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.
 

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.
 

The Number 1 Challenge for Growing a Collaborative Practice

Last month, I conducted a survey on how to grow your Collaborative Practice. 100 people responded to the survey.

 The number one response to the question, “What is your greatest challenge for growing your Collaborative Practice?” was “Getting Clients.”

The top four challenges included:

1. Getting clients
2. Finding the time
3. Educating the public
4. Educating lawyers

Challenges about "getting clients" included:

  • Finding clients who want to engage in collaborative solutions to divorce
  • Finding clients with a mind set for collaborative divorce
  • Getting clients to choose collaborative divorce
  • Convincing clients the up- front costs are worth it.
  • Attracting clients who are willing and able to move forward with the collaborative process

How do you attract clients who want Collaborative Law to your practice?

It is far easier to build a collaborative practice by attracting clients who already have a world view consistent with the principles of Collaborative Practice than trying to “convince” someone who may not have an interest in a collaborative approach.

The first step to have a clear understanding of who your target client is and then develop a plan to consistently communicate a relevant and compelling message to your target audience.

The following are four strategies for attracting clients to your collaborative practice:

1. Define your target client. Clearly define the characteristics or your ideal client. What are their hopes, dreams, problems and fears? Think about your actual collaborative law clients. What were their goals? What was an important outcome for them in their divorce? Write down the characteristics of your ideal client.

2. Demonstrate your knowledge on how to solve your target clients problem, Leverage social media, including blogs, LinkedIn, facebook, and twitter to write about the problems and solutions for your target market. For example, if your target client is someone who has been in a long term marriage and wants to protect important relationships, write about the challenges of divorcing after 25 years of marriage and how to address those challenges. 

3. Focus your web site content on the solutions for your target client. Does your web site immediately communicate who you help and how you solve problems for the clients you want to attract to your practice? Or does it convey an all things to all people message? The more focused your message, the more successful you will be in attracting desirable clients to your practice. If you want to attract clients who value a less destructive approach to divorce, communicate this in your web site content and headlines.

4. Educate your professional network on who is your "ideal client." Let your referral sources know the characteristics of your best clients. Inform your referral sources on the client problems you excel at in solving. For example, if you are a skilled negotiator and know how to help clients avoid destruction in divorce, tell your referral sources. Convey stories about the clients you helped and the outcome of those cases.

Once you clarify your target client and create a plan to effectively communicate the solutions you offer, you will begin to attract more clients who value what you do best.

What strategies are working for you to attract clients who value Collaborative Law?

View additional articles and information on building your Collaborative Practice.
 

Five Strategies for Building Your Collaborative Law Practice

In the last post I discussed the three essential principles for creating a thriving practice that brings value to your clients and fulfillment to your work.

The following are five strategies for building your Law or Collaborative Practice.

1. Be remarkable at what you do: Excelling at handling client matters requires continuous personal and professional growth. What skills do you want to develop that will increase your value to the clients you want to serve? What additional knowledge and information do you want to acquire that will position you as the best in your field?

2. Stay connected: The foundation for building your practice is based on relationships. The number one way to build relationships and trust is to spend time making a contribution to your community and showing an interest in others.

Who are the most important people, organizations and groups in your professional life? What is your plan to develop higher quality relationships with them? Be selective about the organizations you chose to be involved in. It is better to spend more time on fewer organizations that are in alignment with your interests and target market verses less time on a larger number of generic organizations.

3. Invest in your professional network: People will do business with those they know, like and trust. Professional outreach requires building a successful network of referral sources and staying “top of mind” with key professionals in your network. It also requires making connections with targeted professionals who are not in your network. The outreach you do today will affect the quality of your referrals tomorrow.

Are there professional relationships that might need a little more investment from you? Can you make a contribution to their business or practice? Are there additional influencers you what to include in your professional network?

4. Create exceptional Client Value: Satisfied clients are your best source of referrals. Higher client satisfaction requires a focus on providing superior service, consistently communicating with clients and delivering exceptional value to clients. How can you create an exceptional client experience- one that inspires your clients to tell others about you?

5. Make it easy for your ideal clients to find you: Once you identify your target client, your next step is to be easily found by clients looking for your services. How can you increase your visibility among clients who need what you do best? How can you demonstrate your understanding of “your ideal clients” problem and your capability to solve their problem?

Give consideration to each of the above strategies. What is the one strategy that will make the biggest difference in your practice? In other words, what one thing can you begin doing today that will help you to change your practice and attract more collaborative law cases?

Tip: The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) web site is an excellent resource for achieving all of the above strategies. Attending Bridging the Globe, the upcoming IACP 12th annual networking and educational forum in San Francisco, is an action step you can take today to “stay connected” and improve your collaborative practice skills.

Have you attended a previous IACP networking forum? If so,  how did it help you to build your Collaborative Practice?

For additional resources on growing your collaborative practice visit Collaborative Law Resources at www.ferrisconsult.com 
 

Building a Successful Collaborative Law Practice- Is it possible?

This week I gave a Webinar on Growing Your Collaborative Practice. After the webinar, I received the following question from a lawyer:

"Thank you for the webinar on growing a collaborative practice.  Sole practitioners, like myself, find it very difficult to slow down on the work we are doing to focus on something different or one aspect of our practice, we have to pay the bills.

I am very worried about the estimated amount of time it takes for this idea to work, I can’t afford to be in the hole because I switched my focus. 

So the idea can work well for a person in a firm where their expenses are paid and they get a salary regardless of the amount billed, but how does that work for the sole practitioner? 

How long does it take and what are the stats for success if implemented as you said?  For those of us who have expenses and are on the proverbial treadmill to keep the bills paid on our own, how do we balance that with your marketing strategy and what is the average timeline involved?”

I am sharing this question with you because the challenge to grow a Collaborative Law Practice while maintaining a financially viable business is a familiar question among both sole practitioners and lawyers in a law firm. In my experience, there are few, if any, law firms that pay a lawyers salary regardless of the amount billed.

The answer to the above question is based on three principles:

1. You will get more of what you do. The more collaborative law cases you do, the more cases you will get and vice versa. This means if you continue to take cases for clients who do not value what you do best, you will spend more time and energy doing work that is not consistent with your strengths, and capabilities and passion.

2. "This journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"-Lao Tzu. No question, building the practice you want is a significant commitment and can be a long and complicated endeavor. However, by initiating your vision with something short and simple today, you will be moving in the right direction.

3. “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is”. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Limited beliefs about your practice can limit your success in marketing and successful business development. Is it possible to reframe your belief about marketing? Instead of seeing marketing as time-consuming, distracting and costly, to view marketing as an opportunity to provide you with control for building a practice that is in alignment with your most important goals and values?

In my next blog post, I will provide five strategies for building your Collaborative Law Practice.
Let me know if you agree with these three principles. Do you have any additional suggestions on how to balance growing a collaborative law practice while maintaining a thriving business?
 

Simplify Your Legal Marketing Plan

 Legal marketing can seem overwhelming. In the last week, LinkedIn topics for legal marketing ranged from, “using Google to market your practice for free” to “mobile marketing to build your brand.”

A busy and successful lawyer whose primary focus is to provide quality legal services could experience information overload when it comes to legal marketing.

So what is the solution? In today’s competitive market, a successful legal practice requires attorneys to provide exceptional client service AND execute effective marketing strategies.

My recommendation is to keep your plan simple, over deliver to your best clients and maintain relationships with current and targeted referral sources.

In my practice, I work with lawyers whose primary target market are sophisticated clients who value expert legal service.  Their number one referral source for top clients is through other professionals.

