In an attempt to attract more lawyers, the Legal Marketing Association introduced a new full-day program at this year's conference -- Just JDs. Here is a review of this program that I wrote for Law Week Colorado:
LMA made a strong effort to attract more lawyers to the 2010 conference. The Just JDs session started out with about 25 attendees – all partners -- but had grown to 40 by the mid-day break as word spread about the quality of the speakers, many of whom were lawyers as well as consultants.
“In today’s competitive marketplace for legal services, it is not enough to be a ‘good lawyer and a nice guy (or gal)’ in the eyes of your clients,” said James Durham, chief marketing and business development officer at McGuire Woods. “You need to be ‘the best lawyer your clients have ever worked with.’”
The way to do this, according to Durham, is to develop a goal-driven personal client-development plan. “The biggest danger is getting bogged down in the planning process,” said Durham. “Lawyers love the planning process. It feels good to them. Take a few hours to develop a common sense plan – then just get started.”
What makes a lawyer “the best lawyer I’ve ever worked with” in the eyes of general counsel? “At a certain level, legal skill is a given,” said Durham. “Clients perceive value in outside counsel who help them make money, save money, look good within their organizations and sleep better at night knowing their legal problems are being managed,” said Durham.
Deborah Knupp of Akina Corporation discussed “how lawyers can sell their legal services without making their skin crawl.” She presented a useful list of top ten business development tactics as well as a set of worksheets.
Knupp suggested creating a list of 20 people who either need what you are selling or know someone who does. “Then discover an authentic reason to connect with these individuals by introducing them to others, providing them with relevant information, or inviting them to join you for coffee or breakfast -- or at an event of mutual interest,” said Knupp. She cautions against lunches, which are too time-consuming for both parties.
“Every lawyer should be prepared with two key messages at all times – a ‘quick pitch’ message and a ‘what’s new’ message,” said Knupp. The ‘quick pitch’ answers the question, ‘what do you do?’ in language that states not only that you are a lawyer, but also the kinds of problems you solve for clients.
“The ‘what’s new’ message answers that question with a reply other than ‘not much,’ or ‘I’m swamped,’” said Knupp. “Use this query as an opportunity to talk about something interesting – in the eyes of your target – that you are working on. Be sure to follow up by asking the other person what they are working on.”
Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing, who organized the Just JDs program, addressed the use of marketing tools – especially Web sites -- to increase a law firm’s exposure. “Law firms need both marketing and business development,” said Fishman. “Marketing creates opportunities by setting the stage. Business development capitalizes on those opportunities to bring in new work.”
Fishman does a lot of work with small and mid-size firms. “There is a common perception that bigger is better,” said Fishman. “Small and mid-size firms have more to prove than large firms. They can do this by focusing on a particular niche, by being less expensive, and by using creativity in order to be more memorable.”
When the economy is bad, many law firms attempt to cut costs by cutting back on marketing efforts – at a time when many large companies are actively looking for less-expensive small and mid-size alternatives. “Cutting back on marketing is a big mistake,” said Fishman. “As your competitors cut back, you can really widen the gap between them and you by marketing aggressively.”
Alvidas Jasin, director of business development at Thompson Hine, discussed the use of competitive and client intelligence to increase business from existing clients and gain new clients. “Never try to guess what it is that your clients want,” said Jasin. “Ask them. Lawyers often hesitate to do this but, trust me, clients love to be asked.”
“To take care of your existing clients,” said Jasin, “create client teams that include lawyers, paralegals and staff – and let your clients know about it. Use end-of-matter surveys as an opportunity to touch base, improve your service and perhaps gain new work. Conduct annual client meetings with your most significant clients – and use this information to continuously improve your client relationship.
“Most importantly, do not seek client input unless you are fully committed to acting on the feedback you receive,” said Jasin. “Nothing is more harmful to a relationship than seeking input, raising expectations, and then not living up to those expectations.”
When seeking new clients, use relationships. “I strongly discourage any kind of cold call,” said Jasin. “Find someone inside or outside your firm who can make an introduction. Thoroughly research the target and its legal needs. Create a team that reflects the client’s team and a pitch that is customized to the client’s needs.”
Public relations campaigns focused on narrow, niche issues were the focus of a presentation by John Hellerman of Hellerman Baretz Communications and Gina Rubel of Furia Rubel Communications.
“Lawyers gain credibility in niche areas when they are quoted by relevant publications or asked to speak by meaningful organizations,” said Hellerman. “These opportunities are at the heart of public relations.” In today’s environment, PR also includes reputation-building via a robust presence on the Internet.
“To attract media attention, you must think like a reporter,” said Rubel. “News value is determined by proximity, impact, unusualness, timeliness, prominence and conflict. To drive interest, your story needs to meet two or three of these criteria. News value plus creativity makes a big difference in whether or not a story idea is picked up.”
In addition, Hellerman and Rubel discussed how to conduct public relations in accordance with ABA and state bar Rules of Professional Conduct.
Although the use of social media was a consistent theme throughout the day, it received special attention in a presentation by Richard Klau, a well-known blogger and product manager for Google Blogger. He also holds a law degree.
“Social media allow individual lawyers – or anyone -- to take control of their own reputations without having to go through a third party,” said Klau. “You can create a blog to establish yourself as an expert in an area. You can use saved searches in a reader or Tweetdeck to keep current with – and comment on -- breaking developments in your area. You can use social networks to track down ‘who knows whom’ when you need an introduction at a potential client.
“Do not get hung up on online traffic statistics,” said Klau. “On the Internet, influence and focus is much more important than numbers. Twenty visitors to your site – if they are the right influential visitors – can be much better than 500 visitors.”
In addition to Just JDs, LMA offered on Wednesday full-day pre-conference sessions for the most senior and the most junior marketers – a Masterminds program for those with more than ten years experience and a Quick Start program for those with less than five years experience.