Why Your Online Lawyer Bio Matters.

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

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 We discovered that his LinkedIn profile had the wrong title, two of his bios from lawyer lists were outdated with old addresses, and his Avvo profile was incomplete.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

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

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

Attracting Profitable Clients In A Post Recession Market

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

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

 

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

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

Things to worry about:

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

Things not to worry about:

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

 Things to think about:

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

His question to me was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Web site/internet
- Professionals
- Past clients

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

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

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

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

1. Create your list of referral sources: 

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

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

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

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

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

What is your plan?

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

 

Reinvention Is The Key to Survival For Law Firms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Write consistent press releases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 
 

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?

Law Firm Education Seminars- Are they worth the investment?

One of the best ways to reinforce your brand is through consistent education programs to your targeted referral sources and professional network. By consistently educating your professional network on relevant topics that solve their client's most important problems, you are positioning yourself as a credible thought leader in your area of expertise.

Many law firms ask, what is the return on investment for educational seminars? Will the seminar result in new clients? Will the right professionals attend the seminar?

The answer to the “return on investment” question is based on the planning and preparation you do in advance of the seminar. What are your goals? What results will define success?

A prominent  family law firm recently gave a high profile educational seminar to their local community on the topic of Domestic Violence in Upscale Communities. The seminar resulted in strengthening existing professional relationship and forming new relationships with community leaders. The key factors contributing to the successful outcome included:

  • Passion: The lawyers and judges who were on the panel were passionate on the topic of combating Domestic Violence.

  • Authenticity: The purpose of the seminar was to educate the community on an issue of high importance to the community.
     
  • Expertise: The firm has a high level of expertise on the topic. A senior partner in the firm worked with the legal and legislative communities for the past 25 years to shape the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.
     
  • Community Interest: Domestic violence in affluent families is a grave and epidemic issue and is one of the underlying factors for murder cases in the community.
     
  • Follow up: The firm created an educational press release and included a YouTube video on segments of the seminar.

Most importantly, the quality presentation, relevant topic and reputation of the prestigious panel positioned the firm as a thought leader in Family Law.

What strategies have you found useful for reinforcing your brand and positioning your firm as a thought leader? Do you think face to face education programs are still a valuable marketing strategy for law firms?

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  

Maximize Your Law Firm Marketing ROI

144Many lawyers are frustrated with law firm marketing activities. Often I hear lawyers complain about the time and cost of marketing and the uncertainty on the return on investment (ROI) for these activities. So where do you start AND what activities will afford you the highest return on the time and money you invest in law firm marketing?

The following are four strategies designed to give you direction when deciding “where to start” and how to maximize your marketing ROI.

1.       Before embarking on any marketing activities, define your goal- what do you want to achieve? Clarify how the activity is in alignment with advancing your firm in the right direction (firm’s vision). This will require time, however, the effort you put into this step will be repaid later.

2.       Whenever possible, never do a marketing activity in isolation, i.e. a onetime advertisement in a publication or magazine. Instead focus on an integrated plan that leverages your effort, i.e. article and repeat advertisements in a publication intended to target your ideal market.

3.       Always maximize the effort you invest in marketing activities. Consistently repurpose your marketing activities, including the article you wrote or the speech you gave. Your article can be repurposed into a blog post or an article for your firm newsletter or local community magazine. Your speech or seminar can be given to multiple markets. Reinforce your brand by writing quality content describing your firm’s unique differentiator on your web site home page. Repeat this message on all your press releases, announcements and social media biographies.

4.       Effectively utilize social media to create a viral buzz about your area of expertise. Listen to the conversation going on in your LinkedIn groups, twitter followers and industry blogs. Make a contribution to the conversation by commenting on a topic and adding a link to your blog post or article. Write about the solutions for the most relevant problems your social media groups talk about.

In summary, to maximize the effort you put towards marketing, always start with a plan that answers the question… what is our goal and how will this activity advance our firm in the direction we want to go?

