Law Firm Marketing – A Search for Leadership

The Partner Pole – Early Expressions of Law Firm Marketing

In ancient times the totem pole was a symbolic expression of past generations. It offered information about a tribe’s identity–a type of linear -understanding of generations that came before them and the leaders who showed them the way. It enforced group solidarity and provided a necessary relational context to their lives.
The totem pole was worshiped and ritualized. The history of a whole tribe could be understood by this one linear expression. Symbolic communication, as a group organizing method, is also found in law firms. Law firms proudly list their partners’ names on letterhead and post them on doorways. Often some of the names are symbols of the past–a lasting recognition of those who came before as well as those who are currently carrying the torch of the firm’s traditions into the future. This symbolic communication portrays the history of a firm’s leader-ship and is an indicator of predicted performance. But what happens when the firm’s past is forced to yield to the firm’s future? When it becomes necessary for the firm to reinvent itself and set out new organizing principles that match its vision–when the old belief system is no longer in sync with the needs and demands of changing markets and clients? Most firms are facing this challenge right now, and some are not even aware of it. The partners I spoke with clearly recognized the need to re-invent themselves or risk sacrificing growth and prosperity.

Are You the Leader?

Who among you will lead the charge? This is a very personal decision that should not be taken lightly. It will depend not only on your own willingness to take on the challenge, but also on the willingness of the key partners who make up most of the power base at your firm.

If you are up for the challenge, accept this knowledge and get on with leading. If not, find the person in your firm who is ready and able to lead and offer that person all the support you can. You’ll soon realize that the quality and commitment of your support for this person will be recognized as an important form of leader-ship in its own right.

The Genetics of Leadership

It’s been said that some people are born leaders. That may be true, but for most of us, leadership is an acquired skill that comes from our mind-set and our desire to effect positive change. Similarly, people are not born extraordinary. Instead, they choose to accomplish extraordinary things.
As recently as 2003, scientists discovered that our natural traits are not “set in stone.” (See Matt Ridley’s Genome and Nature via Nurture.) Rather, our genetic code–especially the code responsible for our brain function–is neither unchanging nor unchangeable. As we respond to the challenges and stimuli in the world, so do our genes. Depending upon our needs and the degree of our determination, different formulations of our genetic code are activated. This results in the emergence of a new pattern of genetic instructions. Contrary to what scientists formerly believed, our genes remain active, malleable and fluid throughout our lives.

Until these discoveries were made, the received wisdom was that the traits that enable us to think like lawyers or strive for excellence or find the courage and charisma to lead were handed out to us–or not–at birth. It was taken as fact that our neural makeup was primarily dictated by the genetic code we inherited from our parents. If we were fortunate enough to have inherited “smart” genes, it was anticipated that we were destined for greatness; if the opposite happened, we were destined to be the village idiot.

In reality, the reason so few of us break out of the mold is not due to genetics at all. It’s because of the fact that, strange as it may sound, most of us surrender to our strengths rather than engage our weaknesses. If we tend to be naturally gifted in mathematics, we gravitate toward mathematics. If we show an early talent in the arts, we gravitate in that direction. It’s simply easier to rely on our existing strengths than it is to develop new strengths from scratch.

Psychologist and theorist Carl Jung described this irony in his book Psychological Types:

“Experience shows that it is hardly possible for any-one to bring all his psychological functions to simultaneous development. The very conditions of society enforce a man to apply himself first and foremost to the differentiation of that function with which he is either most gifted by nature, or which provides his most effective means for social success. Very frequently, indeed as a general rule, a man identifies himself more or less completely with the most favored, hence the most developed function.”

Since Jung’s time, however, neuroscientists have discovered that the human tendency to follow the path of least resistance is not merely ironic but counter-productive. We now know that the brain grows stronger, developing at a much higher level, when we force ourselves to think in new and different ways.

Until now, you may not have thought of yourself as a leader. But that is no reason to believe you can’t become one if your motivation is strong enough. The first question to ask yourself is this: What does it mean to be a leader?

What Is a Leader?

The stereotypical image of a leader is that of a commanding figure, able to speak to large groups of people. We think of leaders as people who speak their minds and are charismatic performers, able to manipulate people’s emotions in order to get things done the right way–usually their way.

