You are looking to make a change. Your law firm has a brand. Maybe the senior lawyer you work for has a brand, but do you have a brand? I wouldn’t ask the question that way. Instead, I might ask:

What makes you different (and better) than the dozens or hundreds of lawyer in your practice area?

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi is a book I have recommended to lawyers for many years.

In chapter 23, Ferrazzi talks about building your brand. He argues that perception drives reality. He further suggests that good personal brands do three highly significant things for your network of contacts:

They provide a credible, distinctive, and trustworthy identity. They project a compelling message. They attract more and more people to you and your cause, as you’ll stand out in an increasing cluttered world.” Then, Ferrazzi says: “in terms of branding, then the bottom line for everyone comes down to a choice: to be distinct or extinct.

You might also find some great ideas in The Personal Branding Blog. In this post, the writer focused on building your brand by giving using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and off-line networking. Take a look at it and write how you might apply the ideas to build your brand as a lawyer.

How can you be distinct and build a brand? If you are a long time reader you know that I believe a powerful way you can build a brand and approach a potential client without an invitation is to be intently focused on finding a way to understand your client’s industry and business, identify their problems and give away a solution.

In my day, I gave away solutions in books, articles, presentations, and workshops. Fortunately for you, today you can brand yourself using blogs, podcasts, webinars, and posting your ideas and solutions on social media websites.

What can I tell a law firm about you?

Nancy and I recently went to the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association 2018 Annual Convention. We went because the FTBA was honoring our long-time friends, (and one of my very first clients) Bob and Beverly Burleson, who are retiring this year after 30 years of serving Florida Contractors.

Technically Bob is retiring, but if you ask any Florida contractor, Beverly played a huge role in making the association vibrant and strong.

It was an incredible tribute over two days. There were photos of Bob and Beverly from the previous conventions. There were video tributes that started with the tribute by the Florida governor.

Nancy and I were included in the family photo below.

I suspect that I have known Bob longer than any of the people who shared their thoughts about him, but I was amazed at how accurately they painted a picture consistent with what I had always known about him.

Contractors, a State DOT, and legislators rarely get along. They each have different interests. Among the many things that make Bob truly unique is his ability to create a consensus among people with competing interests. (I know he wouldn’t go, but just think what a consensus builder might be able to accomplish in Washington.)

Another thing that Bob has done so well is to focus less on what he does and more on who he is serving.

When I listened to people share their thoughts about my friend, it reminded me of what George Bernard Shaw said:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; …I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can… Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch, which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.

The 2018 FTBA convention is the last one Bob will attend as the leader of the FTBA, but he will always be remembered. Bob and Beverly’s work with FTBA was no brief candle, but rather a splendid torch which they made burn ever so brightly before handing it over to future generations.

Dave Walton is a successful Pennsylvania lawyer I coached 10 years ago. He is successful in part because he is self-motivated.

Dave shared his ideas with other lawyers I coached back then in a webinar that younger lawyers found valuable. During the webinar, Dave included a slide that said;

“Think Big and Act Small.”

I like that approach.

I know many lawyers do not know where to start on developing business. It seems daunting and mysterious to them.

Are you in that same position?

If so do what elite star athletes do. They train by learning one thing at a time. So, begin by taking small steps so you feel you have accomplished something.

When I first met with lawyers I coached, I suggested that they review and revise their plan and their goals after our coaching session. I asked them to consider whether there is anything we discussed that has changed their thinking?

Then I suggested that they do something, no matter how small to get started. It might be as simple as updating their firm website bio, inviting a client or potential client to lunch, sending an article with a handwritten note, or setting up Google Alerts for their clients.

Don’t feel like client development is climbing Mt. Everest. Take just one small step and get started.

I wrote recently that in-house lawyers are looking for law firms that are innovative and efficient.  It reminded me of a speaker at a law firm retreat I attended many years ago

Barry J. Gibbons, the former Chairman, and CEO of Burger King spoke at our firm’s partner retreat. He spoke to us on Saturday morning just after a speaker from Fidelity showed us at least 100 PowerPoint slides while explaining our 401K program.

Gibbons used no PowerPoint slides, so the focus was on him rather than the screen. He also told vivid stories to make his points stick with the audience. He made them in a way that I could easily remember them.

