Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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July 2009

Jul 15, 2009


Lawyer Networking As a Marketing Strategy

Question:

I am having problems with effective client development. I believe that I need to do more networking and become involve in professional organizations. Suggestions?

Response:

Definitely. However, here are a few ideas and guidelines.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Jul 15, 2009


Newsrooms on Law Firm Websites

Question:

More and more law firms are using web sites. Where are these sites falling short? What about news rooms?

Response:

There is another audience besides clients and prospective clients. That audience is the media. Law firm web sites need to direct more focus on the media and the recognize the benefit of effective public relations. Law firm web sites should incorporate first-rate online press rooms.

The first wave of law firm web sites was often the brainchild of the marketing department or the attorneys. As a result reporters were often forgotten in the rush to publish.  However, for most firms, the news media is a clear and well-defined audience. What type of information should we provide that is key to this audience?

Contact Information

Too many web sites bury any contact information, much less specifics on whom to call  for an “on the record” statement. Many sites, if they include any contact information, will  only include an address, phone and fax – no names.

If you want to make friends with the media, make it easy for them to call (or e-mail) you.  Whether it is a link from the home page, or an easily-found link in the “about us” or   “news” sections of your web site – give the media basic information about branch offices – along with names and phone numbers. Don’t forget the area code.

 

If you are concerned about e-mail overload, set up a special e-mail address for media  inquiries (but make sure that it is checked more than once a day). If your web administrator persuades you to use “form mail” (instead of an e-mail link) minimize the  “required” fields and tell the reporter, up front, that he/she will receive a copy of the      correspondence upon “send.” (These are two functional requirements that you should  insist upon.)

 

Archived News Releases

 

This seems like so much common sense that I don’t understand why many have foregone  this courtesy. Not only is it a boon for reporters (90% say they use the web for research)  or others who are researching your firm, industry, or a event of the day, but it also allows  you to let the world know what your organization has said about any given topic. Think of it as self-publishing.

 

Search engines may or may not be a good idea for archives. I suggest taking a little time  (so that reporters don’t have to) and organizing news releases in annual archives as well as subjective ones. Some releases will fall into more than one subject category. Use hyperlinks and the web.

 

Downloads

 

Your web site allows you to have a 24×7 presence for the media, which is especially  crucial for firms with a global presence. Think about common requests that could easily be delivered via the web:

 

If you do set up a special section for the media, as a general rule, don’t require registration or “credentialing.” There are exceptions to this rule, but they are in the distinct minority for most firms.

 

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Jul 15, 2009


Should We Merge With Another Law FIrm

Question:

We are a small six attorney litigation firm. We have two partners and three associates. One of the partners wants to retire within the next five years. The other partner will continue to practice for another 10-15 years. We love practicing law and consider ourselves to be very good lawyers. However, we find firm management and administration to be a challenge and we are not skilled in this area nor do we want to be. We have a good book of business and clients. Recently, we began discussing the possibility of merging with another law firm. What are your thoughts about firm's like ours merging with another law firm?

Response:

Obviously, merger or acquisition of law firms is becoming more and more commonplace. Hildebrand is projecting 44 mergers (firms with five or more attorneys) in 2007. However, research indicates that 1/3 to 1/2 of all mergers fail to meet expectations due to cultural misalignment and personnel problems. Don't try to use a merger or acquisition as a life raft, for the wrong reasons and as your sole strategy. Successful mergers are based upon a sound integrated business strategy that creates synergy and a combined firm that produces greater client value than either firm can produced alone. 

Right reasons for merging might include:

  1. Improve the firm's competitive position.
  2. Increase specialization – obtain additional expertise.
  3. Expand into other geographic regions.
  4. Add new practice areas.
  5. Increase or decrease client base.
  6. Improve and/or solidify client relationships.

I would start by thinking about your reasons for wanting to merge and your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions?

  1. Do you want to practice in a large firm? If not, what is the largest firm that you would want to practice in?
  2. What is driving the desire to merge?
  3. If the desire to merge is being driven by a desire to retreat from internal problems – what have you done to address these issues internally? 
  4. Is your name being part of the firm name important to you?
  5. What are your expectations and objectives for a merger?
  6. What are you looking from a merger partner?

Make sure that you look for a complimentary fit. Since you are weak in firm leadership, management and administration – look for a partner that is strong in these areas. Strong leadership, management, and administration may be hard to find in a firm under 25 attorneys.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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