Marketing with a purpose will help you to focus your marketing activities and maximize your marketing investment.

For more information on how to maximize your marketing efforts, 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. 

Four Strategies For An Effective Lawyer Bio

A recent analysis of activity on my clients’ websites showed the most read section was attorney bios.  Even more interesting, another client of mine recently revised her bio and retained a high-asset client for her firm because her client liked her bio.  These examples are consistent with studies showing that lawyer bios are the most-viewed pages on a law firm’s web site. 

A well written- client focused attorney bio is an effective marketing tool for attracting desirable and profitable clients.

What are the components to a successful bio?

The first is starting with the right focus. Many lawyer bios are focused on answering the question, “How can I impress you?”  rather than “How can I help you solve your problems?”

My suggestion is to look at your bio like an inverted pyramid. The large end of the pyramid answers the question, “How can I help you?” The smaller end provides information about your experience and credentials. Too often, lawyer bios start with facts such as graduation dates, memberships, years in practice, awards received, etc. But raw facts don’t resonate with clients, nor do they effectively communicate who you are and why you are the best lawyer for solving their problems.

The fundamental goal of your bio is to convert on-line searches into telephone inquires about your practice that lead to new clients.

The following are four strategies for writing an effective bio for your law practice:

1.      Communicate your personality: What is your approach to your work? What is your philosophy on how you work with clients? What are your strengths? What are you passionate about in your chosen practice area?

2.      Differentiate yourself: Who is your ideal client? Define your target audience, then speak to their interests and goals. Describe what makes your practice unique. What client problems are you good at solving? Avoid trying to be all things to all people.

3.      Create a dynamic bio: Update your bio, include recent articles and links to on line press releases, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

4.      Make it easy for client’s to contact you: Include your email address and direct phone number as well as your mailing address and fax number.

The bio you provide on your website is one of your most important marketing tools. Invest the time to refine your bio and communicate the value you provide for your clients. The more that clients know who you are and what you can offer to solve their problems,  the greater opportunity you have for converting on line searches into new clients.

What are your challenges in updating your bio? Send me questions or call me if you are finding it difficult to refine your bio.  

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?

Law Firm Branding: How It Helps You Grow In A Down Economy

The recent economic crisis has had significant impact on the competitive environment for lawyers and law firms. Clients are more discretionary with their financial resources and a larger number of lawyers are competing for a smaller number of clients. 

To excel in a competitive market, lawyers and Law Firms need to separate themselves from the pack.

Successful firms differentiate themselves and leave a memorable impression in the minds of their prospective clients and referral sources. This is achieved through an effective law firm brand.

For many lawyers, the term law firm brand is synonymous with logos and tag lines, symbols that are an outcome of a brand but are not the brand.  An over reliance on a tag line, developed without a brand focus, can result in a generic, over used and undistinguishable message such as “experienced, caring and hard working law firm.”

Your law firm brand is your reputation and distinguishes you in the mind of your prospective clients and referral sources. A strong law firm brand will allow you to establish a significant and differentiated presence in your market that will attract desirable clients and referral sources.

Not creating a law firm brand can result in the following problems:

-       Other people will create your brand for you.

-       Your firm will not be distinguished in a competitive market

-       You will not attract clients who value what you do best

-       Marketing efforts will not be focused resulting in a lower ROI

-       Members of your firm may not be communicating a consistent message

-       Partners may be working on different strategies that drain resources and minimize results

Look at the above list. Do any of these themes sound familiar? If so, it may be time to take a step back from working in your business to working on your business. This will allow you to clarify who you are and what makes you unique so your target clients, employees and colleagues know what separates you from the pack.

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.

Should Lawyers Build Their Personal Brand?

 

Is building a personal brand an important strategy for growing your law practice or is it merely “an oxymoron, for a corporate practice, not a personal one” as  written by blogger Doc Searls in his post, The Unbearable Lightness of Branding.

