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Getting Paid: How to Market Your Practice With Conventional and Alternative Fee Agreements

Date April 8, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Getting Paid: How to Market Your Practice With Conventional and Alternative Fee Agreements

Getting Paid: How to Market Your Practice With Conventional and Alternative Fee Agreements

Fee agreements are the cornerstone of any legal practice. Drafted properly, they increase the likelihood that you will get paid for your services in a timely fashion.   Good fee agreements decrease the chances that you will get into a dispute with your clients or with the Board of Bar overseers, and they can even be an effective marketing tool as well.  On May 4th, Stephen Seckler will chair a panel on the subject at the Massachusetts Bar Association.  For more, click here.

Do I Have Your Undivided Attention?

Date March 29, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Do I Have Your Undivided Attention?

Do I Have Your Undivided Attention?
multitasking woman

Yes, you have my undivided attention

The other day, I called a former colleague to get some advice.  I really value his opinion and he is someone I know I can count on to be frank.  Unfortunately, he is also someone who likes to multitask (and someone who is easily distracted.)  In fact almost every telephone conversation that I have with him ends the same way:  “Oh, I’m sorry Steve.   I really need to take this call.”

This time, I decided to nip the problem in the bud.  I needed an uninterrupted block of time to get his feedback on something so I asked him when I could have his undivided attention for 20 minutes.  He quickly wrote back and said “sure”.  He also said that he would be driving to New York and that I could reach him the next night after 7 p.m.

I wrote back to him and pointed out that talking in the car means that he would be dividing his attention between me and all of the other cars on the road; nonetheless, I decided to take what I could get.

The following night, I called him at the appointed hour and he answered right away.  As we began our conversation, I was able to put aside my own bias (i.e. that talking on the phone while driving means that you are not fully engaged in either driving or talking).  But a few minutes into our phone call, it became apparent that we were not alone.  He was driving to New York, yes; but he had his whole family in the car.  When his daughter needed to throw up, that was the end of the call.

Giving someone your undivided attention is not easy in our wired world.  We are surrounded by many sources of distraction throughout the course of our work day and e-mail has changed our expectations about how quickly we must respond.   Before the internet, the phone was a potential interruption for meetings that took place in the office.  Now  cell phones, blackberries, laptops and other digital media constantly vie for our attention wherever we are.

The up side is that we don’t have to finish our conversation before we set off for our next destination.  But we are fooling ourselves if we think that the person on the other end of the line is getting our full attention when we check our e-mail, look at our blackberry or get in a car to drive somewhere.

This may not always matter.  Sometimes, a conversation is simply a chance to quickly pass along some information.  And as a self employed individual, I greatly value the flexibility that comes with being able to leave my office without having to risk missing an important phone call or e-mail message.

But this has to be done with balance.  We harm our relationships when we refuse to give them our full attention.  In contrast, we really strengthen our relationships when we listen with no interruption.  And it is by being a great listener that we build our referral networks.

So what is a busy professional to do?  For starters, try turning your blackberry to silent when you meet with your clients and referral sources face-to-face.  Setting the phone to vibrate will be less of an intrusion if you happen to receive a message during the meeting; but in all likelihood, a little buzz in your pocket is still likely to distract you.

If you are speaking on the phone and don’t need your computer, then don’t face your computer.  Turn off any audible alerts that tell you e-mail is waiting in your in box.

There is great power in giving other professionals your undivided attention.  Good relationships are not based on efficiency; they are based on trust, something which can only be built when you make the necessary investment of time.

Try giving one of your professional contacts your undivided attention and see what happens.  Ask open ended questions and listen.  Let the other person do 80% of the talking.  You’ll be amazed at what you uncover and how it helps your practice to grow.

Three Things Business Clients Must See on Your Law Firm’s Website

Date March 21, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Three Things Business Clients Must See on Your Law Firm’s Website

1. Industry Experience 2. Representative Clients  3. Case Histories .  Larry Bodine explains on Youtube.

Making Introductions that Generate Referrals

Date March 21, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Making Introductions that Generate Referrals

Making Introductions that Generate Referrals

As a consultant, I’m always looking for ways to give referrals to other professionals.  I do this because I like being helpful.  But I also know that making introductions that may lead to referrals for one of my contacts is one of the most effective ways to generate referrals for myself.    When you help someone in an meaningful way, it is human nature to want to return the favor.  For a professional service provider, getting a lead for potential business ranks high on the “meaningful” scale.

