Strategic Planning in Law Firms: Essential Steps for Success

Law firms doing the “same old thing” isn’t going to work anymore. Despite all the legal industry changes discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, 66% of Managing Partners report that their law firm’s strategy has not changed.  It is imperative for today’s law firms to have a strategic plan that evolves with the firm and changes in the market; however, only 24% of law firms report having strategic plans, even though 71% of Managing Partners report that having a strategic plan improved their firm’s performance.

Strategic PlanningWhat makes a strong strategic plan?

Successful strategic planning is an ongoing process; the first step is creating the plan, but just as crucial is the follow-up. Steps include:

  • Implementation
  • Review
  • Making changes as needed (and things can change fast)

When drafting a strategic plan, it’s important to think about the process–and to incorporate measurable capabilities.  The tenets of good goal setting should apply–keep things simple, realistic, and achievable, looking ahead three to five years with annual goals.  As you create the plan, build it with the knowledge that it is a living document that must change, because the world is changing.  It should function as a sort of guiding principal, and it reminds your firm of your priorities when crisis situations arise.

Chart, Data

With rapidly changing technology, crises and unexpected opportunities, keeping in mind your strategic objectives is a good way to keep your firm focused on your priorities.  When surveyed, Managing Partners indicated the most important strategic objectives were Marketing and Business Development, Succession Planning, Firm Growth and improved lawyer productivity.

Where should a law firm allocate Marketing and Business Development resources?

With Marketing and Business Development as one of the most important pieces of the strategic plan; it’s important to describe what a solid strategy looks like.  For many firms, marketing and business development is not a top priority–it should be.  The research for Re-Envisioning focused questions on trends in allocating marketing resources in the following seven areas:

  • Website and Internet Marketing
  • Firm Events & Seminars
  • Organizational Involvement
  • Charitable Contributions
  • Rankings and Directories
  • Marketing Staff
  • Lawyer Sales Training

When asked about 2015 investments v. 2016 investments, it was clear that most firms are continuing to do what they have done before.  According to Re-Envisioning, “firms are doing the same old things because ‘we’ve always done it this way,’ budgets are set by equity partners unwilling to support marketing expenses, or there is a ‘let’s wait and see what the other firms are doing’ attitude.”  Investing in Marketing & Business Development can pay off in a big way, but of the firms surveyed, only 25% of them invested more than 4% of their revenue in Marketing  & Business Development.   To successfully move forward, law firms need to change their perspective and to truly innovate in terms of their Marketing and Business Development practices.

A good place to start is with the clients your firm already has–and wants to keep.  Break them into A list, B list and C list–so you can identify who may be happier working with a competitor, and who you want to make sure stays with your firm.

What should a law firm consider when developing a business development model?

Beyond an inventory of current clients, it’s important to develop a BD model–representing how your firm views business development and how it works for your firm’s situation.  Your model should answer the following questions:

  • Why do people buy?
  • How do they buy?
  • What are prospects and clients motivations and fears?
  • What is the process for finding prospects and transitioning them into clients?
  • Where does business come from?
  • How does your business development efforts focus on building relationships?
  • How does your firm become a trusted advisor to your clients and community?
  • What differentiates your firm and your lawyers, and how do those differences align with your clients’ needs?

Asking questions like this can help your firm ensure that your marketing and business development resources are going in the right direction–and can help your firm create a deliberate way forward, with an integrated approach to ensure goals are met and resources are not squandered.  Additionally, creating a plan with measurable tenets can help your firm track return on investment so it’s clear what’s working and where additional investment might be warranted.

How does a law firm achieve buy-in for the marketing and business development plan?

Another area to consider is asking individuals in the firm–partners and associates– to create a personal business development plan.  By asking individuals to think about marketing and business development, your firm is demonstrating its commitment to these principals.  Additionally, asking partners and associates to think about how they can best contribute to business development encourages accountability and personal reflection, so individuals can find a way to contribute that is best for them, increasing the likelihood that the commitment will be lasting.

