Why the Billable Hour Is Here to Stay

While you may grind away on files day in and day out through six-minute intervals, tracking the time can prove distracting and burdensome. The billable hour remains the standard method for billing with lawyers, and this has been the standard for decades. Despite the longevity of the billable hour, plenty of lawyers believe they can find a better way to bill their clients.

The Argument Against the Billable Hour

Lawyers from a variety of fields have raised arguments against billing by the hour. One of those arguments is how you only have so many hours in the day that you can work. In addition, an hourly billing setup fails to acknowledge how different legal services will have differing value. Some have made the claim hourly billing encourages inefficiency and incompetence because the longer it takes a lawyer to finish the job, the more they get paid. This shows a conflict of interest because a lawyer might feel tempted to spend the maximum hours on a file.

Does the Billable Hour Remain the Standard?

Gradually, lawyers have started to charge through alternative methods. Some of those methods include:

  • Flat fees

  • Results-based fees

  • Contingency fees

  • Fees by stages

In today’s world, a client asks more value for his dollar, and plenty of lawyers are happy to accommodate. Still, the billable hour reigns supreme even despite talk of a massive shift. The billable hour hasn’t taken hold as of yet. However, it has been growing. In fact, a recent study found how the alternative fee arrangements were up five percent from several years ago to 22 percent since.

Revolutionizing the Law Industry

Plenty of firms have seen this and started to shift their own law practice out of the curiosity of what a billable-hour free firm might look like. Since the early 1990s, lawyers have predicted the eventual end of the billable hour, but it has never truly ended. Until a more alternate billing comes, it’s unlikely that the billable hour will ever fully go away. In fact, some law firms will always prefer it, and unless the clients demand a change, the billable hour serves both lawyers and clients in a way where an alternative arrangement might prove to be more difficult.

Education of the Client

Bill Rice, a partner at Bennett Jones, says that his national firm offers the alternate billing proposal. Many times clients will ask for the alternate billing, but in the end, they wind up choosing the hourly billing because they don’t know how to judge if the alternate arrangement will be fair. Rice says, “While we’ve moved forward with breaking the billable hour, we still haven’t reached the appropriate level of comfort with alternate billing.” Essentially, clients are unable to find a better way to judge the value or to maintain control over it.

This is where research comes in play. If you decide to want to take an alternative route, education is key. By explaining the process, average cost, and the highest potential cost, your client can decide which avenue he or she may want to take.

Where Alternative Billing Does Best

In some cases, the billable hour continues to be the best fit for the attorney and/or law firm. This includes the markups and discounts and how much time a lawyer puts into the case. Sometimes blended rates come into play due to work getting divided amongst the firm. In these circumstances, you will experience a blend of hourly rates.

Where fixed-fee billing (say that five times fast) works best, might be when an event an activity is scheduled. Some of the possible examples include:

  • Patenting

  • Immigration visa

Fixed-rate billing also allows an attorney to exit a case with less worry. Sometimes with the billable hour, there’s that worry of a possible lawsuits malpractice. When you lay everything on the table, the client knows what he’s getting himself into. As a result, you have a more satisfied group of clients because they feel they got the value out of what they paid for.

The Problem of Efficiency: The Billable Hour

You could spend up to an hour trying to fix a leaky faucet and getting nowhere in the process, even though the problem is fairly simple. The same could be said about the billable hour. You want to provide attorneys with some incentive on why they should work hard to finish the case fast. It’s true that some of the other billing methods might not necessarily be cheaper than the billable hour, but it gives clients a fixed budget to work with and peace of mind knowing it won’t go higher.

The billable hour isn’t likely to go anywhere in the future. New methods of billing will, however, probably come up as lawyers get more creative on how to bill their clients for their legal services. The world today focuses more on value-driven legal services. For that reason, it seems like a good incentive to provide lawyers with a reason to up the quality of their services while giving clients predictable budgets they can count on to stay the same.

