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How to "Find" Time for Marketing Your Law Practice

Time is one of the most important assets for a lawyer. Often, business development and marketing can feel like an invasion on this precious asset. As I work with lawyers across the country on business development plans and strategies for growing their practices, I have learned that one of the most significant challenges many lawyers face is how to build (market) their law practice while serving clients, maintaining continuing education, managing administrative responsibilities and meeting billable hour requirements.

How do lawyers find the time to write and execute a business development plan? The solution is not to find or make the time, but rather to step back from the day-to-day activity of working in your practice gain clarity on what you want your practice to look like and why you want it.

Growing a successful practice is not just about completing a few marketing strategies on a to-do list, but rather it is a way of doing business.

The following are the four steps for building a balanced, fulfilling and profitable practice:

  • Define your Practice Vision- Know what you want your practice to look like and why this is important.
  • Clarify your brand- Understand who your most desirable clients and referral sources are, what differentiates you and why clients benefit from your service.
  • Communicate your brand- Articulate what you do, both on-line and off- line, so target clients and referral sources recognize the value of your services.
  • Action plan -Conduct weekly activities to reinforce your reputation and visibility among your target market.

Accelerated growth begins with a commitment to your vision—to reach a destination, you must first have one. Keeping your vision in mind will help you to reframe your focus and move beyond your current level of thinking to imagine what is possible for building your practice.

Not surprisingly, the response I receive from many lawyers about creating a vision is unenthusiastic. Often, I am challenged that the exercise of creating a vision is not a good use of time or even worse, it is outside of their control.

For many of us, it is easier to react to urgent issues than it is to proactively create a desired practice.

My recommendation is to schedule time in your calendar at least once a year to answer three questions:

  • Where am I today?
  • Where do I want to be in the next 2-5 years (What do I want? Why do I want it?)
  • How will I get there?

Begin with assessing your current situation. Who are your clients? What services are you providing? What is your revenue/ profitability? What is working for you? Where are the gaps?

Next, clarify where you want to be in 2-5 years and give consideration to what you want and why you want it.

Finally, create and execute a plan that will help you achieve your vision.

The last step, is the most difficult to sustain. Knowing what you want and why you want it provides the intrinsic motivation to execute activities that will help achieve the results you desire. Understanding the why behind the what is at the core for any successful behavior.

A recent client commented, “It was not until I made a decision on what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it that it changed the way I approached marketing. Up until that time, I was just doing activity for activity’s sake, and looked at marketing more as an activity on a ‘to-do’ list instead of connecting the activity to an important vision.”

Having a clear vision will help you to proactively grow your practice; it can become a motivating force so powerful that it becomes the compelling reason behind every decision.

Once your vision is defined and internalized, you are ready to translate your vision into action by clarifying and communicating your personal brand.

By first defining your vision and then clarifying and communicating your brand, you are taking steps to change your perspective on marketing.  Instead of viewing marketing as an invasion of time, you will connect marketing and business develop activities to achieving your vision, communicating your brand and creating your desired law practice.

Take Charge of Your Law Practice Brand

A challenge many lawyers face is finding the balance between client work and growing a legal practice. How do you find the time to do both effectively?

One solution is to focus on attracting better clients, not just "more" clients.  This requires marketing from the inside out and resisting the temptation to begin marketing activities without first clarifying your personal brand.

A strong personal brand defines who you are, what you stand for and what differentiates you. It is the foundation for building your reputation, visibility and attracting the right clients

A good way to get started on clarifying your personal brand is to answer the following questions:

–        Why are you in business?

–        Who are your best clients?

–        How do you provide value/differentiate yourself?

–        What do you do?

The following is an example from one of my clients, an estate planning attorney:

 Why: To make the future more positive for businesses and families.

 Who: Clients who want to plan for the continuation of a family business, and the transfer of wealth  and property to the next generation while keeping families intact.

 How. To guide decisions that benefit all of the stakeholders while securing the estate and the  future.

 What: Unequaled depth in estate planning and administration, and corporate law.

As result of defining his personal brand, the estate planning lawyer differentiated himself from other estate planning lawyers. He is known as the "go to" lawyer for high asset family owned businesses who value the successful transfer of wealth and keeping families intact. 