Making an introduction can be done in a number of ways.  The simplest thing you can do is to tell someone in your network that they might want to contact person X because person X may have need of their services.

But there are more effective ways to make connections for the referral sources in your network.  Sharing a lead with one of your referral sources may certainly help that individual, particularly if you give that individual permission to use your name.  In a sense, telling someone to use your name is a way of lending some of your own credibility to the person you are trying to help.

Making a direct effort to help an individual connect with a lead is even more valuable for your referral sources.  For example, a few weeks ago, I contacted a partner at a regional accounting firm and told him that I was interested in seeing if there were any opportunities to do some marketing coaching with his partners.  I had been introduced to the partner by someone else in my network and I wasn’t even sure that this individual had any role in marketing or business development at his firm.

As it turns out, he does not have a lot of involvement in the marketing function at the firm.  But he did something that I truly appreciated.  He could have simply told me the name of the Director of Marketing  and suggested that I contact this individual.   He could have sent an e-mail on my behalf introducing me to the marketing director.  That would have been better.

Instead, he invited me to meet him for coffee and he asked his marketing director to join us.  In other words, he actively facilitated the introduction.

I have not generated any work yet from this introduction.  It is a new connection.  But I honestly believe that my chances of doing some consulting with this firm are much greater because the partner was there.  He not only took the time to speak with me and respond to my e-mail, but he made time to meet with me.  And through his actions, he demonstrated to my real prospect (i.e. the Marketing Director), that he thought I was important enough to meet.

It is certainly more convenient to give someone a name and tell them to follow up on their own.  But if you really want to deepen your relationship with a referral source, make the extra effort to stay involved in facilitating the introduction.  If you can’t join them for a networking meeting, then at least make sure that you are the one who makes the e-mail introduction (or phone call).  Then follow up with your referral source and ask him or her how things worked out with the introduction that you made.  Doing so will not guarantee that you get referrals in return.  But for a very small investment of time, you will greatly increase your odds of getting something in return.

Should Law Firms Avoid Groupon?

Date March 8, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Should Law Firms Avoid Groupon?

Should Law Firms Avoid Groupon?

Yes!  (According to this month’s guest blogger*.)

While Groupon may be a marketing marvel for the broader business community, whether or not lawyers can get in on some of new business action is yet to be decided. The question buzzing around the legal community: Is using Groupon to garner new business ethical?

For those who have never heard of the website, Groupon features daily deals on activities, restaurants, products, and services in more than 300 markets and 35 countries. Visitors who sign up receive a daily email listing local deals to take advantage of.  To date, the total amount of Groupon offers purchased totals almost 30 million, which is significant for a site that only launched in November 2008.

According to a recent article in the ABA Journal, a St. Louis law firm marketed its services for a will and durable power of attorney for $99 via a Groupon offer. The ethical issue stems from the fact that Groupon takes a percentage of the profits for each offering to its subscribers (negotiated on a case-by-case basis). An ethics subcommittee of the North Carolina state bar is currently investigating whether a Groupon deal amounts to “impermissible fee-sharing with a nonlawyer.” The St. Louis law firm that marketed its services on the site argues that offering a Groupon deal is similar to a coupon offering a discount. Interestingly, the firm reportedly lost money when individuals purchased the Groupon offer, but the firm did benefit from the new business calls that resulted from the original ad.

This case raises a timely issue for law firms looking to market their services through new channels, particularly online and in social media. Services like Groupon could be useful for law firms looking to market their business locally – but are they ethical and can they lead to new business for the firm? What are your thoughts?

My next post will focus on best practices for law firms looking to market their services in an era of new media.

*This post by Matt Probolus, assistant vice-president and senior underwriting specialist, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, is one of a series of guest posts on CounseltoCounsel. Special thanks to Matt for his contributions.

Starbucks Sells More than Coffee

Date March 3, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Starbucks Sells More than Coffee

Starbucks Sells More than Coffee

Learning how to deliver a focused marketing message is a challenge for the most of the  lawyers I meet.   Many litigators, for example, pride themselves on their ability to get up to speed quickly in new subject areas.

While there is nothing wrong with being a litigation generalist, telling the world that you are a generalist is a poor way to differentiate yourself from other attorneys.  When asked “what do you do?”, it is equally ineffective to list 10 different kinds of cases that you have handled.

Starbucks understands this concept.  The name Starbucks has become synonymous with coffee.  If you want to meet someone for coffee, Starbucks is likely to be on your short list of options.

