Tag Archives: attorneys

How to Get Noticed in a Crowd and Look Good at the Same Time

“He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”       Confucius    

You know the drill.  If you want a bigger and more stable client base, you need to network.  That means getting out there, talking to people, building relationships.  But what if you need clients NOW?  What if you don’t have the time to spend socializing without guaranteed results?   What if you go around visiting and visiting and visiting and never getting any business out of it?  Can you really afford to spend time at functions you have no desire to be at if there is no guarantee that you will meet someone that will bring business in the door?  Thoughts like these are exactly the sort of thing that discourages many attorneys from embracing the networking road to business development.  I understand.  I’ve been there.  So is there a way to short circuit the process to get to the good stuff?  “Yes” and “no.” 

Networking takes time.  There is no way around it.  In fact, it is more likely that scientists will finally develop an anti-fat pill that safely burns away pounds of unwanted fat overnight without regard to food consumption than anyone developing an alternative to the time investment necessary to network your way into a stable flow of business.  BUT, there are things you can do to improve your chances of success and likely speed up the process. 

To achieve success, take instructions from the best.  Years ago I was listening to a self help tape that suggested that to be successful, one should identify someone who is wildly successful at a given activity, figure out what they are doing, and then copy what they do.  While natural talent and circumstances may influence the results, chances are if you do what they do, you will achieve at least some success.  So what do great networkers do to bring in business?  

For starters, they act like they mean it.  They don’t just show up to some association meeting where the number of attorneys trying to sell their services outnumbers the prospective clients.  They join the association and they get involved.  They join committees.  They work on problems.  They come up with ideas and answers.  In short, they contribute.  They give back.  Because of their contribution, and here’s the good part, THEY GET NOTICED.  The prospects notice them, even better, the prospects want to talk to them.  They want to know their opinions.  They want their help with their problems.  Demonstrate your commitment to solving your prospect’s problems by your service and activity for the group and the prospects will come to you!  No need to give a sales pitch on what you do and what makes you good at it, because you will have already demonstrated that.  You become known for your expertise and ability, and you are trusted because of your voluntary contribution of your time and know-how.  

But this takes tiiiiime (extra i’s intended to emphasis sing-song whine).  Yes, but if you are smart about it, you can target your efforts to get the most bang for your buck.  Before you join the association, research it thoroughly.  Make sure it not only includes a large number of the prospects you are targeting, but also, and equally important, that it is something you are interested in and can be passionate about.  If you don’t believe in the cause, your lack of enthusiasm will likely show through and as a result, keep you from being someone the prospective clients sees as a solution to their problems.  Likewise, if you don’t believe in the cause, you will be much less likely to stick with it long enough to reap the rewards, and therefore lose all the time you invested thus far.  Besides, if you don’t believe in the cause, maybe that is a signal that you should be looking elsewhere.  Why try to represent clients and interests you are not interested in?  Where’s the fun in that?  And speaking of fun, if you are passionate about the subject and you do get involved, it will not feel like networking.  You will feel good about what you are doing and what you are contributing, you will enjoy it and feel like your time was well spent, and the rest will come naturally.  

In short, research the association, make sure it is one you are interested in and passionate about.  Make sure the members include a good supply of prospective clients, join it and GET INVOLVED.  The heavier your involvement, the faster you will see results.  And because your activities will be publicized to the group at large, you will have demonstrated your worth to a large number of prospects all at the same time.  There will still be an investment of time up front, but you will feel good about it, and it will be worth the stream of clients your association activities and contributions generate. 

 

The Secret of Life is “One Thing”

“Success demands singleness of purpose”       Vincent Lombardi    

Ever have one of those days when you start one thing, only to be distracted by something else?  You start working on the something else and then get distracted again.  Before you know it, hours have gone by and you realize you’ve been busy all day, but haven’t accomplished a thing.

Like those days when you can’t get anything done because you can’t stay focused, marketing efforts without focus can be totally unproductive and no more effective in generating a return than gambling.  If you do not develop a clear and focused plan to generate business, you might as well just donate your money to a local charity.  At least a donation is something you could feel good about. 