His personal brand augments his law firm brand for helping business owners and families to protect important relationships, preserve wealth and plan for the future.

By first defining and then communicating your brand, you will attract clients who value what you do best (your core competency), pay your bills and tell others about how satisfied they are with your service. 

Qualities of Successful Collaborative Law Professionals

The most frequent question I am asked is how do I get more collaborative cases?

Why are some Collaborative Law professionals attracting more collaborative cases than others? What are the qualities of a successful collaborative professional?

I recently read an article by Jeff Haden on the Qualities of Productive People, while reading the article, I noticed there were strong similarities between the qualities of productive people and the qualities of successful Collaborative Law professionals.

These qualities include:

Confidence in vision- Successful Collaborative professionals know where they are going, what they want and why it is important to them.  Clarity of vision and purpose is at the core of their authenticity. It is the fuel that provides them with the creative energy required to build a practice that is fulfilling and in alignment with their most important values.

Comfort outside their "comfort zone"- Professionals who have a successful collaborative practice are aware of their  internal constraints and move beyond familiar ways of thinking and acting. They are constantly learning new skills, maintaining visibility with referral sources, updating their web site and blogs and have cultivated a different mind-set about working in an interdisciplinary team.

Discipline to move forward on "off" days
- Professionals with a consistent case load of collaborative clients know that results come from the small day to day activities that result in big change.  They attend the training's, write the articles, give the talks and meet with referral sources even when they don’t think they have the time or energy.

Creativity and inspiration to do great work- Collaborative professionals who have achieved a reputation for excellence don't wait for the perfect case or client. They learn by doing. As Jeff Haden stated in his article, they understand that , "creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting... The work itself results in inspiration."

Getting Started- Every successful collaborative professional understands the wisdom in the quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”  They don't wait until the "time is right" to execute their plan, they begin it now.

Finishing
-Successful professionals not only clarify their vision, they create their plan and execute the strategies and activities that will move their practice in the direction of their most important goals.

Why Your Online Lawyer Bio Matters.

Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference in growing a law practice. Often, lawyers will avoid marketing because it will take too much time or it is an activity outside of their comfort zone. 

Today I consulted with a lawyer who has avoided marketing for the past couple of years because he did not think he should have to market his practice. He is an established lawyer, has an excellent reputation and has been practicing law for 25 years. I challenged him to reframe his concept of marketing from "pushing" his service onto people to "attracting" clients who could benefit from what he does best.  
 
I also showed him how we could leverage his excellent reputation to create a marketing plan.
 
The first thing we did was type his name into Google and review the search results. We discovered that his LinkedIn profile had the wrong title, two of his bios from lawyer lists were outdated with old addresses, and his Avvo profile was incomplete. On his web site profile page, there was no information on how to contact the lawyer. Most important, none of his bios or profiles answered the question, "why should I hire you?". There was no mention on the value he provided clients or the client problems he excelled in solving.
 
The first marketing strategy was not to schedule 5 lunches or send out letters asking for referrals, rather it was to research how clients were finding him online and update and revise all online bios to communicate a consistent, relevant, and compelling message targeted to his ideal client.
 
Revising and updating your bio is a simple, effective marketing strategy every lawyer can take to increase their on-line presence and reinforce their reputation. Last week, I received 3 calls from lawyers who attracted clients as a result of updating and promoting their bios.
 
The following is one example:
 
"Interesting - I just got a call from a new client who, when asked how she got my name, said she found me on line and that she really liked my profile and how I relate to clients as people."
 
Updating your bio and profile may seem like a small thing, but it can deliver significant results.
 

What Does Law Firm Branding Have To Do With Law Firm Marketing?

One of the greatest challenges lawyers face in building a law practice is time. I have yet to meet a lawyer or work with a law firm where time is not a scarce resource.  Billable hours, client demands, law firm management and administrative responsibilities are top priorities.  
 
As a result, many lawyers question the value and need for defining a law firm brand. " What does branding have to do with law firm marketing? "
 
To answer this question, I want to start with what branding is and is Not.
 
A brand is NOT just :
 
• a logo
• a tagline
• a web site
 
A brand IS:
 
 
An effective  law firm brand will communicate your uniqueness, express your  value, tell your story and create a memorable presence in your target  market. Your brand will not be for everyone.
 
