Don’t forget to hydrate

Originally posted in The National Law Journal on November 15, 2012

Last month I ran my first marathon, in St. George, Utah. I took my training extremely seriously, reading a couple of books on the subject, altering my diet and losing weight. I even read an absurd number of blog posts and Internet articles about running marathons. Unfortunately, none of this prepared me for what happened the morning of the big race: I got sick, threw up and couldn’t even keep fluids down. I wasn’t going to quit, though, after more than 100 hours of training. So I relaxed, tried to take small sips of Gatorade until the race started and then I was off.

It was like I had never been sick. My first few miles flew by, fueled by pure adrenalin. I was running a little ahead of pace, but for the most part kept it conservative, completing 9-minute miles. As I ran, surrounded by 7,499 other runners, I was caught up in the moment, I guess—or maybe I was still a little nauseous—but wasn’t drinking very much. I didn’t really realize this until I got to about mile 12 and found that even though both Gatorade bottles attached to my belt should have been empty by this point, one of them was still full.

I hit the halfway mark right on my goal pace. But it wouldn’t last. Ten minutes later, I hit a wall unlike any I had experienced before. I had become severely dehydrated and my muscles were shutting down. A runner’s body needs two things to perform at a high level: water and glucose. And I hadn’t provided my body with enough of either.

In the legal profession, rainmakers stay “hydrated” by remembering two principles: “Feed the funnel” and follow up. They do the former by continually prospecting, searching out new business and new relationships. They understand that relationships take a long time to cultivate and that sometimes they might not see immediate results. “The fortune is in the follow-up,” said law firm marketing expert Stephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute. Follow-up can take many forms, but there are three essentials. First, get back in touch within 48 hours of meeting a new prospect, to cement the relationship. Second, connect on a monthly or bimonthly basis with prospects and high-value relationships. Third—and most often forgotten by attorneys—check in following completion of a trial or a deal to find out how you did. Each type of follow-up requires discipline and attention to detail. A good lawyer would never miss a judge’s deadline; a good rainmaker never forgets to follow up.

When I talk to chief marketing officers and directors of business development at firms across the country, I hear one theme repeated more than any other: “I can’t get my lawyers to follow up.” We are all busy, and it is easy to find pressing tasks to fill our days, but rainmakers understand that without a consistent plan for follow-up they will be in trouble.

I managed to finish my first marathon, but I was left with a real sense of disappointment. Maybe it is the lawyer in me, but I didn’t want to merely finish, I wanted to excel. Don’t make the same mistake I did—stay hydrated.

A law firm is not a basket of fruit

law firm marketingOriginally posted in The National Law Journal on November 5, 2012

“We have peaches, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, bananas, tangerines, brambleberries and pretty much any other fruit you can imagine. Would you like to buy a basket?”

This is how most law firms market their lawyers—as a basket of fruit. There’s a problem with that.

“Think about this from the perspective of a Google search,” said Adrian Lursen of JD Supra, which distributes online information and content for businesses and law firms. “Nobody is searching for a basket of fruit; they are all searching for different types of fruit.”

From a practical perspective, potential clients aren’t searching for a firm that can do it all; they want experts who can solve their unique problems. Unfortunately, when they go searching for a solution to their problems, they find firms trying to be good at everything.

How do law firms avoid this problem? They need to identify their areas of strength—areas where they can demonstrate exceptional achievement.

The online bio for a corporate lawyer I worked with listed every type of corporate transaction he had worked on in his career. This scatter-shot approach is not a strategy. It is an ineffective tactic born of fear: “What if someone is looking for a specific type of transaction, and it isn’t on my list?” “What if one of my real estate clients is turned off by my focus on health care?”

It isn’t that these fears aren’t rational, but that they keep lawyers from seeing the big picture. The online legal landscape has become so incredibly competitive that to stand out you must have a laser focus in your marketing efforts. You can’t afford to be seen as just a list.

How do you develop this focus? Start with your bio, both on LinkedIn and firm website. Lead with your greatest strengths, pinpointing where you are exceptional. After that, include recent and relevant experience. What looks better to a potential client, a list of mergers and acquisitions or that in 2011 you closed the largest merger in the state? (Of course, if you mention client names, make sure you have written permission, as required by your states’ ethics rules.)

You don’t have to throw away the list, but that can come later in the bio. Thousands of lawyers have the exact same list you do. Where do you really stand out? Prospective clients have become far more discriminating. They aren’t looking for a corporate generalist anymore; they want to find the lawyer with outstanding abilities.

Marketing firms and advertising agencies make their living helping firms understand their identities and solidify their brands. This is a mistake because firms aren’t one unified team, as unfortunate as that sounds; they are a combination of unique and talented professionals. The exceptional ability and reputation of these individuals create the brand. Where are you exceptional? How can you stand out? Figure it out and start marketing yourself with specificity. Leave the fruit baskets for the holidays.

Are you marketing yourself like a basket of fruit?

legal marketingOriginally posted in The National Law Journal on October 25, 2012

“We have peaches, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, bananas, tangerines, brambleberries and pretty much any other fruit you can imagine. Would you like to buy a basket?”

This is how most law firms market their lawyers, as a basket of fruit. There’s a problem with that.

“Think about this from the perspective of a Google search,” said Adrian Lursen of JD Supra, which distributes online information and content for businesses and law firms. “Nobody is searching for a basket of fruit; they are all searching for different types of fruit.”

How do law firms avoid this problem? They need to identify their areas of strength—areas where they can demonstrate exceptional achievement.
Read more