One of my favorite movies in the 90’s was “City Slickers” starring Billy Crystal.  It was a story about a man named Mitch (played by Crystal) suffering a midlife crisis.  To cheer him up, his best friends buy him a vacation where he and his buddies go to a cattle ranch and learn to be “cowboys” while herding cattle across the state.  They are guided by a tough-as-nails trail boss who taunts Mitch throughout the movie.  At one point, the trail boss asks Mitch if he knows the secret of life.  Mitch has no answer.  The trail boss puts up one finger and says “It’s one thing, just one thing.”  Mitch asks what the one thing is, and the trail boss just chuckles and moves on.  This is repeated throughout the movie until the trail boss finally answers him.  “I don’t know.  That’s what you have to figure out.” 

Many times, the secret to building a solid client base is “just one thing.”  But that one thing that is right for you might not be the one thing that is right for someone else.  The point is, as in the Billy Crystal movie, you have to figure that out for yourself.  Figure out what type of client you want to go after and simply go after that.  Just like starting and stopping a bunch of tasks leaves you with a bunch of things undone, a mixed bag of uncoordinated and unfocused marketing efforts will not likely generate a reliable business base.  Many attorneys will go after any and everything in an effort to generate business, but the reality is, efforts made for the sake of getting anything are usually ineffective in generating anything.  Business that is generated tends to be more from luck than effort. 

Marketing is not rocket science.  Genius is not necessary, but FOCUS is.  Pick one type of client, and focus all your efforts on that.  What activities are the best for reaching your targeted client will depend on who the target is.  Once identified, you must identify how they find and choose their attorneys.  Do they rely mostly on referrals?  Do they go to the yellow pages?  Do they search the internet?  The better you understand their decision process, the more likely you will be at determining what marketing efforts you should implement, and the more successful you will be at getting their business.  

Focus on the “one thing” and you will be surprised at the business it will bring.  It may not lead you to the secret of life, but it will almost certainly lead you to more clients.

 

Law Firms Go Fishing

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”       Lao TZU 

BTI Consulting Group, a leader in legal industry research, recently released the results of a study that showed that despite deep budget cuts at large law firms, “business development is one of the few marketing areas where law firm executives are more willing to increase spending.”  Of the firms interviewed, including firms of all sizes, “[n]early 70 percent said they planned to provide more marketing coaching to lawyers.”  BTI’s Benchmarking Law Firm Marketing and Business Development Strategies, 2009.  It seems that even in a tough economy these firms are taking the old adage, “teach a man to fish…” very seriously. 

But teaching your attorneys to fish for new business is not just about making them more capable of taking care of themselves; it’s about maximizing the ability of the firm to generate business.   No matter how great the few rainmakers at a firm are at generating business for the rest to feed on, the “two rainmaker business plan” will forever limit the growth of a firm by the talents, time, energy and health of those few rainmakers.  This is not anything new.  Most firms in this situation know it is a problem, but what are they doing about it?   

To the rainmakers that built the firm business development is second nature.  Yes it takes time, but it’s something so obvious and inherent to them that many just assume others should  inherently know how to do it.  They assume that the lack of business development is from a lack of motivation rather than know how.  The associates are told they need to “network,” to go to some association meetings, etc. but they are given very little direction on how to be effective in doing so.  (i.e. how to determine the associations they should be joining; what they should do once they join; how they should go about getting noticed, etc.)  Perhaps it is less a lack a motivation and more a lack of knowledge and understanding of how to be effective.  It’s like Mozart expecting others to just sit down and play the piano because that’s what he did.  He looked at the piano and just knew how to play.  But just because others can’t do what Mozart did, does not mean that they can’t be taught to play.   

While coaching will not make someone the Mozart of rainmaking, it can make them pretty good at it, which can be enough to make a significant contribution to the firm as a whole.  Apparently a good percentage of law firms realize this given the increased dollars they are devoting to business development coaching.  Is it a lack of motivation or do they need to be taught how to fish?  Either way, the right kind of coaching can provide the solution. 

 

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.