For example, the way he presented innovation was to say that he had always been fascinated by what happened when a man for the very, very first time got milk from a cow.

Gibbons asked:

“Just what was that guy thinking? What kind of mind says to itself: ‘I’m going over there to that beast, and I am gonna pull on those things, and drink what comes out.’”

He said that kind of mind changes the world’s diet. When I think of innovators, I think back to that description of an innovator.

After hearing Mr. Gibbons speak, I had to buy his books. I especially enjoyed his book: “If you want to make God really laugh, show him your business plan: The 101 Universal Laws of Business.” I found that Mr. Gibbons universal laws apply to law firms and lawyers, but many of us do not realize it.

One of his laws focuses on branding. He suggests that branding has moved away from supply-side (as lawyers what we do) thinking to a demand-led (as lawyers what our clients need) approach.

Gibbons says we are moving from an era of mass marketing to an era of mass-customization. He describes this as

“an era in which winning companies will know as much about their customers (clients) as they would if they were dating agencies.”

That means your law firm’s webpage and your own website bio should be less focused on what you do and more focused on your clients. The idea is to have a potential client look at your webpage and conclude: “That lawyer really understands my issues.”

How much time are you and your firm spending on what you do compared to how much time you are spending on understanding your clients’ individual and unique needs and figuring out how you can add value?

Even clients in the same industry will be unique and have needs differing from other companies in the same industry.

Over many years I spoke often about the “targeted differentiators.”

It is how you differentiate yourself and your services in the eyes of your clients and potential clients. Just suppose one of your targeted differentiators was that you know each of your clients’ industries, their unique and individual needs and you provide value based on those needs far better than any other lawyer or law firm.

My guess is that your firm would be more innovative and more efficient….what in-house lawyers are demanding.

Last November Above the Law published an article titled: IN-HOUSE COUNSEL New Study: GCs Have Brought The Majority Of Work In-House.

I found this quote interesting:

51% of in-house legal teams report that more than half of their legal activities are now conducted internally. The biggest challenge in-house legal teams are trying to solve by bringing more legal services in-house is controlling costs, followed by completing tasks efficiently.

I am not surprised by the survey results. In 2018, the majority of clients want more and want to pay less. At the same time, they perceive their law firms are focused on what’s in it for the law firm rather than focused on what’s in it for the client.

In May, The American Lawyer published: Managing Partners’ Frustration Mounts as Law Firm Innovation Stagnates. 

A record 68.6 percent of leaders said the No. 1 reason they aren’t doing more to change their legal service delivery model is because partners resist efforts to change. That number has jumped from 44 percent in 2015, which made it the third most-cited reason that firms aren’t doing more to change.

Many law firm partners have made enough money to be content. They are not focused enough on what their clients want, need and in 2018, demand. I laugh at the vision of a law firm web page with the branding slogan:

“We Aren’t Innovative Or Efficient, But We Are No Worse Than Other Law Firms.”

So what can law firm leaders do about this?

Begin by focusing on your clients. Ask them to share with you ways you can deliver greater value. Listen to what they say and ask further questions.

When you are finished, gather a group of lawyers in your firm and brainstorm ideas on how to deliver greater value to clients. When you come up with a plan, figure out a way to make sure you are delivering greater value and continually ask for feedback from your clients.

And, finally…Reward Innovation and Efficiency.

 

In December of last year, the ABA published: Survey: Lawyers still think blogging makes an impact. Among other things, I found this finding interesting:

Eighty-eight percent of bloggers say their efforts enhance their reputation. Two out of three law firm bloggers say their blogs bring in clients, and three in four find posts from blogs with law firm branding at least as credible as those without it.

Yet, blogging is not for every lawyer. I believe there are reasons a lawyer should not be blogging. Here is my Top 10:

  1. Your firm is in the dark ages and does not approve of blogging.
  2. Your practice is not focused.
  3. You do not want to build relationships and do not need to raise your visibility and credibility within your target market.
  4. You can’t think of anyone who would be interested in what you have to say.
  5. You do not want to take the time to listen before writing and keep up with what is going on in your clients’ world so you will have something relevant to say.
  6. You hate technology and do not want to learn.
  7. You are incapable of writing concisely.
  8. You cannot identify what you want the readers to take away from your blog.
  9. Your competitors are already providing outstanding content and you can’t do any better.
  10. You cannot make the commitment to post at least once, and better twice, a week.

