Category Archives: Articles of Interest

Lose Thirty Pounds; Develop New Clients

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”       Napoleon Hill

Let’s say you just got your beach trip photos back and after perusing them you reluctantly accept the fact that you really need to lose those thirty pounds you had fooled yourself into thinking you could hide under your loose work clothes.  You paste that terribly unflattering side view photo on the refrigerator (you know, the one that shows your expanding mid-section and an extra flap underneath your chin).  You get rid of all the junk in your kitchen, buy the “good” foods that fit the latest diet plan you have selected, and you dust off your exercise equipment.  You have a plan and you are determined to implement it.  First day is great.  You think you are not in as bad of shape as you thought because you don’t feel sore (just wait a few days).  It’s a little tough passing up your usual fair, but you stick to your diet plan.   The first week is a struggle, but somehow you manage to keep up your diet and exercise regiment, and you are rewarded for your efforts with some weight loss.  The next week is a little tougher.  You had some lunch meetings and it was a little embarrassing pulling off the bread from the sub sandwiches that were brought in, but you managed and again were rewarded with a few more pounds lost.  But at your cousin’s wedding that weekend, after a few glasses of red wine (since it is “good” for your heart, so you rationalize), you decide you deserve to celebrate a little for the weight you managed to lose in the first two weeks and you indulge a bit.  By week three you are making more concessions on your food choices and you are too busy to keep up the exercise regiment, but you vow to do better the next week.  Two months later, you have long abandoned your plan, you have gained all the weight back, and that brief few weeks when you were able to put on those smaller sized jeans have passed.

So what does this have to do with getting new clients?  Plenty!  A successful weight loss program generally requires “patience, persistence and perspiration.”  So does a successful marketing plan.  You may dabble in marketing here and there and manage to pick up some legal work, but sustained business development requires, you guessed it, patience, persistence and hard work (you don’t actually need to perspire although it has been known to happen, especially in Texas).  The best of intentions will not lead to reliable long term growth.  Only focused, persistent and sustained efforts will create a stable and reliable business portfolio, no matter how creative the marketing plan.  In the end, great marketing programs are not generally based on highly complex and unique concepts.  In fact, there is usually nothing extraordinary about the actual marketing activities, except to the extent that they are passionately and persistently pursued.  If you can master the persistence it takes to lose and maintain your weight loss, you can master an effective marketing plan.  Otherwise, you may as well take the photo off the refrigerator.  Why depress yourself?

 

Why Bother with a Mission Statement?

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.  Most people dabble their way through life never deciding to master anything in particular.”        Anthony Robbins

You’re a law firm and you basically just want to get clients and practice law.  You have an idea of what type of law you want to practice and what kind of clients you want, so why bother with a mission statement?  What purpose does it really serve?

As in the medical profession, the practice of law is becoming more and more specialized.  You may start off as a generalist, but at some point focusing on an area or areas of specialty may make sense.  Targeting in on either an area of law or a type of client can be critical to long term, sustained business development.  A mission statement may seem like a needless formality, but its development assists in bringing all decision makers in agreement as to the direction of the firm, and can surprisingly be a simple but effective tool in assuring that all activities undertaken are designed to meet the goals of the firm.  Many times, short term opportunities will appear on the horizon that will tempt members to loose focus.  While acting on a short term opportunity may provide short term benefits, resources are diverted away from what was already determined after careful analysis by the firm to be the most beneficial long term direction, and thus will delay or stall the ability of the firm to meet the goals and objectives that are in the best interest of the firm.   All opportunities should therefore be compared to the mission statement to determine whether they are in line with its stated intent.

More than just a nice statement gracing a brochure or business plan, the mission statement can be an effective management tool.  When utilized, it can make the difference between achieving your goals through focused and sustained efforts, and short term gratification through uncoordinated activities that achieve little long term benefit.

“Anyone Can Cook.” What Law Firms Can Learn From Ratatouille About Business Development.

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“If you can find collaborators whose strengths compliment your own, the result can be more than the sum of its authors.”       Walter John Williams

In the popular animated Disney film, Ratatouille an unusually talent rat finds himself cooking in a famous restaurant in Paris, guided by the encouragement of his mentor, a famous, well-published chef who is known for his assertion that “anyone can cook.”  The antagonist, an equally famous food critic, scuffs at such a notion, but eventually appreciates its meaning when he realizes that strengths and talents can be found in the most unexpected places.  We learn that it is the combination of the individuals working together that made that make believe Paris restaurant successful.  By utilizing the strengths of its individuals in the various roles they excelled in, together they were able to create a great meal.  Law firms today can utilize this concept in developing a great marketing program.

A common complaint I hear from many managing partners is that when it comes to business development, some people are just not trainable.  In some ways, this is true.  Being a great lawyer does not necessarily equate to being a great rainmaker.  While most lawyers tend to be good advocates, there is more to rainmaking than winning debates and being persuasive.  Business development skills can be taught to a certain degree, but excellence in such skills is limited to those whose natural strengths compliment the work that needs to be done to develop business.  However, if the activities necessary for business development can be broken into difference categories, such as networking, speaking, researching, writing, etc., the number of lawyers that can contribute utilizing their natural strengths and talents can be increased, and thereby reduce the burden on the few lawyers that have strengths that naturally match the bulk of the business development activities.  Rather than trying to train all the lawyers to do all things, lawyers should focus on contributing to the business development of the firm in the ways that are more suited toward their natural strengths.  Networkers should network.  Speakers should speak.  Researchers should research.  Writers should write.  With the collective effort of each lawyer contributing based on their strengths, they can all “cook” and produce something greater than the sum of its parts.

A Cure for “Rainmaker Syndrome”

Why Law Firms Need Business Marketing Plans

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”       Peter Drucker

The vast majority of law firms in business today got their start off the backs of just a few very talented rainmakers.  Such was their talent that they were able to build a reasonably stable firm with as many as 20, 30, 40 or more attorneys working on business that was initiated by these talented few.  No business plan was needed.  These few rainmakers just seemed to know who to talk to, what associations to belong to, in short, how to network their way into creating enough clients to populate a firm. Unfortunately, this rainmaker “business plan” has its down side as many firms have recently experienced.  When a key rainmaker leaves, 10, 15, 20 attorneys are cut.  A big client leaves, 10, 15, 20 attorneys are without work.  Anyone practicing law more than ten years has seen the fluctuation and sometimes outright destruction of law firms once thought to be stable and established as a result of this “rainmaker reliance syndrome.”

Can current law firms built on this business model protect against this fate?  The business marketing plan is a start.  Firms that move away from the informal and loosely implemented marketing activities of a few to a more formal plan strategically implemented by coordinated  group efforts are more likely to develop and maintain a stable business base than those that continue, business as usual.

The benefits of a formal plan are many:  First, devising an effective plan requires an intense review of the current market conditions and a determination of the direction the firm wants to take in the future.   As a result, the decisions on how to proceed tend to be more thought out and well developed.  Second, it requires the identification of the specific markets to be targeted by the marketing efforts.  To be effective, marketing efforts need to be laser focused on the intended target.  Efforts taken in too many directions thin out resources, tend to be less coordinated and thereby less effective.  Third, a defined plan can be reviewed and referenced to keep things on track, and to avoid any miscommunication.  Fourth, written formal plans can be more easily analyzed and measured for effectiveness, so that future plans can be adjusted appropriately.

In short, the process of developing a business marketing plan is not just an academic exercise; it is the creation of document that represents the collective agreement of the firm as to where the firm wants to go, and more importantly, what the firm has determined are the right things that need to be done to get there.