These changes may be around the corner, many law firms are incorporating them already.  Brent Turner, Client Development–Peer Monitor & Thought Leadership at Thomson Reuters, comments, “For the first time in many years, we’re seeing healthy acceleration in the marketing and business development budgets of US Law Firms, let primarily by AMLAW 200 firms.  We’re also seeing evidence that these investments are starting to pay off in a big way.” Terry Isner Jaffe PR Law firm business development

 

 

Copyright ©2017 National Law Forum, LLC

Law Firm Data Breaches: Big Law, Big Data, Big Problem

law firm data breachesThe Year of the Breach

2016 was the year that law firm data breaches landed and stayed squarely in both the national and international headlines. There have been numerous law firm data breaches involving incidents ranging from lost or stolen laptops and other portable media to deep intrusions exposing everything in the law firm’s network. In March, the FBI issued a warning that a cybercrime insider-trading scheme was targeting international law firms to gain non-public information to be used for financial gain. In April, perhaps the largest volume data breach of all time involved law firm Mossack Fonesca in Panama. Millions of documents and terabytes of leaked data aired the (dirty) laundry of dozens of companies, celebrities and global leaders. Finally, Chicago law firm, Johnson & Bell Ltd., was in the news in December when a proposed class action accusing them of failing to protect client data was unsealed.

A Duty to Safeguard

Law firms are warehouses of client information and how that information is protected is being increasingly regulated and scrutinized. The legal ethics rules require attorneys to take competent and reasonable measures to safeguard information relating to client. (ABA Model Rules 1.1, 1.6 and Comments). Attorneys also have contractual and regulatory obligations to protect information relating to clients and other personally identifiable information, financial and health, for example.

American Bar Association’s 2016 TechReport

Annually, the ABA conducts a Legal Technology Survey (Survey) to gauge the state of our industry vis-à-vis technology and data security. The Survey revealed that the largest firms (500 or more attorneys) reported experiencing the most security breaches, with 26% of respondents admitting they had experienced some type of breach. This is a generally upward trend from past years and analysts expect this number only to rise. This is likely because larger firms have more people, more technology and more data so there is a greater exposure surface and many more risk touch-points.

Consequences of Breach

The most serious consequence of a law firm security breach is loss or unauthorized access to sensitive client data. However, the Survey shows there was a low incidence of this, only about 2% of breaches overall resulted in loss of client data. Other concerning consequences of the breaches are significant though. 37% reported business downtime/loss of billable hours, 28% reported hefty fees for correction including consulting fees, 22% reported costs associated with having to replace hardware/software, and 14% reported loss of important files and information.

Employing & Increasing Safeguards Commonly Used in other Industries

The 2016 Survey shows that while many law firms are employing some safeguards and generally increasing and diversifying their use of those safeguards, our industry may not be using common security measures that other industries employ.

1. Programs and Policies. The first step of any organization in protecting its data is establishing a comprehensive data security program. Security programs should include measures to prevent breaches (like policies that regulate the use of technology) and measures to identify, protect, detect, respond to and recover from data breaches and security incidents. Any program should designate an individual, like a full-time privacy officer or information security director, who is responsible for coordinating security. However, the numbers show that the legal industry may not be up to speed on this basic need. Survey respondents reported their firms had the following documented policies:

Document or records management and retention policy: 56%

Email use policy: 49%

Internet use/computer use policy: 41%

Social media use: 34%

2. Assessments. Using security assessments conducted by independent third parties has been a growing security practice for other industries; however, law firms have been slow to adopt this security tool, with only 18% of law firms overall reporting that they had a full assessment.

3. Standards/Frameworks. Other industries use security standards and frameworks, like those published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to provide approaches to information security programs or to seek formal security certification from one of these bodies. Overall, only 5% of law firms reported that they have received such a certification.

