Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Marketing

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Nov 28, 2017


Business Development for New Associate Attorneys

Question: 

I am a partner in a fourteen attorney firm in Denver, Colorado. We have six equity partners and eight associate attorneys in the firm. Our practice is limited to health care law. We represent many of the local hospitals in the area. Our associates range from associates that have been with the firm less than a year to associates that have been with the firm for over fifteen years. None of our associates have developed business development skills and none of them have ever brought in a single client. Most of our associates would not even be able to retain our existing clients if the partners for one reason or another left the firm. This is in part our fault. When we hired them we told them that we had plenty of client work and their mission was to “bill hours” and service our clients. However, as we the partners age and consider the future of the firm we are beginning to realize that this was a mistake. How can we turn this around?

Response:

The earlier that attorneys start to build client development into their weekly routines, the easier it will be for them to bring in business later. Many successful rainmaking attorneys began their business development efforts early in their careers, usually during their first year or two as attorneys. This is a pattern that you want your attorneys to emulate. The firm should set expectations about the kind of effort the firm is looking for at each level in an attorney’s career. It should then support these expectations with appropriate training for each level. Training should begin as soon as an attorney is hired. During the initial firm new associate training session, provide an hour’s instruction on client development. That will help new associate hires realize that they will have to bring in business later in their careers and they can start building a foundation  for later business development efforts immediately. The quantity of education on client development should increase as an attorney advances within the firm. This should be reinforced by mentors assigned to associate attorneys.

When your associates reach the point in their careers when they should be bringing in business, the focus on business development needs to increase. Business goals should be developed and attorneys at this level should be required to prepare annual personal business development plans. These goals and plans should be linked performance reviews and to compensation.

It will take time to create this culture in your firm.  It may be too late for some. I would announce that it is a new day, launch a program, and stay on top of it.

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

 

Sep 13, 2017


Institutionalizing Your Law Practice

Question: 

I am the sole owner of a six-attorney estate planning practice in Phoenix, Arizona. The five associates have been with me from five to fifteen years. I just turned fifty-five and would like to retire when I am sixty-five either by selling my practice to another firm or to one or more of my associates. I would like to receive some remuneration for the sweat equity that I have invested (goodwill). I have tried over the years to setup my practice in a way that it is not “just me.” I changed the name of my firm to a trade name that does not include my name, arranged the lawyers names on our letterhead and website alphabetically, and eliminated designations such as principal and associate. I believe that I have made it difficult for clients and prospective clients to know who the boss is. I hope that this will make my firm more salable and appealing in the future. I would appreciate your comments.

Response:

I took a look at your website and thought it was pretty easy to see that you are the firm. For example:

I suspect that you are the rainmaker and in spite of any advertising that the firm does and your website most of the firm’s business comes from your referral sources, past clients, and your reputation.

I believe you have to do more than what you have done to institutionalize your practice. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Motivate and push if necessary your associates to write and publish and get these works posted to the website.
  2. Motivate and push if necessary your associates to give presentations at bar and other professional association and community events.
  3. Motivate and push if necessary your associates to present firm seminars.
  4. Post your associates works to your website and to their bios.
  5. Require your associates to become certified as estate and trust attorneys with the Arizona Bar.
  6. Consider revamping your compensation system to motivate and reinforce the above activities.
  7. Incorporate the above as “performance factors” in annual performance reviews.
  8. As time passes if you find that your associates are unwilling to step up to the plate consider hiring different type of lawyers in the future.
  9. Do more advertising to increase the business that comes into the firm from other than your personal reputation.
  10. If you have not already, fully document your office procedures and automate your practice.

If you are able to accomplish many of the above suggestions you will be on your way to institutionalizing your practice.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 16, 2017


Book Writing as a Business Development Strategy for Attorneys

Question: 

I am a partner in a eighteen attorney law firm in Jacksonville, Florida. Our business development committee is requiring all attorneys to submit annual personal business development plans and become more involved in business development. I have been thinking about writing a book. Is such a goal worth my time investment? I welcome your thoughts.

Response: 

While writing a book is not terribly difficult, it takes time and commitment and it will consume some non-billable hours. However, as David Maister often states,”attorneys should consider their billable time as their current income and their non-billable time as their future.”  In other words non-billable time is an investment in your future – the long-term. I believe that authoring a book is an excellent way of building your professional reputation and brand and it will pay dividends in the long-term. Authoring a book can create opportunities that could change your whole life.