Maintaining relationships with current and prospective referrals sources can sound like “old news” in comparison to “mobile marketing” or “using Google to market your practice for Free.” However, in the last few months, I have seen lawyers increase revenue and attract desirable clients by consistently staying top of mind with current and targeted referral sources.

You can implement a simple referral marketing plan by doing three things today:

1.    Develop your list of current and prospective referral sources

2.    Put your list in a visible place on your desk and review the list once a week.

3.    When you see something beneficial to your referral sources make contact with them 

The following are few suggestions:

  • Put them in touch with someone who they would benefit meeting
  • Invite them to an event
  • Invite them to speak at a educational event for mutual referral sources and clients
  • Tell them about a valuable webinar
  • Refer a client
  • Add them to your LinkedIn network- recommend a group they would benefit from joining
  • Send a blog post you wrote or tell them about a useful blog
  • Ask them to be a guest blogger on your blog
  • Co-write an article
  • Subscribe to their blog- tweet one of their posts to your network
  • Write a LinkedIn recommendation describing their accomplishments 
  • Use LinkedIn to stay connected to your network
  • Stay current on awards, promotions or activities they are involved in by creating a Google alert for their firm name. Send a short email congratulating their achievement or recognition.

An important component to building a successful legal marketing plan is knowing who your current and desired referral sources are, acknowledging their importance in your practice and staying top of mind by consistently communicating with them in a meaningful way.

Let me know if you have additional suggestions for nurturing and growing important relationships with your referral network.

Creating a Unified Law Firm Vision- Is it worth the effort?

Last week I received a question from a mid size law firm with 65 partners that I felt may be a familiar question for executive directors, managing partners and law firm CEO’s. The question was:

“The partners have a common mission, but not much of a unified vision for the future or a clear sense of what we value. Do you have suggestions?

Upon further investigation I learned about the firm’s situation and source for concern regarding the lack of a shared vision.

The firm was experiencing significant growth and acquiring smaller firms in the same area of law. Although the acquisitions were profitable, the lack of cohesion among the partners was causing internal conflict, delaying important decisions and limiting the firm’s growth opportunities.

Without a common goal for where the firm was headed, it was difficult to bridge the gap between differing opinions on where the firm should devote valuable and limited resources.

Creating a shared vision for law firm’s often falls on the back burner and is not viewed as a top priority, especially when resources and time are in limited supply. However, lack of alignment around a shared vision is at the root of reduced productivity, decreased profitability and diminishes the opportunity for attracting top talent.

The following are strategies for creating a shared vision:

  • Schedule a law firm retreat. Require all equity partners to attend.
  • Prepare in advance for the retreat. Clarify the retreat purpose and most important goals.
  • Assign homework prior to the retreat to identify the firms critical issues and commonalities. 
  • Create a safe environment for unfiltered dialogue in the retreat.
  • Follow up on the goals and initiatives defined in the retreat.
  • Educate all employees on the firms shared vision and their role in achieving success.

My recommendation is to take a step back from the day to day demands of urgent/important activities and ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time your partners came together to dialogue about your shared vision for the firm’s future?
  • How is your internal structure aligned to support your most important goals? What does success look like?
  • How are you leveraging your firm’s vision to attract top talent and to differentiate your law firm in a competitive legal market?

Let me know if spending the time creating a shared vision is considered a valuable use of time. If so, what are the challenges your firm is confronted with to create a shared law firm vision?

Family Law Marketing to the LGBT Community- Putting Strategies into Action

In my last blog post, I wrote about maximizing your law firm marketing ROI, in this post I would like to share an example on how to put these strategies into action.

Yesterday a family law firm called me because they wanted an ad for a LGBT magazine featuring families in the upcoming fall publication. They were on a tight time-line and needed the ad by the end of the week. The original plan was to do a one-time ad in the special feature on Families for the publication.

Before moving forward with the one-time ad, I wanted to learn more about the firm’s bigger picture goals. One of the goals for the firm was to be recognized as a family law firm knowledgeable about the important family law issues facing the LGBT market. Instead of putting an expensive one-time ad in the publication, limiting the firms return on investment, we created an integrated and targeted campaign to position the firm as a thought leader on family law for LGBT families. The campaign included the following strategies:

  • Write and submit an informational press release to the  editorial staff. Focus the release on a single topic relevant to the target audience and provide helpful, practical and valuable information. Note: Substantive and current information on gay marriage and divorce is a strong hook for the media given the recent change in gay marriage laws.
     
  • Develop a series of 3 advertisements targeted towards the interests of the magazine’s readers. Maintain a consistent ad for 6-12 months.
     
  • Include a call to action in each advertisement.
     
  • Create a relationship with the publication as an expert in family law issues related to the LGBT community.
     
  • Identify social media opportunities to leverage the campaign including re-purposing the press release for a blog post and putting the blog post on Face book, LinkedIn and Twitter.
     
  • Leverage LinkedIn groups to spread the word to the local LGBT community. Include a link on LinkedIn to the editorial article in the LGBT publication.
     
  • Update web site to include a section on LGBT partnership agreements.
     
  • Promote the firms focus on Collaborative Law as a beneficial option for gay marriage and divorce.

In summary, a one-time project with questionable “ROI” value was transformed into a targeted marketing strategy positioning the firm as a thought leader in the LGBT community. Your firm can increase your marketing ROI by executing the following key elements:

  • Align all marketing activities with the firm’s most important goals.
     
  • Implement an integrated marketing strategy to reinforce your message.
     
  • Avoid a generic “all thing to all people” approach and target your message to a specific audience.
     
  • Provide relevant content that makes a contribution to your intended audience.
     
  • Focus press releases, blog posts and articles on current, substantive, newsworthy topics verses self promotion, announcement-oriented content. 

If you have questions on how to maximize your marketing investment, email me at eferris@ferrisconsult.com  

Effective Strategies for Writing Law Firm Web Site Content

An effective web site starts with compelling, updated and meaningful content. Research demonstrates we have 10 seconds to grab a prospective client’s attention with web site content and 55 seconds to develop an understanding of what services we are offering.

The following are 10 strategies for writing effective web site content.

1.     Write relevant content. Use the inverted pyramid concept. Put the most important information at the top. Start with your conclusion in the first paragraph.

2.     Write in a conversational tone. Avoid industry jargon and use clear and simple language. Use examples to help the reader understand. Let your personality come through.

3.     Chunk your ideas. People scan web pages instead of reading them. This means write one idea per paragraph. Create a sub heading for each paragraph to make it easier to read at a glance.

4.     Know who you are talking to. Write your web site content with the client you want to attract in mind. What are their problems, interests and goals? What is most relevant to them?

5.     Format your content with bullets, numbers or sub headers. Keep the bullets short

6.     Provide tips and strategies people can remember. Offer a list of 5-10 tips for avoiding a problem or achieving a goal. Summarize your tips at the end of the article.

7.     Use effective titles. Help your reader to know what your content is about (and why it matters to them) with a descriptive title. For example, “Ten Strategies for a Smart Divorce.”

8.     Keep your sentences short. Use words that are most important for conveying your message.

9.     Write approximately 500 words per page to optimize your site. Include key words in your content.

10.   Check spelling and punctuation. Edit and proof read everything you write.

Your web site content is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have for growing your practice. You can attract desirable clients by conveying a message through your web site that is relevant, compelling and meaningful.  

What are your greatest challenges in writing effective web site content?