4. Encryption. Security professionals view encryption as a basic safeguard that should be widely deployed and it is increasingly being required by law for any personal information; however only 38% of overall respondents reported use of file encryption and only 15% use drive encryption. Email encryption has become inexpensive for businesses and easier to use with commercial email services yet overall only 26% of respondents reported using email encryption with confidential/privileged communications or documents sent to clients.

5. Cybersecurity Insurance. Many general liability and malpractice polices do not cover security incidents or data breaches, thus there is an increasing need for business to supplement their coverage with cybersecurity insurance. Unfortunately, only 17% of attorneys reported that they have cyber coverage.

Conclusion

It is important to note that the figures revealed by the 2016 Survey, while dismaying, may also be extremely conservative as law firms have a vested interest in keeping a breach of their client’s data as quiet as possible. There is also the very real possibility that many firms don’t yet know that they have been breached. The 2016 Survey demonstrates that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the privacy and data security space for law firms. As law firms continue to make the news for these types of incidents it is likely that improvement will come sooner rather than later.

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.

Law Firm Holiday Cards – Do’s and Don’ts

Q: Are holiday cards effective?

A:  I think that they can be considered one more nice way to stay in touch, to send a friendly communication to a large number of clients and prospects all at once.  Of course, I said that they can be effective, not that they typically are.

Holiday cards pose complex issues of database management and client ownership, combined with the logistical questions of who signs which card(s).  Through hard work and discipline, these are mightily overcome — only to become one of a dozen bland, look-alike cards depicting politically correct images like pine trees, ice skaters, snow-covered skylines, ambiguously decorated snow men, or handicapped children’s artwork — which are then sent to dead former clients.

All in the name of strengthening client relationships?

Superhero, CardDone well, the cards should reinforce your firm’s unique brand message, or at least stand out somehow, so they don’t get immediately discarded and forgotten.

When I was the marketing partner of a law firm, it wasn’t unusual for me to get as many as 25 generic holiday cards per day from vendors all wanting our business.

Glance, toss, forget.

Glance, toss, forget.

Glance, toss, forget.

It helps if you have a strong brand message to use, or at least an interesting design to leverage. 

For example, a number of years ago we used an olive-based branding theme for Florida’s Bryant Miller Olive law firm.  Here’s the cover of their olive-themed holiday card:

Holiday Card

The point is — the card represents your firm and your practice.

Don’t rub clients’ noses in your firm’s lack of creativity by doing the same thing as everyone else.  Find some way to do something different. Those that avoid the spam filters don’t generally create much goodwill.

On rare occasion, extra creativity causes one to stand above the pack and get a notice or a smile.

For example, Phoenix’s Engelman Berger law firm always goes the extra mile.

Baseball Card, LawyerEvery year they try something new, including lawyer baseball cards, comic books, TV Guides, and parodies of board games like Clue and Scrabble, Mad magazine, and a children’s book, “Are You My Lawyer?”

Finally, while I know this whole rant is making me sound like Scrooge, I’ve never been a big fan of cards that promise:

“In lieu of a personal gift to you, we’re making a donation

in your name to the following charity(ies).”

In my actual name?

Did they ask me whether I’d prefer receiving the gift?  Or at least help select the charity? Do I get a tax deduction on that money?  And because they never tell you how much they’re donating, everyone I’ve quizzed about this assumes that they’ve taken this approach because it was cheaper and easier.  (And generally, from my experience, they’re right.)

At least that’s how I see it.

Season’s greetings.

Double Your Law Firm’s Lead Conversion Rates with This Proven System (Part 2 of 3)

Over the years, we have developed a proven intake and lead conversion system that has doubled the lead conversion rates of thousands of attorneys all across the nation. It consists of four major components:

#1: Training for your front office and intake staff;

#2: Specific tactics and strategies to maximize your conversion at each stage;

#3: An intake customer relationship management (CRM) software that automatically tracks and follows up with every lead; and

#4: Tracking and measurement of key metrics.

