Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Marketing

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Nov 24, 2015


Law Firm Business Development/Marketing Manager Position

Question:

I am the managing partner of a twenty seven lawyer insurance defense firm in Orlando, Florida. In the last seven years we have grown from ten lawyers to twenty seven. Our firm is very dependent upon a handful of insurance companies and we are looking at ways to diversify our practice. Our rapid growth has caused us to outgrow our management structure. A few years ago we hired our first firm administrator to manage the business operations of the firm. We are now considering establishing a business development/marketing position to help focus our business development efforts. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

I would start by giving some thought to your organizational structure overall. How and where does this position line up with the other management positions in the firm? Will the position report to the firm administrator or will the position be equal in stature to the firm administrator and report to the managing partner or executive committee? What will be the title of the position – marketing director, director of business development, business development manager, etc.? Will the position have assistants/direct reports? What are the position's performance expectations and duties?

Often law firms do not have a successful experience with their first business development/marketing manager. Typically this is a result of not taking the time to define the position, performance expectations, required skills and competencies, and hiring a candidate with the maturity and leadership required to be successful in the role.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. For the initial position – use a title similar to Business Development or Marketing Manager (Director of Business Development at such time in the future as the administrator's role grows warranting the title of Executive Director or Director of Administration).
  2. Have a position equal in stature to the Firm Administrator with both reporting to the managing partner or executive committee.
  3. Develop a sound position description

SAMPLE JOB DESCRIPTION

The business development manager is responsible for the management of all aspects of business development within the firm and supports business development initiatives within the firm. This management will occur either through direct activities, direct reports or delegation to subordinate staff. Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  1. Develop, recommend, and manage the firm marketing plan.
  2. Supervise marketing support personnel.
  3. Support the firm, practice groups, and individual attorney's business development initiatives and programs.
  4. Recommend markets and projects to pursue.
  5. Track and follow-up firm marketing and business development leads.
  6. Manage firm business relationships.
  7. Direct internal and external firm marketing and business communications.
  8. Represent the firm at trade shows and other events.
  9. Manage marketing and business development events and activities.
  10. Write the firm newsletter.
  11. Update and maintain the firm website.
  12. Develop and maintain the firm brochure.
  13. Participate in the strategic planning process.
  14. Hire, train, and coach marketing staff, practice group chairs, and individual attorneys

Doing your homework upfront will pay dividends and insure that the position is successful.     

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

Oct 20, 2015


Law Firm Competitive Strategy – Daring to Be Different

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 16 attorney business transactional firm in Chicago. Over the last five years we have lost several core clients due to client consolidation of their outside law firms and mergers of the clients themselves. Competition is getting fierce in our market, our services are being viewed as commodities, and it is getting harder to stand out. What can we do to differentiate ourselves from everyone else? We welcome your thoughts.

Response: 

Creating a competitive advantage that is sustainable over time is difficult at best. It is so easy for your competitors to copycat your recent innovations. Clients of law firms advise us that they hire the lawyer – not the firm. However, this only partly true. The firm – its image – its brand – provides a backdrop for the individual attorneys marketing efforts as well – makes marketing easier – and provides backup and bench strength that many clients require before retaining a lawyer.

In general the law firm is faced with the dual challenge of developing a reputation (brand) at both the firm and the individual lawyer level. In general – client delivery practices and behaviors that are part of the firm's core values and have been burned into the firm's cultural fabric are the hardest to copycat.

Areas in which you can consider differentiation strategies:

https://www.olmsteadassoc.com/blog/category/strategy/

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

 

Sep 08, 2015


Law Firm Profitability – Increasing Fees & Risk of Losing Business

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 14 attorney estate planning firm in Lexington, Kentucky. We took a hard hit in 2008 when the recession hit and have just been recovering over the last couple of years. Business is up but profits are still flat. We have not raised our hourly billing rates for several years for fear that we will not be competitive and will lose out on business. However, we believe that we must increase our billing rates and are concerned. What are your thoughts?

Response: 

I would bet that you are leaving money on the table and you should in fact increase your billing rates. Often I find that law firms are more concerned about their rates than their clients are. You must remain competitive for the value package (including your experience, expertise, and reputation) that you are delivering. This does not mean being the cheapest estate planning firm in town. Some of my most successful estate planning firms are those charging the highest fees. 

