5 Business Communication Etiquette Pet Peeves

I frequently work with my children to help them understand the importance of good table manners – elbows off the table, how to set a table, which fork to use, how to hold a fork and knife (and properly use them), which glass to drink from, and to never chew with their mouths open. Let’s just say it is a work in progress.

While these lessons seem obvious, you would be surprised how frequently we get requests for etiquette training for lawyers. But it’s a fact that how we present ourselves has a significant impact on our brand. If you are seated next to a lawyer who slurps his soup, uses the wrong fork and drinks from your water glass, how likely are you to hire him?

Like our table manners, our communication etiquette sometimes needs attention, too. After all, good relationships begin with good communication. As a communications professional, here are my five biggest communication pet peeves:

  1. Email Signatures: It is a best practice to include your telephone number in your email signature, even on the reply. In this day and age, a majority of our business is conducted without ever hearing someone’s voice. Sometimes, though, actually talking is the best way to communicate, and it is terribly frustrating to have to go digging through old emails, files and even paper notebooks to find a phone number.

If your law firm doesn’t already have a standard email signature protocol, now is the time to institute it. Use it as a way to market your law firm, being mindful not to overwhelm readers with too many ways to reach you. If you are including a graphic, make sure recipients can view it on a mobile device and that it does not make an email too large to open. Your clients will thank you!

  1. Grammar & Spelling: They’re/their, who’s/whose, you’re/your, it’s/its. Learn it, live it, love it. Sure, we all can make mistakes when using our smartphones and blame them on autocorrect, but there are some basic grammar rules that we as legal industry professionals should know.

In addition, try to tighten up your sentences. For example, “I thought I would connect with Jane to discuss,” can be rewritten as “I am going to call Jane to discuss,” or “Jane and I are going to discuss.” To put it concisely, be direct.

And take the time to ensure that you do not have any spelling errors. Readers will automatically assume the worst of you – and your intellect – if you misspell words. Spellcheck is not always accurate, so proofread your work. If you are not a great proofreader yourself, enlist the help of a colleague or a professional proofreader before you send documents to clients. With emails, take a few extra seconds before clicking send.

  1. Limit the Word “Just”: In the spirit of being direct, I want to share my dislike of the word “just.” Improper use of the word often weakens what you are communicating and implies an unspoken apology. I am certainly guilty of using it and am consciously trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary. For example, “I am just following up” suggests that I am sorry to bother you but have something that I think is important to say. “I just have to say” implies that what you have to say is somehow a side note.

Try eliminating the word “just” when you are asking someone to do something for you as well. “Can you just…” minimizes a person’s contributions. Count how many times you use the word “just” in a day, and see if eliminating it helps you become a stronger communicator.

  1. “At Your Earliest Convenience”: Be careful with this term because, when used the wrong way, it makes you seem lazy and unengaged. It is perfectly fine to ask someone to respond at their earliest convenience, but how do you feel when I tell you that I will call you back at my earliest convenience? Probably like I will get to you after I drink my coffee and check social media. For most law firm marketers, your “clients” are the attorneys in your firm. They are your most important asset. Make them feel that way, and avoid telling them that you will do something when it is convenient for you. Try “as soon as possible” instead. It feels much better!

  2. Emphasize Sparingly: When I receive an email that is filled with bold, underlined and all-caps words, I FEEL LIKE I AM BEING YELLED AT and that whatever isn’t emphasized probably isn’t important! Think about what you are emphasizing. Is it really crucial? As a general rule of thumb, focus on headers and deadlines to make sure that all of the content of your email is properly read and understood. Then think about using the signature at the bottom of the email to give the person a way to call to confirm.

All of the ways we present ourselves and communicate – both directly and indirectly – impact our personal brands. Making yourself available and easy to communicate with will boost your personal brand, make people feel good about doing business with you, and hopefully drive more business.

This post was written by Stephanie Kantor Holtzman of Jaffe Associates.,© Copyright 2008-2017
For more legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

The Challenge of Developing Marketing Initiatives in Law Firms

In many ways, law firms can be tough environments to begin marketing initiatives.  The National Law Review had the opportunity to follow-up with the panelists at the Designing a Wholly Integrated Marketing and Business Development Model Panel at this year’s Marketing Partner Forum conference.  Ian Turvill, Chief Marketing Officer at Freeborn & Peters LLP, Beth Cuzzone, Director of Business Development at Goulston & Storrs and David Burkhardt, Client Service Director at Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP were gracious enough to share their thoughts on how to integrate marketing strategies into law firm life.

