Law Firm Business Development: How to Stop Procrastinating

law firm business development procrastinatingMany of my clients procrastinate doing the hard work of business development.  Time, fear, not knowing where to start or something else seems to tie them in knots and prevent action. As a law firm business development consultant and coach, part of my job is to help my coaching clients understand the underlying reason for their business development procrastination so we can attack the problem together and move forward.

When working with procrastination issues, I often use something called the Zeigarnik effect to help people get started. You can use this tool to overcome procrastination in a variety of settings. At its core, the method can be reduced to a simple phrase: “Take the first step.”

In his recent book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Richard Wiseman tells the story of a young Russian psychology graduate student named Bluma Zeigarnik, who was seated at a café in Vienna in the 1920s observing the behavior of waiters. She noticed that the waiters had the ability to remember details of multiple food orders without writing themdown. They retained this information until each check was paid. When queried after the check was paid, they struggled to remember items on the order.

Zeigarnik’s study led her to conclude that starting a task creates a sort of psychic need or anxiety to complete what was started. If you begin and are then interrupted, the mind creates a way for you to remember what is necessary and pesters you until you’ve completed it.

The theory is often applied to students. Those who suspend their studies briefly and undertake alternative activities (studying other subjects, playing foosball, etc.) tend to remember material better than do those who don’t take a break.

Psychologist Jeremy Dean posits that procrastination is most crippling when we are faced with a large task and don’t feel we have all the information to start. Lack of business development training hampers lawyers because they don’t know where to begin and desperately don’t want to fail. What the Zeigarnik effect teaches, as Dr. Dean points out, is that one way to beat procrastination is simply by starting whatever you’ve been avoiding. Just start somewhere. Don’t attempt the hardest part first. Pick something trivial and easy, such as making a list or meeting with a coach or making a phone call. Once you’ve made a start, however trivial, you’ll want to finish to allay the anxiety you feel around not having completed the task.

We use the Zeigarnik effect as a tool in our workshops by requiring participants to write down the names of people with whom they know they should be in touch. Try it right now. Write down a list of people you really ought to be keeping in touch with but haven’t reached out to in the past six months. Keep it on your desk and then go back to the rest of your day. Perhaps making the list will create the anxious mind you need to stay on task.

Content copyright 2016 LawVision Group LLC All rights reserved.

Power of Communication in Legal Marketing – The Medium Does Change the Message Part 2

communicationsCommunication is important to almost everything we do–and today, we have more ways to reach out than ever before.  Lee Broekman of Organic Communication and Judith Gordon of LeadeEsQ presented at the LMA Tech1 conference in San Francisco, focusing on empowering communication by understanding the medium. In Part 1 we discussed some of the advantages and challenges of communicating face to face and through print.  In this article, we will examine communication over the phone and panel communication–or any way of communication through a screen.

Phone as a medium is what it sounds like–talking on the telephone either one or one or on a conference call. The danger with this form of communication is all the other things we might be doing while we are on the phone–especially on a conference call–everyone knows how easy it is to click over to email, check Facebook on your smartphone, or start to scribble your to-do list on the paper at your desk. While you are still physically on the call, your attention drifts to the other things on your to do list. This hints at what Gordon calls “the lost art of focus.”  She says, “Today’s attention spans have been radically reduced by our tether to technology. We leap from conversation to conversation—from the person speaking to us to email to headline notifications to texts back to the person speaking—without fully engaging in any one of those communications.” Staying engaged on a phone call, and reminding yourself to be present and aware is important when using the phone as a medium. One way to do this is to make sure the conversation is a back and forth–and not just a series of monologues. Additionally, if the call is a conference call with multiple participants, making sure there is a plan in place, so that each participant has a role, and that ground rules are established and enforced, can help.

Panel refers to any form of communication with a screen between the speaker and the listener.  With technology, this is becoming common–web meetings, webinars and some panels where there is an audience in the room, but also some audience members are tuning in via videoconference.  Gordon says, “Presenters are well served by understanding that their ‘audience’ may be viewing or only listening to a recording at a later point in time, and taking those parameters into account when preparing their presentations.” Going beyond just the people in the room is important–and one way to make sure everyone stays engaged is to have an interactive portion. Another good practice for webinars is to focus on visuals. Broekman says, “When our communication is on a panel, we need to color our black and white text and bulleted lists with vibrant visuals that will captivate our audience and keep them attentive to our intention. Many webinars present dry data instead of information that is new, relevant and interesting. Charismatic conversation, speaker photos and conceptual images in shorter timeframes will go a long way towards making the communication in this channel more effective.”

Another major concern with a panel can be a false sense of distance, and the tendency to feel bold when you cannot see the person you are talking to. This barrier is one reason Internet comment sections can get nasty, and people become callous over social media. These tendencies can be devastating when they seep into professional communications.  Broekman argues, “If you can’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it behind a screen.”

