In 2021 I am posting client development planning activities I worked on with lawyers I coached. Here are a few more activities for you.

Think about your roles, priorities, commitments and lifestyle, what is the best day and time of day for you to schedule your client development activities?

_________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

List business development activities that can be done in 15-minutes or less.
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

Identify your daily and repetitive activities that provide the opportunity to fill the dead time (like waiting to catch a plane, waiting in line to pick up your children at school) with client development activities.

_________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

Think of content you have created and list ways you can repurpose that content.

_________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________

What are activities that will help you be more accountable?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

Are blogging? Are you are using social media? if you are using those tools to benefit your clients, that will also benefit you. Because we tend to think in the present, let me give you a little history.

I have to confess. After, 2020, if I had my way I would like to go back to the Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best days.  Many of you never watched either show, but if your parents, or maybe grandparents are still alive, you can ask them about the shows.

One thing that seems funny now is the men wore ties and the women wore dresses while at home.

I liked it when I didn’t have a computer on my desk, a tablet and a smart phone.

I liked four channels on my tv, no 24 hours news stations and when I didn’t know whether Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley or Peter Jennings were democrats or republicans.

I liked it when republicans and democrats put the country first by for example passing the civil rights bill. I fear those days are gone for the rest of my lifetime.

Life was more simple and more civil then. But, clients in those days had no idea what they were getting when they needed to hire a lawyer or a law firm.

When I began practicing law clients were pretty much in the dark about lawyers and law firms. I suppose the sophisticated clients who had access to Martindale Hubbell books could do limited research and at least determine the peer ratings of lawyers and law firms they were considering. Even then, how would a client distinguish one A-V rated lawyer from another?

I always thought that when clients were left to guess which lawyer or firm would be best for them, business clients at least would tend to select larger firms, or firms from certain cities, assuming they must be better.

In the 90s law firms began to create websites. At the beginning, lawyers merely copied the bio they had provided Martindale Hubbell and placed a photo on their website bio.

At the beginning, clients were not any better informed than they had been before law firms created websites. Later, websites were upgraded and there came a time when lawyers could actually add links to articles they had written or presentations they had given.

At that point law firms began sending email client alerts using the software that permits several hundred to go out at once. So, business clients were inundated with unwanted alerts from many law firms.

Around 2005 or so lawyers and law firms started blogging, giving webinars, doing podcasts and using social media tools for client development. Here are some of the ways clients benefitted from this advancement. Business clients could:

  1. More effectively and more efficiently do research on the lawyer or law firm they are considering.
  2. More effectively determine what the lawyer knows about the client’s industry and their business.
  3. More effectively determine the lawyer’s background and experience in the specific legal area of interest.
  4. Get a sense of the lawyer’s personality and better determine whether the client will have rapport with the lawyer.
  5. More readily and easily compare lawyers and law firms.
  6. Make determinations on whether a smaller firm or a younger lawyer can handle a matter as well as a larger firm or more senior lawyer.
  7. Choose what to read or review rather than receiving unwanted emails from law firms.
  8. Learn from the content provided by the lawyer how to avoid certain problems or what opportunities may be out there.
  9. Receive a legal slant on a business topic of interest.
  10. Engage in a discussion by providing a comment on a blog or social media page.
  11. Determine what others are saying about the lawyer or law firm.
  12. Most importantly, make a more informed decision when hiring a lawyer or law firm.

 

Yesterday I read an ABA post: Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, law firms are starting to embrace virtual offices—but will it last?

I found this interesting quote:

Some have even ditched physical offices altogether and don’t plan on returning to the traditional setting again. But before contacting your landlord, you need to consider how this will affect clients—and whether there really is a need for your law firm to have a physical office.

I wrote this post in 2009. I believe it may be even more relevant as your firm prepares for 2021 while COVID cases are rising and the vaccine has started.

I have a feeling that many lawyers will continue to work from home in 2021 and meetings will be virtual rather than in person.

We live in a rapidly changing world and businesses, including law firms, must regularly scan the environment to determine how we remain effective in meeting our client’s needs. Those that don’t effectively respond to the changing environment find themselves weakened or out of business.

I was thinking about this a while back. My thinking on the subject started when I was reading The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, an article and later a book by Chris Anderson.

The “Long Tail” is about the shift from hits to niches. In the book, Anderson discusses an entirely new economic model for media and entertainment industries, and its application to other businesses. Anderson points out that online retailing done by Amazon, iTunes and Netflix have changed forever the economics of selling books, music and rental movies because of the wider selection they can offer and the lower cost structure.

While I was reading the book, I thought about my old law firm. We had around 15,000 clients, which for a firm our size was a long tail. Consultants told us we needed to get rid of many of the less profitable clients and focus our attention on the top 1000 clients that were very profitable.

That was before Amazon, iTunes and Netflix became successful. That was also before many of the largest potential clients in the United States failed, were bailed out or went out of business.