Ten Questions to Inspire a Successful Law Practice

Most lawyers and Collaborative Law professionals struggle with not having enough time to build a law practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients. You can take charge of your practice by assessing your practice development strengths and weaknesses.

Read the following questions and rate the response with a score of 1-5. (1 - Not at all true and 5 - very true.)

  1. Purpose/Vision: Have you internalized “what” you want your practice to be and “why” this is important to you?
     
  2. Competence: Do you schedule time for attending conferences, workshops and advanced education?
     
  3. Best Clients: Do you know who your target client is and how to attract them to your practice?
     
  4. Core Message: Is your message distinctive? Does it differentiate you? Is it relevant to your target client? 
     
  5. Consistent Brand:  Does your brand communicate what you do, who you serve and the value you provide clients. Is it memorable? 
  1. Client Communication: Do your clients feel heard after they meet with you? Do you provide accessible and relevant education resources for your clients? How promptly do you return calls?
     
  2. On-line visibility: Does your website clearly communicate what you do and who you do it for? Does it reinforce your brand with high value educational resources and an informative blog? Do you have an updated bio on your web site and other social media sites including LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook?
     
  3. Building a referral network: Have you educated your referral sources on what distinguishes you and who your best clients are? Do you know the same information about your referral sources? How are you bringing value to your top referral sources?
  1. Exceptional Client Experience: Do you send out client evaluations and debrief with colleagues about improving your client’s experience? 
     
  2. Measure your results: Do you consistently evaluate how you get cases and assess your targeted goals with actual goals on a monthly basis?

Review your answers and make a note of the responses that scored below a 3. What are your top three priority actions for the next 90 days?

You can take charge of your practice by focusing on what you want and having a realistic understanding of what you need to do to achieve your goals. 

How to Spread The Word About Collaborative Law

 Last week I was in England and participated in the launch of Collaborative Law week, a week of educational events, articles and activities dedicated to raising the profile of Collaborative Law in the West of England. The week, organized by Collaborative Family Lawyers, began with a networking event in Bristol attracting over 100 professionals.

The networking event included brief presentations to educate referral sources on the value of Collaborative Law. I gave an introduction on how to attract clients to Collaborative Law, his Honour Judge Barclay gave an endorsement of Collaborative Law and told a compelling story on how children are negatively impacted by high conflict divorce and Collaborative Lawyer, Richard Sharp talked about the benefits of Collaborative Law from the client’s perspective citing quotes from satisfied clients.

 The event was a huge success, because five things occurred.

1.     The program included a “sticky message.” All presentations, videos and handouts focused on the value proposition of Collaborative Law. Everyone in attendance walked away knowing what Collaborative Law is, who it is was for and how it benefitted clients.

2.     Attendees were influencers in the business community. Each POD member was asked to invite 10 top referral sources to the event. The referral sources were high level professionals who wanted to network with other high level professionals and learn about resources for better serving their clients. 

3.     The excitement about Collaborative Law was contagious and created a “power of context” environment that influenced professionals to want to learn about Collaborative Law and get involved. I personally met two financial advisors who wanted to learn how to become part of the Bristol POD.

4.     Collaborative Family Lawyers leveraged social media to “spread the word.” The successful campaign included:

a.      Collaborative Law You Tube video

b.     Bath Lawyers promote Collaborative Law week You Tube video

c.      Collaborative Divorce News Blog

d.     Face book pag

e.      A Collaborative Law twitter profile

f.      Revised web site to include relevant compelling content for divorcing and separating couples


5.     Collaborative Professionals worked together to make the program a success. The Launch initiatives were led by Collaborative Lawyer Peter Berry who inspired members in the West of England PODs to make a contribution to the event. Julia Smart, a Collaborative Lawyer in Bristol said, “The event brought us together because we were all working on a project that was important to us and our practice.”

With over 30,000 trained Collaborative professionals in 24 countries, we have the opportunity to move Collaborative Law towards a tipping point. This will require Collaborative Professionals to work together to effectively spread the Collaborative Law message in a way that is relevant, meaningful and speaks to the goals and interests of clients and referral sources.

Has anyone else participated in a successful Collaborative Law event? If so tell me your story.

What Are Your Reasons For Work?

Like many business owners, one of my favorite blogs is Seth Godin’s blog. In today’s blog, Seth defined the Eight Reasons to work:

Reasons to Work:

  1. For the money
  2. To be challenged
  3. For the pleasure/calling of doing the work
  4. For the impact it makes on the world
  5. For the reputation you build in the community
  6. To solve interesting problems
  7. To be part of a group and to experience the mission
  8. To be appreciated

Review the above list and think about how you feel with each reason. What ignites your energy? Is it to be challenged, to be part of a group and to experience the mission or is it to solve interesting problems?

Once you identify the reasons for work that resonate with you. Begin to create a business plan that is in alignment with the work you want to do.

Resolve to do something every day that moves you toward your major goal. By focusing on the reasons behind your plan, you will be more focused and disciplined in achieving your goal.

I would like to hear from you. What are the barriers and challenges that keep you from doing work that is in alignment with your most important reasons for work?

How Collaborative Law Professionals Can Attract Clients- Four Strategies for Success

At the 11th annual International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) Networking forum, Kevin Fuller and I gave a workshop on Influencing the Influencers. The workshop was about engaging thought leaders and high influencers to embrace the value of Collaborative Law and promote word of mouth marketing. 

Who are the influencers?

·         Clients

·         The public at large

·         Professionals ( Financial, legal, mental health, clergy, education, health care)

Of these influencers, clients are the number one influencer for word-of-mouth marketing.

If clients do not experience positive results from the Collaborative Law process, no amount of media hype, social media attention or advertising will move it towards a tipping point.

What does this mean for Collaborative Law practitioners?

For Collaborative Law to reach the masses, I believe practitioners need to reframe the question:

From: How do I get clients to want Collaborative Law?

To:   What do Collaborative Law clients want?

This means shifting the focus from lawyers, the practice group, the team and the features of Collaborative Law to maximizing the client experience through positive results.

One of the opportunities for growing a Collaborative Law practice is through effective word-of-mouth marketing.

Satisfied clients and successful outcomes will produce powerful word-of-mouth marketing and change the way clients think about resolving conflict.

Four Strategies

The following are four strategies designed to focus on the "client experience."

1.       Check your ego at the door. This is not about the lawyers, the practice group, the collaborative team or the features of Collaborative Law. It is about the client. By looking at the situation from the client’s point of view, clients will sense your authenticity in wanting to help them to solve their problem.   For example, clients will not resonate with the value of the interdisciplinary team until they understand how the collaborative team will help them achieve their most important goals.

2.       Focus on the results the clients want to achieve. For Collaborative Law to grow, clients need to see how the process will help them achieve the best results. Kevin Fuller of Koons Fuller and Jim Galvin of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck are sought-after family lawyers who get great results for their clients through Collaborative Law. Referrals sources and clients seek out Kevin and Jim because of their reputation for getting positive results for clients.

3.       Communicate your your expertise in solving client’s high priority problems. Rather than focus on the description of Collaborative Law in your web site, talk about how you help clients minimize stress in divorce, avoid financial ruin or protect children from the pain of conflict.

4.       Provide exceptional  service and target the right influencers. In his book Purple Cow, Seth Godin brilliantly summarizes how the rules of marketing have changed. I believe these rules apply to marketing legal services.

The old rule was: Create safe ordinary products (services) and combine them with great marketing.

The new rule is: Create Remarkable products (services) that the right people seek out.