This post was written by Jaliz Maldonado  of PracticePanther © Copyright 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

4 Ways Attorneys Can Connect with Today’s Legal Consumers

attorney legal consumerLast year, an Avvo survey of 1,000 consumers who purchased legal services provided some important insights into what attorneys need to know about the modern legal consumer.  The Avvo study offered a three-point description of today’s legal consumers. They are:

Informed — access to legal information online has made consumers more savvy than ever about the options available to them. They read legal articles, research their particular legal issue, research an attorney and visit legal forums online.

Connected — people now have immediate access to other legal consumers online and they are reading reviews about others’ experiences with attorneys. An overwhelming 95% said that online reviews were important when choosing a lawyer. Of those who received a referral, 45% still researched attorneys online.

Picky — legal consumers know there are a number of different ways to purchase services, including online forms, fixed fee options, etc. They are increasingly attracted to unbundled services, an a la carte solution for their legal issues. In fact, 76% said they prefer fixed fee billing arrangements.

To connect with legal consumers today, attorneys must:

Have a strong online presence. When it comes to online marketing, you should focus on two things: (1) go where your potential clients are, and (2) implement what you can measure. You have to be able to measure your success (or failure) to discover what works for your area of practice and to be able to build on those successes. When it comes to social media, Facebook is a must for consumer attorneys. One of the most powerful features of Facebook is ad targeting, the ability to layer targeting options on top of one another to create a highly specific audience. This enables you to target locally and get your ads in front of people who need your services now. Facebook ads are low-cost, so you can experiment to see what resonates with your potential clients and then repeat what works.

Encourage online reviews. Attorneys need to create a process for making reviews happen. Always look for those moments in your relationships with clients to create a review opportunity – when you have won a case for a client, when you have helped someone avoid litigation – all opportunities for you to generate a great review. Make it easy for clients to review you by emailing them a link to post a review on Google. Better yet, create an autoresponder email with a built-in Google review form and send it to them at the appropriate time. When you have receive good reviews or testimonials, post them on your website, in your e-newsletter and anywhere else that potential customers are likely to stumble upon them. And be sure to ask whoever provided you with that great review if they would also submit it to Google so it shows up in search.

Offer unbundled services. There are millions of people who download legal documents off LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer for business and personal use. And it shouldn’t surprise you to know that many of them still want a real live attorney to review those documents (which is why the online legal service providers refer customers to attorneys now from their websites). Consider offering unbundled services like online legal document reviews, especially for business clients — the initial fees may not be much, but could lead to bigger things down the road. Remember, many people are looking for a la carte options.

Provide fixed fee options. To be successful with fixed fee billing, firms need to conduct extensive research into their case files going back several years in order to arrive at pricing that will protect profitability.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

What It Takes to Make It Rain: Rainmakers Now, and Rainmakers of the Future

rainmakerIn the rapidly changing legal industry, it is no surprise that broad conceptions of what it means to be a rainmaker are also evolving. Dr. Heidi Gardner, Lecturer and Distinguished Fellow at the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, has been conducting research over the past decade on collaboration in law firms. Her findings have also revealed insights into rainmakers: what makes them successful, how their roles changed over time, and how the next generation of rainmakers can be primed to succeed. She will be presenting her findings on the myths and realities of rainmakers at the Thomson Reuters 24th Annual Marketing Partner Forum.

Successful Rainmakers: Extroverts, Introverts, and Cultural Understanding

A common discussion regarding rainmakers, and leadership in general, is whether they are born or made. Based on her decades long research, Dr. Gardner’s answer to whether rainmakers are born is a resounding no. What makes someone a successful rainmaker is their ability to exhibit other sides of their personality, or other strengths and traits, depending on their audience. Rainmakers are typically discussed as being highly extroverted—charismatic, forceful, possessing great salesmanship skills. However, these traits themselves don’t make rainmakers successful, but rather it is their enormous ability to connect with whomever the buyer of their services. Because buyers are not a homogeneous group, most successful rainmakers are able to adjust or adapt their style appropriately.