First of all, in many ways, marketing in law firms is tough because firms are naturally critical of new initiatives and leadership tends to be filled with “professional skeptics” who are quick to point out why something won’t work.  So to be successful, one must be strategic.  Turvill says, “It is difficult to get leadership on board with a strategy, and it will take time for strategies to show results.  So the answer is to take these facts explicitly into account.  I am a big believer in starting small, demonstrating that a particular approach is likely to bear fruit.”  Burkhardt says, “It’s important to monitor and improve client satisfaction and to ensure that our clients are aware of all the services available to them.” Cuzzone offers two golden rules: “the marketing initiatives [should] align with the firm’s strategic direction, culture and values.  The burden is on the marketing professionals to marry the implementation of the strategy with their firm’s people, personalities and budget.”

That means playing to people’s strengths.  Many marketing professionals at law firms have the same complaint: getting attorneys to work on marketing goals can be a difficult ask.  One example of this is content generation for content marketing: getting attorneys to write can be a challenge.  Turvill reminds us that “Recognize first that writing or generating content may not be the right approach for all attorneys.  As someone said to me, ‘you shouldn’t try and teach a pig how to sing opera; the pig will get angry and you’ll simply get muddy.’”  Turvill points out that there are many ways to create content, and “it is not necessary for attorneys to be the laboring oar on content generation.”  External consultants can be helpful, and finding ways for attorneys to have public obligations for writing give them a greater sense of  commitment.  Turvill says, “once the content is generated, then we repurpose that in as many ways possible.”  Cuzzone agrees, saying, “Once an attorney produces one piece of content – members of our department are good at repurposing it in several mediums. We turn a litigation win into a case study . .  . We turn a simple blog post into an executive briefing powerpoint to be given to clients or an article into a checklist, and so on.”  Cuzzone adds that it is very important to have strong writers on your team.

Once you have content, a social media strategy is crucial for getting it out and seen.  However, a good social media strategy is a bit more in-depth. Cuzzone says it’s all about creating a “unique social media personality by posting items that reflect our culture, people and clients … we don’t just post links to our newsletters and press releases. We also started interacting with clients on social media.”  Turvill agrees that social media should be thought-out and deliberate, involving the basic principles of marketing.  Social media channels should be segmented, so various practice groups have their own channels and the content should be tailored with client needs in mind.  Turvill also suggests that content should be differentiated–so there is information available through your social media feeds that is unique to you.  All of social media should be targeted, so that you know who your audience is broken down in terms of their position, industry and interest.

Turvill and Cuzzone agree that in terms of success, it’s important for law firms to know who they are and where they’ve been.  Turvill says, “The single most important technology is a database of a firm’s experience that can be easily searched and then used to generate a listing of representative matters  in response to a request from a client.”  Being able to quickly reference previous work done, and its subject matter is an important tool to have, as Turvill points out, “Outside of references, a client will judge a firm’s appropriateness for a matter based largely on whether they’ve done something like this previously.”  Cuzzone agrees, saying, “much consideration needs to be given internally before developing an external strategy.”

In his role as Client Services Director at Wyrick Robbins, David Burkhardt sees the importance of “listening opportunities.”  Burkhardt sees his job to provide, “intentional and sustained client advocacy.  Client service reviews, interviews and satisfaction surveys are a natural way to engage our clients in conversation.”  These are the opportunities for firms to learn about their performance and how their client’s perceive their service, perhaps using different metrics than law firms are familiar with.  Burkhardt says, “Law firms still have a ways to go to truly make their clients’ voices heard.  Yes, you won the case or closed the deal, but that is not always the ultimate sign of client success.”  Burkhardt points out that things like how your firm communicates with clients can have a big impact on how the client views the transaction. Similarly,something as minor as asking clients if they prefer an email to a phone call–can make a big difference.