Other pitfalls haunt Panel as a communication method.  Like the phone, placing the screen between people communicating removes the opportunity to see facial expressions and body language.  Gordon says, “When we remove that layer of information, our brains ‘fill in the blanks’ by superimposing our own judgment, which can be devastating.” Additionally, Broekman describes one of the biggest communication problems as a failure to listen with an intention to understanding the speaker. “Instead of listening to what the other person is saying, we listen to our own internal dialogue and filter information through our personal judgments, thoughts, opinions and ideas.”  A screen between parties can only amplify the tendency to hear what we want to hear.  With that said, clarity in transmission is crucial, and consistent checks on understanding are important.  Above all, awareness of the potential for misunderstanding is important.

For attorneys, communication is paramount. Communication is also very complicated. Gordon says, “to put it simply, lawyers ‘speak for’ their clients. Whether in transactional matters or litigation, lawyers are conduits of their clients’ intentions. To fully and accurately represent another—the essence of a lawyer’s work—understanding the fundamentals of communication is essential. Key communication skills—such as the ability to listen, understand, and then accurately present a client’s position to third parties in negotiations or litigation—are essential to a successful practice, and the smooth running of our legal system.”

Click here to read part one: Power of Communication in Legal Marketing – The Medium Does Change the Message Part 1

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

1 Broekman and Gordon spoke at the Legal Marketing Technology Conference on October 6th in San Francisco. Their session was entitled Webinars, Podcasts and Mobile (Oh My!) The Medium Does Change the Message. The LMA Tech conference is the largest conference dedicated to technologies that law firms use to identify, attract and support clients.

Developing a Positive Attitude about Business Development

Businessmen walking, Business DevelopmentAs a busy lawyer, it’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day office routine and consequently put attention to business development on the back burner. While this might be something to shrug off as no big deal, for many attorneys, this can lead to big issues down the road when looking to make partner or work with your own clients. In order get yourself in a better position for long-term success, it’s critical to start improving your biz dev behaviors.

There are three internal motivators that drive people to improve their existing situation; behavior, attitude and belief. While all of these are important to accomplish a goal or succeed in an endeavor, the most important for business development is always behaviors. Without executing positive behaviors it’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything, let alone something as challenging as developing new business.

It might seem rudimentary to talk about having good behaviors, as you’re not a child being scolded by your parents.  After all, you wouldn’t be a licensed attorney if you weren’t able to implement good behaviors to study in law school and pass the bar exam. However, in my experience many attorneys overlook the importance of forming good behaviors when it comes to business development. I accept as the standard definition of behavior “a manner of acting or controlling oneself.” Your behavior directly affects everything that happens in your life, including your income, your relationships, and your ultimate destiny. As you know, your actions have the ability to set you on positive paths while negative ones can cause you to veer off course.

A profound consequence of having negative behaviors and habits takes place subconsciously. Broken self-promises pile up and directly affect your general attitude and belief in yourself. Consider the behavior of putting off attending networking events using the “I’m too busy” excuse. Despite the best intentions, this behavior can all too easily continue indefinitely. The lack of follow-through can have a dramatic impact on your outlook toward business development. On the other hand, exhibiting positive behaviors creates good feelings and opportunities.

However, researching an upcoming event, registering for the event, and logging it on your calendar are all positive behaviors that will propel you forward to accomplishing your goal. Every time you commit to taking action and then actually follow through on that commitment, you’re positively reinforcing winning behaviors. The positive experience creates momentum to continue these behaviors in the future.

To assist you in forming good biz dev behaviors, here are five things you can do to get on the right path:

#1. Start putting business development at the top of your “to-do” list. Mostly it falls to the bottom. To grow a book of business, move all biz dev activities to the top of your weekly “to-do” list.

#2. Create a positive habit of doing one biz dev activity a day. This could be an email to a client or researching a networking event. If you do one thing a day, these will add up to big numbers for you at the end of the year.

#3.  Get prepared to go to battle on your biz dev work. One of the main reasons lawyers put off biz dev calls is due to lack of preparation. Build a list of clients, friends and strategic partners that you can call on for meetings. This will help get you in the right frame of mind to actually make the calls.

#4.  Schedule 30 minutes a week of uninterrupted biz dev time. Do not pick up the phone and do not respond to emails. Just get a list of solid contacts in front of you and make your calls. This routine should be scheduled early in the day to ensure you’re not interrupted and that the day doesn’t get away from you.

#5. Find a “work-out buddy” for your biz dev activities. This could be your co-worker who is also challenged to focus on biz dev activities or your marketing person at the office. Accountability is key to holding firm on the commitments you make to yourself.

Following good behaviors is the number one reason why some lawyers are more successful in accomplishing their goals than others. Don’t be afraid to start small and build up from there. The small victories add up over time and reinforce the drive to continue good behaviors.

Copyright @ 2016 Sales Results, Inc.

Business Development for Attorneys w/ Barry Gardiner [PODCAST]

New Jersey tax lawyer Barry Gardiner has built his business from the ground up and provides other lawyers with tips and tools to build relationships and engage in effective business development for attorneys in this podcast with legal marketing guru John McDougall.

