Without Disruptive Innovation, Many IP Law Firms Destined to Meet Same Fate As Buggy Whip Makers

A possible upside to the recent economic downturn is that many previously accepted business models are being revealed as in need of substantial reinvention or even total elimination. The billable hour/leverage law firm model for legal services is one of these increasingly maligned business models, and is now appearing to be in danger of ending up in the dustbin of history. Specifically, even those who benefit handsomely from the billable hour, such as the Cravath firm’s many $800 per hour lawyers, now realize the fundamental irrationality of charging a client for time spent instead of value provided. This alone should signal that change is in the air.

Notwithstanding the growing conversation about the need for alternative client service models, I fear that the majority of IP law firms will either try to ignore the desire for change or will respond by offering only incremental modifications to their existing methods of providing legal services to their clients. As someone with considerable experience dealing with IP lawyers, I believe that, unfortunately, the conservative nature of most IP attorneys means that IP firms will likely lag behind in client service innovations. Thus, I am of the opinion that many prestigious and historically highly profitable IP law firms will in the foreseeable future cease to exist.

I reach this conclusion as a result of various salient experiences. In one of these, several years ago, I approached a managing partner of a well-known IP law firm with suggestions of how to decrease the number of attorney hours expended on client matters. At that time, the firm was beginning to experience considerable push back from clients about the cost of routine legal services. I noted to the managing partner that he could lower the cost non-substantive e.g., administrative client IP matters, by assigning such tasks to lower billing paralegals. His response to this idea: “If paralegals did the work, what would the 1st and 2nd year associates do?”

Of course, the central premise of the managing partner’s response was that in order to keep the gears of the firm’s billable hour/leverage partner model turning smoothly, he needed to keep the young associates busy billing by the hour. The existing paradigm of his law firm required that it keep hiring associates to increase partner leverage and ensure that they efficiently billed clients by the hour, with a significant portion of each associate’s billed time directly going into the partner’s pockets. Left out of this business model was whether the clients’ best interests were properly served by the model that best served the law firm’s partnership.

Clearly, this law firm was not well managed, which might serve as an excuse for the managing partner’s self-serving perspective on client IP legal services. However, my experience as a corporate buyer of IP legal services further revealed that that the billable hour/leverage partner business model was an arrangement that frequently ut the client–which was now me–after the law firm’s interests.

As an in-house counsel spending several $100K’s per year for legal services at a number of respected IP firms, I consistently felt that when I called outside counsel for assistance the first thought that popped into the lawyer’s mind was “So glad she called–I wonder how much work this call is going to lead to?” More often than not, I got the sense that my outside IP lawyers viewed my legal concerns as problems for them to solve on a per hour basis, not as issues that might affect the profits of the company for which I worked. The difference is subtle, but critical: the context of the former is lawyer as a service provider, whereas the latter is lawyer as a business partner.

Against these experiences, I was not surprised at what I heard recently when discussing my feelings about the billable hour/leverage model with a partner friend at one of the top IP specialty law firms in the US. This partner echoed my sentiments about the need for innovation in IP client services. However, she also indicated that most of her firm’s partners do not recognize that there is a problem with the way they currently provide IP legal services to their clients. As she told it, many of her more senior partners have been living well on the billable hour/leverage model, so they currently see little need to modify their behavior. My partner friend nonetheless realizes that her law firm is critically ill and is likely to soon experience something akin to sudden cardiac arrest. Sadly, she is not a member of her law firm’s management and, since there is no upper level recognition that change is needed, it would serve little purpose for her to raise her concerns to those partners who could effect change (and would probably not be politically expedient for her to do so).

The failure of these currently well-compensated IP law firm partners to recognize the shifting winds of their client’s acceptance of their billing practices–the fundamental basis of their law firm’s business model–mirrors the response of entrenched interests throughout history to innovations that did not mesh with their existing business model paradigm. Moreover, the inability of many IP law firms to recognize the climate for change leads me to believe that many of these venerated law firms will soon meet the fate of buggy whip manufacturers if they do not innovate in the manner by which they provide legal services to their clients.