I ate lunch and had a coaching session recently with a really sharp associate in a well-known law firm. During our lunch she asked:

What if I really don’t care to become a partner?

She continued that many of the partners in her firm and other firms did not appear to be happy. I immediately thought of Stephen Covey and said:

Maybe those partners aren’t focused on the big rocks.

Having never heard the story, the young associate looked confused. She told me she wanted to have more “work-life balance” in her life.

Are you striving for work-life balance? Put simply, you will never find it and even if you could it would be incredibly boring. I have never sought balance instead I have sought to live my life based on my priorities.

If you want to strive to spend quality time on your priorities, I suggest you read “First Things First” by Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca Merrill. It is filled with many suggestions I know will help you, including planning your life around your roles. I particularly enjoy Dr. Covey’s story about the “big rocks.”

Dr. Covey describes that when he was teaching he pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with rocks, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

The students replied, “Yes.” He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar. He jiggled the jar until the gravel filled the spaces between the rocks. Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”

This time, the students replied, “Probably not.” Dr. Covey then added sand and asked, “Is the jar full?” By then the students had figured it out and replied “No!”

Finally, Dr. Covey filled the jar to the brim with water and asked his students the point of what he had done. One student replied: “you can always fit more things into your life if you really work at it. “No,” countered Dr. Covey.

“The point is, you have to put the big rocks in first.”

Billable work for clients is clearly a big rock. But, there are many other big rocks that must be put in the jar. Your big rocks likely include being a father/mother, husband/wife, son/daughter, being fit, being active in church/community.

I coached an outstanding lawyer, now 11 years ago. At the beginning of our coaching, we didn’t focus on client development. Instead, we focused on what were the big rocks for her. In our second coaching session she told me hers were:

  1. Family
  2. Her Faith
  3. Her Health and Fitness
  4. Her Work and Client Relationships

From that point on when she was evaluating an opportunity, she considered whether it fell into one or more of her big rocks.

She frequently repeated her version of something Stephen Covey had said:

When you say yes to something that is not a priority, given your limited time, it is the same as saying no to something that is a priority.

If you were asked to list your priorities, what would they be?

P.S. One point I made to the lawyer with whom I ate lunch was simply that it is better to have the opportunity to become a partner and then make a choice than it is to never be considered.

In November 2017, BTI posted: Law Firms to Add Big to Marketing Budgets in 2018—Here’s How to Get Yours. It began :

13% of law firm CMOs are trying to hide their smiles. They snagged big increases in their budgets—just over $1 million per firm.* Their goal is simple—keeping clients, growing clients, and getting new ones. Their success in justifying their new budgets comes from emphasizing the risk of not spending the money.

More recently I read: 5 TOP TAKEAWAYS FROM ACKERT’S 2018 LEGAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT TRENDS STUDY.

It asked:

So, what are those business development strategies and which ones generate the most revenue?

Number 1 on the list was Sales/Business Development Coaching.

The unanswered question is how can client development training and coaching produce more revenue. Here’s how:

One-shot business development training will not produce more revenue because it will not change the actions lawyers should take to produce revenue.

Business development training should be combined with individual and group coaching. Your firm can either hire an outside consultant, or create your own internal program. Either way, to produce more revenue the firm, the lawyers and the coach must make commitments and keep them.

The Law Firm Commitments:

  1. Select lawyers who have the inner drive to be more successful. Your lawyers who need coaching the least, will put the most into it and get the most out of it.
  2. Leadership commitment and involvement. When your firm leaders are champions for the program, there is greater energy and a buzz around the firm.
  3. Aligned and active involvement of professional development and marketing professionals. Client development training has both a training component and a marketing component. Your professionals from both groups have a role to play.
  4. Sharing unique firm strategies and issues with the coach. Each firm is different. For an outside coach to be successful he or she needs to understand your firm’s goals, strategy, and culture.
  5. Funding for the program. Shows you are investing in your lawyers.