The subject for today’s post is #2:

#2: Specific Tactics and Strategies to Maximize Conversion at Each Stage

Dr. James Oldroyd, visiting research fellow at MIT and David Elkington, CEO of InsideSales.com, researched three years of data across many companies that respond to online-generated leads. The data included 15,000 unique leads and 100,000 call attempts, which the researchers scoured to determine how companies should respond to their online leads for the best possible results. The results were broken out into four areas and reveal the best days to make contact, best times, response time and persistence. Here’s what they found – and what you can use to guide your intake person in responding to online leads:

Wednesday and Thursdays stand out as the best for making contact with online leads. In fact, there was almost a 50 percent bump for calls made on Thursdays in comparison to calls made on Tuesdays. The best time to call leads is between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The second best time is between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Prospects are more willing to talk to you either before they start their day or at the end of the day.

We have discovered over 45 additional techniques your intake staff can use that can rapidly increase your lead conversion rate. Here are a few of the top techniques:

Every lead must be followed up within five minutes! Research is very clear that speed-to-call is the highest predictor of lead conversion.When the initial follow-up call/contact goes from five to 10 minutes, lead conversion drops by up to 400 percent! The intake team must be trained and monitored to ensure every potential new client is being called back within five minutes or less.

Every lead must be called back a minimum of six to 10 times!It’s not enough to call back a prospect once and then hope they call you back. When dealing with consumers you need to be persistent, often calling them back four, five or more times before you reach them. Once you reach them, you either disqualify them and stop calling or qualify them and set the appointment. Just making one or two attempts will net you next to nothing; if you don’t connect, you have to be persistent in continuing to call.

The first day, each lead should be called two to three times.The average consumer calls five to seven law firms when making a buying decision and the law firm that gets them on the phone first will likely be chosen. We never received more than one call back or voicemail the first day.

Scripts need to be written for voicemails so they aren’t always the same.Unless you give them direction, most staff will leave the same, generic message, “Hi this is Stephen from ABC Law Firm calling you back. Our number is (888) 588-5891. Please call us back.” This does nothing to differentiate you from the pack of attorneys they have already called. Come up with different voicemails that encourage the prospect to call your office back. For example, “Hi Mr. ____. This is ____ with ABC Law Firm. I’m calling about a potential motor vehicle accident you inquired about. I need to get some more information from you to determine if this is a case we can assist you with. If you could please give me a call back as soon as possible, I can be reached at (888) 588-5891 and my extension is 613.”

Never make an attorney or paralegal responsible for making follow up calls.They will not do it. They just won’t. Trust me. We have tried every possible incentive to get associates or paralegals to make follow-up calls and they will not. As much as possible, you want to build a wall between anyone who takes calls from prospects and those who do the work.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

Attend NAMWOLF’s 2016 Annual Meeting, September 14-16 in Houston, Texas

Join NAMWOLF at the 2016 Annual Meeting & Expo in Houston, Texas. The Annual Meeting is a great opportunity to increase your participation and relationships with NAMWOLF Law Firm Members. All attendees further benefit by attending CLE sessions specific to Law Firm Member practice areas, which provides greater insight into each Law Firm Member’s experience and capability to handle complex legal matters.

NAMWOLF Annual Meeting

The NAMWOLF Annual Meeting & Law Firm Expo is a three-day conference providing unique opportunities to connect corporate counsel from Fortune 1000 companies and minority and women owned law firms. The conference features NAMWOLF’s signature event, the Law Firm Expo, which provides an opportunity for In-House Counsel to meet with the Nation’s top minority and women owned law firms in a relaxed networking environment. We provide top notch continuing legal education and networking.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Visit www.namwolfmeetings.org  for the conference schedule, room block information, and registration information.