In Telling Lawyers to Build a Personal Brand May Be a Big Mistake, Kevin O’Keefe responded to Doc Searls by  stating, “Today it's "Building trust and maintaining a reputation matter. Calling both 'branding' is a categorical error.”

After reading both posts and having worked  with lawyers for ten years on branding, I passionately recommend that lawyers  focus on both their personal and law firm brands. My suggestion is to re-frame the question from:

“Should I build my personal brand?”
to
“What distinguishes me and my practice, what do I stand for, and who is my ideal client?”

The answer to these questions define your “story” that is, how you express your value to potential clients. Your "story" will establish  the foundation for defining your personal brand.

Personal brands fail for the following two reasons.

  • When the brand starts outside of yourself.  Too often lawyers focus more on their external persona verses who they truly are and what they stand for. This can lead to disastrous results.(Think Tiger Woods, Tony Hayward, the recently demoted CEO at BP and Elliot Spitzer.)
  •  When the brand is about self promotion verses an authentic commitment to making a positive contribution to your clients, colleagues and community.

A brand is not a persona or a “logo.” It is about building a reputation and doing remarkable work, living your values and consistently delivering on your brand promise.

One example of a successful personal brand is Don Schiller of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP, who has created a brand as A Gentleman in a volatile practice area.

His brand enhances and is in direct alignment with his firms brand for unparalleled excellence. It also  distinguishes him as the “go to” family lawyer for  high profile clients among  the influential, wealthy and famous in Illinois. 

In a recent article, titled The Gentlemen, Don was described as:

“In the field of divorce law, it’s hard to escape from name-calling. The amazing thing about Don Schiller is that even at the top of the divorce field, the name he’s most regularly called is ’gentleman.’

Don Schiller has successfully built a personal brand: He knows who he is and  who his clients are, and he delivers on his brand promise every day.

A strong personal brand is about being authentic, knowing what you stand for, and consistently delivering on your brand promise. This includes building trust and maintaining a reputation in alignment with your brand.

The more defined your brand, the more you will distinguish yourself in a competitive market and attract the clients who value what you do best.

 

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.

Blogging for Lawyers- Your Best or Worst Marketing Tool?

 Blogging among lawyers is on an increase. Lawyers who want to attract desirable clients to their practice are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of blogging, including:

  • Boost search engine rankings
  • Establish credibility with prospective clients
  • Stay top of mind with influencers and referral sources
  • Build relationships with thought leaders in your area of expertise
  • Become more aware of what is going on in your field
  • Attract desirable clients
  • Build an on-line reputation
  • Reinforce your law firm’s brand

Without a doubt, blogging is an excellent opportunity for you to build your practice by increasing your visibility and credibility with prospective clients and referral sources.

Why then does blogging seem like such a chore and the thought of writing a blog post compare to a visit to the dentist for some lawyers?

Blogging is a new tool for communication and requires some basic understanding before it can be enjoyed. Think about your blackberry or iphone. The first time you used the device, it seemed cumbersome and for a few of us, slightly frustrating, especially when we would repeatedly hit the wrong key in typing a message. But after using it for a while, the mobile device became an essential business and communication tool.

What changed a previously frustrating experience into an essential communication resource?

Two things changed, including familiarity with the device and knowledge on how to use the mobile phone properly.

You can become an effective blogger and leverage this on-line marketing tool to attract desirable clients by learning blogging basics and becoming more familiar with the process. Your familiarity will increase by following Nike’s advice …“Just do it.”

Effective blogging requires awareness, engagement and conversation.  The basics of blogging include:

1.    Reading

2.    Commenting

3.    Writing

A word of warning, if you do enter the world of blogging, maintain your blog. Lee Rosen, a family law blogging super guru, wrote an excellent post titled, A Dead Family Law Blog is Bad For Your Family Law Practice - don't let your family law blog go dormant. In the post Rosen highlights what prospective clients and referral sources may think when they see an outdated blog or website
My next post will include strategies on how to save time reading what is going on in the blogosphere to help you become a more effective blogger.

