Listen to your client. Sounds obvious, and in fact there’s a trend among law firms toward structured client feedback exercises to formalize the listening process. Still, many firms resist—either because they don’t think their clients want to talk about the relationship or they believe there is nothing to talk about because they are awesome.
The companies thriving in the digital age are not so naive. They appreciate how vital feedback is. Companies like Whole Foods Market Inc., Zappos.com Inc. and American Express Co. have made a name for themselves online by showing an ability to listen and to act.
I asked Elizabeth Duffy, vice president of the legal marketing consulting firm Acritas, to explain what she sees holding lawyers back.
“Often lawyers think their clients don’t want to give feedback, but they are wrong—it is a huge value-add for the client,” she said. “Nobody is going to be offended by you asking the client how they feel.”
“But I’m annoyed by customer surveys when I call Delta to change a flight or I’m trying to get my cable to work. Won’t clients sometimes be annoyed that we are taking time to ask them this same information?” I asked.
The quickest and most effective way to turn a lawyer into a rainmaker is through business-development coaching. So how do you pick the right lawyers to coach?
To answer this question, I interviewed one of the top business-development coaches in the country, Cordell Parvin. He practiced law for 35 years, building a book of business worth more than $3.5 million, before leaving law firm life to start his own coaching business. “The lawyers who will be most successful in your coaching program are your lawyers whom you might think need coaching the least,” he said. “They are the most motivated and they get the most out of the program because they put the most into it.”
According to Parvin, the secret is finding lawyers with “fire in the belly.” There is no way to determine who qualifies based solely on their books of business, but the one key attribute of a solid candidate is motivation.
“I can’t motivate the unmotivated,” Parvin said. “I’ve taken a lawyer with a $200,000 book of business and helped him turn it into $2.5 million book, because he was motivated. I currently coach a lawyer who has a $5 million dollar book of business, and the coaching works because he still wants to learn. Those are the types of people I want to coach.” Read more
“I tried out Twitter; I’m just not sold on how useful it is,” a lawyer told me recently.
“Well, how much effort have you put into it?” I wondered.
“I created my profile, uploaded a couple of pictures, followed a bunch of people and tweeted every day for a month.”
And you haven’t gotten any business from that?, I wanted to ask sarcastically.
I have, essentially, this same conversation almost every day. Most lawyers use Twitter like a billboard, and while some post more informative links to their online billboards than do others, they remain just billboards. Read more
Bringing in big deals, new litigation or the highly coveted anchor client is kind of like being struck by lightning.
As it happens, a 48-year-old New Jersey woman was struck by lightning just the other weekend. A bolt from the blue, just like landing a big new client, is improbable. But that is very Âdifferent from impossible.
How do you increase the probability of getting struck? Go where the storms are. Have you ever seen those storm chasers, pointing their cars directly toward tornados? That is how we should think about business development—we need to drive into the storm.
Think about the first law firms to set up offices in Shanghai, China, or that recognized the impending social-media explosion and focused their efforts in places like Silicon Valley. Sometimes the best strategy is simply moving where the money is.
Buildings often will be topped with lightning rods to attract and channel lightning. How do individual lawyers create their own lightning rods? Building an online reputation is one way. While geography is important, studies suggest that an increasing number of buyers of legal services are looking online to find specific expertise.
I recently spoke with a partner at a law firm who had unique expertise with regards to riparian rights. During his long career, business had always just come to him, but in the past few years things had slowed down considerably. Suddenly, he needed to work to make it rain.
So he started blogging and became active on Twitter. Within a few months, the improbable happened: He landed a substantial matter through a relationship he cultivated online. Lightning struck for him, but only after he had made himself a target. Read more