Client Site Visits: Checklist for Success

client site visitsStudies reveal that clients, more than ever, want and expect great service from their outside counsel. On top of that, clients value lawyers who know and understand their business, as well their people and their policies. Clients also want lawyers who are trusted advisors and counselors.

Lawyers and law firms that take the time ask “How are we doing?” and take a proactive interest in helping clients achieve their goals and objectives add tremendous value to the relationship and build trust and loyalty with the client. Being a competent legal technician is simply not enough anymore in today’s competitive market place for legal services.

And what is the best way to achieve this type of relationship with clients? Go visit them. In fact, I recommend that partners visit their top four clients each year. Show you care. Ask smart questions. Listen, learn and respond appropriately.

Below is our Client Site Visit checklist, which offers practical guidance to lawyers who are interested in enhancing their relationships with top clients.

Before Your Visit

  1. Be very clear on your purpose for the Client Site Visit. Determine your objectives, which might include:
    1. Thanking the client for past business

    2. Enhancing your relationship with the client

    3. Meeting individuals with whom you work for the first time

    4. Learning more about the client’s business and industry

    5. Determining ways the Firm can improve service

    6. Resolving perceived problem areas

    7. Learning about opportunities for new business

    8. Learning about other firms the client uses

  2. Determine with whom you want to meet and spend time. Consider internal politics, both within the Firm and at your client’s company. Think about others who should be included beyond the person(s) with whom you work most closely.
  3. Determine where, when and for how long you want to meet. We recommend the client’s place of business, but you may want to consider a golf course, restaurant or private club.
  4. Ask for the meeting through a short letter or telephone call. Call our office if you would like an example.
  5. Do your homework:
    1. Three-year billing and client/matter history

    2. Research the client through Lexis/Nexis, Dun & Bradstreet, client’s web site, Martindale-Hubbell, etc.

    3. Discuss your visit with other attorneys who have worked with the client

  6. Develop a list of specific questions you want to ask.

At Your Meeting

  1. Arrive early and dress appropriately.
  2. Start off the meeting with 5-10 minutes of introductory “small talk.” Show interest in your client and consider topics like hometown, law school, family, hobbies, etc. If you are meeting in the client’s office, notice your surroundings…family photos, artwork, etc. to help you with topics of conversation. Bottom line…establish a friendly rapport before you dive into your list of questions.
  3. When the time is right, begin asking your pre-determined questions. Listen carefully. Let the client do the talking. Take copious notes.
  4. Let the client set the pace and tone of the meeting. Be sensitive to non-verbal cues.
  5. Remember that you are there to learn about the client, show interest in his/her objectives and how the Firm can improve service and add value to the relationship.
  6. Keep in mind that you are not there to “sell” legal services or talk about the Firm. That will happen naturally during the course of the meeting and your follow up plan.
  7. Do not overstay your welcome. Be aware of any obvious signals that it’s time for you to leave.
  8. At the conclusion of your meeting, thank the client for his/her time and assure him/her that you will respond to any issues raised during your conversation.

After Your Visit

Follow up is absolutely essential!! If you don’t plan to follow up, don’t bother visiting the client in the first place.

  1. Send a brief “thank you” note the day after your meeting.
  2. Calendar a specific day to follow up with a telephone call, another meeting or whatever you agreed to do at your Site Visit.
  3. Make sure all appropriate individuals at your client’s company are on all appropriate mailing lists for law alerts, seminar invitations, etc.
  4. Develop a client-specific action plan based on what you learned at the meeting. This might involve a formal proposal for services, a follow up visit at a later time or a pro-active program to further enhance the Firm’s relationship with the client.
  5. Find other ways to keep in touch with the client. Sending an article of interest or an occasional e-mail are good ways to stay “on the radar screen.” Hand-written notes are very effective and take little time.
  6. Strive to become more than a legal technician in the eyes of your client. Work to become a counselor or trusted advisor to your clients.
ARTICLE BY John Remsen, Jr
Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group