But Starbucks sells many things besides coffee.  You can get baked goods and other snacks at Starbucks.  You can even get non-coffee drinks at Starbucks.

Similarly, lawyers may have many services that they can sell to their clients.   Some of these services may even be in practice areas that the attorney has no experience (e.g. other partners in their firm have expertise in real estate, taxation or corporate transactions).

To be successful in generating referrals, however, your branding needs to be focused like Starbucks.  With a focused message, you will get the clients in the door in the first place.  Once they are happy with your version of a “tall dark roast”, see if they are interested in a muffin.  Ask them if they would like a taste of your “iced pumpkin spice latte”.

Thanks to Chris Litterio, Managing Partner of Ruberto, Israel & Weiner for contributing this tip.

The 8 Buyer Personas (and How to Sell to Them)

Date February 23, 2011 Comment Comments Off on The 8 Buyer Personas (and How to Sell to Them)

It is important to recognize that all buyers of professional services are not alike.  For a description of 8 different types of buyers and how to sell to them, see an excellent article published in Rain Today.

Adopting Alternative Billing and Keeping the Pipeline Moving

Date February 16, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Adopting Alternative Billing and Keeping the Pipeline Moving

Alternative billing remains a good marketing opportunity for law firms of all sizes.  But how do you move away from hourly billing without cutting into your own profitability? Read my latest in the Massachusetts Lawyers Journal (see page 21.)        And while you are there, see page 22 for an excellent article on why it is risky to spread out your work when you are slow.

Don’t Just Talk Like a Lawyer-Look Like One

Date February 8, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Don’t Just Talk Like a Lawyer-Look Like One

Crafting a focused message, reinforcing your reputation and building relationships with referral sources are all important parts of marketing your practice.  But don’t ignore the non-verbal ways that you are communicating.   Does your dress speak of success?   Is your body language projecting confidence?   Does the tone of your voice suggest that you can solve the individual or company’s problem?  Read more.

Persistence, Flattery and Specificity

Date January 26, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Persistence, Flattery and Specificity

Persistence, Flattery and Specificity

PersistenceAs a service provider who works with attorneys, I am being pitched all the time by other service providers.  Some want me to help them promote their products and services through my blog.  Others simply ask to meet with me because they want to do more business with the legal community– and they believe that I am a potential source of referrals.   I don’t fault anyone for being proactive about selling.  But there are certainly approaches that work a lot better with me than others.

For starters, polite persistence is very effective.  While polite persistence can easily turn into fatal attraction, most of the lawyers I work with are hardly guilty of that flaw.  Instead, they make one attempt to connect (by phone or by e-mail), and then fail to follow up.  The same is true of most vendors who contact me.

I’m not trying to invite a barrage of phone calls and e-mail messages from other B to B service providers; but it is very noticeable when I hear from the same individual several times over a period of months, especially when I respond with limited interest.

Similarly, pleasant persistence that is combined with flattery (“I really enjoy reading your blog” or “The video on your website is great”) is even more effective (if it is sincere).

Finally, specific suggestions about when we might get together or how we might connect, are the most likely to actually occur.

I recently had this experience with a vendor of e-Discovery services.  The individual, Sarah K. Brown,  Corporate Communications Manager for Exterro, Inc. has contacted me a number of times in the past few months, each time suggesting potential subjects for CounseltoCounsel.  This week, I received a message from Sarah which triggered this post:

I wanted to let you know that I’m launching a new blog, E-Discovery 360. It will serve as a resource for news and information about e-discovery. I plan to cover the legal process management zeitgeist, from case law and industry trends to analyst reports and emerging best practices.

I’m writing to invite you to write a guest post! Your your site is one of my favorites, and I’d love to feature a guest post from you. Please feel free to propose a topic and I’ll make sure to reserve a spot for you in my editorial calendar! I’m also working on building my blogroll and would like to add your site, with your permission of course.

Alternatively, if you’re attending LegalTech New York, I’ll be doing live video interviews at the show and I’d love to get your thoughts on happenings and evolutions in e-discovery and litigation management if your schedule allows.

I wrote back to Sarah and thanked her for the compliment.  I also politely declined her generous offer because I don’t feel like e-discovery is within my core expertise.  I would have made a point of saying hi to her at the LegalTech show but unfortunately, I am unable to attend this year.  But after reading her post, I thought to myself, “That’s how it is done” (i.e. with polite persistence, flattery and specificity).