Playing out this analogy, buggy whip manufacturers met their demise because they thought they were in the buggy whip business when they were actually in the transportation business. When buggy whips became obsolete, so did these formerly prosperous manufacturers. Notably, buggy whip manufacturers possessed the ability to change and thrive in the new world of the automobile. They already held strong business relationships with the buggy manufacturers that became the first automobile companies. They also employed skilled craftsmen who could have turned their efforts to making leather seat covers or other aspects of the automobile. These buggy whip manufacturers needed only to accept that they needed to ride the wave of innovation occurring at that time and reinvent themselves as suppliers to automobile manufacturers instead of buggy makers.

Like buggy whip manufacturers, I believe that many lawyers have become so entrenched in the law firm business that they have effectively forgotten that they are first legal services providers. As people charged with ensuring the continued vitality of the business, law firm lawyers often become primarily fee generators in that the fees are obtained from billing clients by the hour for legal services. Care and feeding of the law firm and its partners by ensuring constant creation of billable hours therefore often takes precedence over the legal needs of clients. Also analogous to buggy whip manufactures, IP lawyers working in law firms have the ability to change to prevent obsolescence. Indeed, these lawyers possess the requisite skills to continue practicing their craft outside of the existing paradigm of the law firm. Still further akin to buggy whip manufacturers, lawyers also have the existing relationships with customers i.e., clients, which gives them a valuable head start over newcomers who wish to enter the IP legal service arena using innovative, but unfamiliar, client service models.

Using the well-known picture of obsolescence presented by buggy whip manufacturers more than 100 years ago, I believe that IP lawyers who recognize that they must embrace innovation in the way they provide IP legal services to clients will be poised for success when their clients decide that the time for change has arrived. On the other hand, lawyers who believe they are in the IP law firm business will invariably be left behind when innovations in client service enter the marketplace that render the law firm business model obsolete.

IP lawyers should not expect that they will be able to predict when their clients will demand change. As with the customers of buggy whip manufacturers, law firm clients will not serve their IP counsel with notice warning prior to taking their business to lawyers who provide them with innovative, and more client-centric, service models. To the contrary, when clients are finally presented with acceptable alternatives, they will naturally migrate to the innovation that best meets their business needs. The result will be that one day, these currently successful IP lawyers will likely wake up to realize that they are losing their clients in droves to lawyers who succeeded in developing and introducing an innovative client service model to the world. And, as most lawyers will tell you, once a client is gone, they are likely gone forever.

Not only will clients fail to announce that they intend to leave their law firm before they do so, they also will not tell their lawyers how you can serve them better. Why should they–they are not in the business of providing legal services. Accordingly, mutually beneficial client service innovations must be generated by and because of lawyer action. But, because of their inherently conservative nature, I believe that many IP lawyers may fail to realize that innovation is critical until it is too late to preserve their client base.

Some might contend that complaints about the billable hour model have abounded for many years, but no major changes have occurred to date, thus indicating that most clients may be all bluster and no action. While it is certainly true that clients exerted no real pressure on lawyers for change in the past, circumstances are markedly different today than before. Disruptive innovation is rocketing through society, and many formerly solid business models, such as newspapers and recorded music, are now teetering on the cusp of demise as a result.

The signals are there that law IP firms that rely on the billable hour/leverage model appear poised to experience significant stress from clients and critics in the near future. Those relying on this model for their livelihood would be well-served to look for innovative ways to address this changing environment. In short, those who think that the billable hour/leverage law firm model will escape the transformative business innovations of the current era are merely “whistling past the graveyard.” IP law firms, as well as other types of law firms, must innovate now and innovate big or I fear they will suffer the fate of the buggy whip makers.

Finding a Law Firm: Helpful Facts You Should Know

People who need legal advice or assistance know the importance of a reputable law firm. Knowing how to find the best law office in your area is very important.

What Is a Law Firm?