As these steps are put in place, in order to demonstrate the success that might otherwise be difficult to measure, it’s important to create a measurement system that can show the growth or change.  Cuzzone says, “Since implementation has a high failure rate in law firm marketing, benchmarks are essential to show progress along the process.”  Being able to demonstrate success, with numbers and data, can go a long way to convincing skeptical law firm leadership that marketing initiatives contributed to the bottom line.

Successful marketing within law firms requires strategy, self-awareness, and a solid understanding of what your clients, and potential clients, want.  Strategically playing to the strengths of your firm for marketing purposes, re-purposing content, having a social media plan, and making sure yardsticks are in place to monitor progress are all important steps in being successful.

Article By Eilene Spear
Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

Seven Strategies to Succeed at Law Firm Leadership

The title “managing partner” falls short of the mark in describing the work of a law firm leader. “Chief executive officer,” in my opinion, is more accurate. Terminology evolves so that some titles no longer reflect their original meaning.

Managing partner has become such a term. When a managing partner is named, is the law firm really appointing a manager in the corporate sense? A manager, after all, is a caretaker responsible for oversight of a unit or department.

A recent survey on the topic of law firm management and leadership asked those polled to distinguish between a “manager” and a “leader.” Insights that the survey respondents offered included, “Management is mechanical, while leadership is inspirational,” and “The leader sets the direction and the plan, while the manager implements the plan.”

Another survey respondent was more pointed: “Managers implement what leaders want them to do. Most law firm managers want to be loved and not to lead.” Saying that managers want most to be loved may overstate the case. But it does sum up the problem. If a law firm needs vision, inspiration, motivation, cohesion, consensus, direction-setting and the establishing of firmwide goals, it needs strong leadership committed to that work.

Leading Lawyers 

The hard realities of law firm leadership are apparent. Among them:

  • The authority of lawyer management (or leadership) is derived from the willingness of the firm’s partners to be managed (or led).
  • Partners perceive themselves as being owners of the firm, having certain prerogatives and independence, not as employees to be managed.
  • Each firm has its own personality and culture, and the management techniques effective in one firm may or may not be successful in another.

In the face of these hard realities, many managing partners retreat into the noncontroversial confines of day-to-day management, putting aside attempts to exercise true leadership. What is needed instead is a well-thought-out plan to lead your firm forward into the 21st century.

SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL LEADERSHIP

1. Create Job Descriptions for Yourself, Your Successor and Other Firm Leaders.

Remember, you’re drafting a job description for a CEO, not a manager. Think of your job description as a contract with your partners. At a minimum, it should delineate the amount of time you will devote to management responsibilities. A CEO’s primary responsibilities should include strategic planning, setting the future direction of the firm, cultivating relationships with major clients, and identifying and grooming future firm leaders. To compensate for time lost from your personal practice, the job description should define your pay structure.

2. Redefine the Role of Practice Group Chair.

Practice group chairs are too often treated as lions among their prides. Often they are appointed because they are the senior member of the group or the most effective rainmaker. This does not mean they are the most effective manager, the best mentor or the most committed to the success of the firm. Practice group chairs should be elevated to the level of senior management. They should be given the full authority to manage their groups. Practice group leaders need to be chosen based on the ability and the commitment to lead.

3. Get to Know the Firm’s Client Base Personally.

No partner should “own” a key institutional client. Managing partners should reach out to client contacts and underscore the message that the firm—not only the client’s chosen counsel—is pleased to be of service. Ask the client for feedback, learn the client’s business and the industry, and strategize to help the client reach its goals. Do more for the firm’s clients than simply putting out fires.

4. Identify and Hire a Strong Chief Operating Officer.

If you are going to be an effective leader or CEO, you have to get the minutiae off your desk. Delegate day-to-day administrative responsibility to a strong, competent executive director or COO. This person should head up a team of business professionals and serve as your trusted “second hand” on the leadership team.

5. Offer Reforms to “Time and Money” Matters.

You will be asking senior management to take on a more extensive and defined role in the operations of the firm. Adjust the time demands on the executive committee and the practice group leaders to allow for sufficient nonbillable time for them to fulfill their management responsibilities. Likewise, adjust the compensation criteria for senior managers to acknowledge the time they must devote to management matters and for the firm-benefitting results that they achieve.