So, my thoughts centered on whether the Amazon, iTunes and Netflix model applies to law firms in 2009, and if so, how does it apply?

There are still blue chip clients, but I believe the new economic model is already changing how law will be practiced in the future. In the last couple of years, there have been two emerging trends.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that outsourcing legal work to India is a booming business because experienced Indian lawyers bill between $75 and $100 an hour.

The Washington Post reports that the boom in outsourcing legal work to India started because of the “E” discovery rules. Neither article mentions that another economic advantage is no office space is necessary for those lawyers.

The second trend, which also seems based on the Amazon, ITunes and Netflix economic model, is the virtual law firm. Law.com reported that last year 15 lawyers started a virtual law firm called Virtual Law Partners. In May of this year, Law.com reported that virtual law firms are benefiting from the current economy.

Do you see a trend developing for our profession?

In the future, relatively large law firms might have offices in major cities with only a receptionist and conference rooms. The vast majority of its lawyers may either work from their homes or in very inexpensive space elsewhere.

The firm will outsource commodity work to India. This economic approach will enable the firm to be competitive and profitable doing more work for smaller clients. Is your firm ready for this change?

Hopefully by 2021 you and your colleagues are blogging. If not, here are reasons why you should be blogging:

  1. You will become more visible to your target market. A firm for whom I coached lawyers was not on the first ten pages of a Google search for a niche they specialized in until they started blogging. Now the firm’s blog is the second listing on the first page.
  2. You will be able to listen and engage your target market: You will listen for topics and listen for what your clients want to read.
  3. You will create more “weak tie” contacts. Your will have a wider variety of readers than those you send email blast alerts to.
  4. You will be forced to keep up with what is going on that impacts your  clients: You have to keep up to find topics.
  5. You can get material to your clients the moment they want it. When I wrote a monthly magazine column it would take two months from an event happening until my column on it was published.
  6. You will learn to be a better writer. It is humbling if no one is reading what you are writing.
  7. You will learn to be more concise. If you don’t, no one will read what you are writing.
  8. You can blog any time of day and any place including home.
  9. You provide a tool someone referring business to you can give to a potential client.
  10. Your readers will get to know you on a personal level.
  11. It is inexpensive to blog.
  12. You can link to your blog posts on social media sites.

 

Many of  you are uncomfortable selling yourself and potentially acting like a salesman. I understand. I never wanted a client to think I was acting like a salesman.

Let me share a story of a partner who paid me what he thought was the ultimate insult.

When I was the Construction Law Practice Group Leader there were two partners who, to put it kindly, were not on the same page with me. They helped me understand the meaning of the phrase:

“Leading lawyers is like herding cats.”

One year we held a practice group retreat at a ranch outside Dallas. After dinner and a few beers, one of the partners paid me what he believed would be the ultimate insult. He said:

“Cordell, you are not a real lawyer, you are nothing but a salesman.”

Sales commercialYou could have cut the tension with a knife. Other partners waited patiently for my response. I had not been drinking and I wanted to say something that would have included swear words. You likely know some of the words that I held back.

Then, I thought I should say something like:

“It’s a good thing I am a salesman because if I wasn’t you wouldn’t have anything to do when you come to the office each day.”

I decided nothing could be gained in our retreat from pointing this out. Instead, I just let his insult pass.

Later, I thought about his point. I hate any sentence that includes the words sales and lawyers. I hate to be sold anything and I know my clients and potential clients hated lawyers selling their services.

Many lawyers who struggle with client development tell me that they did not go to law school to become a salesman. I didn’t go to law school to be a salesman either. Yet, we are salesmen and saleswomen. In the end, we are always selling ourselves and our firm.

When you meet with potential clients, they are judging whether they can trust you to handle their legal matter and what it will be like working with you. They are also judging whether you are putting their interests ahead of your own.

So, the question is:

How can you instill trust, serve and build a relationship without coming across as a “salesman?”

  1. Build your profile or brand. If possible become the “go to” lawyer in some niche practice or some targeted industry market.
  2. View everyone you meet as a potential client. Treat them respectfully and become sincerely interested in them.
  3. Work on building relationships and serving, not on getting business.
  4. Think of ways to serve, help and add value at no charge.

Over the years I’ve written about stays at Ritz Carlton hotels. When I worked and could choose, I chose Ritz Carlton.

Years ago I stayed at the Philadelphia Ritz Carlton. When I checked in the person behind the desk asked:

“Mr. Parvin would it be ok with you if I gave you a room upgrade to a larger room with a view of city hall?”

I think that is a pretty effective sales approach. After all, who would say no to that?

What do you suppose your best client would say if you asked:

“Fred, would it be ok if I gave your company a day of my time at no charge?”

I believe you will get a great response.

As you know I left my law practice at the end of 2004 to coach lawyers in firms throughout America and Canada. While I took a substantial cut in income, when lawyers I coached succeeded and in many cases exceeded their own expectations of success, I felt it was very rewarding.