Introverts are therefore not precluded from being successful because of their commonly thought of as “quiet nature”. In fact, introverts may make better rainmakers in some regard. Dr. Gardner points out that introverts tend not to think out loud and consider what they’re going to say before they say it. They often take time to reflect and appropriately listen to the person that is sitting across the table. This makes introverts very adept at identifying the buyer’s underlying issues and thinking through what it takes to connect the dots inside their firm to help clients solve complex issues. Dr. Gardner also points out that “Many buyers of legal services are also introverts, and they will appreciate someone who has similar a demeanor—not salesy or pushy.” Great rainmakers who are introverts are chameleons. It likely takes more energy for them to be outgoing and interact with strangers in a bigger setting, but they will have developed the capacity to be gregarious enough to make those connections.

Successful rainmakers have a foundation of being highly empathetic and have a strong motivation and interest in understanding other clients—it’s part of what makes them so successful. Dr. Gardner posits these skills are the “basic building blocks for being able to communicate across cultures” and make rainmakers more equipped to be successful with buyers from other countries. What’s required is an additional measure of cultural intelligence; successful rainmakers take part in and study the behavioral mimicry of their buyers in addition to having an appreciation for why different people approach different problems from different perspectives in general.

Evolution of Rainmaker: Toward Collaboration

During the course of Dr. Gardner’s research, she has discovered an interesting trend, or rather non-trend, in the legal industry: the rainmakers at law firms are largely the same people. During the past ten to twelve years, firms have moved away from mandatory retirement. Partners are staying longer than ever, so the rainmakers at firms now are the same ones from a decade past.

There is a new generation of rainmakers coming in now, but there is a lot of frustration in the profession regarding the structure and effectiveness of succession planning (which will be discussed further below). Despite the fact that the legal industry is currently dealing with the same cast of characters, one profound change Dr. Gardner has observed in the last decade involves a simultaneous broadening and narrowing of the role of the rainmaker.

According to Dr. Gardner, “clients increasingly expect a level of industry expertise” that requires attorneys to identify their practices with more specificity than ever. An attorney can no longer be an “environmental attorney”, but must become “an environmental attorney with a focus on extractive industries”, or an “intellectual property lawyer” must be an “IP attorney who specializes in the patent prosecution of computer hardware”. However, because clients’ problems are becoming increasingly complex, rainmakers are less able to be seen as the single go-to person for a particular client who puts together a team of experts in a single discipline, but rather as needing pull together teams of multidiscipline experts. So along with the narrowing of the rainmaker’s own field of expertise, successful rainmakers are broadening their ability to pull together diverse teams to tackle their client’s problems. The rainmaker is the conductor; as Dr. Gardner states: “The client counts on them to be a broker to all of the kind of experts that exist within the firm.”

In order to be successful going forward, rainmakers of the future need to be more collaborative as far as seeking out complementary experts to serve clients. A common obstacle that prevents rainmakers from being successful in this is the reliance on bringing in the “obvious suspects” as a matter of prestige in front of the client. But when called upon to do work on the case, these attorneys are nowhere to be found. Dr. Gardner believes that a key to building a successful team will be to find the hidden gems at the law firm—rainmakers should seek out attorneys who are hungry for client service opportunities. She acknowledges that doing this can be a risky. It’s easier to put someone in front of your client who has an existing reputation as a guru in their sector, but their value to the process is limited if their participation is not complete.

People who are truly intent on becoming successful rainmakers should be investing the time and the energy on others who are not necessarily thought of as the “obvious suspects”. They must access the deeper well of talent that exists and bringing them through the system so that they become committed, loyal, deeply engaged attorneys who are serving the client. To continue to be successful, rainmakers will need to take the risks and bring different kinds of people on board; as Dr. Gardner stated “The legal industry is too fragile to rely on just small pool of experts.”