John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall and welcome to the Legal Marketing Review Show on National Law Review. Today my guest is Barry Gardiner, founding partner of the Barry Gardiner Law Firm in New Jersey and New York. Welcome, Barry.

Barry Gardiner: Hi, how are you?

Getting Started as an Attorney

John: Yes, very good. How did you get started as an attorney?

Barry: How did I get started as an attorney? That’s a long story John. My senior year in college, my college roommate said to me, on a Monday or Tuesday, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I said, “I have no idea.” He said, “Well, I’m taking the” — they called them the law boards in those days — “on Saturday morning. Why don’t you go?” So I went, and I took the boards, and I did well and eventually decided to go to law school and went to Rutgers Law School. After I graduated, I took a job with, believe it or not, a negligence firm in New Jersey where I tried a lot of negligence cases for about a year-and-a-half, which I really didn’t like because it was only a question of who went through the stop sign or who didn’t go through the red light and who did and everybody lied, and that was no fun.

I decided since I was a business major in college with the Bucknell University in Pennsylvania to go into tax law, which I decided I had an aptitude for and then something which I enjoyed. I decided to take a New York bar because that’s where all of the good tax work seemed to be with sophisticated companies, Fortune 500 companies, et cetera. What I did was I took a job with an accounting firm in their tax department for a year and enrolled in NYU Law School for a Masters in Taxation, which is one of the better law schools from that program in the country. I did that at night for three years, and then I took a job with a law firm in Manhattan and became a partner there after two or three years. We had about a 20 man tax firm; it was a tax boutique and we represented a lot of wealthy, high-net-worth individuals. A senior partner in our firm had a client who was a chairman of the board of that 10 or 12 interlocking public companies.

I began to do that kind of work and did a lot of public company work for these companies and their subsidiaries, which included everything — international transactions, mergers and acquisitions from a tax standpoint, planning everything, and I was a partner there for about 13 years. Then in the mid ‘90s, we had some downturns because of the economy and a couple of partners left and the firm started to fall apart a little bit. I decided to take my clients, and I had some at that point, not a lot but some, and start an individual practice of my own in Northern New Jersey which is where I lived.

John: About what year was that roughly?

Barry: ’92, around ’92 I’d say.

Branching Out into a Solo Practice

John: How did you learn to get your clients through that though? That sounds it’s a very daunting task, and you’re going out on your own.

Barry: It was a daunting task, and I had a daughter at that time who was starting college, and it was a little bit scary. But because of the nature of the tax work that I did, I had a number of relationships that I had established with CPA firms, life insurance agents who were selling insurance in connection with estate planning, which is something I was also doing and I basically took those connections that I had and built on those. I had several very strong relationships where I began to get most of their work. That’s basically the way I started my firm. It’s very unusual if you look around — whether it’s in New Jersey, in New York or wherever — for somebody who does the kind of work that I do, which is pretty highly sophisticated tax planning [work for corporations] as well as individuals who are out on their own. Most of the work, at the level that I do, is pretty much done by larger firms; anywhere from 50 to 100, or 300 lawyers where they have tax departments. But what happened was I began to work with these networking connections that I had and was able to build on those. Then what happens after several years, maybe three or four years, a lot of that work becomes sub-generating — in other words, through referrals and other clients who are coming in through your existing clients. At the same time, what I was doing was building additional relationships with other CPA firms, financial planners, and life insurance agencies. I had a number and still have a number of very good connections with MassMutual agencies, Security Mutual agencies, et cetera. That’s basically the way it got built.

Important Aspects of Legal Business Development

John: What would you say is the most important aspect of business development?

Barry: I think for somebody who’s in a smaller firm, I found that a lot of larger firms don’t do personal service and attention to their clients, which clients seem to resent substantially. I’ve always sort of made it a number one point to [offer personal service]. For example, if I get a telephone call from a client, and I can’t take it, I’ll always return that call at the end of the day. Or if the call comes in at the end of the day, by noon the next day, unless am tied up in meetings or something, and if I am, I’ll then have my secretary get back to the client and let them know, or let them tell us what’s a good time to get back to them, which clients appreciate.

It’s like if you go to a doctor, and you leave a message for the doctor, you don’t want to wait 24 hours or have to call the doctor back, you want him to call you back, because that basically shows that he cares. I want my clients to know that I care about them, rather than their just being a number, which many of them feel left out with these larger firms. Because all these larger firms have big clients, and in many cases, [they’re] smaller guy. When I say, ‘small,’ I’m not talking about a guy who is worth a small amount of money, but somebody in the relative scale who’s not worth what these big Fortune 500 companies are worth, or even wealthy clients who are worth $25 million and up. Everybody wants to feel important, and I’ve always tried to do that, whether the client is worth $100,000 or $50 million, it doesn’t matter. I don’t know if that answers your question.

How to Begin Building Client Relationships

John: Well, yes. It answers part of it. That’s a great way to build relationships and build on relationships with clients. What about first getting the client? How do you get relationships to begin with? Or how do you build relationships through networking or other ways that then turn into clients that you can then service with more attention to detail than a larger firm? How do you plan to see to get those new relationships?