A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined 
cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.
                                                                               –  Michael Eisner
A strong law firm brand will send the message about who you are and drive how you are perceived by the market and clients. Internally, it will set the agenda and create a common purpose behind your strategy.
 
Successful law firm marketing starts with exceptional value and service to clients. A common "brand promise and commitment" helps align everyone in the firm to deliver a consistent message and more importantly to provide a consistent level of service and value to clients.
 
In summary, your law firm brand has everything to do with marketing and is the foundation for an effective marketing strategy. Your brand should answer the following  questions:  
 
1. What is your firm's value proposition? 
2. How does your firm differentiate from other firms?
3. Who are you? 
4. Who are your clients?
5. What is your firm's voice? 
6. What is your firm's consistent message?
7. What is your firm's promise and commitment?
 
The answers to these questions will help you to leverage the synergy of your firm's expertise and talent. By clarifying and internalizing the answers to these questions, you will have the foundation for creating a marketing plan that produces extraordinary results.  On the other hand , if you begin your marketing plan without knowing the answers to these questions,  you may end up spending your valuable resources, including time, on a plan that produces average results.
 

Attracting Profitable Clients In A Post Recession Market

The recession might be over but the recovery has been challenging for some law firms and lawyers. How do you move ahead of the competition and position yourself for continued success in a post recession market?
 
There are many approaches to building a successful law practice, however, for lawyers who want to leverage their core competency and attract profitable and desirable clients, it is essential to build a marketing plan that is based on clarifying who is your ideal client.
 
Knowing the answer to this question will help you to create:
 
Positive word of mouth marketing about your reputation. This comes from satisfied clients who trust you and believe that you understand and know how to solve their problems. Different clients require different solutions.  For example, in divorce, the over 50 client who has been in a long term marriage will require different resources than the young professional who has been married for  a few years.  If your target client is the over 50 audience, how are you exceeding their expectations in the services you deliver and the resources you provide?
 
Content that attracts the right client. Clients will respond to articles, web sites and blog posts that are relevant to them and their situation. Different clients will resonate with different messages.For example, if you are a Family Lawyer whose target audience is professional woman, write about the problems and challenges professional woman face in divorce. Include your articles and published papers on your LinkedIn profile, write a press release demonstrating your expertise.Writing relevant content that emphasizes your expertise and placing it in front of targeted clients(Web site, LInkedIn profile, blog, etc.) is one the best ways for attracting the right clients and referral sources.

Consistent and relevant top of mind awareness.  Many people are experiencing information overload, too much information and too many choices can distract prospective clients and referral sources from paying attention to your law practice. Clients and referral sources will respond to what is relevant and visible to them at the time they have a problem.  Think about when most people start paying attention to which Universities their children will attend, usually it is when their children are in their 11th or 12th year of high school. The same is true with clients who have legal needs.  For example, one of my clients is a criminal defense lawyer who experienced an increase in calls for theft  cases after he posted a blog on the consequences for retail  theft after black Friday. His message was visible and relevant to the clients he wanted to attract to his practice. Since you don’t know when your prospective clients or referral sources will have a problem you can solve, it is important to maintain consistent and targeted visibility. 
 
 
You can create a successful marketing plan that attracts desirable and profitable clients by clarifying who your ideal client is and then building a plan that positions you as an expert at solving their most critical problems. 
 
What is working for you? Are you attracting the "right" clients to your practice? If not, what is one thing you can do today to start building a thriving practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients?
 
Many times it is difficult to create a marketing plan on your own, contact me if you have questions or would like guidance on how to create your client-centered marketing plan. 
 

 

The Value of a Law Firm Retreat- Don't let the "urgent" take over the "important"

 Last week, I received an email from a managing partner of a successful firm. He had just received an invitation from a legal education organization encouraging him to enroll in a CLE. Included in the invitation was the following list of what lawyers should worry about:

Things to worry about:

  • Worry about courage.
  • Worry about integrity.
  • Worry about efficiency.
  • Worry about whether you're a good enough listener.
  • Worry about whether you're honing your skills.