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Do some research on the going rates in your market area for estate planning law firms of you caliber.
  2. See if there is data available from your professional organizations such as The Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, The Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, etc. 
  3. Determine if your competitors are using other than time billing fee arrangements.
  4. Explore alternative billing arrangements for estate planning matters. Many of my client law firms are using flat fee arrangements for estate planning.
  5.  Since your clients are individuals and typically single matter clients (at least initially) experiment (pilot test) with new prospective clients with increased rates and determine whether there is "pushback" and to what extent your prospect/client conversion ratio is being impacted.
  6. Offer prospective new clients more than one option.
  7. Initially leave your old rates in place for existing clients with open matters.
  8. Measure and evaluate impact.

You may find that clients are not as concerned about your fees as you are. 

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

May 12, 2015


Law Firm Marketing and Advertising – How Much Should a Bankruptcy Firm Spend on Marketing

Question:

I am the sole owner of a debtor bankruptcy practice. I have one other attorney and three staff members. Last year we spent $50,000 of advertising. Our fees collected were $550,000 and Net Income was around $160,000. Are we spending too much?

Response:

You are spending 9% of fee revenue. I believe that in a consumer practice such as personal injury and debtor bankruptcy you have to spend around 10% of fee revenue to get the business you need to sustain the practice. I have some practices spending 19% of revenue.

So, I don't think you are necessarily spending too much if the advertising is working for you. You have to constantly measure the ROI on your advertising and fine tune it when needed.

Also, insure that the business is actually coming from the advertising – in other words don't advertise to get business you would have had anyway or in a market that you have saturated and more advertising will not yield any additional business.

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

Apr 07, 2015


Law Firm Website Search Results in Google – April 21, 2015 Google Update May Impact Your Google Ranking

Question:

I am the managing partner with a 14 attorney firm in Cleveland. A friend of my just advised me that Google was coming out with a change to their search engine that might impact our website. Have you heard anything?

Response:

Yes. Google is making a change to their algorithm on April 21, 2015 that will favor mobile-friendly websites.

If your website is not truly compatible with the hundreds of millions of mobile devices out there your search ranking will be penalized. Google is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to mobile functionality and search engine results.

I suggest that you update your site as soon as possible. We are having to upgrade our site as well. Weblinx from the ChicagoLand area is doing our upgrade 

Here is a link to a Google tool that will test your site. 

Here is a link to other information regarding the Google update

I believe that a firm's website and it's search engine optimization strategy is a top marketing priority for all law firms and worthy of appropriate investement to keep it working for you.

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

Jan 07, 2015


Law Firm Marketing – Focusing on a Niche

Question:

I am with a 17 attorney general business firm located in Boston and chair of the firm's three member marketing committee. At this year's planning retreat we discussed the concept of niche marketing and whether we should focus on a specific niche. Your thoughts would be appreciated.


Response:

A niche marketing strategy can help you stand out from the crowd by focusing on a particular segment. Here is an outline of a typical niche marketing program.

  1. Reach Out to Existing and Potential Referral Sources
    1. Contact existing and past client that would be willing to provide leads, give you written testimonials/references and involve you in their professional and trade associations
    2. Contact non-client influentials – attorneys, bankers, editors, executive directors of industry associations, media, and community leaders and work with these people.
    3. Existing practice profile and factors as well as referral sources form the bedrock of a law firm.
  2. Targets of Opportunity
    1. Additional targets of influence
  3. Offer Silver Bullets – Solutions to hot button issues that potential clients have.
  4. Targeting a Niche
    1. Selecting a Niche Target
      1. Size
      2. Location/Zip Codes
      3. Type of Business/Industry
      4. Practice Area
      5. Competitors
    2. Develop an insider understanding of the niche industry (industry success factors)
      1. Critical success factors
      2. Key ratios
      3. Key publications of the niche
      4. Writing, speaking, leveraging memberships with key organizations
    3. Objectives and desired outcomes
    4. Prospective niche client profile
    5. Library of niche publications
    6. Niche database
      1. Existing clients
      2. Prospective clients
      3. Non-client influentials

Often a niche strategy does not involve a new area of practice – it may involve delivering services that you already perform – but marketed to a specific industry group. In essence you are learning the unique needs of a specific industry group, learning their language, and demonstrating that you understand their business better than your competition. An example would by an insurance defense firm that handles the defense for a couple of trucking cases and then creates a niche around the trucking industry.