Rainmakers – The Next Generation

As stated previously, Dr. Gardner has found that effective succession planning in law firms has been found wanting. Even though this generation of rainmakers has been around longer than ever, it is critical for the continuing success of firms to take a hard look at bringing up the new generation of rainmakers on deck. The most effect way to begin doing this is through mentorship. Dr. Gardner states, “People need to accept responsibility for developing a pipeline of talent.” She experienced some of the effective mentoring while she was working as a consultant at McKinsey’s Johannesburg office. She worked under a partner that would take her to all the important meetings, where she wasn’t expected to participate, but allowed to observe. During her time under the tutelage of this partner at McKinsey, she learned a tremendous amount about the ins and outs of client handling. Today’s rainmakers need to make those types of investments in people that will eventually come after them.

Up-and-comers also need to be willing to take responsibility for the trajectory of their career. Too often, Dr. Gardner has encountered partners who have tried to give junior partners or associates the opportunity to participate in learning experiences, who are asked “Can I bill the time?” This is the incorrect mindset to have on the road to becoming a successful rainmaker. Dr. Gardner elaborates: “If you’re trying become a successful rainmaker, you have to invest some non-billable time in your own development as well.” Both the willingness of existing rainmakers to mentor and the tenacity of of rising rainmakers will be what dictates the success of the next generation of rainmakers.

Learn more about the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute Marketing Partner Forum here.

Copyright © 2017 National Law Forum, LLC

Wasted Time and Money: Top 10 Ways Firms Squander Precious Marketing Resources

effective marketing top 10At the conclusion of a recent presentation I gave to a local bar association, an attorney in the audience asked how law firms are wasting their marketing dollars. “After all,” he said, “our firm only has a limited amount of money for marketing, and I want to make sure we are spending it wisely.” I was honest, and told him that, in my opinion, many fine firms are squandering their marketing dollars by the bucketful. And it’s often in the same familiar ways.

Let me begin with the assertion that, for most lawyers and law firms, effective marketing is all about personal relationships. It’s not about brochures, advertising or other marketing gimmicks. It’s especially about relationships with existing clients and referral sources. Consequently, I almost always recommend that a law firm begin “marketing” by making darn sure its clients are satisfied. If they are, they’ll be loyal to the firm and come back when they need legal counsel. Beyond that, they’ll tell their friends and business associates about you. Too often, firms get caught up chasing prospective clients, forgetting about solidifying and expanding relationships with the clients they already have.

After ten years of experience marketing legal services, I have developed some strong views on what firms are doing right and wrong. But before writing this article, I thought I’d post that attorney’s question to the 1,000-member law marketing listserv, a cyber-community of law firm marketing directors and consultants. The responses came back fast and furious and I’d like to share our collective opinions with you.

So here we go – the “Top Ten Ways To Waste Money Marketing Your Practice,” in David Lettermanesque ascending order of wastefulness.

#10 – Random Acts of Golf and Lunch

Golf and lunch are fine marketing activities, very conducive to relationship building. But playing golf with an endless array of acquaintances who don’t have the ability to hire or refer you is hardly an effective use of your marketing time. Nor is that monthly “skins” match with your brother-in-law and his drinking buddies. The profession’s top rainmakers have a plan — even if only in their heads — when they go on their boondoggles… er, I mean, marketing ventures. They have determined who they want to get to know better and, from there, they develop a systematic plan to go about building and enhancing relationships with them. The key word is plan.

#9 – The “Really Big Show”

Reminiscent of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland deciding to “put on a show,” your firm decides to present the mother of all seminars. Over 300 people spend a half-day listening to you and your partners talk about the latest changes in state law. It was great. Problem is, there was very little follow up. When it comes to seminars and similar events, we suggest that you consider smaller, less formal and more interactive sessions. Think about a seminar series, focused on a particular industry, where participants get together repeatedly. This way, the follow-up is built in. Wasted Time and Money.