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".

Five Characteristics For A Successful Law Practice

Why are some practitioners successfully building their law practice while other practitioners struggle to attract desirable clients and are frequently concerned about, “where the next case will come from?”

I have been consulting with law firms, family lawyers, mediators and collaborative law practitioners across North America and Europe for the past 9 years and have observed the characteristics of highly successful practitioners.

The five characteristics that I have found consistent with every successful lawyer, mediator or collaborative law practitioner include, commitment, competence, community, communication and exceptional client value.

Successful lawyers and practitioners:

1. Know what they want, believe in their vision and are committed to achieving their vision. Commitment 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.

2.Have a relentless pursuit for competence. Excelling at handling client matters is what will separate you from the pack. This requires a consistent effort to master the underlying skills necessary for being recognized as the "best"in your field. What skills do you have or want to acquire that will position you as "number one" in your field?

3. Contribute to building their community. People will do business with those they know, like and trust. 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.

4. 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. Provide exceptional client value.Satisfied clients are the best source of referrals. Higher client satisfaction requires a focus on providing superior service. This means knowing the needs, interests and goals of your clients and meeting and exceeding expectations. 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.

Review the above characteristics and conduct a self-assessment of your strengths and weakness.

In 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 law practice and creating the practice you want, a practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients, produces exceptional value to your clients and brings fulfillment to your work.

 

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.

Building a Successful Law Practice Requires Meaningful Work

Last week I had a conversation with a highly successful family lawyer who was telling me about what he wanted “more of” in his law firm. He said, “I want us to be a firm that is 100% committed to excellence, to provide our clients with the greatest level of value, and to be seen as a firm that consistently achieves the best results for our clients.”

There was a sense of excitement in his voice as he described what he wanted and why it was important for him and his firm.

Lawyers who believe their work is meaningful are successful rainmakers, enjoy their work and have thriving practices.

One source of meaningful work comes from delivering a high level of excellence and exceptional value to clients. It is rewarding, worth the effort and results in increased revenue and profitability. Yet, many firms continue to over emphasize the billable hour as the primary message with associates and partners, a message that can leave lawyers less than enthusiastic about growing their practice.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, The story of success, he states “It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five, it’s whether our work fulfills us.”

In his book there is a chapter on lawyers, devoted to the concept of “meaningful work.” In the chapter he describes how highly successful law firms were founded by individuals whose cultural circumstances gave them belief in meaningful work.

According to Gladwell, having meaningful work was one of the hallmarks of successful people.

How meaningful is your work? Assess your practice and answer the following questions:

• What is important to you?
• What contribution do you want to make?
• Why does your practice exist?

The following is an email I received from a family lawyer who understands the value of meaningful work:

“I began to see the practice of family law as the service of guiding people through one of the most difficult times of their lives. I truly believe that is what we do, but when you “name it” you internalize it. In the past, when people asked me what I did for a living, I responded that I was a “divorce lawyer.’” Not anymore. I will proudly proclaim that I am a problem solver.” And I believe it.”

The lawyer who sent me the email has a thriving, profitable practice and is one of the top originators at her law firm. For her, meaningful work comes from knowing that she has the knowledge, expertise and resources to help clients achieve the best possible results. For others, meaningful work may be something different. In Outliers, Gladwell outlines the following 3 criteria for meaningful work:

  • Autonomy
  • Complexity
  • Connection between effort and reward

We all may define meaningful work differently, but what is universal is that meaningful work comes from a strong sense of purpose and typically goes beyond  a surface measurement like a “billable hour” quota. By focusing on why you exist and the contribution you want to make, you will attract desirable clients, increase your origination and build a practice that provides fulfillment ( and satisfaction) to your work. 
 

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.