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5 posts from July 2007

July 30, 2007

Seven reasons you should download Blawgworld 2007 today

BlawgWorld 2007 is being released today: an e-book that samples “the most influential legal blogs” and more. It’s being announced simultaneously by all of the bloggers who were selected by TechnoLawyer, including me. My recommendation: skip the rest of this post and download your copy now .

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If you’d prefer to read my seven reasons first, they are:

Reason 1: BlawgWorld 2007 is a very efficient way to quickly find the one or two or three legal blogs you should be reading regularly. There’s far too much useful information in the world, and far too little time to read it all. In the 21st century, the keys to success will be focus and prioritization. TechnoLawyer selected the blogs which they thought would be most useful to lawyers, then asked each of the selected bloggers to pick their best post of the year.

Reason 2: It’s free.

Reason 3: It’s cool. E-books usually annoy me, but this one is easy to navigate (using the tabs at the top) and has some features I had not seen before.

Reason 4: I’m in it.

Reason 5: So is Tom Kane, the co-founder of the LegalBizDev network.

Reason 6: So is Monica Bay, who convinced me to start this blog a few years ago. And so are most of the other bloggers that I myself read regularly and that I’ve quoted often in the past year, including (in alphabetical order) Michelle Golden, Arnie Herz, Dan Hull, Patrick Lamb, Bruce Marcus, and Gerry Riskin. And a number of legal blogs that are not aimed at marketers, but that I find very valuable such as Bruce MacEwen's Adam Smith Esq., An inquiry into the economics of law firms.

Reason 7: You will see which posts we each selected as favorites of the year. I felt like I was selecting my favorite child from 52 born last year, but they made me do it.

So what are you waiting for? Download BlawgWorld2007 now.

July 25, 2007

Harvard Law School’s reaction to changes in the profession

If you have any doubts that the legal profession is changing rapidly in fundamental ways, you should talk to Harvard Law School Professor David Wilkins.
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Wilkins is the Director of Harvard’s Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry founded in 2004 to “understand the transformation of legal practice from a profession traditionally made up of small independent firms to a multi-billion dollar global business.”

I talked to him recently about a study the Center is now conducting entitled “How Corporate Clients Purchase Legal Services.” The conversation quickly turned to the bigger picture, including the Center’s goal of helping to change the way law schools teach.

“Law schools are preparing people to enter a profession that no longer exists,” Wilkins said, “with techniques that would work well for medieval England’s Chancery Court.” Last fall, based on a three year study, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously approved a program to begin curricular reform.

Wilkins hopes that ultimately the new curriculum will include classroom analysis of the types of cases the Harvard Business School made famous, probing the complexities of real-life problems faced by lawyers. Some of these case studies could be derived from a large research project that the Center started two years ago to “examine how large companies make three kinds of significant purchasing decisions: ‘bet the company’ decisions (such as asbestos bankruptcy cases), long-term relationships, and individual assignments.”

The research began with focus groups and in-depth interviews of General Counsel in the investment banking business, and then expanded to commercial banking, pharmaceuticals, and the oil and gas industry. Their goal is to interview a high percentage of S&P 500 GCs in each of these industry segments, and then to build to more quantitative surveys.

The ultimate goal is to understand how corporate buyers think about legal decisions. “We all know that there is price pressure,” Wilkins said, but his research is focusing on deeper issues of how GCs define and perceive the quality of legal services.

Another goal of the Center is to improve the connection between academia and the legal profession. They have a number of programs underway to break down the barriers, including a five day program called Leadership in Law Firms which just completed a session for 45 senior partners from firms from the US and overseas.

As a reformed academic myself, I see that connection as a very important goal, and as an enormous challenge. I think it will be particularly difficult in the current environment of rapid change. The great strengths of academic research include objectivity and a systematic approach. But these take time, and the measured pace of scholarly research may sometimes mean that by the time results are widely reported, their relevance to the present could be reduced.

For example, I’ve written before about the growing influence of procurement professionals . Hildebrandt’s 2007 Client Advisory reported that “in what may be a growing trend, 11 percent of…respondents indicated that their corporate procurement departments are actively involved in the evaluation and retention of outside counsel.”

If the influence of GCs in buying decisions declines, a study of how to make GCs happy may be more relevant to protecting relationships than it is to getting new business. But in the long run that may be even more important, and I can’t wait to read the results. The first publications may appear as early as the end of this year.

July 18, 2007

How to turn clients into partners

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When they open the Consultative Selling Hall of Fame, Larry Wilson’s statue will be in the main hall. Lawyers could learn a lot from Wilson, especially his book Stop Selling, Start Partnering: The New Thinking About Finding and Keeping Customers.

When Wilson published the first edition in 1994, he described the business climate as “Permanent White Water.” Every vendor is surrounded by churning dangerous water, he said, as a result of globalization and the growing client perception that everything is a commodity. Those trends were felt at very few law firms when the book came out, but these days they are beginning to be felt. And although the book was written for sales people over a dozen years ago, its advice is extremely relevant today to lawyers.

On page 1, Wilson starts the book by saying that all companies need to think differently about service and create “powerful relationships with your best clients.” Selling is not about pushing services onto clients, Wilson says, but about “trying to understand and help clients solve their problems.” (p. 4). Here are some key questions to ask (p. 96):

“What are your [client’s] goals?
How do they make money?
What can you do to help them expand their business?
Who are your [client’s] customers?
How can you help add value to your [client’s] customer?”