#8 – Other One-Shot Wonders

Come to think of it, forget about any marketing activity that does not include follow-up. All the marketing events that your firm sponsors — seminars, open houses, holiday parties, and the like — should be looked upon as relationship building platforms. And personal follow is the key to making them work. All participating attorneys should follow up with at least two or three people at each event, focusing on folks who can help them achieve their objectives.

#7 – Brochures and Newsletters That Cure Insomnia

Good brochures and newsletters have their place among effective marketing tools. But who wants to read mindnumbing tomes about the history of your firm and its 14 practice areas? Not me, and not your prospective clients either. Keep the copy concise and easy-to-read. Use bullet points whenever possible. Hire a talented graphic designer who will produce sharp, attention-grabbing marketing material.

#6 – Invisible Advertising

No doubt, print and broadcast advertising works for attorneys with consumer-oriented practices (like family and personal injury law) and I’d recommend an ad in the Yellow Pages in a heartbeat. But things like traditional “tombstone” ads and “one-time” ads in a newspaper or magazine are practically worthless. Studies show that it takes 7-11 impressions before somebody will recall seeing your ad. Consistency and frequency are essential. Here again, hire a good graphic designer and stay light on copy to make sure your ads are noticed. If you want to advertise, do it right.

#5 – Holiday Chochkes

Ahhh, the holidays. Talk about getting lost in the shuffle! Effective marketing strategies get noticed and stand apart from the crowd. The holidays are far too busy a time for your cards, parties, and gifts to be fully appreciated. However, if you must send holiday cards, by all means, sign them personally!

#4 – Directories, Directories and More Directories!

Over the past ten years, law firm directories have sprouted like cattails in the Everglades. Unfortunately, most have little marketing value. Decision-makers simply don’t use them very much. In fact, our friends on the listserv think that only a few directories, such as LawOffice.com, Martindale-Hubbell and Best’s (for insurance defense counsel), are worth the money. Bottom line….hold on to your cash.

#3 – Vanity Letterhead

We’re talking about the kind that features every lawyer’s name on the masthead. Every letter becomes two-pages long, and each time a lawyer joins or leaves the firm the old supply gets chucked and a new supply is ordered. Often, the new letterhead is out of date even before it comes back from the printer! Most firms have abandoned this practice and yours should, too. Consider adding a snappy firm logo and/or a splash of color. Don’t worry, it’s OK.

#2 – PPPPs (Powerful Partner’s Pet Projects)

Our #2 money waster was sent in by Bev Davis, chief operating officer for a well-known Oregon law firm….and you know exactly what she’s talking about! The firm’s $5,000 contribution for a table at the “Belles of the Confederacy” Dinner Dance, for example. Powerful Partner Jim thinks it’s a great idea. (So happens his wife is on the Board of Directors.) PPPPs are rarely budgeted and are hardly ever consistent with firm-wide marketing objectives. They tend to consume vast quantities of money and staff time. A firm-wide marketing plan goes a long way toward reducing the number of PPPPs. Show Jim the plan and just say no!

#1 – Consultants Who Don’t Know **** About Law Firms

Law firms are a different kind of beast — big egos, lots of democracy, convoluted compensation systems and, in many cases, a disdain toward marketing. Yet, I see it happen time and time again. “We hired Sally because we liked the work she did for our big banking client. But she never could manage to implement much of anything around here.” When it comes to building consensus for a new idea or getting people to focus on non-billable activities, there is nothing quite like a law firm. It takes someone who’s been there to make it happen. If you decide to hire a consultant, hire somebody who has a successful track record working with law firms like yours.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this round-up of marketing blunders. Perhaps you recognized one from your own firm’s recent efforts on the list. My objective was to help you think about how you and your firm can more wisely spend your marketing dollars. After all, you have limited resources. My best advice….develop a proactive, firm-wide marketing plan. See you at the 19th hole!

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.”