Everyone trained in Collaborative Law Practice can accelerate the growth of their practice. You can build a practice that makes a positive difference in the lives of your clients and their families while providing a fulfilling and profitable practice . Take a moment to think about the way you look at your practice. Ask what a Collaborative Law client wants and do everything possible to be sure that  you are over-delivering on helping clients achieve their most important goals.

I would like to hear from you, let me know if you agree or disagree with my comments on accelerating the growth of Collaborative Law. What is working/not working for you and your Collaborative Law colleagues?

 

Note: To listen to a pod-cast on communicating the collaborative law message go to the IACP web site  , Login as a member, click on Streaming Audio Library and go to February 24, 2010: “Educating Your Community about Collaborative Practice” Presented by Kevin Fuller and Elizabeth Ferris 

Five Characteristics of Successful Collaborative Law Practitioners

I just returned from speaking at the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals 11th annual networking forum  in Washington D.C. The theme of the conference was Creating the Collaborative Connection - Commitment, Competence and Community.

The conference brought together lawyers, mental health professionals and financial advisers who want to  help clients settle cases outside of court and minimize the financial and emotional destruction of divorce and civil disputes.

Throughout the conference, the importance of establishing a commitment, creating community and achieving excellence through competence was emphasized as the foundation for building a successful collaborative law practice .  I would like to add two additional characteristics to the formula for accelerating the growth of collaborative law. These include communication and client value.

The following is a summary of the five characteristics that work for practitioners who have succeeded in building a collaborative law practice.

#1 Successful practitioners know what they want, believe in their vision and are committed to achieving their vision.

Another way to describe this characteristic is through commitment, which is defined as “The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action.” The first step in building a strong practice is having a clear idea of what you want, internalizing the value for achieving this goal and committing to the “action” to realize your goal.

"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans"     Peter F. Drucker

#2 Successful practitioners have a relentless pursuit for competence.

What every successful practitioner has in common is they consistently work towards mastering the underlying skills necessary for delivering exceptional client value.  With increased skill comes confidence, allowing practitioners to internalize the value of their service and communicate this value to clients and referral sources.

Without passion, all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.”                                                        -Twyla Tharp

#3 Successful practitioners contribute to building their community

Participation in your professional community is essential to growing a strong collaborative law practice. One of the critical requirements for consistent referrals is establishing a foundation of trust among professionals. The number one way to build trust is to spend time making a contribution to your community and showing an interest in others.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give"
                                      -
Sir Winston Churchill


#4 Successful practitioners effectively communicate what they do, who they do it for and the value of their service.

In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes a “sticky message” as one of the rules for creating a tipping point. Stickiness is a message that makes an impact, is easily understood and is repeatable. Successful practitioners consistently communicate a clear message about their practice so everyone knows what they do, the value they provide and who can benefit from their service. 

 #5 Successful practitioners have a “client- centric” practice.

Creating and maintaining a client-centered practice is essential for growing a successful practice. A client- centered approach requires the practitioner to deliver superior service and value to clients. This means knowing the needs, interests and goals of your clients and delivering exceptional results. The fastest way to grow a practice is through word of mouth marketing. This will happen if clients have a positive experience with your service.

The only way to grow a business is through remarkable service.”
                                                - Seth Godin, Purple Cow

 
In summary the five “C,s” for successfully growing a successful collaborative law practice include:

  • Commitment
  • Competence
  • Community
  • Communication
  • Client-centric focus

Review the above characteristics and conduct a self assessment of your strengths and weakness. What areas are you strong and which areas can you improve?  Create a plan today for making these characteristics an integral part of your practice. By mastering these characteristics, you will be taking essential steps toward growing your collaborative law practice and creating “the practice” you want, a practice that brings value to your clients and fulfillment to your work.

 

Is Your Law Firm Advertising Helping to Attract your Best Clients?

In my last post I wrote about the importance of being relevant to the clients you want to attract to your practice. Relevance means evoking an emotional response from your prospective clients because they see themselves in your message,“This is me, this is how I feel.” Once prospective clients have an emotional connection with your message, there is a heightened interest in who you are and what you do.

If prospective clients don’t experience this emotional hook, chances are your message will not achieve its goal of attracting desirable clients to your practice.

You can be relevant to prospective clients by having clarity about the kind of clients you want to attract. Your message will be lost if you try be all things to all people. Alternatively, you will attract the right clients by knowing who your best clients are and  communicating what matters most to these clients.

Recently, I helped apply this strategy to Quaid and Quaid, a family law firm who wanted to separate themselves from their competitors in a special D Magazine advertorial on Dallas Divorce.

The firm wanted to appeal to clients who put a high value on minimizing the destruction of divorce. All the partners in the firm were trained in Collaborative Law and passionately believed in the value of helping clients to divorce as amicably as possible. 

The following is the D Magazine advertisement:

(For a larger view of ad, click on continued reading at the bottom of page)

The advertisement was unique for the following reasons:

1.    The ad featured an image of what prospective clients want to avoid versus a large photo of  lawyers. 

2.    The ad focused on the client’s goals and problems not the expertise and talent of the lawyers. 

 3.    The ad targeted a specific audience, clients who wanted to move into the future with integrity, versus targeting a general audience of clients who wanted a divorce.

Keep in mind while creating an ad or writing content for your web site that a client will connect with you at an emotional level when they believe you understand how to help them avoid their greatest fears or achieve their most desired goals.

Distinguish yourself in your market by focusing on the clients you want to attract to your practice.

Continue Reading...

What Bruce Springsteen Can Teach Lawyers about Law Firm Marketing

On a recent trip to Cleveland, I had the opportunity to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with my 19-year-old daughter. I was there to learn about and enjoy the history of Rock and Roll, but I became intrigued with the artists who were able to maintain their Rock and Roll legend status 35 years later. How did they do it? How can artists be as popular today as they were 35 years ago? And would it be possible for lawyers to apply this strategy for success to law firm marketing?

I found the answer in a quote from Bruce Springsteen that was on display at the exhibit. When asked how long he thought he could remain a Rock n’ Roll legend, Bruce replied:

"I believe the thing called rock and roll will last as long as you look down into the audience and can see yourself, and your audience can look up at you and can see themselves, and as long as those reflections are human, realistic ones."

At the core of successful marketing is your ability to be relevant to your “audience” (prospective clients). This means your prospective clients are able see themselves in your marketing story. Your marketing story, in turn, is the value you communicate about your services to prospective clients and referral sources.

A good example of a lawyer who has mastered this approach is Kevin Fuller, senior partner with Koons Fuller in Dallas. Kevin knows who his client’s are: high-net-worth families and businesses who want the best possible results, and he consistently communicates his understanding of their problems and how to solve them. 

In an article titled, Nasty Divorces Mean Trouble for Businesses,  Kevin successfully spoke about a problem many of his clients want to avoid: Destroying their wealth:

This article is consistent with Kevin’s marketing story and speaks to the core of what many of his clients care about:

"It's about getting the business through the divorce without destroying it or the owner."

Your marketing efforts will produce results if your marketing story is relevant to the goals and interests of the clients you want to attract.

Before you spend any more time and money on marketing communication, follow the philosophy of a rock star legend and make sure your prospective clients — the clients you want to attract to your practice — can see themselves in your marketing story.

Law firm Marketing-Lessons Learned from a Successful Real Estate Guru

I often tell my clients that Law firm marketing requires a different approach than commercial product or service marketing. Lawyer marketing is about top of mind awareness, reinforcement of credibility and expertise, and becoming recognized as the “go to” lawyer in your practice area and geographic location.