Clients must grow into partners. Partners expect solutions, trust and value-added service – exactly what David Maister described in his classic book, The Trusted Advisor. Wilson warns that any relationship – whether a marriage, a friendship, or a business partnership – is dynamic and always changing. You’d better plan to keep working at it, so that the change is in the positive direction. Constantly ask yourself (p. 184):

“How can we improve our service?
How can we respond faster to [client] requests?
Can we change our invoicing to make it easier for the [client]?
How can we be easier to deal with?
Can we be less expensive?
How can we drive out unnecessary costs?
What have we learned?
What can we change and improve?”

Wilson also addresses a key strategic question that faces large law firms every time they respond to a new RFP: whether to focus on being a low-cost provider, or a value-added provider. It is tempting to try to answer this case by case, but as Wilson points out: “It is difficult to be both” (p. 195). If you choose to be a low-cost provider, sooner or later you will be replaced by someone who bids even lower than you. Better to be a value-added provider, who constantly discovers how to:
• Save the [client] money
• Help increase the [client’s] sales
• Add value to the [client’s] customer

Lawyers who want to become partners and provide value-added service to clients, must ask this question (p. 188) every single day: “What unexpected value can I add today for the [client]?”

July 11, 2007

An easy way to keep up with legal marketing news

Did you ever wish there was a quick way to keep track of legal marketing news on the web, and make sure you don’t miss anything? Then you should try the brand new Legal Marketing Reader “the easy way to keep tabs on law firm marketing news and resources.”

Publisher Amy Campbell calls this brand new site “an experiment and an evolving project.” I like it already. My favorite part is the list of the most recent posts from top blogs. Just by seeing everything in one place, I’ve already spotted a few items that I might have otherwise missed.

The need for tools like this grows every day. Francis Bacon wrote that knowledge is power. But that was in the seventeenth century, when books were scarce. Today, we are drowning in information, and new knowledge is more likely to make you confused than powerful.

A few years ago, two professors at Berkley published a study estimating how much new information is created every year in print, film, magnetic, and optical media. They called the world wide web the “fastest growing new medium of all time,” and calculated its total information content at sixteen times the information in the Library of Congress. Of course, that was five years go, so it’s probably 30 or 40 times by now.

But wait, that’s just for the “surface web” of static, fixed web pages. When you look up a book on Amazon, the information you see on screen is not on a static page, it is dynamically displayed from an underlying database which has been called “the deep web.” So for an accurate count, you’d have to add in all that data, plus the thirty-one billion emails sent every day, all the instant messages, and all those squirrel videos on YouTube. I’d give you the detailed totals from the study but they are already out of date because their most recent analysis was on 2002 data and they estimated then that annual new information was growing by about thirty percent a year. They haven’t updated it in the last few years. I guess they got tired of counting.

With all the information out there, it’s easy to get distracted. Now what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the Legal Marketing Reader is “designed to save you time and frustration sifting through the multiple sources of information… [and] brings the best of the best to one place.”

Topblogbadge2 I’d like to believe that I am a big enough man that I would have written about this even if my blog had not been selected as one of “the best of the best.” Fortunately, I was not tested. Legal Business Development was indeed selected, and here’s my badge to prove it.

If you start watching my headlines on Legal Marketing Reader before deciding whether to come here every Wednesday, make sure you also check the Legal Marketing Blog from old friend Tom Kane, co-founder of the LegalBizDev Network. LegalBizDev is the only firm with two blogs rated among the best of the best.

The only problem with sites like this is that you have to remember to go to them. That’s why some people prefer to get the latest by email. (If you want to get this blog emailed to you every week, enter your address in the “Get email updates” box on the right side of this page.)

I’ve signed up for a few email subscriptions to other blogs, but I usually end up deleting the email before I read it. Sadly, that’s the best tactic I’ve found for keeping up with non-critical email: I don’t read it.

So I'm going to add the Legal Marketing Reader to my favorites list, and give it a try. How about you?

July 04, 2007

24 more questions to ask current clients

Current clients are your most likely source of new business, and most lawyers need to spend more time listening to them. In addition to the 34 questions in last week’s blog, these 24 can get your clients talking about what they like and dislike, which is the easiest path to new business. Fourteen big picture questions for current clients

  1. What do you like about working with our firm?
  2. What could we do better?
  3. How would you rate your overall satisfaction?
  4. What could we do to increase our rating?
  5. In the past, what are some of the things that you’ve liked most about working with law firms, both our firm and others?
  6. What have you liked least about working with law firms?
  7. Do you see any future trends in your business or industry that will affect the need for legal services?
  8. How important to you is it that we understand your industry?
  9. What could we do to make your life easier?
  10. Can you think of any other ways we could help clients like you, or new services we could offer?
  11. Could we better use technology to be of service to you?
  12. What type of status reporting do you like? Weekly? Monthly? Email or phone?
  13. Would you recommend our firm to others? Why or why not?
  14. If you managed a firm like ours, what would you do differently?

Ten detail questions for current clients These questions address your service. They could easily be reworded to ask how clients perceive other law firms they have worked with in the past, which is an excellent way to get insights into where competitors are vulnerable.

  1. How would you rate the quality of our legal product?
  2. How well do we listen to your concerns?
  3. How well do we understand your goals?
  4. How well do we understand your industry?
  5. Do we do a good job of keeping you informed?
  6. Do we explain legal issues in terms that are easy for non-lawyers to understand?
  7. Do you perceive us as genuinely interested in your success?
  8. Do you perceive our lawyers as prompt, responsive, and accessible on short notice?
  9. Are our billing statements accurate and complete?
  10. Do you think our fees are fair and reasonable?

This material was adapted from The LegalBizDev Success Kit