When I wrote my book I had 142 non-billable hours invested in the book and I had some content available from past articles that I had written over the years. Often a good starting point is to start writing articles around a particular topic/theme and later tie them together in a book. This is a good way of taking “baby steps.”

During the writing process, authoring a book may seem like anything but freedom. However, it is a trade-off. Work for the book now and it will work for you later.

Your published book can generate income for years while you are doing something else. In addition to financial rewards, other payoffs for writing a successful book include:

While your law firm may be doing all the right things to build the “firm brand” I believe that each attorney must build their personal brands as well. Clients advise us that they hire lawyers – not law firms. This is not totally true as in many cases the law firm’s brand may get the firm on a prospective client’s short list – but after that it is more about the lawyers handling a client’s matters. This is why prospective clients ask for the bios of all the attorneys in the firm.

Writing a book can assist you in achieving your business development goals but it is a long-term investment and not a quick fix.

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

May 02, 2017


Increasing Law Firm Revenues Through Additional Marketing Investment

Question: 

I am the solo owner of a two attorney firm in Atlanta. I have been in practice for thirteen years. I have one associates that has been with me for one year, one full-time paralegal, and two part time assistants. I have a general practice. Revenues have stagnated and I need to identify strategies for getting to the next level. My practice is struggling. I have been thinking about narrowing my practice and focusing on five or six practice areas. I am ready to invest in marketing. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response: 

This is the age of specialization – less often results in more. Many attorneys in small general practice firms are afraid to specialize and focus on three or less – even one – area of practice. The concern is that by specializing there simply will not be enough business of keep the attorneys busy generating sufficient revenues.

I have worked with several firms that have shifted their practices from general practices to practices limited to estate planning and elder law and they have performed far better as specialized practices than they did as general practices. I suggest that you consider focusing your practice on on no more than 2-3 key practice areas in which you can differentiate yourself.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Don’t copycat. Brand yourself. Look for ways to differentiate yourself and your firm from your competitors. Become the only attorney that can do what you do. Make a decision – what do you want to be known and remembered for? Unique services, unique client groups, different service delivery strategy, personal style. Create a five-year plan for goal accomplishment.
  2. Create a marketing culture and environment. Marketing and client service needs to be incorporated into the culture of the firm. All attorneys and staff should have a role in marketing. Owners/partners must walk the talk and consistently, build and reinforce the marketing goals of the firm. Marketing goals and action plans should be formulated and team members held accountable. Over time a marketing mindset will emerge.
  3. Learn how to become “solutions orientated” and become a consultant to your clients as opposed to simply their attorney. Solutions may involve activities and services other than legal services. Think out-of-the-box and outside of typical frameworks in which you are comfortable.
  4. Join a client’s trade association and make contributions in the form of articles, speeches, conference attendance, etc. Learn the client’s business from top to bottom.
  5. Increase your geographic reach – possibly a state wide or multi-state practice.
  6. Institute quarterly client service/marketing brainstorming sessions. Break the rules. Encourage all members in the firm to think out-of-the-box and innovate. Look for new ways to solve client problems. Look for new solutions. No topic should be initially be considered out-of-bounds.
  7. Write an article every other month.
  8. Take a client or referral source to lunch once a week.
  9. Establish a marketing library to include general materials on marketing as well as specific publications related to your clients business.
  10. Provide marketing training/coaching for attorneys and staff. and improve time management skills of everyone in the firm.

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

 

 

Feb 28, 2017


Personal Injury Law Firm TV Advertising – Prerequisites to Launching a Program

Question: 

I am the owner of a plaintiff personal injury law firm in Arlington, Texas. I have three associate attorneys, six non-lawyer case managers, and three other staff members. Our marketing consists of our yellow pages program and our website. I am considering TV advertising and I would appreciate your thoughts concerning venturing into this arena.