How can a coach help you succeed and attract, retain and expand relationships with clients? If you are one of the lawyers I coached, I bet you will recognize some ways on this list. If you do drop me a note and let me know what worked for you and how you are doing now.

  1. A coach can give you ideas of new activities to try
  2. A coach can help you clarify your own definition of success
  3. A coach can help you identify stretch goals and create an action plan to achieve them
  4. A coach can hold you accountable
  5. A coach can encourage you, keep your head in the game and push you when necessary
  6. A coach can give you feedback on what you have done

 

Your clients may have no idea whether or not you are a great lawyer, but they can easily ascertain whether or not you are focused on client service. I have written about client service several times. Take a look at my Client Service eBook.

Client Service and Cross-Selling

  1. Why clients are not satisfied with their law firms
  2. What clients want
  3. How to deliver it
  4. Client surprises you must avoid
  5. Client fees and billing expectations
  6. How to handle an upset client
  7. Ways to add value
  8. Cross-selling planning (I actually prefer Cross-serving planning)
  9. Cross-serving execution

I don’t know about you, but I found it hard to stay motivated after COVID-19 struck us and we had to stay at home in March.

Motivated Girl.jpgSo, how do you stay motivated when something outside of your control makes it more difficult? It is hard. I have been there and experienced it.

But, the answer is no secret.

You will not stay motivated by focusing on your results, especially when something outside of your control makes getting results more difficult.

.You will only be disappointed when you are not getting immediate results.

To stay motivated focus on your progress. Focus on what you are doing differently or doing better than you were in the past. If you focus on your progress, I can tell you from my own experience that you will persist and persevere until you succeed.

 

This year I am posting some activities I did with the lawyers I coached. Here are five.

In order to create an effective business/marketing plan you have to know who is your target market. Who is it that you want to hire you and your firm?

Who is your target market?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

What do you want your target market to hire you and your firm to do?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

How can you become more visible and credible to your target market?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

What organizations does your target market belong to?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

Who influences your target market?
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________

I am working on my third novel about my protagonist lawyer, Gabriela Sanchez. Gabriela grew up in the Rio Grande Valley where our daughter taught school, our son-in-law grew up and taught school and one of the top lawyers I mentored grew up.

I started writing the third novel in 2019 before COVID-19. The story began in late, 2019 when a seventeen-year-old girl and a sixteen-year-old girl are arrested for murder. Early in the story a priest asks Gabriela to defend the seventeen-year-old girl.

I chose those ages because because Texas is one of only a handful of states that treats seventeen-year-old defendants as adults. The seventeen-year-old’s trial was scheduled for March of 2020. But as I started the countdown to the trial in the novel, the Corona Virus changed everything. As I write this blog she girl still sits on the floor reserved for seventeen-year-olds in the Dallas County Jail, with no trial date set yet.

Gabriela is single. Each month that goes by she is more lonely, unhappy and frustrated, while her client withers away in jail. COVID-19 has impacted all of us in one way or another, but with the vaccine one can only hope we will reach a time when COVID-19 is not the cause of our unhappiness. How can you get back in the swing of things then?

Ten years ago I wrote a column in The Practical Lawyer titled: Some Practical Thoughts on Conquering Career Burnout. It is based on two books I co-authored about Tony and Gina Caruso.

In Say Ciao to Chow Mein: Conquering Career Burnout, Christina Bost Seaton and I focused on Tony, who after finishing his first year as an associate in a large Texas law firm is burned out and struggling to find meaning in his career. In Ciao, Gina loves her work as a clerk for a Federal Court judge. At the conclusion of Ciao, Tony has just been promoted to partner and he and Gina have two children.

In Rising Star: The Making of a Rainmaker, Kristi Sebalj and I focused on Gina. In this law parable business book Gina is now a partner in a mid-sized firm. She is the talk of the firm, having brought in $1 Million of business. Yet, she feels like a one-hit wonder because her success was a result of one big case from one big client.

Like the novels I have written more recently, the books are not big sellers on Amazon. I still have a few boxes of the hard copies of the books. If you firm wants a box and is willing to pay the shipping costs, contact me.

During my law and coaching career, I knew and worked with lawyers like Tony and Gina. Their characters are a composite of lawyers who have worked for me and lawyers I have been blessed to coach and mentor.

While practicing law for 35 plus years and coaching close to 1500 lawyers over many years, I studied and examined differences between lawyers who were successful and happy and lawyers who were not. Many of the successful lawyers with whom I worked or who I coached also had great personal lives and were focused on their families as a top priority.

What does it take? Here is what I discovered. Lawyers who are both successful and happy:

  • Take control their careers and destiny
  • Know what they want
  • Develop a plan to accomplish it and take action to achieve their goals
  • Build relationships
  • Work on making a contribution to a cause greater than themselves.

If you have the time, get to know Tony and Gina. You will see some of the same challenges you face and some of the same opportunities you have. As you will see, you can conquer career burnout by following the ideas above.