Barry: Well, again, through other professionals, CPAs, financial planners, [and] other attorneys who don’t do this kind of work. I may call one, for example, in a matrimonial matter, or a commercial real estate matter, or litigation [matter] to basically get out there and meet people. I’m not one to join organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, or other organizations.

You are all here for the same reason, you are all here to get business, and that never really appealed to me. But I think the best client is a client who appreciates your work [and] who is going to give your name and number to a friend or a family member when they have a need, and they’re looking for somebody doing basically what you’re doing. Most of the clients I have are clients that I’ve kept for 15, 20, 25 years. I’ve lost very few clients. I actually, at this point have about 400 original wills, which I have at a safe deposit box at a Local Banking Institution, where I’m holding those wills for clients who may have copies which I’ve given them for their own reference.

John: Yes, that’s a great testament to many years of building those relationships. It sounds like in your line of work, you have to start, if you want to build a firm through business development, as opposed to internet leads and other types of sales marketing tactics. In your case, it’s a lot of building network partners or referral partners, as you mentioned. Then, when you get clients, turning those clients into very happy customers where you’re servicing them with a great level of attention and hand holding. That level of service turns them into referral partners of their own but those are the retail, those are the actual clients as opposed to an insurance company or a financial planner.

Barry: Correct. I think if you look at a lot of lawyers, I’m taking the liberty to say this, are unhappy in what they’re doing. They find it very stressful, very time-consuming, and this is the reason that a lot of lawyers have matrimonial problems, drinking problems, et cetera. Because, when they go to work every day, they are arguing an adversarial all day long. They’re arguing with other lawyers.

John: For a living. Right.

Barry: It takes its toll on you. Doing what I’m doing, I have been blessed because I don’t have that. The work that I do is basically with clients who come in with huge problems, who need to sort through those and come out at the end of the day with a plan, or a solution to what they’re doing. It’s a service to the clients, rather than an adversarial thing with other lawyers where unbearably, everybody is fighting with one another trying to get the better hand. I think it probably shows on the kind of work that you’re doing that you go to work every day, and you’re pretty enthusiastic about it. For example, the 400 wills that I have in the vault, eventually those are going to turn into an estate. Unfortunately, people die and families need help. It’s very rare unless somebody has moved away for example, to Florida; that while you’re holding an original will, they’re not going to ask you to handle the estate.

There are clients who move, and I don’t even know they may have moved out of state. I’ve had some clients that moved to places like Costa Rica, and those clients you lose basically because you’re geographically separated. But for the most part, once you have a will, you’re representing the family, and the family stays with you if they have confidence in you. You’ll wind up helping them through all of the intricacies that go into administering an estate, and getting everybody what they deserve, and paying in the littlest in estate taxes as possible. It’s one good aspect of doing the kind of work that I do I think.

Lead Regeneration for Estate Planning

John: Interesting. If you want to do lead regeneration for estate planning, one of the ways to do it is to get the wills first?

Barry: Right, but I’ll always ask a client, “Do you want me to hold the will, so you don’t have to worry about it?” A lot of clients want to hold it because they just feel like they need to control it somehow and not lose sight of it. In which case, I’ll either put in a safe deposit box, or in a fireproof safe in their home. But I would say, most clients — maybe 70-30, want you to hold it for them. Once they do it, it’s done, and they forget about it until something terrible may happen in the family. What I try and do also is every couple of years when the tax law changes [contact the families]; [for example] Federal Estate Tax exemption has gone up from $600,000 to $5.4 million per person since I think was the end of Bill Clinton’s term or the beginning of George W. Bush’s term.

John: That’s quite a change.

Barry: That’s quite a change, and it does require a lot of different planning because there are ways to take advantage of those exemptions. That’s a whole story for another day. What I’ll do is send out letters to clients periodically every couple of years telling them the importance of coming in at least for a review update to make sure that they’ve taken full advantage of the tax laws.

John: That goes right back into keeping that relationship strong as opposed to just throw that will in a safe deposit box and forget it. You’re going to dust it off and make sure that your clients are aware of the potential changes and keep in touch.

Barry: I’m going to try and dust it off. A lot of clients get the letter, and they read it and then they put it in a desk drawer somewhere they don’t follow up through. There’s nothing I can do about that. I can only make the initial reproach to them.

Business Development System

John: Well, you’ve focused on relationships and then what about a system? Do you have a business development system or process, certain times a day or a week that you set aside to do new business to keep growing your firm?

Barry: No, I don’t do that. At this point it grows itself.  What I will do is I will basically make one stage several times a month with professionals who I want to stay in touch with and just to keep the contact. I want to be friends with all of my professional contacts; I just don’t want to be unprofessional. One of the things I always do, I always tell my clients not to call me Mr. Gardiner, to call me Barry. I have very few clients that call me Mr. Gardiner. I want it to be personal, and I usually call clients by first name, and I think it makes a big difference. There’s nothing that somebody likes more than to be called by their first name.