6. Start (or Reenergize) the Strategic Planning Process.

A strategic plan is a living document that requires modification and fine-tuning from the first day it is implemented. If you have been selected as the firm’s managing partner, presumably you have a vision of what you want the firm to become, what you want it to achieve. Sell this vision and muster a supporting coalition among the equity partners. You don’t need to win them all over, but you will need an effective critical mass and working majority. With this group at your back, start small and keep the initial goals simple. Suggest three or four one-year priority items with sufficient low-hanging fruit to show short-term wins. Consolidate your gains and move forward.

7. Maintain Your Firm’s Investment in Its Future.

The challenges of launching new initiatives, creating consensus and moving your firm forward can sometimes cause a firm leader to forget about the little things that, in the end, may prove to be just as important as greater goals. Don’t forget to implement a first-rate training and associate development program. Here lies the future of your firm. Don’t forget about marketing and business development initiatives. These provide the growth that will finance your firm’s future. Don’t forget about technology upgrades. These are the essential tools that keep your firm on the cutting edge and ahead of the pack. And don’t ignore your successor. Heirs apparent need the opportunity to learn the principles of law firm management.

The old Chinese proverb says that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Becoming a leader of a law firm is similar. A CEO must, step by step, patiently bring along the uninterested, the doubters and the curmudgeons to join the advocates and the reformers. Bold vision and small steps are the stuff of leadership.

Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group

Managing Client Needs with Cross-Generational Leadership

Everyone knows the generational stereotypes: Baby boomers are loyal and hardworking, people who believe in putting your nose to the grindstone and getting work done but who may have a difficult time working the latest mobile technology. Gen Xers are independent and skeptical, while millennials are tech-savvy, Instagram EVERYTHING, and are aggressively interested in collaboration and work-life balance.

In law firms across America, these groups are comingling and working together to manage client matters and relationships. The panel The Ties that Bind: Building Cross-Generational Leadership at the 23rd Annual Marketing Partner Forum discussed the business imperative of building a diverse, multi-generational client team to fortify legal services. NLR took the opportunity to speak with the moderator Amanda K. Brady, Global Practice Leader at Major, Lindsey & Africa, and Melissa R. Margulies, Client Service Counsel at Ballard Spahr, about generational issues facing law firms.

The first thing to keep in mind is what a general counsel wants from his or her outside counsel. GCs want a team that will work together and get the job done, and the law firm team should represent the business needs and goals of the client. General counsels want attorneys who make their jobs easier, and law firms are expected to meet the needs of the client. Amanda Brady says, “The client doesn’t need to meet everyone working on the matter, but my sense from the GC is that they really appreciate getting to know key attorneys working on their projects so they are more comfortable conducting follow-up communications.”

Every situation is different, and factors must be considered to appropriately handle each client. Open lines of communication that allow clients to communicate their needs to the firm are imperative. Melissa Margulies points out, “We ask the client for feedback about both partners and associates and how the team has helped the client. Additionally, we continually evaluate whether the relationship partner and team members are the right fit, based upon the changing business needs of the client.”

Margulies continues, “What I see and what I encourage are different tiers of client contact and multiple points of contact.” She points out that each generation brings its own strengths, and it’s important to set up a team that can do the work and further relationships. Margulies says, “It’s important that younger lawyers are given opportunities to interact with the younger business people at the client so that those two groups grow up together.”

Traditionally, the senior attorney has the relationship and brings the client to the firm. Junior attorneys do the work, while the partner manages the relationship, allowing the junior attorneys opportunities to interact and meet with the client along the way. Brady says, “The obvious challenge is for the junior attorney. They don’t bring as much experience to the table, so they have to tout the experience of the more senior attorneys and work as a team.” Collaboration is essential, and making sure junior attorneys are brought to the table is an important part of keeping the relationship viable as the years go by.

The question becomes how often and when do you introduce the junior attorneys to the client. Of course, the answer is, “It depends.” What’s important is keeping the client relationship current and making sure you are managing the client’s current needs—as well as any needs that come up in the future. Margulies says, “There is no rule of thumb for how long it takes to develop a relationship.” She points out that if there is a long-standing relationship between the client and the firm, it might not take long to introduce a junior lawyer.  If it’s a brand new client, it could take a little longer. She says, “The longer the relationship, the firm develops an institutional memory of the client and it doesn’t take as long for lawyers to learn and understand the client’s business.”