This popular stereotype is not only unrealistic, it describes characteristics that are undesirable in a leader and, if we dare to admit it, characteristics that make a leader quite dysfunctional. Real leaders are listeners; they don’t bark out orders from behind their desks. Such leaders find ways to develop strengths in the people they work with. They work through people, by understanding and evoking their intelligence, creativity and participation.

The ideal leader works for the firm, not the other way around. In fact, leadership is more a property of the firm than of the leader. In mid- to large-size firms, it is unrealistic to rely on one person to provide all of the leadership.

The most successful managing partners I have seen rarely dominate the group; rather they support the group by keeping it focused and on task.

Exceptional leaders work hard to remove barriers in communication among their key people. They see their role as smoothing out processes. They are facilitators, not dominators. They think about ways of making others more effective and productive, making it easier for them to do their jobs. And when their effort results in success, these leaders rarely take the credit, instead giving it to the group, where it belongs.

The single most important quality people look for in a leader is honesty. For most people, this is what determines whether a leader is worthy of their confidence and loyalty. With honesty often comes wisdom. For firms in the midst of great change, leadership requires a unique set of skills. Leaders must be able to work through teams of people, delegating work and rewarding performance while encouraging persistence. Such leaders encourage excellent performance at every level. Effective leaders are relentless in their determination to keep reaching for higher levels of performance. Interestingly, leaders like these seem to work best when the chips are down and change is upon them.

The Best Leaders Are Perspective-Driven

The most dynamic types of leader are perspective-driven. These in-tensely inquisitive people need to know what actually causes firms to grow and prosper and, just as importantly, what causes them to falter. They want to know what clients think about the firm–what clients actually experience when they visit and do business with the firm.
Perspective-driven leaders seek to discover new ways of serving, new ways of making clients feel valued, and new ways of earning trust. They seek what many managing partners would rather sweep under the rug. That’s because perspective-driven leaders know that the creative process depends more on differing views than conforming ones.
A common trait of perspective-driven leaders is that they are pain-fully honest and realistic when it comes to evaluating performance–including their own. These leaders do not claim to have a monopoly on knowledge. They understand that their point of view is simply that–their point of view.

They know that to completely understand a major challenge, they must turn to people who think in a variety of ways; thinking in teams is usually more productive than thinking individually.
Perspective-driven leaders do not let dissent or disagreement distract them from their goal of problem solving. In fact, such leaders are attracted to disagreement, especially from intelligent and competent people.

Listen to how one managing partner dealt with disagreement:

“Most of our partners were having a major problem with our top administrator, who was insisting that we convert to an entirely new computer system. The partners couldn’t see how the cost and expense of putting in a new system could possibly be worth the projected productivity gains. We just weren’t seeing what he was seeing–and none of us were willing to make the effort to see the problem through his eyes. No one doubted he was a talented and intelligent administrator. But no one here could possibly imagine that an administrator might be seeing something that we couldn’t.
I later realized that it was our arrogance that was get-ting in the way. When we finally put the system in, a year later, we were kicking ourselves for not having done it earlier. . . . “

True leaders value the differences among people–and more importantly, they respect those differences. The more a leader discovers what was previously unknown, the more opportunities can be identified. Leaders must be committed more to understanding the problem from an-other’s perspective than worrying about protecting their own understandng.

Playing at Top Performance Levels – Leadership and Marketing

Great leaders, like great athletes, are relentless and uncompromising when it comes to reaching top performance levels. It is this tenacious desire to be the best at one’s game that drives them.
Perspective-driven leaders recognize the limits of one’s own perceptions and appreciate the need to interact with different types of people. They realize that people do not always see the world as it is, but tend to see it from the perspective of who they are and how they view and inter-act with others. This is why such leaders encourage diversity. This is why you might hear an effective leader say, “Jay, you seem to see this issue differently than I do. Tell me how you’re seeing it. I want to see what you see.”

Most people in management roles would rather learn from what’s working at their firm than from what’s not working. Typical managers seek out agreement among their coworkers rather than finding opposing views. Perspective-driven leaders seek just the opposite–they are more interested in what’s missing from the firm that, if instituted, would make a qualitative difference and elevate performance.