About 30 years ago, I took that Dale Carnegie course and one of the big things they said is that, “Everybody wants to feel important, and the way they feel most important is if you remember their name.”

John: Right, yes.

Barry: This is seen if you haven’t seen in two years where you met once or twice, and you remember their name, you are telling them that, “You are important to me.” I always try and do that.

John: Yes, now that’s great.

Barry: By the way . . ..

John: Yes, go ahead.

Barry: I forgot your first name, what’s your first name?

John: [laughs] Reginald.

Barry: John McDougall.

John: John McDougall. My father owned an advertising agency, and he always taught me, “It’s all about building relationships to grow your agency,” and it’s amazing. What you’re describing is very similar to his process. He would take people out sailing. My uncle who owned the agency with him would take people out golfing, and he wanted to get to know people. But you’re an attorney that’s just getting into the internet more; you’ve had a website for a long time, but you’re just starting to get a little deeper into it. Well, what a testament to building your business with very little help from the internet. You’ve had a website to give you some leads but hasn’t been the focus. But it’s hats off to you for using essentially regular lunch dates, talking on a first name basis with all of your customers and even just doing a few of those a month, you’re able to have enough business. Well, you’re in great shape. That’s pretty amazing. Those old school new business development tactics are just tried and true. Now you’re adding the internet to that [and that] is certainly a good thing. But what about other tips for maybe especially younger attorneys trying to do new business development?

Business Development for Younger Attorneys

Barry: Well, it’s very tough. When I was with my firm in New York, starting as an associate and then becoming a partner, I didn’t really have to develop new business because we had so much work, especially from the public companies that I mentioned before, that there was really no need. There was one rainmaker in the firm, and he developed most of the business with these public companies. The other guys in the firm, really we didn’t have to do it. When I went out on my own, after the firm, and by the way, that firm eventually did dissolve, it splintered, and the guys went in different directions. But when I went out on my own, I had to start from scratch. I did have some clients that I took with me, but fortunately I did have some of these professional relationships also.

I would say that it depends where the young attorney goes. If he does go to a bigger firm, it’s always good to develop personal relationships that can lead to business, because if and when he ever leaves, you don’t want to leave yourself out in the cold completely, you want to have some business to fall back on. If you do go out on your own to start with, you should have some business, maybe family business to get you going and then just start to develop as many professional relationships as you can with people who may be helpful to you in whatever field you’re in.

John: That’s amazing. It’s relationships [that are] number one. Again, I go back to my father teaching me to grow my own agency after working for him in the ‘90s and leaving McDougall Associate Advertising in 1995 and starting my own firm. I had to just hustle and go build it up. It’s all about relationships, as what he would always say, and basically, your foundational strategy is, “Build those relationships.” I love the first name tip, and I’ve read some Dale Carnegie work, [it’s] amazing stuff and that stuck with me as well. Remember people’s first name and there’s something in it about calling a person by their name that’s just a bonding experience.

Barry: You could go to the best law schools in the country, you could go to Harvard, you could go to Yale, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be a successful lawyer. If you’re going to work with people, people have to feel comfortable with you. They don’t want some genius who doesn’t know how to relate to them, who they can’t talk to on a one-on-one basis in a very comfortable way. It’s making people feel comfortable in your own presence, and maybe you’ve got to feel comfortable in your own skin and take what you learn in your personal life and bring it into your practice and treat clients like people, not like numbers or dollar signs.

John: Those are great tips, Barry; great new business and business development ideas and tips. How can people get in touch with you?

Barry: I have a website, bgardinerlaw.com. My telephone number is 201-678-1323.

John: That sounds great and great speaking to you today, Barry.

Barry: You too, John, and be well.

John: Yes, likewise. Check out legalmarketingreview.com, as well as National Law Review at natlawreview.comfor more information and interviews on legal marketing. I’m John McDougall and thanks for listening.

© Copyright 2016 McDougall Interactive

Seven Ways a Niche Helps Your Business Development

nicheAny marketing expert will tell you that having a clear niche is good for the bottom line; yet, many attorneys continue to be generalists within their practice areas. Some may think that they have a niche, simply by virtue of being an environmental lawyer, an IP lawyer, an insurance lawyer, etc.  Imagine having a real estate agent who specializes in Southern California. Sure, she has the basic skill set that you need, but there is no reason to think she has any special knowledge or insight related to your particular neighborhood. It works the same way with the law. Just because you can cover a wide range of legal issues doesn’t mean that it is wise or profitable. I understand that putting yourself out there as a specialist in a particular niche can seem scary or difficult.  So, here is a list of reasons why niching is worth the effort.

  1. Clients want experts – If you had a brain tumor, you wouldn’t want a generalist to operate; you would want the best brain surgeon you could find. The same principal applies for business problems. If the issue is important enough, the client will want an expert, someone who has handled many similar situations in the past, who has a grasp of the subtleties and can nip problems in the bud. Even though a generalist may be perfectly capable of doing a great job, clients simply feel more relaxed and confident knowing that they chose an expert.