A law firm is apparently a business entity that aims to provide legal services to its clients. This type of business is composed of one or more lawyers that are hired by the firm. Generally, the lawyers in a firm provide legal representation to clients and offer legal advice to other businesses. Typically, a law office renders advice about the legal rights and responsibilities of a corporation or company.

How to Find a Reliable Law Firm?

For people who have been victims of fraud or other crimes, a law office can come to the rescue to solve such matter. These days, countless law offices are available and ready to serve at all time. However, finding a reputable one is truly a daunting task. Searching for a reliable law firm requires time and effort, however with the right knowledge you will not have a hard time in looking for the best option. Here are the important factors to consider in finding a reliable law office.

Proficiency in the Field of Law – The first thing to consider is to search for a law office based on your legal issues. The truth is, law has different categories. You may look for a lawyer to advice you on dealing with criminal law or commercial litigation and other legal matters. It is indeed very essential to know how to pick a particular law firm with specialties on the field that is related to your concern. The best and effortless way to find a law office is to browse online. It can save you time and money as well.

Real World Legal Advice – Mostly, lawyers deal professionally with their clients. They provide legal advices as part of their work and responsibilities. However, as much as possible, you would like to have a law office that can give you a lawyer who shows utmost concern on your case. This kind of lawyer typically explains the legal processes in most convenient way so that the client can easily understand the legal jargons and processes.

Respectable Track Record – Doing business with a law office requires you to spend enough money for it. Since you are spending money, you must opt for the best law office that has a respectable track record. You can do a background check by knowing how many successful cases they have already won for the past years. Although this process requires much effort on your behalf, however it helps you to come up with good decisions. This can also offer you great benefits in the long run.

Facing legal issues in today’s world is not a hindrance for everyone to achieve the right justice. A solution is always present with the help of a highly reliable and professional lawyers to defend you at all aspect of the law. The only thing to do is to find the right law firm that can answer your needs.

Law Firms Don’t Need Marketing! We Sell Ourselves!

Law Firms are not traditionally viewed as businesses in the same way that other companies are. This derives largely from the fact that lawyers have long occupied a different position in our society than business-people. For good or worse, however, things have changed over the past few decades, and more than ever, law firms are now acting like other businesses.

Unfortunately, this also means that law firms now have to put more effort into certain aspects of business that they previously ignored. Marketing, in particular, is an area that law firms, now more than ever, are having to focus on. Competition for clients is tougher than ever, making it necessary to differentiate your legal practice from that of your competitors. How can one efficiently and smartly go about this?

To begin with, you need to come up with a consistent message. If you tell people 100 different things about your firm, then you run the risk that they don’t remember any of them. In addition, no one will ever think that you are an expert in any area. Part of coming up with a consistent message is focusing in on a particular area of practice. The lawyers at your firm may have experience in a number of different areas, but when it comes to marketing yourself, you need to target one area at a time. Pick your strongest area or the area you most want to grow, and build your message around that area. Once you get a lot of clients coming in because of your consistent marketing in that area, you can move on to another.

Use real testimonials. Obviously, if you’re just starting out, then this is tough, so don’t worry about it. However, if you have any experience at all, ask your prior clients if you can use them for a very short, written testimonial. Potential clients are heavily swayed by another person who was in their same situation telling them that you helped with that situation. This kind of marketing is way more persuasive than you telling them over and over how good you are at something.

Always imagine your perfect client. This tip is more of a general thought-process than anything else. Whenever you do any type of advertising or marketing for your law firm, you need to make sure that you’re always thinking about it from the perspective of your perfect client. It sounds simple, but what it really requires is going out and getting to know your perfect clients. Ask them what they’re looking for in a law firm or a lawyer, and ask them what their concerns are. If you’re able to do this, it is an extremely valuable part of your marketing.

I love marketing, but at first it was very daunting for me. I had no idea what to do, what to say, or where to market myself. Even now, I always question my techniques to see if I can improve them. Keep in mind that marketing takes a little time, so don’t give up right after you get started. At the same time, if something isn’t working after a few months, re-evaluate and try to figure what’s not working about it.