A business litigation firm in rural New York was experiencing a serious decline in new business. When the partners got together to discuss the issue, they thought it would be useful to see what other firms were doing that they were not. Giving associates bonuses had always been discretionary, based on their overall performance. But the partners realized, when they compared their compensation packages with those of other firms, that theirs lacked a specific and immediate reward structure for associates.

One partner said, “We found that associates were especially motivated when they knew exactly what they would earn from new income they brought in and when they could expect to receive their share. We were amazed at how quickly they responded.”

This firm was acting proactively. They sought not only what was working, but also what was not working in their new business efforts. When they discovered that there was a decline in associate-generated revenue, they looked at what was absent–from the associates’ perspectives. Discovering what was absent allowed them to take immediate action to remedy the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.

Knowing Your Game

Perspective-driven leaders consider the challenge of finding what’s not working at their firms to be particularly interesting. That’s not to say they don’t acknowledge their firms’ strengths, but they are much more intrigued by their weaknesses. Why? Because they understand that removing weakness builds strength and increases performance. It is like finding the beautiful elephant in the block of stone. When you eliminate what’s not working (what’s not the beautiful elephant), you often get closer to what is working.

For perspective-driven leaders, finding what’s missing in their organization is like working a puzzle. The more pieces they find, the more complete the picture becomes and the easier it is to find the next missing piece.

It’s no different from the mind-set of a great athlete–and athletes don’t get any greater than Michael Jordan. Even at the height of his career, Jordan was notorious for studying his game tapes the day after he played. To him, reaching higher levels of performance meant learning as much as possible about how he played. It wasn’t vanity that drove him to study his game. It was his desire to see what he could not see from his perspective on the floor during a game. By changing his perspective, he could see things that he might have missed before. He might notice, for example, that in fast breaks in the last quarter of a game, he tended to pass the ball more to the left than to the right. Was this a mistake on his part? That’s not the point. What great athletes like Jordan look for is more knowledge about how they play their game. It’s finding that next piece of the puzzle that lets them get closer to seeing the complete picture.

Powerful Leaders Are Great Listeners

Perspective-driven leaders have many traits in common. One is being masterful at communication. This does not mean just being an effective speaker–it also means being an effective listener. The way one listens is said to be more important than what one says.

Providing consistently high levels of service requires constant listening to feedback from clients, and the people listening must be the most senior members of a firm’s leadership. Unfortunately, for the more senior partners, it’s too easy to avoid such listening–they become insulated from the front lines.
The inertia of this avoidance is enforced by those who wish to “protect” top leadership from unpleasant experiences such as speaking directly with dissatisfied clients. This happens in even the most well-intentioned firms. To counter it, firms must be proactive.

The best firms, for example, are obsessive about conducting in-depth debriefing sessions after a matter is concluded. These meetings are essential to ensure the firm’s ability to track its progress in serving clients, and clients also appreciate and admire the firm’s frank and honest willngness to improve its relationship with them.
Most leaders pretend to listen. Perspective-driven leaders, on the other hand, are fully engaged in the listening process. They are tenaciously committed to understanding the perspectives of others. To them, listening is not just waiting for someone else to finish talking or a com-petition between views. Nor is the goal of listening necessarily to reach agreement.

Rather, astute listening is the process of working through issues and separating the emotional from the logical while discovering more about the assumptions used to draw conclusions. Good listeners care less about being “right” than they do about building strong coalitions among their people.
Often people listen in order to validate their own replies. Few actually listen to understand another person’s perspective, and even fewer try to understand the person behind the perspective. Listening has become a -unilateral waiting game. We nod our heads to look attentive and interested, but inside we’re working up a clever reply. (“Finish up, so I can tell you what I think about it!”)

Sadly, most of us don’t bother to really understand the people we listen to. This is not just a trait of lawyers, but lawyers in particular should not settle for how “most people” communicate. Providing legal service demands that we strive to reach a much higher standard than “most people” in interpersonal communication. It is not by chance that we are called counselors-at-law.

People need to be understood. This need is second only to their need to survive. They need to participate in communication that affirms and validates them as people. Listening is perhaps the single most important aspect in client communication. No matter how much time it takes, it is worth every moment. Furthermore, it is said that it is only after we listen and listen well that we earn the right to be listened to.

It is through listening that you will begin to discover what your clients truly value. Only when you know what each client–individually–values can you hope to provide them with the type of excellent service that builds loyalty and praise.