  2. Clients are Willing to Pay More for Experts – Maybe clients want to work with you.  However, wanting something and being willing to pay for it are different. The critical question is if they are willing to pay your rates.  If they see you as a commodity, they are more likely to quibble over your rates and your bills.  Whereas, if you are seen as one of the preeminent people with the skill and knowledge they need, they are a lot less likely to push for discounts.

  3. Higher Quality Referrals from Other Attorneys – In some circles, referrals get a bad rap because some lawyers only refer out the undesirable, low quality cases that they don’t want. The first reason attorneys may avoid giving referrals is that they don’t trust the other attorney to do a good job. Having a clear niche addresses this concern because it makes your expertise clear to the world, and thereby reassures other attorneys that referrals would indeed benefit their clients, and thus reflect well on them. The second reason other attorneys may not give referrals is if they feel they can profitably do the work themselves. This is where choosing your niche wisely comes into the picture. As long as your area of law is complex enough that it is not worth it for other attorneys so invest the time and energy getting up to speed, you naturally attract high quality referrals.

  4. Higher Quality Referrals from Your Social Network – Our social networks can be a great source of business, and yet most attorney’s friends and family are not terribly clear on what they do for a living. How many of you have been asked about DUIs or divorce issues by people who just don’t understand that you actually do M&A? If someone at a party asks what you do and you list seven areas, people are left with the impression that you do everything and you end up with lousy, low quality referrals.  The more clear and precise you are about your niche, the more easily your social network can send you business or aid you in making relevant connections.

  5. Narrows the Competition – Instead of competing against all white-collar criminal defense attorneys or all civil litigators in your geographical area, you are competing against only a handful. Of course, it also narrows the field of clients but it’s a lot easier to distinguish yourself for your amazing customer service, your personable demeanor or your brilliant team when you are competing with 10 people rather than 300 or 3000.

  6. It helps You to Stay Focused Deciding where to put your time and energy is a constant struggle for any attorney, and the more recognition and opportunities you have coming your way, the more difficult the choices become.  One of the great things about having a clear niche is that it becomes easier to choose where to network, who to reach out to for meetings, and which invitations to accept.

  7. It Leverages Name Recognition – The reason this is important is the same reason that TV and radio adds play over and over again. It is the repeated exposure that makes people remember you and associate you with certain types of clients or cases.  For example, maybe someone first meets you at a networking event.  A couple months later, they see you speak. A couple weeks later, they notice that you are on the board of directors for the organization in which you met.  Six months later, they read an article that you authored. This repeated exposure in the same niche makes you both more memorable and more credible.  Similar activities but spread over several different subject areas or geographical areas will likely have less impact since you lose the leverage created by repeated exposure.

Lawyers often worry that narrowing their niche will lead to fewer clients. However, it almost invariably has the opposite effect. Imagine what your life would be like if you could double the number of cases or matters that you really enjoyed? What if you could charge 50% more for your services? What would it be like if the right kind of associates and staff were applying to work with you? The benefits of having a clear niche are significant and well worth getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.

© 2008-2016 Anna Rappaport. All Rights Reserved

Time Management for Lawyers: Did You Have a Week or Did the Week Have you?

time managementAs a business development coach for attorneys, no one understands the stress and demands placed on a legal practitioner better than I do. Imagine spending your entire day listening to multiple people complain about the demands being placed on them and additional stress that’s created when we discuss investing time in business development. It makes perfect sense why most attorneys shy away from their marketing activities.

Time challenges aside, you must know by now that nothing will have a greater impact on your personal and financial freedom than having your own book of business. Therefore, it’s never been more important to effectively manage your time to ensure you can fit in the billable hours and business development, while still having the balance with your family or personal time. Here are three key tips to ensure you have the growth and balance to create the career you’ve been dreaming of:

Time Tip #1:  Have a solid plan for business development

Other than doing nothing, the worst thing you can do as a lawyer is to approach business development willy-nilly.  Attending events, writing articles or even speaking can be ineffective if your audience isn’t aligned with your goals. You need to have a plan in place to ensure you are spending your time in the right places with the right people. Think about the types of buyers and strategic partners you need to meet. Ask yourself, where do they spend their time?  How do I get in front of them?  How many do I need to build relationships with to grow my book?

A good plan should lay out your goals, strategies and tactics to accomplish your objectives in the fastest time possible. Think of the plan as a GPS. Before we had this tool, we would drive miles out of our way before turning around. Now the GPS tells us when we made a bad turn, but how to get back on track. This is what a good plan will do for you.