There are a few strategies that work well in trying to get junior attorneys integrated with clients and to help understand the clients and add value to the relationship. One strategy is allowing junior attorneys opportunities to write, hold webinars, or give presentations on areas of interest to the client. Brady says, anecdotally, “Lawyers [in firms] are more specialists, more current than in-house counsel. They deal with the issues on a regular basis; in-house legal departments don’t necessarily have the education budget, so outside counsel can fill the gap. It’s a way to become dialogue partners as you sort through the information.”

Margulies suggests one way for junior attorneys to gain experience is to work off-site with a client. She says, “If we have chance for a secondment of a lawyer to a client, we will do that, as it presents an amazing opportunity for the young lawyer to go work at a client for a period of time, see what it’s like on the inside, and develop relationships that he/she might not have the opportunity otherwise to do.” Along with the benefits for the attorney and the connections that can be made, it shows a commitment by the firm to the client’s interests and the relationship.

Additionally, pro bono work is a fascinating way to get people together in an unusual context. With the good will inherent in helping others and the out-of-office environment where roles and expectations are shaken up a bit, conversation flows and relationships can advance. Margulies points out, “You can really forge relationships that way—sitting together in a different situation, doing something you might not normally  do—but you’re also working together, solving problems, and building relationships.”

These are great strategies for involving junior attorneys, but at some point, the senior partner moves on and the torch must be passed. Brady says, “Continuity for the client is important for the firm’s well-being, and there is always someone wanting to build a relationship with in-house counsel.” Making sure there are no gaps in the relationship with the client is crucial; however, this transition can be difficult. There are a few important things to remember as the changes are considered. Margulies says, “It’s important to understand that, generally, lawyers are perfectionists; transitioning  a long relationship, for whatever reason, is difficult. It’s very hard to relinquish control.”

That said, how does the change happen? Many of the strategies mentioned earlier can help ease the transition, Margulies says, pointing out that, “It is easier when lawyers are encouraged to involve younger lawyers early on so it becomes a natural progression. It’s a way to build trust and comfort, and letting go is easier when younger attorneys are involved earlier and the more senior attorneys are comfortable with their knowledge and abilities.”

Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials are sharing the work at law firms and taking care of clients’ needs. There are difficulties and no real easy solutions, and the answer to just about every question is “It depends.” But as Brady points out, “Change is going to happen, and everyone is trying to figure out how to make it work.”

To Specialize or Not to Specialize, That is the Question for Attorneys

As the number of attorneys in the marketplace continues to grow, it is becoming more important to differentiate yourself.  One of the best ways to do this is through specialization.  Becoming a “specialist” can be a scary proposition as your messaging and marketing efforts change to accommodate this new direction. The obvious fear is giving up some potential business by speaking and marketing openly about your new focus. While most of these fears are not grounded in reality, most generalists are worried about the possible loss that may occur when making the transition.  In working with hundreds of attorneys, we regularly discuss the ups and downs to becoming a specialist. If the timing is right and you are well prepared, it might be the best way for you to stay relevant, while also growing your practice and obtaining additional financial security. That being said, it’s one thing to be “known” as a specialist versus “identifying oneself” as a specialist. It’s always better to be considered an industry specialist and leader rather than having to advertise that information. In some states, calling yourself a “specialist” is not allowed. Be sure to stay in compliance within your states’ guidelines.

Take a moment and think about two of the most successful attorneys you know.  Really, close your eyes for five seconds and get their names in your head.  I would bet dollars to donuts that at least one of the names you thought of was someone who is a specialist. It should come as no surprise that an attorney who builds a reputation around being great at one thing is memorable to you. The reality is that when you build a reputation in one industry, market or vertical, your practice can grow more quickly than you ever thought possible. Of course, a number of elements need to be in place before taking this leap. Here are a few things to think about before making the switch to becoming a specialist:

#1. You need to be the best at what you do.