The Lawyer Participant Commitments:

  1. Active involvement in the group and individual coaching activities.
  2. An open mind to change.
  3. Create a business development plan with goals.
  4. Willingness to be held accountable.
  5. Preparation for coaching sessions.
  6. Monitoring client development activities.
  7. Sharing best practices and successes with the group.
  8. Identifying challenges and working to overcome them.
  9. Commitment to spend around 20 non-billable hours a month on client development activities.

The Coach/Consultant Commitments:

  1. Helping participants with planning and goal setting.
  2. Pushing each member and the group to attain group and individual goals.
  3. Role-playing and experiential learning.
  4. Ideas for client development.
  5. Teaching and applying client development techniques.
  6. Referral to source materials on career and client development.
  7. Team coaching.
  8. Creating opportunities for teambuilding.
  9. Providing candid feedback and suggestions.
  10. Making firm leadership aware if any participant is not meeting his or her commitments.

I know from my experience leading a program in my old firm and working with lawyers and law firms for 13 years that if your firm, your lawyers, and your internal or outside coach/consultant makes and keeps the commitments described above, the firm will generate a return on investment that is a multiple of the program cost.

I love the song Wind Beneath My Wings. If you click on the link of the title you’ll see it was written in 1982 and was recorded that year by Roger Whittaker, as well as by Sheena Easton and Lee Greenwood. Many others recorded it, including Judy Collins, which is the recording I like best.

But, for most of us, Wind Beneath My Wings will always be Bette Midler’s song. Her version sold millions of copies and received numerous awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1990.

 

The melody is beautiful, but have you ever paid close attention to the lyrics? Who is the hero described in the song?

Here is how it starts:

Ohhhh, oh, oh, oh, ohhh.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that’s your way.
You always walked a step behind.
So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.

When I was at the top of my career, and news that ultimately led to the demise of Jenkens & Gilchrist was becoming public, I received many, many calls from legal recruiters and calls from partners in some well-known law firms.

I was bringing in a bucket full of business and that was what made me an attractive candidate for other firms. In all the calls, in all the meetings, I don’t recall any recruiter, or law firm partner asking:

Who are the lawyers who enable you to bring in all this business to your firm?

Let’s put the question in the terms of Wind Beneath My Wings:

Who are the lawyers who give you the opportunity to fly higher than an eagle, for they are the wind beneath your wings?

Now, after leaving my law practice 12 plus years ago, I can candidly admit I never gave some of those lawyers the credit they deserved.

So, if you are a rainmaker in 2018:

  1. Who are your heroes?
  2. Are you letting them know they allow you to fly higher than an eagle?

When I was at the top of my legal career and the word was spreading that Jenkens & Gilchrist was in trouble, I received more than one call a week from legal recruiters. I’m sad to say that I was pretty turned off by those calls.

Why?

  1. They were cold calls
  2. The recruiter didn’t know me.
  3. The recruiter didn’t ask me questions to get to know me.

The legal recruiters may have looked at my website bio, and someone must have told them I had lots of business, but they didn’t know anything else about me,…and they didn’t ask to learn more about me.

So, you might ask, why did I decide to become a recruiter? I would ask that same question, so I get it.

To me recruiting is an extension of the work I did coaching lawyers. When I coached lawyers before our first meeting I sent out questions as a starting point to get to know the lawyer. When we met for the first time, I started by asking questions about the lawyer’s family, his or her interests outside of practicing law and what the lawyer hoped to achieve in our work together.

I loved practicing law. I enjoyed my clients and my work. But, I only worked for a few clients. I coached over 1500 lawyers. While my compensation was a fraction of what I made practicing law, my joy in personally witnessing the lawyers succeeding made up for it.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a lawyer I coached over 10 years ago. When we first started working together she was generating $200,000 in originations. In her email, she shared with me that in her firm’s last fiscal year she had generated over $4 million in originations.

She gave me too much of the credit in her email. She was a superstar before I ever met her. I think I just helped her realize that.

So, what does this have to do with my current work recruiting lawyers for law firms?

I am working for a great, well-known firm, Lateral Link. I’m surrounded by talented people who genuinely care about the lawyers who are candidates and the law firms with whom they work. They take the time the recruiters who recruited me did not take.

When I coached lawyers in the US and Canada I worked with some really great firms. I know the culture of those firms. I worked with some really outstanding lawyers. I got to know what they wanted in their career. Recruiting for me is putting together law firms with lawyers who will succeed and help the firm succeed.