “coming soon to a state near you”.
Integrating new technology into your practice needs to be balanced against the need to do client work and marketing. With technology, it is easy to go overboard reinventing yourself. So I always appreciate it when I get a good technology recommendation from someone I trust. Rather than trying everything out and getting nothing else done, I rely on my network to point me in the right direction when it comes to technology.
One of my latest additions to my technology bag of tricks is called Formstack (www.formstack.com). Formstack is a very inexpensive web-based service that enables you to create an endless variety of form documents. These are forms you can use to collect data from your clients, your employees, or just about anyone on just about any topic. You can use it as a client intake tool. Using Formstack, you can create a client satisfaction survey. You can set up a form to screen potential cases.
Formstack is simple to use, easy to learn and very flexible. It also integrates well with Constant Contact, PayPal and a number of other online tools which you may already be using.
One of the nice things about Formstack is that you can create the form and then “embed” the page on your website so that it has the same look and feel of your website and it uses your website’s domain name.
There are many marketing applications for Formstack. With little effort, you can create your own audit tool to get your foot in the door and begin a conversation with a prospective client.
Of course like any technology, there will be a learning curve. Do not expect to be able to use the tool without investing some time and effort. But Formstack is one of the easier tools to learn and a tool that I hope to use for at least six months or until the next great form creation tool is invented (whichever comes first).
Posted by Stephen Seckler