It is true, lawyer marketing is different, however I just read a post from Success Magazine on Selling Like John Lennon by Darren Hardy that is extremely relevant to lawyer marketing.

In the article, Hardy tells a story about his successful real estate agent, John Lennon (not the famous Beatle), who has sold more than 15 billion dollars in the past 15 years in South Miami. The key to Lennon’s success is transferable to lawyers who want to accelerate their business. 

What separated Lennon from other real estate agents was his focus on finding out what was most important to the prospective client and then focusing like a laser on how to assure their most important goals or fears were addressed.  

The following is an excerpt from the post by Darren Hardy:

“One time, the building developer called me to ask what I had sold that day. I said, ‘I sold a $4 million parking space, a $2.8 million gym and spa access pass and a $6 million closet. And each came with an apartment included. The developer was perplexed, ‘What do you mean you sold a $4 million parking space?’ I explained that I had discovered that was what was most important to that person. He had vintage cars and had a bad experience in a previous building. I spent an hour explaining the security, safety and cleanliness of our underground parking and he couldn’t write the check fast enough.”

How does this relate to lawyers? Too often lawyers work too hard at marketing and spend too much time giving prospective clients too much information, offering too many options and never really communicating their understanding of the clients concern and their ability to solve the problem.

Just like the Realtor who goes on and on about the beautiful view when the client is more interested in the home security system, I have heard lawyers talk for an hour about the features of a specific process without communicating to the client how the features solve the clients problem. 

You can accelerate your practice by following the same success strategy that John Lennon used to sell 15 billion in real estate. The success strategy includes, asking questions, listening, observing and focusing on what is most important to your prospective client.

How to Build Your ADR Practice?

This weekend I spoke at the17th Annual Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference in Seattle on how to create an ADR marketing plan.

I observed highly passionate professionals who wanted to build their practice and attract more clients so they can use their skills and expertise to help clients.  I also observed frustrations about marketing and building an ADR practice, including:

    • Not enough time
    • Lack of clarity on what to do first
    • Not sure how to identify their best clients or how to attract them.

Do these sound familiar?

The following are six tips for getting started on an effective marketing plan for your ADR practice:

1. Ask yourself, “What is my vision for my practice; what kind of work do I want to do? Why is this important to me? Write down the answer and then commit yourself to doing something every day to meet your vision. Commit yourself to excellence in your ADR practice, involvement in your community and confidence in how you communicate your brand.

2. Be selective about the work you accept. If you are constantly busy with work that is not consistent with your vision for your practice, it will be difficult to find the time or energy to grow the kind of work that will allow you to achieve your goals. Decide who your ideal client is and proactively attract this type of client to your practice.

3. Nurture and grow business from your top referral sources. Referrals come from people who know, like and trust you. The best way to gain trust is to develop a relationship with those who already know about you. This will require scheduling the time to get to know your referral sources and learning about their businesses and interests.

4. Provide remarkable service to your clients. Word-of-mouth marketing is by far the best marketing strategy for any service. The only way to get people talking about your service is to make the experience for clients remarkable -- then they will want to tell other people.

5. Have a web site that educates people about your law or ADR practice. Offer information that is of value to your prospective clients. Your message should connect at an emotional level with your target markets’ desired outcomes.

6. Share your success- help others learn and grow. The more you share your success and knowledge with other ADR professionals, the more they will learn and spread the ADR message.

I am interested in your success stories and challenges. I will blog about them and help you spread the word about your practice.

How Do You Attract Desirable Clients to Your Practice?

You can attract desirable clients to your practice by communicating a message that is relevant to the clients you want to attract.

This means communicating what your clients/referral sources are interested in hearing verses what you are interested in saying.  

Creating a relevant message requires preparation and having a solid understanding of your target markets most important problems and goals.

This article explores what does and does not work for effectively communicating the value of collaborative law practice.

What does not work?     Too much emphasis on the practitioner:

Example: We assist divorcing individuals with a cooperative process that gives families resources and options unavailable in traditional divorce models. XXX is a group of independently practicing family law attorneys, mediators, business valuators, mental health professionals and financial advisors specializing in divorce issues. Each practitioner, while in business independently in their field, has XXX to provide cohesive, multi-disciplinary services to divorcing clients.

What works?

1.    A message that starts with a point of relevance to the audience:

Example: Divorce does not have to be slash and burn.

2.    A message that relates to a problem the audience has and provides a solution:

Example“A significant advantage of collaborative law is that all personal and financial matters are kept private rather than open public records of a case tried in court,” adds Carlton R. Marcyan, “For clients going through divorce, especially business owners and clients with high assets, keeping personal and financial matters private is an important value.” (full article

3.     A Message that conveys a story the audience can relate to:

Example: "One of the more unique holiday plans Galvin has seen is a couple in collaboration were caught up in a power struggle over who got to spend Christmas morning and day with the children. With the help of the collaborative team the parents were able to focus on the importance of honoring the children's tradition rather than fight over who would be with the children on Christmas morning. Traditionally, the family opened presents in their home and then went to the wife’s parents’ home for a meal and to play with all their cousins. In collaboration, the couple agreed it was in the children’s best interests to maintain that tradition and the ex-husband would be included in the festivities for the next few years while the children were still young rather than alternating holidays and depriving their children of something that they looked forward to." 

This type of arrangement is in contrast to what can happen if parents do not communicate. For example, if parents cannot agree on how to divide time with their children over holidays, it is common for a Judge to try to give everyone a little something and order alternating holidays year to year which often results in tradition and the holidays being less enjoyable for the children in order to satisfy the parents’ demands.

With more than half of the marriages in the United States ending in divorce, there is no doubt Collaborative Law is something that could help parents minimize the damage of divorce on children. January is the month when most parents begin divorce proceedings. “The greatest gift you can give your child in 2010 and beyond is to love your children more than you hate your spouse and work cooperatively with the other parent to co-parent your children,” advises Jim Galvin. (full article)

In summary, the following are four steps to increase the effectiveness of your message so you can attract desirable clients to your practice:

1.    Believe in your message. Your personal belief in your message will come across. Authenticity is essential for effective communication.

2.    Develop talking points. Define the primary benefits of your service and stay focused in your communication. Avoid getting too detailed about the process before you have communicated the value of what you do.

3.    Know your audience. Understand what is most important to your audience, including their problems and the solutions you provide. Tailor your talking points to address the concerns and goals of those you are communicating to.

4.    Use multiple communication channels. Communicate your message consistently and frequently. Opportunities for getting your message out include, face to face meetings, on-line directories, firm/organization bios, articles, on line press releases, and web site, LinkedIn and facebook profiles.  

Send me examples of how your communication has worked and what  challenges you are facing to consistently communicate your "message".

Where is the Proof Social Media Works for Growing Your Practice?

Last week I gave a workshop on social media to over 30 collaborative practice  lawyers, mental health professionals and financial advisers.

A few of the participants were skeptical about social media and were not sure it was worth their time.

Others saw it as an opportunity for accelerating the growth of their practice.

Who is right? How do you know social media will work?

I believe the answer is not about whether social media works, rather it is about taking action to attract clients and referral sources to your collaborative practice. 

Taking action is the key to growing your practice.

The more action you take every day to convey what you do, who you do it for and the value you provide, the more clients and referral sources you will attract.

The following are emails describing the "action" taken from people attending my workshop in New York and from a law firm retreat I conducted in London.

