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

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

Who are the influencers?

·         Clients

·         The public at large

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

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

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

What does this mean for Collaborative Law practitioners?

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

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

To:   What do Collaborative Law clients want?

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

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

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

Four Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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?”
“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.


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".