Response: 

This is a big step. TV advertising does work for personal injury plaintiff firms and can take your firm to the next level if you can afford it and are willing to stay the course. A few years ago the managing partner of a a very successful personal injury plaintiff firm stated to me “if I could only afford to do one marketing thing it would be TV advertising.” You can’t dabble with advertising – you must invest for the long haul and have the proper infrastructure in place to process new client inquiries, book appointments, and handle new client intake appointments. If this foundation is not laid you should not invest in a TV advertising program. Here are a few thoughts and observations:

  1. Establish your advertising goals and objectives.
  2. Retain a top notch media consulting firm with law firm expertise.
  3. Establish an advertising budget for at least six months – one year is better.
  4. Secure adequate capital to finance your advertising budget.
  5. Be prepared for borrow money.
  6. Develop your operational infrastructure. This consist of everything from your advertising tracking database, case management system, website, call center/telephone system, call scripts, documented intake process and procedures, dedicated intake call operators, designated people to take in new cases, and case evaluation protocols.
  7. Have a process in place to handle and respond to new case calls after hours and on weekends including attorneys on call able to meet with prospective clients during these times.

We have all seen personal injury plaintiff firms that dabble in TV advertising – on TV today and off-air tomorrow. They spent a lot of money and were hoping for immediate gratification. When after running ads for a month or two and they have few or no new cases they concluded that TV advertising does not work. The truth is they were not prepared to stay in the game long enough. This does not work.

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

 

Dec 13, 2016


Law Firm Marketing – Marketing a Litigation Defense Practice

Question:

Our firm is a fourteen attorney general practice firm located in Dayton, Ohio. Two of our attorneys focus their practice on personal injury defense and the other attorneys are transactional attorneys. While the practice is doing well overall, our litigation work is dropping off. I would appreciate any ideas that you have pertaining to marketing a litigation defense practice.

Response:

Insurance carriers are a leading purchaser of insurance defense services – but so are self-insureds – big box retainers, national restaurants and food chains, sports arenas, shopping centers, and municipalities. Typical decision-makers:

The law firm needs to know who they want to target and often have to make application to get on the panel/list of approved counsel, respond to RFP’s, submit proposals, etc. to get the business.  In other words, the law firm needs to first get on the list. Then the law firm needs to cultivate relationships with the typical decision-makers.  This is getting harder as many companies have policies against such other than education formats such as seminars, presentations, etc.

Some marketing tools needed to market a defense litigation practice:

I would start by developing a target client list, an action plan, and go from there.

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

Dec 06, 2016


Law Firm Client Development – Getting and Keeping Clients – Roles for Associates

Question:

Our firm is a twenty two lawyer insurance defense firm in Seattle. Over the years we have told our associates that they were hired to work on firm business and there was no requirement for them to develop or bring in client business. In fact we specifically asked them not to bring in business. Now we are rethinking that policy. Many of our equity partners are retiring and we are finding we have a group of grinders – with very few minders or finders capable of either retaining existing clients or bringing in new clients. What are your thoughts?

Response:

Over the years, I have seen many law firms hire associates and tell them that there is plenty of work and they are hired to service the firm’s work and there is no need, or even desire, for them to develop and bring client business into the firm. For years, these associates meet their billable hour expectations, work their files, and get good results on their cases.  Twenty years later they are still associates – what went wrong? What are they not equity partners? Often it is because they have not developed client business.

Successful lawyers in private practice must not only do excellent legal work for their clients they must also develop client business. I believe that each attorney must invest money and time in building and promoting their expertise, professional reputation, and their personal brand. Law firms should not only encourage but should require, support, and fund (money and non-billable time) marketing/business development at the individual attorney level. Client development skills have to be developed and practiced early on.

Due to your client base (insurance companies) it may not be that easy for associates to actually bring in new clients unless the firm is diversifying into other practice areas (unless that is your goal). However, they can start by being good minders – client relationship managers – and work on getting more business from existing clients and maintaining client relationships that the firm has.

Client Development is externally focused – relationship management is more internally focused.

Skills for developing new clients and those needed for maintaining good relations are not the same.

While you associates will each have different abilities they should be honing their skills in one of the following areas:

Rainmakers – win new business from new clients and their strength is networking.They serve on boards, attend events, play golf, and entertain clients; prospective clients.

Hired Guns – win new business from new clients – emphasis on expertise.(They speak, write, give seminars, and become experts in a specific field)

Brain Surgeons – win new business from existing clients – internal focus; emphasis is on expertise – they solve problems that others cannot.

The Point Person – wins new business from existing clients and have an internal focus.