Listen to the Clients You Already Have – Basic Law Firm Marketing

It is not the hundreds of potential clients that might one day become revenue opportunities that count. It’s your existing clients that are your greatest assets. Investing in them by listening to them will generate your greatest return.
The traditional 80/20 rule applies to most large firms: That is, 80 per-cent of a firm’s revenue comes from just 20 percent of its clients. So marketing well must begin with your existing clients. Listening to these clients, reassuring them and making sure that they are well-served at every level must be your first priorities.

Henry Dahut is an attorney and marketing strategist who works with some of the largest law firms in the world. He is the author of the best selling practice development book, “Marketing The Legal Mind” and offers consulting services in the area of strategic branding and law firm marketing. Henry is also the founder of the legal online help-portal GotTrouble.com – the award winning site that helps people through serious legal and financial trouble.

Do You Know Qualities of the Best Law Firms?

How do you know that your attorney will provide you with confident legal representation? A responsible legal attorney will ensure that he will do the best for you.

Here’s a look at the Qualities of the Best Law Firms:

Effective Leadership

An effective leader is one of the key factors in determining a successful law practice. A good leader will have a commitment to serving its clients, and a vision for the firm’s direction. He will have a desire to find the best people, believing both in the clients and the brand of the firm. Effective leaders have a good understanding of the legal work, an awareness of the employees’ total job satisfaction, and overall satisfaction of its clients. Good leaders always remain cognizant of the factors such as success and growth associated with the firm.

Compassion for its Clients

The best law firms have qualified attorneys that listen to the clients concerns, and show empathy towards their situation. They are also concerned towards their overall goal through representation by the firm. Some attorneys look at their clients and see the opportunity to bill the total fee they will earn for a huge settlement. These attorneys lack the basic ethical consideration and compassion for its clients. The attorneys of the best law firms always act in the best interest of the clients and take good care of them. Some law firms even recruit brand new attorneys and start the legal process afresh with them.

Focus on a Specific Area

It is the quality of the best law firms to focus on a particular area of law. Laws are complex these days and these can change depending on the new case handed down by superior courts. The best law firms are aware of recent changes in their area of specialization. They can change strategy and become the power to their clients by exhibiting their knowledge in a particular area of law. A lawyer who claims to practice in all areas is not the right choice. With a narrow focus, a lawyer can represent your case instantly.

Organizational and Transaction Skills

Any attorney firm who wishes to be successful must possess skilled lawyers. The possession of exceptional organizational and transaction skills will enable the law firm to distinguish themselves from the other firms. These skills may vary with the different fields of law. The technical knowledge of lawyers will enable them to succeed. Moreover, this will assist them in retaining clients and winning cases. The practicing attorneys should have a mastery over the rules of evidence, which is an essential part of litigation. A client wants an attorney with a firm and confident determination. With confidence in their law firm, a client’s trust will increase and finally the potential of repeat business is huge.

Honesty and Persuasiveness

The best law firms never misguide their clients with an incorrect answer. Appeasing a client with false statements will cost the firm at the end. Honesty is totally important in maintaining client relations and should be of extreme importance. A lawyer must possess the skills to persuade a judge and the client, and in this situation, the power of persuasion is important. The idea of persuasiveness is the ability to understand and identify the concerns of the audience. It is the attorneys who can interpret the law in order to remain successful.

Clearly Defined Fee System

To avoid any future complications, good law firms always put in writing and explain to the client the method of billing. Many billing disputes arise only due to discrepancy in the understanding of the client regarding the fee matter. A clearly explained fee agreement in the first intake helps to avoid many of the post case disputes.

There a lot of law firms available to select from, however when picking out the best of the lot, it is important you verify the qualities of a professional one. The qualities of the best law firms have been discussed above to enable you to choose the right one.

Varying Video for Effective Law Firm Web Marketing

Video is becoming increasingly important to law firm web marketing. Website and YouTube video can help law firms with website stickiness, improve professionalism, optimize their law firm SEO and leverage social media marketing to carry their message to both their existing clients and prospective clients. Let’s consider a few YouTube statistics. YouTube, owned by Google since 2006, boasts some truly amazing metrics. For example, as of this writing, YouTube’s website states that it attracts over 800 billion unique users visits each month and over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month. 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and in 2011 YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or around 140 views for every person on Earth. Clearly web video is attracting and retaining a large following.