"Since the workshop, I have added lots of people to my Linked In account and rewrote my bio.
 I am using Constant Contact to keep track of my clients, lawyers I work with and a coach list. I have just sent my first Constant Contact email announcing a workshop I'm doing on creating a Vision Board for clients.
 I was able to figure out how to put a link to the announcement on my website. It's another way to get people to sign onto my mailing list.
 I've written an involved article on the pros and cons of the one and two coach models (or Neutral and Co-Coach) and I'm developing my email lists.
 

Thought you'd like to know that there's a lot going on around here with a lot of people."

Micki McWade, Divorce coach New York.

" I am just discovering the joys of LinkedIn and Twitter though it is a bit unnerving when complete strangers start "following" you.

What I have found though from my first steps along the social media highway is that the more you do/say the more people notice you. A simple example is that the number of people who have looked at my LinkedIn profile has increased markedly since I started tweeting. I haven't yet directly related that to an increase in referrals but I guess that will take a bit more time.

The other thing I have found is that you have to make time to do it - and that's the real challenge."

Gillian Bishop, Family Law in Partnership,London

Stay tuned for more "action" focused tips for growing your practice in upcoming blog posts. Let me know what is working for you.
 
I will share your tips with other professionals in the Family law and Collaborative Practice community.

 

 

Overcoming the Temptation to "Take Any Client"

This week I wrote a blog post about how the choices we make today determine our success in the future. Today I read Seth Godin’s blog , Take What You Can Get? and he eloquently reinforced this message.

Godin talks about the temptation we face to take what you “can get” when your practice is struggling or the economy is slow.

We can all relate to this temptation:

• You want to build your Collaborative Law practice and meet your monthly revenue quota; you receive a call from a prospective client who wants to “crush” their former spouse. They want you to represent them in high-conflict litigation. Do you take the case?

• Your law firm’s value proposition is to solve problems for clients who have high asset/ complex family law cases. The only clients you have been attracting recently want the cheapest divorce possible and don’t care much about the depth of your expertise. Do you take these clients?

Without question, anyone who is in business will experience these temptations. What will separate you from the pack is how you choose to respond.

In Seth Godin's blog post he  suggests the following:

"There are two things worth remembering here:

1. Like bending a sapling a hundred years before the tree is fully grown and mature, the gigs you take early will almost certainly impact the way your career looks later on. If you want to build a law practice in the music industry, you'll need to take on musicians as clients, even if the early ones can't pay enough. If you want to do work for Fortune 500 companies, you'll need to do work for Fortune 500 companies, sooner better than later.

2. The definition of "can get" is essential. Maybe it seems like this gig or that gig is the best you can get because that's all you're exposing yourself to. Almost always, the best gig I could get is shorthand for the easiest gig I could get."


You can avoid the “can get” trap by knowing what success looks like for you and exposing yourself to the people, clients and cases that will move you toward your desired results.

I would like to hear about the temptations you face in your practice and your strategies or challenges for overcoming these temptations.
 

Growing your Practice - How to overcome the time barrier?

How do you find the time to grow a practice that is in alignment with your most important goals? 

For many lawyers and collaborative practitioners, the greatest barrier to growing their practice is not having enough time to do the marketing activities that will result in attracting new clients and referral sources. 

One solution to overcoming the “time” barrier is to get clarity on your practice goals. Once your goals are clear, the next step is to make choices everyday that move you towards achieving them.

Successful lawyers and collaborative practitioners have made a deliberate choice about their commitment to growing their practice  and it is this commitment that has provided the foundation for their accelerated growth.

Making a commitment gives you focus and direction and helps you to make choices that are in alignment with your most important goals.

Many lawyers and collaborative practitioners believe they “don’t have the time” to implement practice growth strategies such as meeting with referral sources, attending targeted networking events, writing articles, giving talks, updating their web site or participating in social media, but what is really happening is they have made a choice that something else is more important.

We have more control than we think about how much time we have, and it is how we choose to spend our time that will determine our success. 

So next time you feel you don't have the time to meet with a referral source, learn about new advances in your profession or write an article that positions you as a thought leader in your area of practice, give thought to what you are committed to and how the choices you make today will affect the results you want to achieve in the future.

Ask yourself, “What matters most to me? What would I really like to accomplish? The answer to these questions will act as a guide for helping you to make choices that are in alignment with your most important  goals.

I would like to hear how you are managing your time to grow your practice. Please share your story on what is working or what your challenges are for finding time to grow your practice.

 

 

Grow Your Collaborative Practice by Focusing on What You Want

 

 

You can build a practice that attracts desirable clients, allows you to do work that inspires you and brings fulfillment to your work. The first step is to identify what you want and then to listen to how your mindset may minimize your success. Many collaborative law practitioners want to increase their collaborative practice but limit their success before they even get started with a marketing plan. The story they tell themselves is , "I  cannot afford to only do collaborative cases" or "if I only do out of court work, I will be perceived as a "softer" lawyer and my referrals will stop."   By acknowledging  how you are creating your own fear, you will be able to overcome that fear and develop a marketing plan that is focused on what you "want".

Successful Lawyer Marketing Focuses on the Client

In a white paper recently published by Law 360 on lessons for law firms from the financial crisis, there is a section on business development including an article Getting Windows For Building Business In The Downturn By Shannon Henson. The article highlights a key strategy for lawyers in an economic downturn::

The best way to protect yourself is to make sure you are building up your own client base. If you do that, then no matter what happens, you will be okay.

One of the most important strategies for buidling your client base is to master how you communicate the value of your services to potential clients.

Your goal is to clearly communicate the value you provide clients. Communicate what clients want to hear, i.e. how you solve their problem, verses what you want to tell them, i.e. your credentials.

Description Based message

Many attorneys describe what they do based on a roster of their services or a list of their features. For example, the following message is a familiar description for family lawyers:

"We are a group of knowledgeable, dedicated professionals engaged in the practice of family law."

The emphasis is on the features of the group (knowledgeable, dedicated professionals) and on a description of the service (practice of family law) versus any beneficial outcome to the client. The client has to work hard to translate what this means to them.

Value based message

Compare this response to a family lawyer I consulted with on creating his core message. Through the process of creating his core message, the family lawyer internalized who his best client were, how he differentiated himself and the value of his service.

The result has been an increase in referrals from desirable clients. He is receiving web site referrals from clients who want what he does best.

A few weeks ago, he was at a networking event and when was asked what he did, he replied, “I help divorcing clients to reach solutions.”  One gentleman was listening and heard his unique way of helping divorcing clients and immediately asked for his card. The gentleman said, "I am in the process of getting a divorce and have talked to three lawyers who all said the same thing, you are the first lawyer who has talked about reaching solutions.” A few days later, the gentleman retained him as his lawyer.

Summary

The success this family lawyer experienced came from his ability to differentiate his practice and to convey the value of his services.

When the family lawyer talked about what he did, it was not about him and his credentials. He talked about the client, their problem, and his ability to help them solve their problem.

 

Effective Lawyer Marketing - Begin with Clarity on Results

If you want to motivate your team, firm or organization to achieve extraordinary results, read Seth Godin’s recent blog post, Achievable avalanche opportunities. In the post he writes what is required in a organization to get people excited to achieve remarkable results.

The two critical components to motivating a group include:

  1. Have clarity on the outcome ( results) you want to achieve.
  2. Select an outcome that is perceived as achievable.

He said it is highly difficult to get a group excited about “amorphous and ethereal” goals or about an outcome that is vague.

These components are nothing new and make complete sense once you read them. The key is to internalize there importance and put them into action.

How does this relate to effective lawyer marketing?

If you want to achieve break-through results in growing your practice or attracting desirable clients, your first step is to define the results you want to achieve.