Content Marketing and Web Analytics: The Yin and Yang of Any Successful Law Firm Marketing Campaign

Good content has always been one of the best ways for a lawyer to establish and maintain a professional reputation. In the hands of potential clients, good content demonstrates your understanding of the law and your ability to do what you claim to do.

Let’s say you write an excellent article on the recently signed patent reform act.

Prior to the Internet, your options for distribution of that article would be limited. You could submit it to print publishers who could decide whether or not to publish it and how to edit it. By the time it appeared on a client’s desk, it might be three months out of date.

In addition, you could snail mail a copy of your article with a cover letter directly to your list of clients, potential clients and referral sources. You could include it in the firm’s print newsletter. You could mail it to reporters covering the patent law beat and hope that they give you a call next time they are writing a story on that topic.

And that was about it. You really had no way of knowing what happened to that hard copy – if the publication was read or if the envelope or newsletter was even opened.

Today, thanks to the Internet, the options for distributing a well-written and informative article (and all kinds of content) to a wide range of interested parties are vastly expanded. So, too, are the options for finding out if the article was opened, was read and prompted further action on the part of the reader.

In the Internet age, online content marketing is the best way for lawyers and law firms to establish their reputations and attract new business. And web traffic analysis is the best way for lawyers and law firms to measure the success of a content marketing campaign and move forward based on that information. Content marketing and web analytics are inseparable parts of the same strategic process.

Online content marketing for law firms

Online content marketing involves publishing content (like the article on patent law) on your law firm’s website (including mobile website version), client extranet sites or blogs. It involves the e-mailing of your article (or newsletter) to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources.

An integrated online marketing program is an essential part of a law firm’s marketing program. Content marketing involves distribution of your content using popular social media sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) as well as successful content syndication sites (like JD Supra, LegalOnRamp and Scribd).

Each time your keyword-rich patent law article is published on one of these sites, it is indexed by Google and other search engines – enhancing results for searches on terms like your name, your law firm’s name, your geographic area and the relevant subject area.

The term ‘content’ applies to almost any kind of material your firm is publishing. It applies to documents like press releases, experience descriptions, attorney biographies (profiles), client alerts, blog post, white papers, email campaigns and e-books on legal subjects.

Content also includes non-written files, like an online ad campaign, courtroom graphics, a PowerPoint deck, or photos of an open house or employee charity event. It includes online surveys along with survey results. And it definitely includes audio or video recordings of a presentation, a seminar or a webinar.

All types of reputation-demonstrating content can be posted not only on your own website, but also to a wide range of (mostly free) social media and content syndication sites. Once posted, this informative content is available 24/7 and around the world.

Web analytics for law firms

Not only does the Internet facilitate the wide distribution of content,”it also allows lawyers and law firms to closely track distribution – to know how many visitors click on the content; how much time they spend reading, listening or viewing the content; and where (your website, search or some other site) they found the content.

Web analytics is a process for collecting visitor or consumer data, analyzing those data and generating reports on the overall performance of these different channels. It extends well beyond your website into virtually every online channel your law firm might be using.

In the early days, web analytics programs focused on the simple measurement of activity on a law firm’s web site. Today, a good law firm website still contains useful information about the firm and its services, but the site functions more like an interactive hub to which all of the firm’s online content distribution efforts are tied.

In addition, most social media sites have their own built-in analytics programs that can be accessed for more details about activity on your accounts on those sites.

The popular Google Analytics program is free and yields information about site visitors, including number of visitors (unique, new and repeat), page views, repeat rate, visit length, page view length, page view per visit, bounce rate (those who leave quickly from a given page), entry pages (where visitors enter you site), exit pages (where visitors leave your site) and referral sources (direct traffic, search engines and other referral sites).

Among other things, Google Analytics can chart data over time, compare data month-by-month or year-by-year, and internally compare different sets of results.

Other commercial web analytics programs allow the site administrator to ‘dig deeper’ into the data. Most analytics programs will record detailed information at the user level, allowing administrators to track the number of times a given user came to the site, which pages he or she viewed and, in some cases, the location from which that user is connecting.