Place your niche marketing strategy carefully. It takes time, financial resources, and commitment to successfully pull off a niche marketing strategy. Don't try to focus on more than one or two niche markets and insure that the niche that you are targeting is large enough to satisfy your objectives and justify the time and resources that you will be required to invest.

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

 

Oct 28, 2014


Law Firm Marketing – Should We Advertise?

Question:

I am the managing partner of a six attorney general practice firm located in Arlington Heights, Illinois. We have been in practice for ten years. In the past most of our business has come to us through client and attorney referrals. We have not advertised. However, several of our attorneys are pushing us to embark on an extensive advertising program. I am interested in your thoughts.

Response:

Keep in mind that advertising is only one form of promotion and promotion is only one of the four elements of a firm's marketing mix. Other elements such as service strategy, pricing strategy, and service delivery strategy are often more important to the firm than its promotion strategy. For firms that are providing commodity type legal services such as personal injury, divorce etc, extensive advertising can work very effectively. However, for firms that are providing customized differentiated legal services this form of promotion is usually not effective nor appropriate. This is why it is so important for law firms to formulate their business and marketing strategies and plans before implementing specific marketing promotional programs.

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

 

 

 

Oct 14, 2014


Law Firm Client Service Standards

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 14 attorney business law firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Our marketing committee has been discussing marketing initiatives and is planning on a client service initiative. Where do you suggest that we start?

Response:

You might want to start by putting in place some basic client service standards. For example:

Look for ways to become your client's trusted advisor rather that their hired gun that they only call on when they are in trouble.

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

 

 

 

Sep 24, 2014


Law Firm Business Development – Individual Attorney Personal Branding

Question:

I am the owner and founder of a 7 attorney personal injury plaintiff firm in the southwest. Over the years we have become the "go to" PI firm in the area. We have an extensive advertising program including TV, radio, and other mediums. I bring in all the business and the other six associate attorneys are primarily worker bees. I have discouraged business development by the associates and now as I approach my retirement years I am realizing that this may have been a mistake and it make take more than a "firm brand" for the firm to transition to the next generation. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

While I believe that a solid firm brand is important and can provide practice value when you transition and retire from the practice of law the failure of your attorneys to develop their own brands or identities will make the transition more difficult and could even result in your firm becoming a "one generation law firm". Clients of law firms tell us they hire lawyers – not law firms. Even through you advertise – your reputation and rainmaking skills have had a lot to do with your success. Your associates must develop their reputations and hone their rainmaking skills as well and you need to help them do this. Here are a few ideas:

  1. If you do not have a marketing plan for the firm – develop one. This will help focus the firm's initiatives and serve as the glue for individual attorney personal plans.
  2. Announce that business development is important and that business development goals and plans will be developed for associates and incorporated into performance reviews and compensation determinations.
  3. Initiate business development training sessions for associates.
  4. Require each associate to prepare a personal marketing plan (business development plan) each year. These plans should be goal driven with specific SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and on a date specific timeline), approved by you, results monitored quarterly, and incorporated into annual performance reviews and compensation determinations.
  5. Get your associates networking, writing blogs and articles, speaking, and press coverage when possible on case results.

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

 

 

Aug 04, 2014


Law Firm Client Telephone Satisfaction Interviews in Insurance Defense Law Firms

Question:

I am the chair of our firm's marketing committee. We are a 24 attorney insurance defense firm in Houston. While we solicit feedback from some of our larger insurance company clients at lunch and face to face meetings – the sessions are not structured, data is not really tabulated, and only a handful of clients are usually involved. We have been thinking of embarking on a more structured process. I would appreciate your thoughts:

Response:

Our firm recently completed client satisfaction interviews for several of our insurance defense law firm clients. Here are a few quotes and a summary of what these insurance company law firm clients told us:

Much can be learned by talking to your clients. Structured telephone interviews conducted by a neutral in-house law firm marketing employee or outside third party can provide many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction interviews can be the best marketing investment that you can make.

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

 

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