Things not to worry about:

  • Don't worry about popular opinion.
  • Don't worry about the past.
  • Don't worry about the future.
  • Don't worry about triumph.
  • Don't worry about failure unless it's your fault.
  • Don't worry about satisfactions.

 Things to think about:

  • How thorough is my legal knowledge?
  • How good am I as an analytical thinker?
  • Do I really understand people, and do I get along with them?
  • Are my skills better this year than they were last year?

His question to me was:

"How can you not worry about the future – that is what we are trying to improve!"

I believe the answer to his question can be found in the following quote from management guru Peter Drucker:

" The best way to predict your future is to create it."

I think every great lawyer wants to deliver exceptional value to clients, be part of a successful and innovative law firm and have security about the future.

The key to achieving these goals is to have the discipline to not let the urgent get in the way of the important.

You can accomplish this by taking a strategic pause from the "urgent" day- to- day activities and focus on the "important" long-term strategic activities.

Give consideration to an annual law firm retreat. In the retreat, focus on thinking critically, anticipating, deciding, aligning, learning and following up on breakthrough strategies that will move your firm in the direction you want it to go.

We are experiencing change faster today than at any other time in our history. Instead of worrying about the future, create the future you want.

The following are a few questions to ask the leaders in your firm :

Where is your firm today? ( Who are your clients? What is the culture of your firm? What are the firms critical issues and success factors? Assess and synthesize multiple sources of information)

Where does your firm want to be in the next 3-5 years? ( Look beyond the periphery of your current business)

What is your plan for achieving your goals? ( What needs to change? How are you prioritizing key strategies? What will you start doing more of/less of? )

What do you worry about? How do you take a "pause" from the urgent and focus on the "important"? What challenges do you face when trying to align your partners around a long-term vision?

Lawyer Marketing Strategies- How do lawyers meet financial and origination goals?

The best strategy for meeting your financial and origination goals is to increase referrals for desirable clients. For most lawyers the top three sources for referrals include:

- Web site/internet
- Professionals
- Past clients

A successful business development plan incorporates strategies for all three categories. This post will focus on one of the most important sources for referrals,  building your professional network.

Building your professional referral network begins with clarity on who is in your network and who you want in your network.

One of your best marketing tools is to have an organized and updated spreadsheet of existing and prospective referral sources.  While creating and maintaining this list may seem like a logical and worthwhile marketing strategy, I have found that most lawyers find it difficult to find the time to develop and actively use this important list.

The following are three strategies for building your professional network to get you started:
 

1. Create your list of referral sources: 

  •  Review your cases for the last 12-24 months and include current professionals who have referred to you.
     
  •  Include professionals who serve your target clientele, i.e. lawyers, mental health professionals, financial specialists and wealth managers, etc.
     
  •  Organize your referral into  “A”, “B’ and “C” categories. “A” referral sources are those who have referred multiple clients, referred desirable clients and/or  who serve your target market.

2. Initiate contact with the professionals on your list.  Aim for 1-3 contacts a week  with “A” referral sources. The following is a list of ways you can stay top of mind with important referral sources:

 
Post a company update on LinkedIn
* Send a hand written note
* Invite them for coffee or lunch
* Send a LinkedIn invitation
* Comment on their blog
* Comment on their LinkedIn post 
* Include their name in your press release, article or blog post
* Retweet  their tweet
* Send a referral
* Invite them to an event
* Set up a Google Alert for their name and company
* "Like" their post on Facebook or other social media resources
* Send an email acknowledging a promotion or award
* Send a Thank you note for a referral ( include a Starbucks card or other simple token of appreciation)
* Email a relevant article or blog post
* Put them in touch with someone who they would benefit meeting
* Offer an introduction to a colleague at your firm or someone in your professional network
* Send an unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation

3. Once you create your referral list, keep the list visible and review it once a week. Keep referral sources in the forefront of your mind so if you see something relevant to your referral sources you can make contact with them.

In summary, if you want to increase referrals from your professional network, schedule the time to review your list and do something each week that brings value or connects you to your network.  To be effective, your actions must be authentic and consistent. 

What is your plan?

Who are your best referral sources? Do you spend time cultivating your referral sources from all three categories? Are  you scheduling  the time in your weekly calendar for staying "top of mind" with key referral sources?