At Tenrec, we combine basic Google Analytics with a program called Urchin (essentially, Google’s commercial analytics product) to obtain different levels of results for our clients. There are many programs out there. The one you select should be determined by how you plan to use the results.

It is important to remember that no performance metric is inherently bad or good. A limited number of the right kind of people visiting your content and reaching out to your firm is a better result than hundreds of visitors who take no action.

Strategic content marketing and web analytics for law firms

Web analytics programs are capable of generating a vast amount of information. There are far too many metrics for users to process and interpret. Measurement tools are only useful when there is something specific to measure.

The challenge is not to get more data, which can needlessly complicate your decision-making, but to get better data. Be strategic. What is the purpose of this online content campaign (within the context of our business goals), and which select measurements will indicate progress towards achieving this goal?

Let’s go back to that article on patent reform. You post it on your website. You reference it in your blog. You e-mail it to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources. You post it (with links back to your site) on a variety of social media sites and content syndication sites.

On your website, analytics will let you know who visited the page and how they got there. In addition, you will discover if they stayed a while, read the article and downloaded a copy.

If no one comes or if visitors take a quick look and ‘bounce,’ you know that there is something wrong with the content. The subject is not newsworthy. The headline or keywords need work. The article is too long or too short. It is too dense and needs shorter lines and subheads, to encourage skimming. It is too casual or too filled with legal jargon. In other words, it needs work.

An e-mail analytics program will let you know who opens the e-mail and clicks on the link. Other analytics programs will indicate how your article fares in the blogosphere or is shared or re-tweeted on social media and content syndication sites.

The information generated by web analytics is a valuable tool to help lawyers and law firms plan — and continuously improve — their content and their online content distribution campaigns.

Marketing A Law Firm: You Will Need A Law Firm Website

Each year there is more and more online competition for lawyers as law firms reach out to the internet as another mode of marketing a law firm. Lawyers are spending more of their marketing budgets building websites instead of advertising in the traditional ways such as in the phone book.

Traditionally law firms spent a great deal of their marketing budgets on phone book ads. However, it seems that the phone book is becoming obsolete. When was the last time you used a phone book to research a company? Instead of turning to the phone book people now turn to their cell phones, computers, and iPads to research companies and law firms.

Most people these days have access to the internet and most are online multiple times a day. Many use the internet for their work and they sit in front of a computer several hours a day. This means that the rules of marketing a law firm are changing.

It is possible to build a successful law firm using online marketing you just need to have some measurable goals and an understanding of how to get there. Many law firms will pay some web guy to create a website for them. The problem is that just having a website isn’t enough. A pretty website with a great design alone won’t get you business or make your firm more successful.

When people search for something on a search engine such as Google they usually browse over the results on page 1 but most people don’t go much further than that, they don’t click through to see the results on page 2 or 3 and there’s even less of a chance they will click through to pages 5 or higher. If a searcher doesn’t find what they are looking for on the first page or two then they will typically do another search with different keywords. You need to get your site on the first page so that it can be found quickly and easily.

If a law firm just has some web guy create a law firm website they might discover that their website isn’t ranked well on the search engines. Many law firms aren’t even aware of where they rank in Google; they’ve never Googled themselves or asked their web person.

Hiring a professional marketing firm that knows how to bring qualified leads to the firm will give you a big advantage over the firm that just hires a web guy. Thousands of people use the internet to find lawyers. They use the major search engines to type in keywords and search for lawyers in their local area or they search for the best lawyers in a specific field of law. When they do their search, you want to be on the front page when they type in your town or your practice specialty. You want to be as high on the search engines for as many keywords as possible.

A professional website design team will be able to design a site for your firm that not only looks great but one that can be found on search engines and converts site visitors to clients quickly. You want people coming to your site who are looking to hire a firm that specializes in what you do. Hire a web design firm who knows how to get clients to the top of search engines and who has experience in marketing a law firm.