Whether you are a litigator or an estate-planning attorney, nothing is more important than being skilled at your craft. When thinking about specializing, be sure you have the baseline skills and experience to succeed in one particular area of the law. It might make sense to get at least 2-3 clients under your belt in a particular area to test it out and see if specializing in one area makes sense for you. Achieving notoriety as a specialist may take months or many years to achieve. The important thing is that you eat, sleep and breathe within the space that you’ve chosen.

A good example of this occurred when I was badly injured in a plane crash back in 1996. That’s right, I survived a plane crash.  During my recovery from looking like a human pretzel, my father, a now retired attorney, put me on the phone with Bob Clifford of Clifford Law Offices. He chose Bob Clifford because he is well branded as the leader in aviation and personal injury litigation. We didn’t speak to any other law firms because who could possibly be better?

Being the best at what you do and building a strong reputation around that specialty can make obtaining new clients very easy. However, as you probably know, it takes real effort and conviction to build a specialized practice.

#2. Choose the right industry or vertical that’s a fit for you.

The easiest and most time effective way to develop a niche’ is to leverage the work you’ve already done in one particular area. It may make sense to target specific people, companies or issues that will allow you to draw out more work.  For example, if you’ve worked with textile manufacturers and enjoy the work, be sure to target other textile companies in your area. You can do a search on google or LinkedIn to identify the people and companies to call on. Try to leverage your existing clients and strategic relationships to obtain introductions to these business owners if possible.

As an example, you could call up your client in the industry and say, “I know you’ve been happy with the work I’ve done for you over the past few years. I am looking to help others in the same area. Who are you friendly with in the textile industry that I should be speaking with as well?” The key here is to develop a great relationship with your client to ensure that he/she is open to making these types of strategic introductions. Think about it this way. If you had the best dermatologist and someone had a nasty rash, wouldn’t you feel great making the introduction?

Another easy way to find the right specialty for you is by asking yourself, “What am I truly passionate about?”  If you care about something, it drives you to become more involved. For example, one of my clients is very passionate about animals and is now focusing on working with dog shelters and veterinarians.  She joined the shelter’s board and is routinely interacting with prospective clients for her practice. She is wowing them with her ability to solve problems and is routinely asked legal questions from the board members. These inquiries turn into business meetings and eventually new business.  She’s doing all of this without working harder than before as the new originations roll in. Finding a niche’ that you are passionate about can make your legal career much more meaningful and enjoyable. You will also have a greater chance of meeting prospective clients, as you will be interacting with them on a more regular basis.

#3. Find a space, where there is space.

Be aware of your market and niche’ and who else may already be there before committing to a specific specialty.  While you may have vast experience in commercial real estate for example, there may already be too many lawyers in that area to easily separate yourself from the pack. Do your research and try to find a segment of real estate that isn’t as fully saturated. It might also make sense to branch off into other areas of law to ensure you have your eggs in a few different baskets.

When the recession hit in 2008, many real estate lawyers were hit pretty hard. One of my clients saw this as an opportunity to study estate planning as a backup plan to real estate law. This ended up being a great fit as he was able to leverage his real estate clients and personal contacts to help set up estate plans for everyone he could.  Now that real estate is back, he has doubled his book by focusing on both specialties.

By studying the competition, understanding the marketplace and the amount of business generated in a particular area or niche’, you can better hedge your bets when selecting a specialty.

#4. Look to the future.

Earlier this year, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jerry Maatman of Seyfarth Shaw to learn a little more about his successful practice. One of the key elements to his amazing achievements as an attorney came from his thirst for knowledge within his area of Labor and Employment. He voraciously read everything he could to better understand what was coming down the pipe to see how he could leverage it to build his practice. He describes in his interview, the 1992 legislation for the Americans with Disabilities Act and how he got ahead of the law to be seen as the premier expert on the subject. He effectively packaged a “Survival Guide” for companies to better deal with the changing laws and regularly spoke on the subject before anyone else. By being a forward thinker, he locked-in his success and was repeatedly hired as the expert on ADA law by some of the largest companies in America.

Developing a niche’ can be a game changer for you as a practicing attorney. For those who are worried about missing other business opportunities because of specializing, who’s to say you can’t take on new business in other areas? However, by focusing your outbound marketing on one thing, you’ll have the opportunity to build your brand name much more quickly than staying a generalist.  You need to have the experience, the passion, the space or the forward thinking that will allow you to become successful in specializing.