 

Reinvention Is The Key to Survival For Law Firms

This morning CBS news featured a story on the demise of iconic American companies including Hostess and Kodak.

What are the factors contributing to this defeat and how do businesses and law firms protect themselves from becoming obsolete? 

Factors that contribute to the downfall of business include, not staying in touch with rising costs, changing tastes or new technologies, not evolving and maintaining the status quo. 

Kodak originated the technology for photography and in the 1970's held 90% of the photography market, yet has lost market share by not leveraging this technology in a digital world. Hostess, the creator of Twinkies, was slow to adapt to the changing tastes of a new market.

Scott Galloway, marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, said reinvention is the key for the struggle of survival.

Businesses and law firms that find ways to reinvent themselves are the most successful. Apple is an example of a company who understands the power of reinvention.

What is your law firm doing to reinvent your law practice?  The following are a few questions to consider;

* Do you use LinkedIn to build your network, make a contribution and stay connected or do you think LinkedIn is a waste of time?

* Does your web site provide updated content and value to your target client or do you have pages on your site that have been unchanged for 5-10 years?

* Do you stay informed on what is happening in your market by reading  high value blogs, following thought leaders on social media sites including Twitter, and participating in targeted LinkedIn group discussions, or are you too busy?

* Is your bio updated and informative about the value you provide clients and what distinguishes you or is it chronological description of your educational background and dates of employment?

* Does your service to clients include collaboration with other professionals or are you going it solo?

* Does your search engine strategy include writing relevant blog posts, informative web site content, useful YouTube videos and on-line press releases or are you relying on “key word stuffing” and outsourced “link building” and content writing to increase your on-line visibility?

* Are you listening to your clients, conducting client evaluations, and providing remarkable service or are you doing what you have always done?

* Does your firm hold law firm retreats to review its strategic vision and target market annually to align marketing activities with your most important goals or are you winging it and hoping you will meet financial and billable hour targets?

The above questions are not inclusive and are meant to stimulate your thinking about how you are reinventing your law practice to maximize your success for prosperous and continued existence.

What additional questions would you include in the list above? What strategies have you implemented to reinvent your law practice?
 
 

How Lawyers, Mental Health Professionals and Financial Specialists Can Thrive in a Down Economy

Last week I attended the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals forum in San Francisco and listened to an inspiring and well presented workshop on Collaborative Law. Today, I received a call from two colleagues who were going through divorce and wanted a recommendation for a lawyer, a divorce coach and a business valuation expert. The first names that came to mind were the professionals I heard speaking at the seminar.

Why did I recommend these professionals? There were two reasons:

1. They established credibility by speaking on a topic that conveyed their level of experience and competence.

2. I was reminded about who they were and the kinds of clients they helped by seeing them speak at the conference.

In a similar top of mind awareness situation, one of my clients told me they experience an increase in client calls every time they send the firm newsletter to their professional network. Another client has seen an increase in referrals from two law firms after setting up luncheon meetings. Last week, a lawyer told me his web site referrals have doubled since he has started his blog and updated his web site with client- focused articles.

Even though we are in a difficult economy, the demand for quality legal, financial and mental health professionals has not diminished. You can accelerate the growth of your practice and attract desirable clients by increasing your visibility and credibility with your target referral sources and the public.

The following are ten suggestions for staying top of mind with referral sources and prospective clients:

1. Learn and use LinkedIn to build your network and stay visible. Go to learn.linkedIn for in-depth tutorials on how to use LinkedIn

2. Read and comment on relevant blogs in your industry.

3. Commit to meeting with someone in your professional network at least once a week.

4. Start a firm newsletter and write about topics that are relevant to your target audience.

5. Write consistent press releases.

6. Speak on topics you are passionate about at conferences and events.

7. Start a blog and write about topics that reinforce your brand and are relevant to your ideal client.

8. Write one new article every month and update your web site. Recycle the article for a local magazine advertorial.

9. Join a committee, group or association and make a contribution.

10. Tweet about interesting, relevant and useful information for your target audience.

The above list is not inclusive and should be customized to your unique skills, interests and goals. The critical success factor is to select at least one strategy and implement it consistently.

Let me know what strategies you have found useful to stay top of mind with prospective clients and referral sources.