How can you optimize your law firm marketing content for YouTube? Strength is represented in numbers and variety. Once you have created a page (or space) on your law firm website, you should also create a YouTube channel. Optimize your channel for your target prospects and make sure your description and tags incorporate the long tail keywords germane to your target audience. Leverage your law firm logo and branding to make your YouTube channel look professional and current. Then, populate both your channel and your law firm website with compelling content across multiple video mediums. For example, you can use PowerPoint Vlogs, talking head recordings (using video from your own laptop), Skype recorded videos, professionally shot and edited videos and recorded webinars. There are pros and cons with each of these videos relating to your law firm web marketing.

  • PowerPoint Vlogs:These are fast and easy to create and post. You will achieve better results if your slide deck has been created by a graphic artist. Vlogs are typically a more casual type of video, and can be used to rapidly convey changes in a specific industry.
  • Recorded Webinars: Webinars can be recorded and posted to your law firm website or YouTube. Shorter is usually better, as patience can wear thin for even an interesting, albeit lengthy webinar recording. Webinars offer the advantage of looking and sounding “professional”, though quality can vary based on the vagaries of the internet throughput and recording devices used on the day of the webinar.
  • Talking Head Recordings:Quality varies on the recording device used and the professionalism and experience of the speaker. For example, using a built in high def camera can work well with some laptops, I usually suggest multiple practice sessions across several devices, to compare and contrast the resulting video. Make sure your background looks professional, an office background, if not cluttered, often looks best. You can also record in an empty courtroom, or on a quiet weekend, in front of a court house. This can be done with a computer or other digital recording device.
  • Skype Recorded Videos:Skype interviews are often easier for the speaker because they are responding to “interview” questions and don’t need to be as rehearsed when compared to Vlogs or talking head videos. Interviewers can utilize on camera or off camera (split screen) technologies. Skype does not offer recording capabilities, a third party software solution must be used.
  • Professional Videographer Videos:There are two types of these videos, those which feature or include live speakers, and those which use photos or images which convey your value proposition. The former might include a message from the managing partner or other attorneys, the latter might include images of your offices and other related law firm materials, or images pertaining to your target market.

Once you’ve added videos to your YouTube channel and website, leverage these for your social media marketing campaigns. Post, Tweet, Pin, Like, Link, Blog and Vlog your content. Push your video out to your market using LinkedIn, Facebook, Tiwtter, Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Blogs, etc. Make sure your website links and call to action are prominently noted on both your channel and each video. Vary your video and vary your content for optimum efficacy. Educational videos typically work best. One of the fastest growing areas of YouTube relates to “How To” videos. Whether you’re discussing how to how to aggressively defend lawsuits, how to mitigate liability or how to ensure driver safety, video is a great way to reach your target markets.

Remember, all of your content does not need to specifically relate to law, as long as it is professional and interesting and results in quality traffic and interaction with your target market. Note that your content will vary drastically based on your practice. For example, attorneys specializing in family law will have a different approach, look and feel than those practicing corporate litigation. Your video content should “speak” to the audience you are targeting. And when in doubt, you can create your own informal focus group, sending your video links to trusted clients, friends and colleagues for their candid feedback. If your law firm has yet to begin your video law firm web marketing initiative, there is no time like the present. If you have already begun, remember to vary your video, your content and your web marketing distribution for optimum results.

Top 4 Business Mistakes Law Firms Should Avoid

The business of law has its own set of rules and regulations. Nevertheless, as with any other businesses, it can suffer due to certain mistakes, industry inaccuracies, and errors made by law firm or its staff. Whether your law firm is large or small or whether you have a solo practice, these business mistakes can lost you dearly.

Given below are the four most common business mistakes that law firms should avoid

1. Not Focusing on Your Niche

This is particularly applicable to smaller law firms and solo practices. In an attempt to gain more clients and business, there is a temptation to spread yourself too thin and take on cases outside your area of expertise. Don’t give in to this temptation. Focus on your niche, as it allows you to deliver greater client satisfaction that will automatically enhance business and profitability. Once you are well established, you may expand the services your firm provides by hiring experts in other areas. Larger law firms that handle diverse cases should assign specific areas of work such as corporate law, environmental issues, and real estate to specific people. Having everyone look at everything is a sure recipe for disaster.