Copyright @ 2015 Sales Results, Inc.

Once and Future Legal Profession – 10 things (plus 4) Lawyers Had in 19th Century They Should Get Back

Coming out of the 19th Century, practicing law was an almost unimaginably great way to live.

Orginal-Sin

  • The work was knowledge work and, by and large, it was challenging.
  • The practice entailed a craft to be mastered – both in terms of knowledge and experience, and also in terms of analytical and persuasive skills. Lawyer skills enhanced life skills. They developed judgment.
  • The work was meaningful. It made a difference in the lives of clients who had personal connections with their lawyers.
  • The profession itself was set apart. Its members had attended the same or similar schools, and had read and studied the same literature and culture. There was a high level of trust among practitioners.

  • Many lawyers practiced by themselves, controlling their own comings and goings, while regularly associating fellow lawyers as needed. Others practiced in small, personal partnerships. Experienced lawyers helped new lawyers learn the practice, regardless of firm memberships.

  • Lawyers’ work contributed in a vital way to the system of justice, and also to a growing system of business and commerce.

  • Lawyers were compensated based on value delivered and the clients’ ability to pay. There was a grounded sense that lawyers had an obligation to render services for the public good without pay in appropriate cases.

  • There were no timesheets. There was no billing software. There were no hourly rates, and no billable-hours quotas.

  • Lawyers commonly earned a good living, often by investing alongside their clients in new ventures and being involved in the operations of those and other businesses; or, more simply, by farming while they also practiced law.

  • Commonly, lawyers played leading roles in the civic and cultural affairs of their communities, both as a matter of interest and perceived duty, and also because it promoted their law practices.

  • The technologies used in legal work imposed a slower pace on professional life.

  • Lawyers’ public and private roles were not separated. Few perceived a need to balance different aspects of their lives.

  • There was little need for lawyers to get up early in the morning.

  • For the most part, lawyers were not called upon to lift or carry heavy things.

Why would anybody screw that up?

Current developments in the legal profession and in the broader workplace offer the hope that a 21st Century version of what was lost can be recaptured.

Legal services technologies and artificial intelligence, alternative legal services providers, networking capabilities, and communications technologies – these are tools that relieve practitioners of the need to perform high-volume, routine tasks. They enable new forms of collaboration. They can support newly envisioned, smaller, more cohesive, and more creative professional associations.

This will require differently trained lawyers, and new kinds of legal services providers. For lawyers and the schools who prepare them, it will require rethinking legal education, and a new understanding of organizational development, talent management and professional development.

Those things will come, albeit not rapidly. Some heavy lifting may be required.

Copyright © 2015, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP

Legal Marketing Stats Lawyers Need to Know

Using market trends to inform your law firm marketing efforts is a must for solos and small firms that have limited budgets and resources to market their firms.

Google recently aggregated research from FindLaw and its own inhouse data to provide a look at the legal market trends that should shape your legal marketing initiatives:

74% of prospects beginning a search online end up contacting the office via phone. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

87% of people who contact an attorney go on to hire an attorney and 72% of them only contact one attorney. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine. (Google Consumer Survey, Nov 2013)

38% of people use the Internet to find an attorney. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

62% of legal searches are non-branded (i.e., generic: “Phoenix divorce attorney,” etc.). (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

74% of consumers visit a law firm’s website to take action. (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

25% of people researching legal topics visit YouTube during the process. (YouTube Internal Data 2012)

85% use online maps to find legal service locations. (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

69% use both a smartphone and a PC for research. (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

31% of all law firm related website traffic comes through mobile search (FindLaw Aggregated Hosted Site Data 2014)

71% of people looking for lawyer think it is important to have a local attorney. (FindLaw U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey 2014)

So what do you need to do to convert leads based on these facts? Here are a few action steps:

Provide multiple contact options — phone, email, online chat, etc.

Provide a mobile-friendly version of your website.

Have an intake system that allows consumers to reach your firm on the first call and intake specialists trained to convert consumers into clients.

Concentrate on local SEO to ensure your website shows up well in local search.

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