Time Tip #2: Use your calendar to schedule time for business development

We schedule our meetings for a closing, deposition or a trial, then why not schedule time for business development. They are all important and need to get done, so treat them with equal importance. Based on where you are in your career, how much time you need to carve out and your goals to grow your book, there needs to be an emphasis on carving out time daily or weekly for business development. Here are a couple of thoughts and best practices to think about:

  • Look at your calendar to find times when you are less likely to be distracted by email, phone calls or other people in your office. Not to boast, but I get into my office three days a week at 6 am. This gives me a solid six hours a week when I can get emails out, leave voice mails or make contacts through LinkedIn. If you’re a night owl, that might be better for you.
  • Once you do get meetings on your calendar, be sure to use the meeting invite tool to ensure that these meeting stick.  Changing schedules and cancellations are sometime inevitable; however we can curtail them slightly by getting into someone’s calendar right away. If you’re not sure how to use this tool, ask the person in the office next to you. It’s become as popular as emailing.
  • Use the calendar to schedule EVERYTHING! If you have to make a call, write an email or follow up with someone, schedule it. As I mentioned earlier, you need to start treating your marketing activities the same way you treat the law. Think of your schedule like an advanced “to-do” list. The more you use your calendar to schedule things, the more you will actually do. Just seeing a follow up call from a networking event up on your screen will prompt you to follow through.

Time Tip #3: Always pick the low-hanging fruit first

With all of the networking groups, associations and coffee meetings to choose from, you may quickly find your time drained away from you. One of the first things I suggest to attorneys is to look closely at your network and find the easiest way to obtain new business. This might include meeting with existing clients to cross-sell, up-sell or find quality introductions. You also might have some family or friends who are in power positions, but you haven’t tapped into that yet. Whatever the situation, it’s critical to leverage these contacts first.

A few concerns that you might have with this approach is the possibility of “blowing” the opportunity or “disrupting” the relationship. While this is always a remote possibility, here are some soft and gentle approaches that might ease your mind when venturing into uncharted territory:

  • Be curious. You’re a lawyer right? Use that as your excuse to ask a thousand questions about this person’s business. Everyone has goals and challenges that they’d be more than happy to share with you. Just be a great listener and ask deeper open-ended questions to find a way to add value. Value might be discussing the law in your office over coffee and value might be referring them to someone who can help solve a problem today. Either way, you will have a much better idea of the opportunity for you to do business now or in the future.

An example of this would be at a family function where you see Uncle Dan every year. He owns     a $20 million dollar website company. You can ask him, “What do you love about your business?” and “What types of challenges do you have running a company of that size?” Once     you start Uncle Dan talking about his favorite subject, himself, you can keep asking deeper questions to identify a possible need or a question he might have for you on the legal side.

  • Ask for Advice. In this scenario, you are looking to better understand the mindset of a business owner or GC as you are working to grow your own practice. Ask some great questions to obtain their advice and help. It’s then possible that they might try to help you with your goals, make an intro to someone they know or allow you to share your knowledge to help with a problem within their own company.
  • Look to obtain an introduction from an existing client. Look, you’re good at what you do and your client is very happy. In addition, you’ve invested time taking her to lunch, a game, golfing, etc.  Maybe it’s time to ask for a high level introduction to someone in her network that might want to have a similar experience.

It might make sense to schedule a lunch with your client, and before getting off the call say, “I’m looking forward to our lunch on Friday. I do have a favor to ask that would be really meaningful to me. I know you are well connected and have been very happy with my work. Would you be open to introducing me around to one or two of your business associates?” This type of question is permission based and should be received positively. The worst that can happen is that she will say “no.” The best thing can be an intro to a new client that could make your year! Plus, if she does say “no,” it might be a wake-up call that you might need to work on your relationship building skills.

One way or another, you have to get your time under control. You can create a more focused approach to business development, utilize your calendar at a higher level or focus on low-hanging fruit. Whatever the case, don’t wait. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand and say, “no more.”  The best thing you can do is to schedule time to get organized with your time.

Copyright @ 2016 Sales Results, Inc.

Law Firm Business Strategies: 4 Keys to Breaking the 7-Figure Barrier

It’s no surprise when laid-off lawyers or law school grads who can’t find a job hang out their own shingles, but there are even more attorneys heeding the siren call to start up their own firm in order to achieve a better work-life balance (if that even exists).law firm marketing business strategy

You may feel at times that starting a law firm is counterintuitive when it comes to finding balance in your life. However, if you build it right, running your own firm can be a highly satisfying way to employ yourself and serve clients the way you’ve always wanted.

I have personally trained over 18,000 lawyers on how to manage and market their firms more efficiently and effectively. I have probably helped more attorneys break the seven-figure barrier in revenues than anyone else. I’m not telling you this to brag, but to share with you the keys to breaking the seven-figure barrier based on my experiences.

Key #1:  Run your law firm like a business.

You studied the law as a noble profession, but to break the seven-figure barrier, you must run your law firm like a business. As a solo practitioner or the owner of a small law firm, your primary focus – after gaining competency as an attorney – is to understand and apply the key principles of business development, operations, management and law firm marketing every single day. There are 10 major parts every successful law firm owner must focus on – in this order:

Marketing: The purpose of marketing is to generate leads. There are a wide variety of ways to do this. All of them work, but they are not always suited for all situations, practice areas or attorneys. Find three-five different ways that work for you and use them frequently. Not every attorney will be a top Rainmaker, but everyone can do something to grow and market his or her practice.