Often times, this is the most difficult step in creating an effective lawyer marketing plan.

To answer this question, I recommend taking a step back from your day-to- day routine of serving clients, meeting deadlines and responding to urgent tasks to give deep and meaningful consideration to what defines success for your practice?

Gaining clarity on the results you want to achieve is the "proactive" work that allows you to build the kind of practice that gets you excited and helps you to motivate your group, firm or team to achieve extraordinary results.

Marketing your law practice starts with charisma

In a recent blog post by Nick Morgan, Nick talked about the two critical elements to increasing your charisma.

The following are Nicks tips:

First, increase your authenticity.  And that means being absolutely aligned in what you say and how you say it – content and body language.  You can’t be authentic if those two modes of expression are not aligned.

Second, increase your passion.  Focus in yourself on how you feel about the moment, the people you’re with, the situation you’re in, and then express that (see #1).

 Working on these two steps will create a virtuous cycle that will increase your charisma quotient as you get more and more practiced at expressing emotion authentically.

Nick has simply and succinctly named two approaches that will not only increase your charisma but also increase your effectiveness to grow your law practice. Research shows that over 90% of what you communicate is non-verbal, this means that you must first be convinced about what you are saying before you can convince anyone else.

Assess you personal passion and belief in the value of your work. What can you do to increase your alignment between what you say and how you say it?

Seven simple and effective approaches for building your law practice

Building a successful law and collaborative practice does not have to be complicated or require you to give up your social life and the things that you enjoy.

The following is a list of simple and effective things you can do to grow your practice:

1. Routinely ask yourself, “What is my vision for my practice; what kind of work do I want to do? Why is this important to me? Write down the answer and then commit yourself to doing something every day to meet your vision. Commit yourself to excellence in your field, whether it is family law, finance, employment law,collaborative practice, etc.

2. Be selective about the work you accept. If you are constantly busy with work that is not consistent with your vision for your practice, it will be difficult to find the time or energy to grow the kind of work that will allow you to achieve your goals. Decide who your ideal client is and proactively attract this type of client to your practice.

3. Nurture and grow business from your top referral sources. Referrals come from people who know, like and trust you. The best way to gain trust is to develop a relationship with those who already know about you. This will require scheduling the time to get to know your referral sources and learning about their businesses and interests.
 
4. Provide remarkable service to your clients. Word-of-mouth marketing is by far the best marketing strategy for any service. The only way to get people talking about your service is to make the experience for clients remarkable -- then they will want to tell other people.

5. Have a web site  (and blog) that educates people about who you are, including what differentiates you and what is your "unique selling proposition" . Offer information that is of value to your prospective clients. Your message should connect at an emotional level with your target markets’ desired outcomes. A good resource for learning about creating a Blog is Lex Blog.

6. Share your success- help others learn and grow. The more you share your success and knowledge with other professionals, the more they will learn about you and your expertise.
 
7. Begin doing something towards building your practice today. The small events you do today will result in Big change for your practice in the future.
 

Why Strategic Vison and Mission are Key to Achieving Accelerated Growth

Last week I received a question asking me, "What is the best way to help people find the switch to illuminate the light bulb in their heads about the crucial need for vision, mission and values?"

This is a common question I receive from Law firms, Collaborative groups, and businesses. For some reason, the thought of creating a strategic vision and mission is counter intuitive to professionals who want to accelerate the growth of their practice in a difficult economic climate.

The instinct is to go out and start “doing” an activity or even worse to respond or react to an event of “special marketing offer” that requires an immediate decision.

Accelerated results come from the power of a group or firm to work in unison toward a shared vision. It is similar to an elite group of rowers whose power comes from the synchronicity of each person working together. Speed and power is achieved by rowing in unison in the same direction. If one person is out of sync the whole group’s ability to succeed is challenged. If a few people are rowing out of sync, the results can be disastrous.

This is true in organizations and law firms, for example, before I conducted a strategic planning retreat for a collaborative law group, the organization had 12 committees all working in different and sometimes opposite directions. Board members had different opinions of what were they thought were the high priority activities for the organization. This created tension among board members and even worse reduced the efficiency of limited and valuable human and financial resources. The organizations members were questioning the value of their membership and getting frustrated with the lack of results they were seeing.

The group participated in a in two day retreat that was preceded by interviews and targeted strategic assignments for board members. In the retreat, the board clarified the purpose of the group which put everyone on the same page as to “why” the organization existed.

This lively discussion allowed everyone to listen and convey what they believed was the reason for the organizations existence. The value from this process was not just in coming up with a great mission statement; the value came from the dialogue and mutual understanding of the companies reason for being.

Once everyone was in alignment with the purpose for the organization, they were able to move forward and create a shared vision about what they wanted the organization to achieve.

After defining the vision and mission, the group efficiently and effectively developed a plan to translate their vision into results. The energy of the group was ignited because the retreat discussion was focused on the organizations most important results. An action plan was created and is now used as a road map for prioritizing agenda items at every board meeting. The plan is being followed and the group has experienced breakthrough results.

It is difficult to answer the question about illuminating the light bulb on the value of vision. However, my response would be, it is not what the vision is... it is what vision does. Optimal results are achieved when everyone in your team knows where they want to go (clarifies what success looks like) and are in alignment on how to get there. In other words, they are all rowing in the same direction.

Let me know if you are part of a team that is rowing in different directions. I will provide you with some ideas on how to get everyone working towards a common goal.  

Strategy before tactics

I recently met with a partner at a law firm who asked me to assist him in placing an article he had  written.  He said a few of his partners had recently published articles in various publications and he thought he should be doing the same.

I asked, "what do you want to accomplish by writing and placing the article?" After a short conversation, he defined the results he wanted to achieve -he wanted to increase his visibility among targeted referral sources.

Once we clarified his objective, we formulated a strategy for increasing his visibility among targeted referral sources. We developed three tactics for achieving this goal. One of the tactics included writing and placing articles in targeted publications.

Strategy defines the results we want to achieve and tactics are the actions taken to achieve the strategy. Tactics can  include, launching a blog, attending networking events, creating a brochure, advertising, revising a web site, social media ( twitter, Linkedin, you tube, etc.) etc. See Kevin Okeefe's post Law firms mistakenly focus on social media tactics over strategy .

Clearly there is a difference between a strategy and a tactic and the key to achieving optimal results is to start with strategy before tactics. We all understand this basic concept yet, the majority of people will start with tactics before strategy. Why is this?

In this mornings post, When tactics drown out strategy Seth Godin lends great insight into answering this question. 

Most of us are afraid of strategy, because we don't feel confident outlining one unless we're sure it's going to work. And the 'work' part is all tactical, so we focus on that. (Tactics are easy to outline, because we say, "I'm going to post this." If we post it, we succeed. Strategy is scary to outline, because we describe results, not actions, and that means opportunity for failure.)

Lawyers and collaborative law practitioners are great at executing tactics. You know how to get things done. By starting first with strategy, you will achieve your desired results.

 

Strategies for getting started in social media for growing your practice

 

 Social media is the new buzz in growing your law practice.

Today I read about how the American Bar Association is using Twitter to help attendees and non attendees follow what is happening at the meeting. You can read the article at At ABA, Whole Lotta Tweeting Going On .

Last week I was interviewed for an article In the Wisconsin Law Journal, Jack Zemlicka wrote about Online networking has limits.

Every day we see and hear more about the virtues and issues related to social media and growing your law and collaborative practice.

In the last few months my clients have been asking me, what is Twitter and why do I need to know about it?  

