Tag Archives: networking

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. 

 

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.

“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.