Six ways to fix your follow-up

Originally published in the National Law Journal on February 8th, 2012

What is the No. 1 impediment to lawyers building their books of business? “Failure to follow up,” said James Stapleton, chief marketing and development officer for Littler Mendelson.

“In my experience,” he said, “there is a high correlation between the amount of follow-up that gets done and the amount of business that a professional will sign. And it is almost a straight-line relationship.”

Stapleton explained: “At its base, when you are following up, you are in pursuit. You are framing yourself as a predator. You want to pursue a client that you know you can do the best job for, and you are the right attorney for that person.”

So why doesn’t it happen? “The ego of the attorneys gets in the way,” Stapleton said. “They have always been the smartest person in the room, and the attorneys usually feel like the client should be pursuing them. And that is completely counter-productive.”
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Which Metrics Matter Most?

Originally published in the National Law Journal on February 2, 2012

Marketing partners and chief marketing officers gathered in Miami in January for the Marketing Partner Forum. The most popular session was about metrics — standees packed the back of the room, demonstrating firms’ desire for a firmer grasp on which metrics to watch and which to ignore.

My tablemates and I had no trouble compiling a list of two dozen metrics being measured within the law firms represented. Billable hours, non-billable hours, profitability, collections, profit margin — the list went on and on. Some seemed obviously important, other trivial. Which really mattered the most?

Steve Bell, chief client development officer at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, proposed the following: “The amount of time in face-to-face meetings with centers of influence, prospective client and, especially, clients” offers the best prediction for business development success. “The No. 1 way that buyers find lawyers is via relationships,” he said.

Yet the amount of hours spent on client development is the most overlooked metric at law firms, according to Bell.  Read more

Do you control your email, or does it control you?

Law Firms Control Your EmailBusy professionals have no trouble coming up with excuses. Reasons why they can’t do marketing, don’t have time for business development and/or can’t write or blog. Perhaps my favourite excuse is, “I don’t even have time to answer all my email, how can I find time to do one more thing?”

I find this excuse humorous because of the extreme ugency it places on answering every single email we receive. For many professionals, answering emails has taken control of their lives and by default is given a higher priority than almost anything in our workday. This is not only irrational, but it is costing lawyers and their firms money. Here are five ways to break out of this dilemma.

1. Lessons from Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris, author of “The Four-Hour Work Week” has two solutions for this problem. One that is quite extreme and the other is far more practical. First, whenever he is on vacation he has an auto-responder that basically says, I’m out of the country for the next 30 days, any email you send me during this time will be deleted. If it is really important, please send me another email upon my return. Ok, so lawyers can’t get away with talking to their clients that way, but Tim’s second solution is a more practical one. He calls it “batching.”  As opposed to checking your email every fifteen minutes, instead find a couple of times each day when you have scheduled to check your email. It’s far more efficient to block out an hour of time to check emails, then to interrupt your work every .1 hours.

If you aren’t comfortable checking your email so infrequently, try picking a few times a day that are “no email” times. Perhaps the first hour of your day or the last couple of hours of your workday. It is really quite liberating. Read more

In-House Counsel Are Reading Your Blog

Originally posted in the National Law Journal on January 25, 2012

The public relations firm Greentarget LLC released a survey in 2010 regarding the use of social media by in-house counsel that has shaped strategy of law firms across the United States. This morning, the firm released its New Media Engagement Survey findings for 2011. The results were somewhat surprising.

The survey, conducted with the Zeughauser Group and Inside Counsel, found that, across all age groups, more than 50 percent of in-house counsel reported using LinkedIn during the past week — and many within the past 24 hours. Only one group showed a decline — lawyers aged 30 to 39. In 2010, 84 percent of lawyers in that age group reported using LinkedIn during the past week; in 2011, their use declined to 65%.

“The days of the younger ‘power users’ is quickly fading as older counsel are using social media tools with greater fervor and frequency than they were just 18 months ago,” said John Corey, Greentarget’s founding partner.

Law firm blogging has also seen huge gains in terms of credibility and its ability to persuade legal departments, the survey found. Fifty-five percent of the general counsel surveyed said blogs influenced their hiring decisions, and 76 percent attributed importance to a lawyer’s blogs when hiring outside counsel. Read more

Are you ready to scale that peak in 2012?

Originally posted in the National Law Journal on January 12, 2012

Last month, my father-in-law invited me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with him next spring. The problem is, starting my own business and entering my third decade have left me out of shape and about 20 pounds overweight. I decided I needed to educate myself about how to get in shape and lose weight — two things I never had to worry about when I was younger.

At first I thought I could just go run on a treadmill for an hour each day, but a friend who specializes in helping people train for triathlons said that wouldn’t work.

“Your body gets used to the machines,” she explained.

“So what do I do?”

“You need interval training.”

The idea is simple — you need to keep your body guessing. Once your body knows what to expect, the exercise becomes much easier. Easy is nice, but the problem is that your body stops getting stronger. Interval training — alternating intensive and moderate exercise — is designed to get around this. We build muscles by breaking them down so the body can rebuild them, but the same exercises eventually become less and less productive. The best workout programs require frequent change. Our minds work in a similar way. New challenges help us grow.

So what does this have to do with lawyers? During the past year I have advised hundreds of lawyers on bringing in more business, and the vast majority of them start out stuck. They bring in a certain level of business, but it doesn’t vary much from year to year. They want to break out.

It may seem obvious, but to accomplish things you never have before, you need to do things you have never done before.

Here is how I respond to some of the most frequent complaints I hear from lawyers who are feeling stuck: Read more