Twitter is one form of social media that is also called micro blogging and is a communications platform that helps you to do the following:

  • Share information with people interested in your firm, your business and what you do.
  • Gather real-time market intelligence and feedback
  • Build relationships with clients, partners and other influencers who care about your firm or business
  • Communicate with a company (or anyone else) about your experience with their  service or products

No question, Twitter is an important networking tool. Why the resistance? The down side of Twitter is learning how to use it and where to start. My recommendation is to:

  • Begin reading about twitter at twitter101
  • Start slowly and spend 30 minutes a day learning about the value of social media
  • Define your goals for what you want to achieve using social media
  •  Monitor your results and tweak your plan if you are not meeting desired goals.

On a lighter note, a few weeks ago I was watching John Stewart and in the show he explored the question, “Why Twitter?  .

Five Strategies for Maximizing your Marketing Efforts

Building a law and collaborative practice that attracts profitable and desirable clients does not have to take all your time and energy. You can implement a strategy that increases your visibility and credibility by working smarter and re-purposing  or recycling the speeches and articles you write.

The universal challenge law firms and collaborative groups face in building their practice is to manage the time it takes to execute marketing activities while maintaining a full case load of complex, time consuming client work. 

One solution to maximizing your marketing efforts is to re-cycle (repurpose)  your marketing strategies. For example, one of my clients recently wrote an article about a topic he was knowledgeable and passionate about. The article was published as the lead article in a Law publication distributed to 20,000 attorneys in the lawyers target market. The article for the publication was written for the legal profession. 

To maximize the return on investment for writing the article, we recycled the article into five strategies including:

1.      Create a speech from the article. My client prepared a talk based on the content of his article.  He used the speech to give a talk at a networking event that included over 100 professionals in his target market.  One success factor for a successful speech is to talk on topics that you care deeply about.  My client’s talk was successful because he not only knew his topic well, but he was also speaking from a place of personal interest and passion.

2.      Re write the article for a slightly different audience. The original article was shortened and re-written for the general public. The new article was published in a society magazine targeted to the affluent community in his target geographic area.
 

3.      Use the article in your firm or organization newsletter. The edited article was featured in the firm’s newsletter that was sent to over 500 lawyers, wealth managers and other professionals in the target geographic area.
 

4.      Order reprints of the article and include in correspondence to prospective or existing referral sources. The edited article was was included in follow up letters that were sent to attendees of the networking event.
 

5.      Design reprints of the article as an insert for your firm brochure. The article was designed to include a short biography of the lawyer and used as insert in the firm brochure.

Over five marketing strategies were implemented based on one marketing activity. The activity was writing an article about a subject the lawyer was highly interested in, knowledgeable and passionate about.

The key to a successful marketing plan is to execute activities that are in alignment with your strengths and core competencies. Once you create content that conveys value to your clients and referral sources, re-cycle your content for additional articles, pod casts, and speeches that keep you top of mind with prospective clients and referral sources. 

The Art of Referrals

What separates the lawyers who bring in the greatest amount of new business  in a law firm from those who struggle to maintain their marketing goals?  Lawyers who have mastered the art of referrals remain at the top when it comes to attracting new clients and profitable business.

How do you master the Art of Referrals?

1. At the core of building referral sources is trust. Trust is based on two components, First, do I believe you are credible and competent and second, do I believe you have my best interest at heart? If I believe you meet both criteria I will begin to trust you. However if I believe you are competent  but I do not believe you have my interest at heart, I will not trust you and most likely I will not want to make a referral to you. In an article written by Charles H Green of the Trusted Advisor, he summarizes the four specific principles governing trustworthy behavior as: 

  • A focus on the Other (client, customer, internal co-worker, boss, partner, subordinate) for the Other’s sake, not just as a means to one’s own ends.
    We often hear “client-focus,” or “customer-centric.” But these are terms all-too-often framed in terms of economic benefit to the person trying to be trusted.

  • A collaborative approach to relationships. Collaboration here means a willingness to work together, creating both joint goals and joint approaches to getting there.

  • A medium to long term relationship perspective, not a short-term transactional focus. Focus on relationships nurtures transactions; but focus on transactions chokes off relationships. The most profitable relationships for both parties are those where multiple transactions over time are assumed in the approach to each transaction.

  • A habit of being transparent in all one’s dealings.Transparency has the great virtue of helping recall who said what to whom. It also increases credibility, and lowers self-orientation, by its willingness to keep no secrets.

2. Demonstrate interest in others. You must show a level of interest and concern for others before they will care about you or your work. When meeting with a prospective referral source, ask,  "How  would I know if someone was a good client for you?" This demonstrates your interest in their work and success. It also allows you to know more about the referral source so you can refer a client if you believe they are the best resource for the client.

3. Clearly and succinctly communicate what you do. You will not receive referrals if the person you are talking to does not  know your value on how you can assist their clients. Once you have learned about the person you are talking to, communicate the value of your work as it relates to them and their interests. 

4. Schedule time in your calendar to strengthen your relationship with existing referral sources and to meet new referral sources at targeted events and on line social media.  Building strong referral sources will require dedicated and focused time. Figure out how many referrals you need a month to meet your marketing goals and use this as a gauge to identify how much time you should be spending each week on building your referral network.

5. Provide exceptional value to clients. Your best source of referral is with existing clients. A referral given to someone from an existing clients carries the most credibility because this person can speak from a place of experience about your work.  Increase referrals from your existing clients by assuring they have a positive experience with your service.

6. Acknowledge every referral you receive. Once you receive a referral from a client or colleague, be sure to thank them for the referral. Your thank you can be a letter, phone call, lunch, bottle of wine or tickets to a special event. It does not matter as much what you do as long as the thank you is timely, personal and conveys your appreciation. 

Everyone can master the art of building referrals by paying attention to who you want as a referral source and creating a plan to build trust and relationships with those professionals.  The best plan will be easy to implement if it comes from a genuine place of wanting to learn about and bring value to others.

Begin your law marketing strategy with four questions

For many lawyers and collaborative professionals, marketing can be one of the most dreaded tasks. Many lawyers believe it is a “necessary evil” and see it as an uncomfortable yet essential activity for growing a profitable practice.

Yes, marketing is essential for accelerating your practice, especially in today’s challenging economic time. However, it does not need to be uncomfortable or dreaded.

Marketing is often mistaken for advertising hype, slick promotions and selling. Marketing is not selling, particularly in your profession. Nobody wants to be sold a divorce but everybody wants to get their problems solved in a compassionate, understanding way so they can move on.

So what is marketing? Marketing is about choosing target markets and delivering superior customer value. Your best marketing strategy starts with being authentic. This means knowing who you are, including your strengths, your core competency and your best clients. One of the best examples I have seen on the power of being authentic is from a video showing how one man was able to convince the US senate to fund 20 million dollars for public television in 1969. View Fred Rogers' defense of PBS in front of the Senate in 1969.

Once you define who you are and who your clients are, the next step is to excel in your area of strength and focus. Then you are ready to communicate your (targeted) message to the world.

The key to enjoying marketing is to be who you are, and deliver exceptional client value. By excelling in these two areas, you will experience higher satisfaction in your work and your marketing efforts.

Begin your marketing strategy today by answering the following questions:

  1. Why does my practice exist… what contribution am I making?
  2. Who are my ideal clients…what are their goals?
  3. How do I solve problems for my ideal clients better than anyone else?
  4. How do I differentiate my practice?

Once you answer the above questions, put your plan in place by communicating your message through your blog, web site, twitter, articles, presentations and outreach meetings with your referral network.