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

 

Nov 15, 2016


Law Firm Client Development – Using Social Media

Question:

I am the partner recently put in charge of marketing in our eight lawyer general practice firm. For years we have simply relied on referrals from past clients, lawyers, and other referral sources as our sole means of client development. A few years ago we invested in a website. We are now considering whether we should invest in social media. I welcome your thoughts.

Response:

A recent survey conducted by FindLaw reports that a majority of consumers says that social media plays a major role in deciding which attorney to hire and they would be likely to hire an attorney who has an active presence on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The FindLaw survey found that 84 percent of American adults use at least one form of social media, with Facebook the most popular (73 percent), followed by Instagram (28 percent), Twitter (27 percent), LinkedIn (21 percent), and SnapChat (16 percent). Fifty-four percent of consumers say they would be likely to hire an attorney who is active on social media. This is particularly true for younger consumers. Sixty-nine percent of survey participants between the ages of 18 and 44 would hire  attorneys who are active on social media.

Since your firm is a general practice firm I assume that a majority of your clients are individuals rather than businesses. If this is the case you should have an active Facebook presence for this audience and an active LinkedIn presence for your professional audience. Your LinkedIn profile should be updated periodically. You should post to your Facebook account at least once a week.

Your biggest investment is your time and you can get carried away. Some of my clients outsource Facebook postings to their website providers or others that provide such services.

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

Sep 27, 2016


Law Firm Marketing – Client Development for an Insurance Defense Firm

Question:

I am the managing partner of a thirty attorney insurance defense firm in Arlington, Texas. While we are still in our first generation – several of our partners are approaching retirement and some of our relationships in our insurance company clients are also retiring. We are looking for ways to shore up and expand our client base. We would appreciate your suggestions.

Response:

You need to get on more "approved lists" of insurance companies. Once you are on these lists you have to entice claims manager to use you as opposed to other law firms that are on their approved lists. In other words establish relationships with numerous claims managers throughout the company. This is harder than it used to be due to policies that many companies now have prohibiting various forms of networking such as dinners, gifts, ball games, etc. Now days it seems that educational venues is one of the few formats that is not frowned upon. 

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Become involved in every possible organization that involves insurance claims, ACCA, and other such groups.
  2. Join and become actively involved in these groups.
  3. Offer to give speeches and presentations to these groups.
  4. Develop relationships with news reporters and have an effective public relations program that insures that you get all the PR you can when you have successful outcomes in your cases.
  5. Speak at ACCA and RIMS (Risk Insurance Management Society) conferences.
  6. Form alliances with bigger regional and national insurance defense firms.
  7. Research target companies and make application to get on their approved lists.
  8. Obtain listings in A.M. Best and Martindale.
  9. Get on the speaker list with seminars groups that target the insurance industry client industry – for example Perrin Conferences.
  10. Have a quality website that demonstrates expertise and a e-newsletter that provides information that will help claims managers and adjuster be more successful.

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

Jul 26, 2016


Law Firm Marketing – How Much Should We Be Spending on Marketing?

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 12 attorney firm in Providence, Rhode Island. In our recent partner meetings we have been discussing ramping up marketing. How much should we be spending on marketing?

Response:

Studies that have been conducted indicate that law firms that provide services to business firms (B2B) spend approximately 2.4% of fee revenue on marketing. However, law firms that focus on individual consumers (retail law if you will) spend much more – 10%+ of fee revenues on marketing – especially if strong referral networks are not in place. I have several PI, SSDI, Elder Law and Estate Planning firm clients that are spending 10%+ of their fee revenue or greater on marketing. I have some extremely successful PI firm clients spending 20% of their revenue on marketing. 

The amount of appropriate investment can depend upon referral networks in place. I have successful PI and Estate Planning firms that are spending very little on marketing, are getting all of their business from their referral networks, and spending next to nothing on marketing and advertising. (By referrals I am speaking about professional referrals not involving a referral fee and client referrals. If referral fees are involved they should be considered a marketing cost) So it depends upon your situation, the type of cases you are going after, etc.

Be careful of spending to be spending. Marketing expense scan be a deep hold that yields no return on investment. Insure that your marketing investments are targeted, well thought out, measured, and are working. Determine up from whether your goal is long term brand building or short term lead generation going in.

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

 

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