Three Steps to Leverage LinkedIn for Your Law Firm

I have yet to find an attorney who could not benefit from having their profile on LinkedIn. It’s the number one online network for white-collar professionals.

Whether you want to connect with non-competing attorneys, non-legal professionals, or potential clients, the demographics on LinkedIn speak for themselves:

  • The average age range of a LinkedIn user is 30 to 49

  • 44% of LinkedIn users report an annual income of more than $100,000

  • 50% of members have a college degree

  • 28% have a graduate degree

LinkedIn members are highly educated and affluent. Is this a demographic you would like to reach? For most attorneys, the answer is obvious.

The first step to using LinkedIn is to create a comprehensive profile. Use your entire bio in your profile and be sure to include your keywords in it. In other words, use the exact keywords that you believe prospects or potential referral sources would use to find an attorney with your skill sets.

For example, if you are a business attorney in Omaha it might sound like this:

“John Doe is a Omaha business attorney who works with small business owners and CEOs of mid-sized companies to create comprehensive operating agreements, buy-sell agreements and employment agreements. His Omaha business clients appreciate the fact that John is an attorney who has a strong business background, having owned and operated two different companies, including a high tech company with 25 employees.”

Next, go to the See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn page and import your email contact list. This makes it super simple to connect with people you already know who are also on LinkedIn. In addition, based on your contacts, LinkedIn will suggest relevant contacts for you to connect with on the site.

Then search LinkedIn Groups and join those where your clients and prospects are. Create content — blog posts, free reports, articles, etc. — that will attract their attention. You can also start your own group and invite contacts to join.

The key to utilizing LinkedIn effectively is to be involved and be consistent. You need to commit to investing at least 30-45 minutes every week to log in, post an update or a link to your blog, reach out to your contacts, answer any questions that are sent to you, and make yourself visible. Simply setting up a profile on LinkedIn will not lead to more referrals any more than a having a business card will automatically get you new business.

© The Rainmaker Institute, All Rights Reserved

5 Things to Tell Prospects That Will Turn Them Into Clients

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Have you been looking for the “magic words” to tell prospects that will turn them into clients?  My experience in teaching lead conversion techniques to thousands of attorneys over the last decade shows that you need to focus your messaging to prospects on these five areas:

1. Tell them what you can do for them.   At the end of the day, clients are only interested in what you can do for them.  Your job is to tell them what your service can do for them personally and remember- they do not want to spend time looking for the answer. The answer to this question must be one of the first things your clients see on your website and in your firm-wide communications. If your clients are going to remember you, you must first answer the question “What’s in it for them?”

2. Tell them what makes you different. For every service you provide there are many other attorneys who can provide the same services. So what can a client get from you that they cannot get from anyone else? Perhaps it is your credibility or the creative way you bring solutions to your clients. You must determine what differentiates your firm from anyone else and market that point.

3. Tell them you understand their pain. The most effective way to ensure a lasting impact on your clients is to communicate with them on an emotional level. You must find their “pain.” What is it about their business, life, family, time, or environment that is causing pain? Are they not working or working too much? Is their business growing too fast or too slow? Is their family falling apart? Do they have a hard time tracking their employees? Find their pain and communicate with them on an emotional level about how you can help heal their pain and make their business, life, family, time or environment pleasurable.

4. Tell them the benefits of working with you. 
Features are what your service does. Benefits are why your client needs your service. For every feature you have, you must tell your client what the benefit is. Is your firm better, faster, guaranteed or more personal? Will your service create more clients, decrease turnover, or increase profit margins? These are all great features, but you must tell your clients how this benefits them specifically.

5. Tell them why it’s safe to hire you.
 Many of our clients work at small law firms that have services similar to those at larger, more established firms. Why should your potential client buy your service over the big firm’s service? While no one can predict the future of your firm, the savvy small firm recognizes the need to develop creative ways to reduce the risk of their clients in working with them. How could you lower the risk of your clients if they are concerned about working with a solo practitioner or a small law firm?

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