Tag Archives: legal

Is Your Glass Half Full?

“If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”      Unknown

A recent BTI Consulting Group study revealed a startling finding:  “87% of law firms have at least one major client relationship at risk.  Yet few law firms are aware of their vulnerability – and even fewer are doing anything to change the landscape.”  Legal Trends, Most Law Firms Have At Least One Major Client at Risk, by Marcia Borgal Shunk, Principal at BTI Consulting Group, April 9, 2009.

If you are a glass is half full sort of person you would immediately look at this and think, “Wow, what a great opportunity to pick up some new clients!”  And that observation would be correct.  If you are seeking to grow your business, this statistic illustrates an encouraging opportunity to win over some new business.  Your next step should be to develop a strategy of how you are going to capitalize on that fluidity.  But in developing that strategy, consider the glass is half empty sort of person who is worried about which client in their portfolio is on a possible exit.  To figure out the best way to win clients from others, you should start with getting a clear understanding of why the clients would consider leaving.  Figure it out, then offer what’s missing.  And even better, make sure your own clients are getting what’s missing as well.

The focus of the study was not on how to win new clients from others, it was on what it takes to retain them.  Obviously, winning clients while simultaneously losing others is not going to grow revenues.  The study indicates that using aggressive client surveying to uncover client satisfaction is critical to gaining client loyalty and to becoming one of those rare 13% of the firms not at risk.  I agree, but I also suggest that after you do your surveying not only should you use the information to keep your current client’s happy; you should use the information to design your next marketing campaign.  You see?  The glass is half full!

There’s Always a Silver Lining

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strengths.”        Unknown

With the economy at its lowest point in decades, the legal industry is taking its share of the brunt.  More and more firms are downsizing, some in drastic measures and still law schools are turning out new graduates in record numbers.  So what’s a lawyer to do?  Start an emergency fund and hunker down until things get better?  That’s certainly an option.  It’s all in how you look at it.

Economic turmoil is not pleasant, but with turmoil there is always opportunity, and the opportunity for small to mid-size firms to build their commercial business is better than ever.  Companies are tightening their belts, looking for better, more affordable legal services.  A recent study by BTI Consulting, a leader in legal industry research, suggests that now is the time for small to mid-size firms to ramp up their marketing efforts to go after big company legal business.  According to BTI research, companies are moving away from big firm services in favor of the more affordable and flexible services offered by small to mid-size firms.  In fact, the nation’s top 100 revenue generating law firms went from servicing 64% of the 550 large companies surveyed in 2007, to only 36% in 2008.  The next 100 firms picked up some of the top 100 losses moving from 13% of the business in 2007 to 26% in 2008.  But big gains in market share also went to those firms under the top 200, who went from 26% in 2007 to 38% in 2008.  Why the shift?  More and more companies are looking at innovative ways to stretch their legal dollars.  Smaller firms not saddled by big associate salaries, heavy personnel infrastructures, and considerable overhead have the flexibility to offer more innovative billing practices, staffing and communication.

So what does this mean?  There has never been a better chance for small to mid-size firms to break the glass ceiling and pick up some of that premium legal work.  Not only does the recent economic crisis encourage large companies to look for cheaper alternatives now, it will also go a long way to breaking the pattern of many executives who feel compelled to go with the big name firms, if only to cover themselves should their hiring decision be questioned.  Companies are no longer expected to stick with the big boys, and in fact, there is a shift in the mood toward greater appreciation of executives who are innovative and willing to make smarter legal service choices.

What should you do to capitalize on this opportunity?  BTI research suggests that expensive marketing campaigns are not necessary.  Turns out that the combination of traditional and cyber networking, expert positioning through association activity, speaking engagements and white paper publication can get you there… i.e. good old fashioned elbow grease.  How’s that for a silver lining??

How to Inspire Bubba to Do Client Development; Start with “Cut and Paste”

Samira Mery Lineberger, Esq.
 
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”      Harry S. Truman

Years ago, when law firms still had typewriters on every secretary’s desk, and “real lawyers” didn’t type, I came off a pregnancy leave to find that my secretary had been moved to another group and I was left with psycho secretary (I swear she was that way when I got there).  Shortly after my return, psycho went on mental health leave.  I was working for a large company that was required to keep her position open during her period of “illness.”  That left me with a revolving door of temps.  This was particularly difficult as I was practicing litigation at the time with its many intensive deadlines, and was helpless to get a document out the door.  After a few months of this Twilight Zone like push and pull to keep from committing malpractice, the company bought word processors for all its lawyers.  My desperation managed to get me over my terrifying fear of this “new” windows technology (okay, yes, I’m no spring chicken), and I taught myself to word process.  I got so into it, before long I was creating all sorts of shortcuts and macros to speed up my production.

Several months later, when I was still the only lawyer using the computer for more than just checking internal email (there was still no Internet), the Vice President of the Law Department dropped in my office for a visit.  He took one look at my computer screen and was fascinated with my set up.  Before I knew it, I was teaching the company lawyers to use the computer. 

Understanding that most lawyers did not have psycho secretaries keeping them from meeting their deadlines, I had to devise a way to get lawyers to buy into the idea that the computer was their friend, and that eventually it would make their lives easier.  However, expecting them to dramatically change the way they did their work was not a realistic solution.  So I broke it into baby steps deciding to teach them very little at a time.  Eventually, I speculated, they would see the benefit and begin to teach themselves.  My first lesson was a desk-to-desk session on opening a document and learning to “cut and paste.”  The lawyer would do that for a few weeks before receiving their next instruction.   The next lesson was to type some simple revisions, followed a few weeks later by a “save as” lesson.  It was actually quite remarkable how little I had to do after that.  Once the lawyers got over the hump of dealing with a tiny change, they started to appreciate the results, quickly bought into the process and started teaching themselves.

Getting lawyers to engage in client development can be very similar.  At first it seems like a daunting task.  There is that vague insecurity of not being sure what to do, followed by a gut feeling that lots of time will be wasted and that the efforts may never lead to new business.  There is that pressure of knowing that there is still billable legal work to knock out, and that whatever time is squeezed in for client development will be spent just trying to figure out what to do.  When lawyers work on cases, they can immediately see the benefits and get instant gratification for their efforts.  But with client development, patience is a prerequisite.  It could take months before efforts actually result in a new client.  Like learning how to use a computer, client development can be a very long and painful process before it feels productive.

So what is a firm to do?  Create your own instant gratification.  Consider ways to break down the tasks of client development and find ways to dish out immediate gratification for the completion of the smaller task.  Starting out with activities that the lawyer is more comfortable with will also make it easier to get them going.  For example, if a lawyer is uncomfortable with networking, instead of pushing him to join an association, have him contribute by writing an article on a topic of interest to a targeted client.  Publish the article on your website or better yet, in an industry publication (it’s easier than you think) and email your clients and prospects an excerpt of the article with a link.  This gives the lawyer the instant gratification that comes with recognition for a task well done, while furthering the firm’s business development plans.  Do this sort of thing several times, and your newly published lawyer will be inspired to do it again and before you know it, will be looking for other ways to do more.

By breaking up client development tasks into smaller segments, and rewarding those segments, Bubba will not have to wait months for the satisfaction.  Keep feeding the small accomplishments and the participation will grow on its own.