2. Not Marketing Effectively

Some law firms do not believe in marketing at all and want to rely completely on word of mouth and referrals. This is a mistake. At the other end of the spectrum are law firms that spend heavily on advertising and are puzzled by the lack of results. Marketing is an essential tool to promote your law business, but it needs to be used intelligently to offer maximum value. It is not necessary to have a full-page ad in a national newspaper. You may get better results with a small ad in a local magazine that has a greater chance of being read by your target clients. Your website can also serve as a cost-effective marketing tool.

3. Not Paying Attention to Receivables

Providing the best services to clients costs money, but when clients don’t honor their bills on time, most lawyers are reluctant to follow-up. Some clients may take advantage of you and delay payment even further. If this situation continues, you will be left low on cash, which will ultimately affect the quality of service. Remember that clients will not leave your firm because you ask them to pay what they owe, but they will surely leave if your level of service goes down.

4. Not Communicating with Clients

Not communicating is a common mistake that most lawyers commit without even being aware of it. The volume of work in a law firm is so large that you tend to be overwhelmed and may actually have no time to communicate with your client. Sounds unbelievable? But it is true. Communication with your clients is very important for business. You may be working very hard for their interests, but they need to know it. Giving regular updates to your clients by phone or email is essential. These are some of the most common business mistakes that law firms regularly make. Avoiding these mistakes will help keep your clients happy, and you will be able to retain them longer than you would otherwise.

The Golden Rules

  • Find your niche and become an expert in it
  • Market yourself well
  • Pay attention to cash flow
  • Stay in touch with your clients

Unbalanced Scales – Weighing Marketing Options for Your Law Firm

The past few years have not been kind to any business, and law firms have, by and large, been no exception to the rule. People still need attorneys even in a down economy, but the fact of the matter is that they are less willing to spend money on attorneys fees when they have less money to begin with. None of this should come as any surprise, but it is surprising how often law firms and attorneys are at a loss when it comes to ways to find new clients. Unfortunately, this is a class that never gets taught in law school.

If you own or operate a law firm and haven’t had as much new business as you would like, then I want to introduce you to the concept of search engine optimization (commonly known as ‘SEO’). SEO is not the only way to market a legal practice, and although it’s one of the best ways, there are certainly situations where other forms of marketing may work better. Here’s why more law firms should pay attention to search engine optimization:

  1. Inbound Marketing: In the marketing industry, there is a common distinction between inbound and outbound marketing. In general, outbound marketing is an effort by the company in question to reach out to a potential client and initiate a client-relationship (think, for example, of calling a contact who you know might need your legal services). On the other hand, inbound marketing is marketing that aims to make a company visible to any potential clients who are actively looking for services or products offered by that company. The distinction is not always clear-cut, but it’s important for a law firm. In general, attorneys think about going out and networking (which is always an excellent idea), but the results are limited. Search Engine Optimization allows you to reach more potential clients more quickly.
  2. Efficiency: Let’s be frank – your law firm is your business, and you want to control costs like any other business. Advertising – even in print, but especially on TV – gets very expensive very fast. Advertising online is a good and attractive option, but I would argue that the money is better spent on a long-term SEO solution for your law firm. The rankings and traffic that result from good SEO can last for a very long time and can continue to benefit your law firm down the road.
  3. Competition: In today’s market, it’s getting harder and harder to differentiate your legal services from those provided by the attorney or lawyer down the street. Consequently, it’s prudent to take a different approach to marketing than the guy or gal down the street. There are law firms that already engage in SEO, but there are not as many as there could or should be, and you can take advantage of that fact.

Practicing law is not an easy profession, and the demands of the job have only increased over the past few decades. However, finding clients doesn’t need to be the most difficult part of your legal practice. As I mentioned above, search engine optimization is by no means the only way to get your law firm in front of more potential clients. It’s a method that we have helped many firms use to find many new clients on a ongoing basis.

If you want to get started, it probably makes sense to seek the help of a professional, although many SEO tactics can be tackled yourself if you have the time. In any event, I urge you to get started today, even if it’s with a different type of marketing. Your legal practice and career will greatly benefit down the road.