Sales: The purpose of sales is to close the deal or sign up the client. Once you start generating leads, you must become better at getting prospects to become paying clients.

Services: Once you have become proficient at generating leads and closing the deal, you must perform the services for the client. When you fix your marketing, then you have a sales problem. When you fix your sales problem, then you have a services problem. See how this works?

Staff: When you become successful at marketing and sales, eventually you will also need more staff to do the work. You cannot hire just any staff; they must be the right staff for you. What kind of culture do you want your firm to have? Who will best fit that culture? Develop a list of qualities and characteristics you need your team members to have.

Systems: Policies, procedures and systems allow you to scale to the next level. Without written systems you cannot scale your business. You will hit a breaking point. It may be at half a million or more, but eventually you will experience a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering because you didn’t invest in creating written policies, procedures and systems for your law firm. You need written systems for every major part of your business. From marketing and intake to money and metrics, it all must be logically written down so even a brand new team member who knows nothing about your business can follow it.

Space: After you start hiring the right staff because you have more clients to serve, eventually you will need more office space to house them. Far too many attorneys get caught up in renting a much bigger or nicer space than they can afford in an attempt to “keep up with the Joneses” or give off the appearance of being more successful than they are. The pleasure you may gain from a fancy office is nothing compared with the worry of making those big payments every month. Don’t strap yourself with too many financial obligations and be careful about signing longterm agreements, especially when you’re just starting off.

Money: Very few attorneys went to school to become a bookkeeper or an accountant, but to manage a growing business you must know how to manage your money. You need to know the basics of finances for small business, from reading a profit and loss statement to analyzing your cash flow. Being an owner means other people are depending on you to manage the money wisely.

Metrics: To consistently break a million dollars per year in revenues, there are over a dozen numbers you must be monitoring and measuring consistently. Here are a few of them – unique website visitors each month, leads per month, average cost per lead by marketing channel (PPC, SEO, TV, radio, print, etc), appointments your team sets per month, show up rate to your appointments, conversion rate for initial consultation by attorney, average cost per client acquisition by marketing channel, cost of goods sold (COGS) per practice area and profit margin per practice area. This is not a comprehensive list, but if you know, measure and track each of those metrics every month, you’re on your way to comprehensively monitoring your business.

Strategy: While having a great strategy is necessary, most attorneys spend too much time developing a strategy and too little time implementing the strategy! Get some leads in the door. Make the sale. Collect the money. Do great work. Obtain some referrals. Wash, rinse and repeat! Then work on your next level strategy.

Self: Upgrading yourself is the last, but most important step. You need to read business growth books or take classes or seminars if that fits your style of learning better. Hang around other successful business owners. Join a mastermind group of successful attorneys. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You will never build a multimillion-dollar law firm by staying inside your comfort zone.

Key #2: Focus on a Niche

When you’re in the startup phase (from $0 to about $250,000), you face a never-ending challenge of taking whatever business comes in through the door in order to pay the bills or concentrating on one area to build a niche practice. It becomes a question of short-term focus versus longterm survival – and I realize that most solos need to balance both in order to make it.

However, the faster you can start focusing on one to two practice area niches, the faster you will go from having a job ($0 to $500,000) to creating a practice ($500,000 to $1M). When people see you as a jack of all trades (the generalist approach), they also perceive you as the master of none. People will pay more for a specialist because they see you as an expert. People will refer more to a specialist because they aren’t afraid of you stealing their clients or competing with them. Contrary to popular belief, this approach does not limit you. It helps to focus your marketing and business development efforts.

There are many ways to select a niche, but it must be small enough to be realistic, yet big enough to have enough potential clients in it. For example, being No. 1 divorce attorney in all of the Phoenix metro area is not realistic. There are far too many entrenched and successful competitors to ever achieve this. However, you could be the No. 1 divorce attorney for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the East Valley. Here are a few other ways to select a niche:

  • ServiceNiche: DUI attorney for licensed health care professionals; estate planning and asset protection for doctors and dentists; tax attorney for the self-employed; business transactional lawyer for real estate investors; business immigration law for the hi-tech industry; business law for health care providers; and IP and trademark lawyer for small business owners.

  • Industry Niche: Technology, agriculture, doctors, transportation, restaurant owners, manufacturing, construction, energy, or real estate development.

  • Geographic Niche: Phoenix, Gilbert, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, or the East Valley.

  • Specialty Market Niche: Privately held companies, Fortune 500, physicians, white collar executives, blue collar construction workers, franchise owners, bicycle accidents, fitness centers, Spanish-speaking clients, developers, or commercial lenders.

Review your top 10 client list (either by amount of revenue/fees generated or in terms of how much you enjoy working with them). Then, look for any similarities. It may not be apparent at first, but keep asking questions and you will find it. Building a niche around a solid client base is one of the fastest ways to differentiate yourself.

Read Part 3-Law Firm Business Strategies: 4 Keys to Breaking the 7-Figure Barrier (Part 3 of 4)

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved