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.

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?

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.
 

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 
 

Tips for Talking to the Media About Your Law Practice

 You provide a high standard of service to your clients and produce positive results. Clients and referral sources benefit from your experience and expertise and often times tell you how much value and peace of mind you have provided them during a difficult or challenging time. You want to educate the public on your legal services and attract more clients who want what you do best. Unfortunately, in your community not enough people know about you and your law practice and the value it can provide.

A key strategy for increasing awareness about your law practice is media relations. Clients listen to and are influenced by what they read in the newspapers and Internet, see on the television or hear on the radio. A notable story about you or your legal service in a reputable publication can significantly increase the visibility and credibility of your law practice in your community.

How do you attract the media to notice your law practice?

You have two opportunities to attract the press. One is through initiating the story though a press release that you create or pitching a specific story concept to a reporter. The second is responding to a call from a reporter for a comment.  

The following tips will assist you in talking to the media for both opportunities.

1.    Speak to the interests of your audience. Focus on what your audience wants to hear verses what you want to say. Avoid talking about the features of your law practice.  You will increase your opportunity for success if your story is on the benefits (verses the features) of your law practice, is newsworthy and has a hook. Example

 2.    Provide a real life example of how your expertise has benefited clients. Reporters want to know, “how has it helped people?” What is working? Example

 3.    Know the media source- Research the reporter’s web site, publication or radio station. Who is the audience for the publication? What is important to this audience? Pay attention to the tone and view point of the media source. Is the view point consistent with your message?Example

 4.    Research the reporter- What is the reporter’s style of writing? A simple Google search will provide relevant information on the type of stories they have written before. Be careful when talking to a “gotcha” reporter. This type of reporter may be looking for a story that conveys a completely different message than you intended. 

 5.    Ask about the reporter’s deadline and agenda.  Clarify the reporter’s deadline and the focus for the interview. Call the reporter back before the deadline and take a few moments to organize your thoughts and write down talking points. Try to avoid “spur of the moment” interviews without advanced preparation. Remember everything you say can be quoted.

 6.     Avoid legal jargon. Try to stay away from too many academic terms and industry jargon. Journalists like to hear human interest stories that tell a story verses an institutionalized description about process. Example

 7.    Control the interview. Make a list of the points you want to make.  Try not to have more than three key talking points. Find every opportunity to deliver your key messages. Think in headlines and respond in quotes. Don’t just answer the reporter’s questions

Almost every one of my clients has a story to tell that is worth listening too and provides valuable information. Take the first step by telling your story through on-line press releases, calling your local media or writing articles for local and national publications.

By being media savvy you can maximize the opportunity to increase awareness of your law practice and position yourself as a leader in the industry.